Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:15 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 9:15 pm, 28th June 2005

There are so many reasons to oppose the Bill that unfortunately I do not have time to go through them all. However, I have almost complete confidence that the costs will spiral out of control so I put my faith in that. Watching the Prime Minister equivocate about the costs yesterday was our best practical hope, because with spiralling costs comes unpopularity and the Government are sensitive to unpopularity.

We know of the Government's record on IT failure, but I warn hon. Members that IT success brings equal challenges. We have only to consider the congestion charge. I have been dealing with hon. Members' complaints about that, and a simple glitch in the congestion charge is enough to tie anyone up in correspondence for months trying to get it sorted out.

I want to talk about the disproportionate discrimination that will be wrought by the Bill on ethnic minorities. After five years as a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and chairing the stop and search implementation panel, I have seen that disproportionality at close range—the stops under section 4. Under other legislation, DNA can be taken from innocent people and four times as many black people as white people have their DNA held. That is how legislation that starts innocently ends up.

I have seen what happens when there is a voluntary principle in legislation; for example, when the police are looking for a criminal whose DNA has typed them as a member of an ethnic minority. In south London, 1,000 voluntary DNA samples were wanted for a horrendous crime, but when 125 people refused to give DNA they received a letter telling them that their reasons for refusing would be investigated by a senior police officer. When five of them continued to refuse, they were arrested and the police were able to take their DNA, which was kept even though all five were released. That is how the voluntary principle works.

The dog whistle for me is civil liberties. The measure is a monumental raid on everything that I have grown up believing in; it is a real shift in power between the state and the individual. I am free. I want to be able to walk out of my front door as an innocent person if I am doing no one any harm. No one has the right to hold any information about me and I should not need a licence to walk out of my house.

The ID card system is quite different from border control. Yesterday, the Prime Minister seemed to be offering us "buy one, get one free", when he mixed up biometrics and the advances in technology that can secure our border controls with ID cards, but his arguments were spurious; the two things are completely different. Passports are purpose-driven, as are driving licences. If I choose to exchange information about myself for a facility that I want to use, that is fair game, but I do not want all my information in one basket; that is a charter for criminals. It is bad enough at the moment with one piece or another being subject to raids by sale. Recently there was a case of a bank member of staff selling private information. I do not think that the Government can guarantee our safety on this.

For all those reasons, I shall vote against Second Reading tonight. I urge Labour Members, particularly those Members who want a free vote and would vote against the Bill if such a vote were allowed tonight, to remember what it felt like to vote for the war and then have to face the electorate when their heart was not in it.