Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:58 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 5:58 pm, 28th June 2005

If the Labour Government are in office when the Bill's provisions bite on the public their reputation will suffer serious and, I hope, terminal damage. Those of us who oppose the Bill are therefore acting in a singularly disinterested manner. My right hon. Friend David Davis acknowledged that a number of benefits could flow from an identity cards scheme. I share that view, but those benefits are very much less than the scheme's proponents have argued. It is no coincidence that the advantages that they proclaim have developed while proposals, starting with an entitlement card scheme that made precious little reference to terrorism, have been under discussion. I have a very strong feeling that what we are seeing now is a project seeking a justification, rather than a policy for which there is a self-evident and clear requirement.

Let me say a word or two about the alleged benefits. I have practised criminal law off and on for many years, and of course I have read many law reports. It is extremely rare that one finds a case in which the existence of an identity card scheme would prevent or lead to the ready detection of crime. The same is true of terrorism. It is no coincidence that the Madrid bombing happened in a country where the mandatory carrying of cards is a part of policy. Let us not forget that Spain has been suffering from ETA terrorism for years and years, or that most of those who carried out the bombing of the world trade centre carried valid identification cards. When one deals with terrorism, the problem is not so much the concealment of identity as the concealment of intent, which is a wholly different matter.

The same is true also of fraud. Most fraud does not involve a false statement as to identity. It involves a false statement as to intent, or a concealment or misrepresentation of relevant facts as to entitlement. Identity cards do nothing as to that. Even if identity was a factor, I should be extraordinarily surprised if that problem could not be got around by forgery or by a change in the modus operandi.

It is ironic that the one area of policy in which identity cards might be significant is in the control of illegal immigration, but only on the basis that the mandatory carrying and production of cards is made part of the policy. That is precisely what would be excluded by the Government proposals.