Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:55 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone 8:55 pm, 28th June 2005

Mr. Todd referred to principles. Let me give him a principle as expressed by Abraham Lincoln:

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves."

When the Bill was debated in the previous Parliament, I, my hon. Friend Damian Green and about nine others marched through the Lobby with clear conviction and certainty to ensure that we registered our protest against the principle of the Bill. Second Reading, of course, is about the principle behind the reasons for producing it. On the previous Second Reading, I produced a copy of a book by George Orwell called "Nineteen Eighty-Four", and directed it to the attention of the Home Secretary. It refers to the "Ministry of Truth", in which, George Orwell says, "Freedom is slavery". That is what lies at the heart of these proposals. [Interruption.] I hear the Minister of State say "Rubbish" from a sedentary position. I heard him generating a certain amount of hot air and rubbish on the subject on the "Today" programme this morning or perhaps yesterday—it was in the past 48 hours.

The fact remains that the Information Commissioner has stated that the Bill has within it the seeds of a surveillance society. In the previous debate, I referred to the fact that he said that it represented a sea change in the relationship between the individual and the state. I have heard the Home Secretary rubbishing the Information Commissioner today. I heard another Labour Member talking about hysterical paranoia. I would like to call their attention to the fact that the Information Commissioner holds a status by Act of Parliament that is no less than that of the Clerk of the House of Commons, in that he cannot be removed from office unless there is an address by both Houses of Parliament. That is a very high status. Those such as the Home Secretary who are wont to describe the measured remarks of the Information Commissioner in such terms seem to be getting dangerously close to fulfilling the axiom of Abraham Lincoln's to which I just referred.

Over the past year or so, we have also noticed that this new Labour Government, in contradiction to what the Prime Minister used to say, have moved increasingly down the route of greater inhibitions on individual freedom. The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 is a good example, as it contained a provision that would enable the Government to repeal any Act of Parliament if they declared an emergency. In 1995, when the Prime Minister was in opposition, he said:

"Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on compulsory ID cards as the Tory right demand, let that money provide thousands more police officers on the beat in our local communities."

He stands condemned by his own statement.

The ingredients of this Bill include the making of statutory instruments, so when we pass the principle but do not provide for the enabling provisions, we do not know what we are letting ourselves in for. This Bill, despite the perambulations of my party on this subject—I am glad that they have now been resolved in the direction in which we originally put the case—should be condemned. No other common-law country of any note has such a provision, including the United States. This Bill is a disgrace, and it is Big Brother coming back again.