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

My hon. Friend makes a good point. We must also remember the three-month period—I almost said "exclusion zone"—allowed for people visiting from the European Union. Also, it is well known in security circles that the identity card systems of some countries on the continent are easier to get into than others. They could provide an access point, too. The gateway control in this scheme will be incredibly difficult. Huge numbers of people will be involved. The Passport Office stated today that about 4.5 million people a year would have to be interviewed in the near future. That gives us an idea of the sheer size of the problem. The system will, I am afraid, be eminently penetrable.

The database will also be open to abuse. A disgruntled Minister, official or civil servant could access information about anyone in the country, pretty much at the touch of a button. People might say that that seems like paranoia, but I remember how this Government tried to smear Pam Warren of the Paddington survivors' group, to savage the reputation of 94-year-old Rose Addis, and to rubbish the reputations of Martin Sixsmith and David Kelly.

The Home Secretary was at it again this morning. He launched a savage attack on Simon Davies of the LSE[Interruption.] I do not know what the Home Secretary has against people called Davies. I have nothing against people called Clarke. His savage attack on this respected academic was implicitly an attack on the 14 senior professors involved in the LSE's project, but he picked out that particular man and called him "partisan" and "technically incompetent". Why? Because he disagrees with the Home Secretary. As usual, if the Government do not like the message, they shoot the messenger. We have seen this time and again; the way in which the Government treat people who disagree with them is a disgrace, and this does not make me any more inclined to support plans that would give them even more control over the public's personal information.

The Bill is a step too far. If the Government really want to tackle benefit fraud, there are better ways of doing it. If they want to tackle crime, they should put more police on the streets. If they want to tackle terrorism, they should introduce greater control and surveillance at British ports. If their plan is to tackle illegal working, they should get a grip on the shambles of the asylum system. For each and every problem that will supposedly be dealt with by ID cards, there is a better, cheaper and more cost-effective solution that does not threaten to remove the long-held and fought-for freedoms of the British people.

There was a time when Labour Governments were elected to fight poverty, but the cost of ID cards will only make people poorer. There was a time when they tried to pursue fairness, but as the GMB trade union says, ID cards will discriminate against and stigmatise minority and disabled groups. There was a time when the Labour party stood up for people's freedoms. Since 1997, it has been attacking our freedom piece by piece and bit by bit.

Today's proposals are the final straw. We should not be party to seeing them passed. We will not be thanked by today's generation for whom the extra cost will be too much to bear. We will not be thanked by future generations, who will look back to today and ask why we let this change occur. We will not be thanked by an older generation who fought to protect the very liberty that we now propose to give away. We should not countenance these plans, which are illiberal and impractical, excessive and expensive, unnecessary and unworkable. That is why we will vote against the Bill this evening.

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Chris Lightfoot
Posted on 3 Jul 2005 1:13 am (Report this annotation)

The Simon Davies to whom Davis (and Clarke) refer is the Director General of Privacy International, not the footballer described in the Wikipedia link under his name. Reference:
http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/news/050628_id_cards_co...

Pam Warren, who was seriously injured in the 1999 Paddington train crash, became spokeswoman for the Paddington Survivors' Group. A government advisor tried to find out about the political affiliations of members of the Group -- asking, "Basically, are they Tories?" -- though he denied that this referred to Pam Warren herself. Reference:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/946408.stm

Rose Addis was the subject of a 2002 controversy over treatment in Whittington Hospital in Stoke Newington. I'm not quite sure what Davis is referring to here, but perhaps the accusations of racism which were made about her. Reference:
http://society.guardian.co.uk/Politics/publicservices/page/0...

Martin Sixsmith, a former BBC news reader, was communications director at the Department of Transport in 2001-2. He became embroiled in a row with Jo Moore, another special advisor who infamously issued a memo after the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 stating that it would be "a good day to bury bad news". He and Moore resigned after a further bad-tempered row over spin, but not before Stephen Byers, then transport minister, lied to Parliament about the timing of Sixsmith's resignation and prompted Sir Richard Mottram, permanent secretary at the Department, to state that, We're all fucked. I'm fucked. You're fucked. The whole department's fucked. It's been the biggest cock-up ever and we're all completely fucked" (though in Hansard the verb was bowdlerised to "stymied"). Sixsmith was alleged to have lied about the circumstances of his forced resignation from his post, and at the time "had been warned that Downing Street was trying to smear him by telling journalists to ask about his 'property portfolio'". References:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/02...
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1838652.stm
http://slate.msn.com/id/2062517/entry/2062518/

Whatever the specifics of the cases which Davis mentions, it is certainly true that the National Identity Register -- to which Ministers and certain civil servants will have privileged access -- would be an immensely valuable tool in digging dirt on people's private lives.