Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:35 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Labour, Glasgow South 7:35 pm, 28th June 2005

I congratulate Mr. Cox on his maiden speech. We could be forgiven for not realising that it was a maiden speech, so confident was his delivery. I am sure that he will have no problem in articulating the concerns of his constituents in years to come, and I wish him every success in doing so.

I have some concerns about the debate so far. Some of the arguments against ID cards, especially those from Opposition Members, have not been as measured as we could have hoped. For example, Mr. Hogg, who is unfortunately not in his place, did a fantastic and articulate job of opposing all manner of measures that are not to be found in the Bill. On several occasions, we have heard from Conservative and Liberal Members about the threat to rights that we have held for hundreds of years, but that is not what the debate is about, as seen from outside the House. I am concerned that those watching the debate will recognise the synthetic indignation of Opposition Members for the cynical manipulation that it is intended to be, or might find that their own fears and suspicions are simply being encouraged.

ID cards are not a panacea and never will be. They will not provide foolproof defence against terrorism, identity theft and other crime, or health tourism. However, they represent a sensible and moderate proposal and will be one of a range of tools at the disposal of the Government to deal with all those matters.

David Davis mentioned that "1984" was a warning, not a textbook. As I have said, some of the contributions from Opposition Members were cynical and inaccurate. They are cynical because there is a danger of playing on the existing cynicism that the public feel toward those who govern and those who seek to govern. I make no apologies for holding the unpopular view that government is a good thing and politicians are good people. We should encourage members of the public to trust the Government. [Interruption.] Well, that is a proposal that will not gain currency even in this House, let alone in the country.

It is dangerous to the art of politics for us continually to encourage people to feel so cynical and sceptical of the motives of political parties, especially the two main parties that aspire to government. I do not include the Liberal Democrats in that particular criticism.

The right hon. Gentleman said, on the one hand, that ID cards would not be effective and on the other, that the Government were promising surveillance from the cradle to the grave. What is the Conservatives' main reason for opposing the Bill? Is it because ID cards will work or because they will not work? It is always a cheap political trick to raise the spectre of Orwell in comparison with Britain today. People who say that Britain is turning into Orwell's "1984" are usually those who have not read the book.

We live in a different and dangerous era, compared with any other time in our history. However, the right hon. Gentleman seems to live in an Ealing-comedy world, where we all have a cheery word for each other and the biggest threat to society comes from a plot to rob banks and turn gold bullion into ornamental Eiffel towers. I will break it gently to the Opposition: we do not live in that world. We live in a world where terrorists attempt to kill innocent people by strapping dynamite to themselves. We live in a world where criminals prey on members of the public and seek to steal their very identity.

The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden said that if he had predicted 10 years ago that a Labour Government would abolish habeas corpus and trial by jury and introduce house arrest and ID cards, he would have been locked up. Perhaps that is true, but if he had suggested 10 years ago that four planes would be hijacked in America and piloted into the twin towers and the Pentagon he would presumably have suffered similar treatment.

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