Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Labour, Hackney North and Stoke Newington 9:28 pm, 28th June 2005

I am grateful to the House for allowing me to take part in this important debate. There are many reasons, both of principle and of pragmatism, to vote against the Bill, but I intend to touch on only three: the politics of the Bill, its implication on issues of race and what is says for the future.

First, let me remind my Labour colleagues that it is barely two months since we won an historic third term, and we are now embarked on squandering political capital on this doomed Bill. [Interruption.] Even the Almighty agrees with me. It is a doomed Bill because even if thunder and lightening cannot stop it, and even if the House cannot stop it dead in its tracks tonight, we know for sure that it is doomed to overrun its budget and to spiral in costs. The scheme will experience IT failure and the Bill will not achieve any of the claims that the Government make for it. We also know that the scheme will become especially unpopular at exactly the wrong point of the political cycle. There will come a time when not one Labour MP will want to be reminded that they voted for the Bill.

I have consistently raised worries about race with Ministers and colleagues, so it is no coincidence that the Muslim Council of Britain, the Commission for Racial Equality and other organisations representing ethnic minorities have expressed their concerns about the Bill. A recent poll showed that 77 per cent. of ethnic minority people believed that they would be discriminated against under the Bill. There can be no doubt that the Bill will lead to the compulsory carrying of ID cards—and that from there it must lead to the compulsory presentation of ID cards. We know from the French experience that if we move to such a system, the number of stops and searches on black, Asian and Muslim people will rise, which will be detrimental to community relations.

One of the first issues on which I ever campaigned—without the help of the Almighty, when I was a younger and even more radical woman—was the sus laws. If Ministers understood the strength of feeling among people in ethnic minority communities about the prospect of being randomly stopped and asked to present their ID, they would think twice about the Bill. I know that the Bill will not provide for the compulsory carrying of ID cards, but that must come.

As the evening has worn on, the Government Whips have subjected several of my colleagues to their usual rough-hew methods of persuasion. However, I say to colleagues in the closing minutes of the debate that voting against the Bill would be far from betraying our Government or going against Labour principles, because we would be doing the Government a great service. The more the public hear of the Bill, the less they like it, so the sooner it is stopped in its tracks, the better.