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. Lady is absolutely right. We will have a two-tier society—a some-in, some-out society—in which ID cards will be compulsory for some but not others. I do not understand how the system will work in such circumstances. I accept that the police will not be able to ask individuals to show their cards straight away, but if they asked people to take their ID cards to a police station within three or four days, as they will be able to do, the individuals could simply say, "No, because I don't have a passport and I don't need an ID card," and the police would have no idea whether they were being told the truth. What would happen in those circumstances? What is the point of a scheme that one half of the population has to opt in to but the other half does not?

We need to wake up to the reality of what the country will be like when the scheme becomes compulsory. What kind of state will we live in? People will have to take their families to a processing centre miles away, including granny, who has never had a passport, so that she can be put through the humiliating process. There will be long queues at the processing centres while people's fingerprints and irises are scanned, and then a considerable cheque to pay for the whole family will have to be signed. There will also be costs every time people move house. People will have to have their faces and irises scanned when they visit their GPs. No wonder public opinion is shifting on the issue. It is no longer the case that 80 per cent. of people are in favour of the scheme. Opinion is shifting as people are finding out the details of what the Bill will do, and it will shift even more.

The public know that this £1 billion project will go over budget, that these pieces of plastic will not tackle terrorism and that the system will be neither compulsory nor voluntary. The database will make the Child Support Agency mess-up look like a tea party. People who look like an illegal worker or a terrorist will be stopped and asked to prove their identity under the scheme. People will have to turn up at centres miles away from their homes at which their irises and fingerprints will be scanned in an intrusive way.

If someone had said in 1997 that eight years later we would have a Labour Government who had tried to abolish trial by jury, who wanted to lock people up under house arrest at the say-so of a politician, who tried to remove benefits from asylum seekers and who tried to ban freedom of speech, it would have been unbelievable. Now, in about four hours' time, the Government will add to that list by trying to introduce compulsory ID cards. The scheme is illiberal, wrong and will not work, so we will vote against it.