Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:57 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras 6:57 pm, 28th June 2005

I congratulate Mr. Holloway on his maiden speech, which was delivered with the confidence that we associate with people who make television programmes. I am glad that he paid tribute to my former hon. Friend, Chris Pond. I only hope that it was not my visit to Gravesham during the election campaign that resulted in the hon. Gentleman being elected.

My first inclination about ID cards is that I am sort of in favour of them. In principle, I do not see them as a major intrusion on our civil liberties, although some of the claims that have been made for them seem somewhat exaggerated, including those relating to the constraints that the cards might place on terrorists or on organised crime. At the very most, they might represent an inconvenience, and probably only a minor one. I cannot see what impact they would have at all unless they were compulsory.

One of my other concerns is about compulsion. We have been told that the cards cannot be made compulsory unless there is a vote in favour in both Houses. However, as I read the Bill we could be asked by the Government to vote to make it compulsory for certain categories of people to carry an ID card, but not for others. As a believer in equality before the law, I could not support a law that would oblige some people, but not others, to carry the card. That would be quite unacceptable.

Similarly, as I read the Bill—I might be wrong—it would be possible for a public body to make a rule that one had to produce a card to receive its service. Therefore, whatever the national theory might be, people at the local hospital or library would be able to say, "Well, it's compulsory round here." Again, that seems unacceptable.