That is right, but at the moment it applies only to people who have previously come into contact with the police. Under the Bill, however, if I tell the police that I am the hon. Member for Broxtowe they should be able to verify immediately whether that is the case or whether I am fibbing. Making that possible is in my interest, and it is also in the interests of the police and society.
The hon. Member for Winchester said that people who were authorised to verify identity could see whether the person whose identity was being verified had had an abortion. The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden even suggested that a virus could be introduced into the system. Both Members envisaged a programmable personal computer but, as someone who has worked in IT for most of my life, I would like to see the fingerprint reader that enables someone to introduce a virus. They do not understand how the system will work in practice.
My right hon. Friend Frank Dobson was genuinely concerned that free public services would pre-empt the vote on compulsion. He suggested that even though we are unlikely to decide to make the scheme compulsory until the next Parliament—obviously, we will do so only if the scheme has been successful—schools, clinics and other public services such as benefit offices could require the production of an identity card or proof connected to the identity register before agreeing to offer their services. He said, very reasonably, that it would become compulsory for people using those services to have an ID card, even if we do not vote on such a measure in this Parliament. Clause 15, however, states that public services can require such checks only on people who have been specified under clause 6 following votes in the Commons and the other place. An affirmative vote is needed in both Houses before any group can be required by any public service compulsorily to produce an ID card to confirm their identity.
The purpose of the card is simple—it is to verify that we are the person we claim to be—no more, no less. It is proposed to store data that are already recorded in passport and other databases and link them to biometric data so that we can see that that information relates to ourselves, and not to someone else. I have campaigned for that for a number of years, ever since I first introduced the proposal in Parliament. I have rarely met constituents who do not regard it as a good idea in principle. They do not see a problem in using basic information already stored about us to verify that we are who we claim to be.