To get matters in perspective, perhaps we should remember that the Leader of the Opposition was an ardent supporter of ID cards, and had he got his way it is likely that a Tory Government would have introduced them. I am also pretty certain that we, the then Opposition, would have opposed them. I am not sure whether there is some consistency there.
Even were there not the many practical problems in relation to technology, the final cost and so on, I would have the utmost reservations about the reintroduction of identity cards. I do not believe that they are necessary; indeed, I believe that they are irrelevant to the many problems that we undoubtedly face. I would require compelling and coherent reasons for such cards to be brought back after more than half a century. However ably my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary put forward his case today, I simply do not believe that a real case has been made for identity cards. I said earlier—obviously, my assessment could be wrong—that were there to be a free vote tonight, this Bill would not get a Second Reading.
All the problems that have been mentioned as reasons why we should have identity cards are undoubtedly problems—no one denies that. Most EU countries have identity cards, which in some cases date back to dictatorships—although I do not question that those countries are now as much democracies as the United Kingdom—but do not those countries have problems with illegal immigration, benefit fraud and identity fraud? Are those not problems that are common to virtually all industrialised, advanced countries? It is therefore difficult to see the argument that such problems would be solved if we had identity cards, which are pretty useless unless compulsory—what purpose is a voluntary identity card?—so obviously compulsion will come in due course.