Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:11 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Kali Mountford Kali Mountford Labour, Colne Valley 9:11 pm, 28th June 2005

I have a copy of the "LSE Identity Project Report", and I found in it part of a sentence with which I agree. It states:

"The success of a national identity system depends on a sensitive, cautious and cooperative approach involving all key stakeholder groups".

I have found little else in the report with which to agree, so I shall examine that proposition.

First, the approach must be "sensitive". Some people may believe that the scheme may be prejudiced in its operation and that their identities will be sought unnecessarily and unfairly, because of either their ethnic origin or something else different about them. However, we hear such points from the Conservatives who, even after the Stephen Lawrence report, refused to accept that there was institutional racism in the police. The best way to deal with institutional racism that would lead to people being identified because of their race, religion or other difference is to address the problems in the police force, not to deny people the opportunity of identifying themselves properly and having proper protection before the law.

Secondly, the approach must be "cautious". Well, the Bill is extremely cautious. The cautious, incremental approach to introducing the measures means that some hon. Members are running away with the most imaginative ideas we have seen for some time. Indeed, their suggestions are matched only by the imagination of my constituents who want to extend the Bill ever further to include even more situations in which their identity should be protected or produced. For example, people in my constituency want medical records to be included in the database. I do not think that that is a good idea, and it is not covered in the Bill. It is important that when somebody requires medical treatment, they receive it on presentation before a doctor and are not asked questions at that point, especially in an emergency. However, it is proper and appropriate that people should pay for the services if they are not entitled to them.

While my constituents let their imaginations run away with them, so do several hon. Members. Some of the suggestions I have heard today are extraordinary descriptions of the powers in the Bill. The power to protect us from the things that hon. Members have mentioned are included in other legislation that the House has already accepted. Moreover, the protection that we seek in being able to have our identities checked already exists, irrespective of the Bill.

Thirdly, the approach must be co-operative. Many of the surveys that have been conducted show that many people would be most co-operative with the legislation, because they desperately want to see it introduced. The co-operation must be between the service providers and the recipients, and that would be improved if both could be certain that they were receiving what they were entitled to. That co-operation must be built up, and we must use secondary legislation, which some people disparage, at appropriate stages to ensure that if we extend the powers of the Bill to other services, we provide the type of entitlement card that we envisaged originally.

The next point was about key stakeholders, and for me, they must be my constituents. They have told me loudly and clearly, in numbers, that they support the principle of an ID card—more than 90 per cent. of them responded to a survey. They also told me to exercise caution, as there are some cost issues that they do not like. They want certainty about the costs and, especially, that people who cannot afford a card will be properly protected. I ask Ministers to ensure that the provisions of the Bill will allow for exemptions and exceptions to payment. We should do that carefully and considerately and look at how we can reduce or discount payments for people who cannot afford them. If we do that, we shall build up the safeguards and give my key stakeholders the protection they want.

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mark young
Posted on 30 Jun 2005 5:26 pm (Report this annotation)

As one of the right honourable member for Colne Valley's constituents, I would like to provide a perspective that she seems to have ignored when telling the house that "(her) constituents...want to extend the bill ever further".

I wrote to her as a life long Labour voter before the election citing this bill as one of the reasons I was seriously considering withdrawing my support over (in the end I held my nose and voted Labour, fearing the Tories would unravel the hard-won ground toward greater social justice in the UK).

The social justice that I consider is the bedrock of labour values lies at the heart of my objection to this bill. Centralised 'command and control' systems cannot, and will never, breed the trust and honesty that we need, and that assumes the huge leap of faith that an effective one can be implemented.

Returning to my original objection though, could the right hon member at least have the decency to say that SOME of her constituents have expressed a wish to live in a police state, not all of us!