Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:50 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State (Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality), Home Office 9:50 pm, 28th June 2005

My hon. Friend Mr. Gerrard, in his wisdom, made a telling contribution. I am sure that we shall discuss his comments in full subsequently.

Damian Green made a speech.

My hon. Friend Mr. Todd made a fair speech, which was rooted in detail and dealt with some aspects of the benefits, to which we shall revert.

Mr. Cash mentioned Orwell and Lincoln—those were the highlights of his contribution.

I fear that my hon. Friend Dr. Palmer managed to support the hon. Member for Winchester on identity cards.

My hon. and learned Friend Mr. Marshall-Andrews was wrong in his supposition that there will be an open book for adding data to the database. Clauses 1, 3 and 43 and schedule 1 make that clear. To suggest that DNA, health records, criminal records or other medical records can be included is plumb wrong.

Mr. Wallace probably condemned himself to the Committee given his experience.

One of the most irresponsible contributions was made by Lynne Featherstone. She spoke about DNA—she was wrong. She spoke about the impact on ethic minorities—she was wrong. The Bill is rooted in existing legislation on race relations, race discrimination and other matters.

I say in all candour to my right hon. Friend Mr. Denham that, despite the agreement, if the prevailing wisdom of the usual channels is that there should be more time in Committee to scrutinise the Bill, let us have that discussion. The Government will be generous in their response. The deal was done, but if more time is required, let us talk about it. I have no problem with that.

My hon. Friend Ms Abbott is right that an election took place only two months ago. We stood collectively on a manifesto that stated:

"We will introduce ID cards, including biometric data like fingerprints, backed up by a national register and rolling out initially on a voluntary basis as people renew their passports."

That is at the heart of the Bill.

I say again to my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen that we are already involved in some pre-procurement discussions. If that needs to be more open and if we can make it more open before we go through the EU process, I will try to ensure that that happens.

My hon. Friend Kali Mountford made a point about concessions. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that we would reconsider the fee structure, concessions and other assorted elements.

The Bill is an enabling measure. Its purpose is to protect the individual's identity, not suppress the individual. It does not propose a plastic poll tax and is not tantamount to an attack on civil liberties. There is much to be done and I commend the Bill to the House.