Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:14 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Labour, Great Grimsby 7:14 pm, 28th June 2005

Many Members who have spoken today have expressed concern about the civil liberties aspect of the Bill. I propose to ignore that and to deal with what concerns me, as a practical Yorkshireman—namely, the practical and political issues. This Bill is unnecessary. It sets up a system that will not work, will not achieve its stated objectives and will cost us a fortune. Apart from that, there is nothing much wrong with it.

What I am concerned about is the Bill's impact, which is beautifully timed. Its provisions, along with their damaging consequences, will be introduced just as the Labour Government—the force for progress in this country—go into the next and the subsequent elections. The compulsory element will be introduced at the subsequent election, but in reality, it will be introduced before that. Anyone who wants to renew a passport or a driving licence, or anyone who the Secretary of State deems shall be compelled to have an identity card, will have to have such a card. So although the scheme is said to be voluntary, it is in fact already compulsory. The Bill is like "super dome". It involves massive expenditure that is timed to ruin the election prospects of a Labour Government whom we want to carry on so that they can continue with their programme of social reform.

Like the dome, identity cards seemed like a good idea at the time, but the dome has proved to be disastrous. I suppose that that is how things work in a presidential system. The source of such ideas is Downing street, where the Prime Minister is surrounded by a heavenly nimbus of cherub geniuses, fluttering in the blue skies that always hover over Downing street. Up comes an idea, lights flash, thunder rolls and the idea is unveiled to an excited world. "I know", they say, "Let's have identity cards. It's a big measure that shows that the Government are active. It will appeal to the police and the Home Office." Of course, the police and the Home Office are obsessed with people control. Indeed, they would implant all children with chips at birth if they could.

Such ideas appeal to Home Secretaries, who have a career to think of, after all, and who want to be promoted out of being Home Secretary so that they do not have to face such issues any more. Now that we have the idea, all that we need is a problem for it to solve. That is where the doubts begin.