Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:42 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 9:42 pm, 28th June 2005

We have had 33 contributors to the debate and they have broadly been divided into two camps—surprise, surprise. Twenty-four have spoken against the Bill. Eight managed to speak for the Bill. One of them was the Home Secretary, whose speech, I regret to say, was characterised more by bluster than by evidence. The support of other speakers was, to say the least, qualified—I am thinking of Mr. Howarth, Mr. Denham and Mr. Todd.

Dr. Blackman-Woods has just made a career-making speech and I wish her well. Kali Mountford also made a deeply loyal speech in favour of the ID cards scheme proposed by the Bill. Dr. Palmer produced one of his unfathomable speeches, which none the less was listened to with great care. The Home Secretary produced some sparkling remarks in the course of his speech, to which I shall return if I have a moment.

Before analysing some of the points, I turn to the three maiden speakers—my hon. Friends the Members for Gravesham (Mr. Holloway), for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Cox) and for Harwich (Mr. Carswell). Unfortunately, I was not able to listen to the speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich but reports tell me that it was a powerful speech, in which he paid proper respect to his immediate predecessor, Mr. Ivan Henderson, whom I knew well as a member of the Anglo-Netherlands parliamentary group, and to Iain Sproat and the Ridsdales—Sir Julian Ridsdale represented the seat before Iain Sproat. My hon. Friend said that ID cards will not reverse crime and also spoke passionately about the need for greater localisation, on which I support him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon made a booming and powerful speech, in which he carefully described the beauties of his constituency. He was very kind, and properly so, to his immediate predecessor, John Burnett, and to his wife. He, too, said that this ID card scheme is not the answer to his constituents' prayers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham also made a powerful speech. He spoke about his constituency with care and concern and said some very kind things, which both sides of the House shared and enjoyed, about his predecessor, Chris Pond. Like the other two maiden speakers, he made it clear that this ID scheme is not the answer to his constituents' concerns.

Far too many speeches have been made for me to deal with them individually, but 24 hon. Members were deeply concerned about the Bill. This is the Government's broad case: ID cards will prevent terrorism; ID cards will prevent identity theft; ID cards will prevent and detect crime; ID cards have overwhelming public support; there is an international obligation to fingerprint or iris scan the population; the technology is available to fulfil the Bill's requirements; the implications for race relations have been exaggerated by Conservative Members and those Labour Members who disagree with the Government's case; and the costs are manageable, bearable and assessable.

The Government's final argument is to rubbish the point about the common travel area, which was raised by Mr. Robinson and which they have not yet satisfactorily addressed. I have one gentle piece of advice for Democratic Unionist Members—be very careful about doing deals with a Government who singularly fail to deliver on their promises. I urge all hon. Members to consider the principles behind the Bill: are we sure that the Irish Republican Government will not have access to information in the north and in Great Britain?

A number of my hon. Friends, including the shadow Home Secretary, have pointed out that the Bill was born in error, that it will die in error and that the sooner it dies, the better. The scheme is voluntary now, but it will become first compulsory, and then mandatory, in which case we will all be obliged to carry the card—we need to worry not about the card, but about the database that underlies it. The Government do not want us to realise that the Bill will not only expose every citizen's private life and private information to them and their machine, but require us to carry in our pockets not only a plastic poll tax machine, but a policeman. We do not need policemen in our pockets—we need policemen on our streets. The Government refuse to accept that point and to commit resources to deal with terrorism, crime and the many other problems raised by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

We heard from my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg, my right hon. Friend Mr. Lilley, Frank Dobson and the hon. Members for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), for Winchester (Mr. Oaten), for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones), for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) and for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson). They all made, in their own separate ways, broadly the same point—that the Bill will not deliver the panacea that is suggested, will not deal with identity theft, and will not prevent and detect crime. More to the point, it will exacerbate bad race relations and encourage an underclass to feel yet further alienated from the haves, while the Government try to glide over all this with a collection of truisms and platitudes.

Mr. Marshall-Andrews, the hon. Members for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) and for Nottingham, South (Alan Simpson), my hon. Friend John Penrose, Ms Abbott, my hon. Friends Mr. Ellwood, for Stone (Mr. Cash), and for Ashford (Damian Green), and Mr. Gerrard ripped the Bill apart, as it deserves to be. The Bill is indefensible. Indeed, it has not been adequately defended by the Home Secretary who, in our submission, has no belief whatsoever in either the principle or the facts that are necessary to sustain the argument.

I look forward to listening to bluster not only from the Home Secretary but from the Minister of State. We are used to them blustering—they are both happy little fellows—but neither has an argument on which to stand a case. I look forward to many Members joining the official Opposition, the Liberal Democrats and others in the Lobby in defeating the Bill.