Clause 5 — Applications relating to entries in Register

Identity Cards Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:44 pm on 13th March 2006.

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Votes in this debate

Lords amendment: No. 16.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary 10:00 pm, 13th March 2006

I beg to move, That this House
insists on its disagreement with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendment No. 22, the Government motion to insist on disagreements thereto and amendment (a) in lieu.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

Amendment (a) is largely technical and clarifies clause 5 by adding the words "or be accompanied by" after the requirement for an application for a designated document to include an application to be entered on the register. This is the second time in four weeks that these amendments have returned to the House for consideration, so I hope that I do not need to spend long making the case to reject them yet again. The issue has already been debated, voted on and approved twice by the House. A similar amendment was defeated on Report on 18 October last year by a majority of 32. In our consideration of Lords amendments on 13 February, it was rejected by a majority of 31.

We have always made it clear that the identity cards scheme has been designed as a compulsory scheme for all United Kingdom residents and is eventually intended to become such a scheme. In the second phase of the scheme, it will be a requirement to register and there will be a civil financial penalty regime to tackle failure to do so. We have made it clear, too, that linking identity cards to designated documents is a central part of the first phase of the scheme, allowing a sensible phased introduction of identity cards. Once passports and residence permits are designated, as British nationals resident in the United Kingdom renew or apply for passports, and as foreign nationals renew or apply for residence permits, those individuals will be entered on the national identity register and issued with ID cards.

Each designation order under clause 4 will need to be approved by both Houses of Parliament under the affirmative resolution procedure. The amendments proposed by the other place would make registration and an identity card optional extras for anyone applying for a designated document. Last week, we began to phase in the issue of e-passports incorporating a facial image biometric—the first generation biometric passport. Once we move to the next phase—biometric passports including a facial image and fingerprint biometrics—anyone applying for a passport must go through exactly the same application process as they would for an identity card, and their personal details and biometrics will be recorded on a central passport database. The data is being collected in any case when people renew their passport. Merging the two processes will add the statutory safeguards provided by the Bill, such as the creation of a national identity scheme commissioner, to the passport data. The Bill will therefore provide more safeguards for people who renew their passports, but the Lords amendment would remove those safeguards.

Photo of Neil Gerrard Neil Gerrard Labour, Walthamstow

I would be grateful if my right hon. Friend clarified an issue relating to the renewal of passports. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Andy Burnham said that there was an element of choice, however small, about whether to have a passport. He said, too, that all passport holders could choose when they renewed their passport and could do so at any time. The UK Passport Service website, however, suggests that it is only possible to do so if a passport is full, has expired, or will do so in the next nine months. Which statement is correct? If the website is at fault, can it be corrected?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the chance to clarify that point. My understanding is that an individual can renew their passport at any time. If there is an error on the UK Passport Service website, I will deal with that immediately.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

The Home Secretary will know that many people have no objection to the idea of signing up to an international agreement to have a new form of passport with the necessary biometric and other details. However, is the implication of the Government's insistence on the linkage that there will be a new precondition for any British citizen who wants to have a British passport—that they will also have to accept an identity card? Does that not change the basis on which we were entitled to passports in the past? They were always in theory discretionary, but given to people if there was no very good reason for not doing so.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is correct. What we are saying is very clear and in accordance with the Labour party's election manifesto, which 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."

Passports are voluntary documents—[Laughter.] Well, of course they are. No one is forced to renew a passport if they choose not to do so. That will remain the case once we begin issuing identity cards alongside passports. Election manifestos cannot possibly deal with every detail of an existing policy, but it is clear to me that, in saying very explicitly that the roll-out would initially be on a voluntary basis, the manifesto refers to what has always been the Government's position, as Members on both sides of the House who have considered the matter carefully should acknowledge. That position is that the scheme will initially be based on a stand-alone identity card, issued on its own on a voluntary basis, or together with a document such as a passport, which is also issued on a voluntary basis. That seems to be clear and unequivocal.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

Will the Home Secretary tell the House what proportion of the 60 million residents of the United Kingdom do not hold, or are not included on, a UK passport? For them, this really would be optional.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I am speaking off the cuff, but I think that the figure is about 20 per cent.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I will take the intervention from the right hon. Gentleman and say 15 per cent. The point is that a significant proportion of people do not choose to have a passport, for a variety of different reasons. In my opinion, that simply reinforces my point.


