Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:15 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Nick Palmer Nick Palmer Labour, Broxtowe 8:15 pm, 28th June 2005

I congratulate Mr. Carswell on his eloquent speech. I am sure that we will hear a great deal more from him in the months and years to come. I think that we all appreciated his kind remarks about his predecessor, whom we all remember with affection.

My hon. Friend Mr. Mitchell, who is temporarily out of the Chamber, suggested that the concept of ID cards came from No. 10 Downing street and he compared it with the millennium dome. I did two things soon after my election in 1997, when I was as new a Member as the hon. Member for Harwich: first, I urged the Government to drop their support for the Conservative dome project—that did wonders for my career, I must say—and secondly, I introduced a Bill to provide for identity cards. I am happy to say that that Bill had the unqualified support of the Liberal Democrat spokesman, Mr. Oaten, so I am sorry that he has temporarily changed his mind.

We have had an interesting debate because, if I understood it correctly, both the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats gave a commitment to repeal the scheme if they were to win the next election, regardless of the money spent by that point and the benefits still to come. The hon. Member for Winchester demanded an assurance from the Conservatives that they would stop the scheme and I understood that the shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, gave such an assurance, so we look forward to returning to that point.

Both in this debate and in the wider debate outside Parliament, there have been amazing examples of misleading or misunderstood information, so I would like to nail a few of the myths that we have heard. Mr. Lilley said that no country had introduced identity cards unless it had a communist or fascist regime. I hope that when he leaves the House he will write a book about the communist regime in Switzerland or the fascist regime in Switzerland—that would be quite a revelation.

This week, The Sunday Telegraph devoted an entire editorial to the Government's proposition to make it compulsory to carry an ID card, but that is simply not the case. The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden, in his restful speech, suggested that it was necessary to make it compulsory to carry a card if identity was to be checked. He appeared to be unaware of the fact that the police can check fingerprints against the central database, regardless of whether the card is carried. In fact, that is the main point of the database, which can be used to check someone's identity, irrespective of whether the card is carried.