Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The Bill would give a national identity scheme commissioner oversight of the scheme and it would create the criminal offence of possessing false identity documents. We carried out a consultation on the Bill in my constituency. About 80 per cent. of respondents were in favour of it, but a sizeable proportion thought that the scheme would have public support only if certain safeguards were in place. I therefore urge my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to do all that he can to ensure that civil liberties issues are addressed. People have reasonable concerns about the protection of civil liberties, so Government reassurance is necessary.
Primarily, these concerns relate to the amount of information held centrally, the security of the system, who will have access to it and for what purpose. Everything must be done to assure people that they will get an opportunity to check their own data and correct it, that private sector organisations will be able to access information only with consent, that use by public services conforms to the regulations prescribed in the Bill, that ID cards are cost-effective and that the scheme conforms to the European convention on human rights.
Citizens Advice has set out its concerns that function creep and unauthorised disclosure should not happen; that IT systems can support the project, particularly before it is compulsory; that attention should be paid to hard-to-reach groups, described by Citizens Advice as itinerant counter-culture, those with chaotic lifestyles and those with mental health and mental capacity problems who will be affected by the legislation; that all will be treated equally; that the Act will not be used in a discriminatory way; and that there will be safeguards to ensure that it will be compatible with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and his ministerial team will be able to address those concerns.
In conclusion, ID cards could present a sensible and practical way forward and be an added tool in the fight against criminal activity. One almost has to sympathise with the Tories on the issue. They are for ID cards, then against. Their leader supports ID cards; another possible leader does not. However, the Liberals take the biscuit for uncertainty and indecisiveness. It may be worth reminding the House that the Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesman used to be in favour of ID cards, before changing his mind when it came to the crunch.
The Lib Dems' case that fraud will increase if ID cards are introduced is not proven. It is much more likely that ID cards will help to tackle identity fraud. The Lib Dems propose to spend any money saved by not introducing ID cards on providing extra police. As the public are paying for the cards, the Government cannot spend money that they do not have. It is the Lib Dems, not the Government, who have a problem with the costing. It is necessary to have a reasoned debate on the matter so that concerns can be addressed and reassurance given to the public. That is a better way forward than the scaremongering from the Opposition parties.