Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:21 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Mark Oaten Mark Oaten Shadow Secretary of State for Home Affairs, Home Affairs 5:21 pm, 28th June 2005

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. My fear is simply this. Now that the Home Secretary has indicated that in Committee he is prepared to consider putting a cap on the charge, he has bound himself to say that he is going to charge only a certain amount. But we know that the Government will have to find the money somewhere, so it will go on to tax generally. People will either pay for it individually or they will pay for it through general taxation. We believe that that is wrong and that the figure is getting too large.

Even if one accepted, first, that the proposals had a purpose, and secondly, that this was the right price to pay, one would still have to make the case that the scheme could work, and that is the point at which we reach the issue of the database. There are two questions about the database. The first is whether it is workable. I am not going to rehearse all the arguments, but we know the figures in relation to Government databases; the success rate is pretty appalling. Despite the Home Office success on passports, the general assumption on Government IT schemes is that they go wrong or over budget, or most likely both.

The second question concerning the database is the crucial issue, which has been touched on by the shadow Home Secretary in particular. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the nervousness that Opposition Members feel about what could happen to that database and about who can access it. We might also fast-forward to what we could be doing with that database in 10 or 15 years' time. Technology already exists to use CCTV cameras to recognise faces in public. It is not beyond the reasonable bounds of possibility that one could link those CCTV cameras with the facial scan and then start to link that into the database. I am concerned about that, and I am not alone. The Information Commissioner has said that he is concerned that each development puts in place another component in the infrastructure of a "surveillance society". He is concerned about the way in which demands will grow for individuals to prove their identity; the broad purposes permit function-creep into unforeseen and perhaps unacceptable areas of private life. We must look carefully at what could be done next with the database, as technology progresses.

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