Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:34 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 4:34 pm, 28th June 2005

I suspect that there is no way a number of members of the Democratic Unionist party would accept it either, but that is another matter. There is a serious problem here, which cuts a huge hole in proposals for any serious security-based identification mechanism.

It is no surprise that the Government's plans have come to be seen as a plastic poll tax. They are excessive, expensive, unnecessary, unworkable and, now, unpopular. They have no clear purpose, and they are no guarantee against fraud. It is hard to escape the conclusion that they are an answer in search of a question or a solution in search of a problem.

All along, I have made it clear that I would not normally countenance ID cards, but I was prepared to give the Government a chance to make their case. In my view, however, they have failed to do so. ID cards represent a clear and present threat to the everyday freedoms and liberties of the British people. Some people question why there is such concern about a little plastic card. The answer is that there is not. There is concern about what lies behind that little plastic card.

The Government are planning to establish a massive identity database in Whitehall that will contain all sorts of personal information about people in this country. The database will have a number of access points, and there will be nothing to prevent someone from inserting a virus at any one of those access points which could render the entire database open to fraud. When I asked some of Britain's most senior police officers what could be done to stop that happening, they could not give me an answer. Even today, no one has been able to do so. The concerns remain.

Last month, the New Statesman reported a meeting with a young professional mathematician, who said that it "wouldn't be hard" to steal someone's identity under the Government's scheme. He asked:

"What's a biometric? It tells you that this card matches that iris. It doesn't tell you who I am, though. I'd just take someone else's life details . . . register those with my own biometric and name. There, I've faked an ID".

Do the Government have a solution to that problem? No. Even worse, the mathematician went on to state that

"half the members of every university maths department in Britain" could probably break the system. I know that fewer people are studying maths under this Government, but even so, that would be too many.