People choose not to have a passport because they don't want / can't afford to travel abroad - that, after all, is the reason that people obtain a passport in...

Submitted by Sam Evans Continue reading

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

No, I will not.

Later this year, we plan to start to interview all adult first-time passport applicants to confirm their identity at a network of 69 new UK Passport Service local offices. That will require a personal visit, just as will be the case when people enrol biometrics for an identity card.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

No, I will not.

The structure that I have described indicates that there are four common-sense reasons for rejecting the amendments from the other place: costs, benefits, convenience and security. First, on costs, we want the identity card scheme to provide the greatest benefits at the lowest cost to the taxpayer. The Lords amendments would increase the cost of establishing the scheme because of the greater complexity of handling an optional service that would mean that some people could opt out of having an identity card when obtaining a passport. Moreover, uncertainty would affect the unit cost and thus the fee level for identity cards. That is a serious point. Cost is a factor that has been raised across the House and the Lords amendments make the issue more, rather than less, difficult to resolve.

Secondly, there would be an impact on the benefits of the identity card scheme. Reducing the speed of the roll-out of ID cards would slow down the wider benefits such as combating illegal immigration or improving the effectiveness of public services. Thirdly, there would be inconvenience to the public if the Lords amendments were passed. It does not make sense to issue a biometric passport without the accompanying identity card. The process of enrolling biometrics and checking identity for both documents will be virtually identical. The same data will be held in both cases. Fourthly, there is the question of security. We would directly be offering an open goal to fraudsters, criminals and immigration offenders if we said that they could simply choose to avoid being included in the national identity register when they applied for a passport or an immigration document.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I will not give way.

The amendments have been fully debated during the passage of two Bills in both this place and the other place. The House has made its position very clear on a number of occasions. We should send the amendments back to another place with the message that it is now time for their lordships to accept that the Bill should pass without further amendment. The case is clear for the House to insist again on its disagreement with Lords amendments Nos. 16 and 22 and to agree Government amendment (a) in lieu.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

On the face of it, this is just another Committee stage debate about the inclusion of the word "may" or the word "must" in clauses 5 and 8, or the words of Government amendment (a). Despite the guillotine, this short debate is about a lot more than that. The amendments are not, as the Home Secretary says, technical. One would have to be deaf or stupid to accede to the arguments advanced by him tonight.

We all know the Home Secretary is neither deaf nor stupid, but for the life of us we cannot understand what the Government are attempting to do, yet again, by riding roughshod over common sense and justice. We are discussing the relationship between the citizen and the state, and whether it is right for the Government to change that relationship fundamentally by requiring the citizen to do what the state says he must do for its convenience, rather than his. This part of the Bill and the debate that we are having fully describes the difference between, on the one hand, me, my party and our supporters tonight and the Members of the other place whose amendments we are seeking to sustain, and on the other hand, the Government.

Through the Bill, the Government have revealed their true colours and motives more clearly tonight than they may have realised: "Do as we say, not as we do." What do they do? Let us have a look, as the Home Secretary invited us to do. I know that he is not deaf or stupid, so we will take him back to his own manifesto, to which he glibly referred us this evening. It is worth repeating, and it is a document that he will no doubt enjoy hearing. It states:

"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."

The words are plain and their meaning is obvious. I doubt that anybody, even the Home Secretary, is confused by what the Government intended that the public should understand before the general election in 2005.

It is clear beyond doubt that the Government know that their case is flawed and that Baroness Scotland in the other place and the Home Secretary and his Ministers in the House know that they are dangling on a flimsy thread of argument, yet they still seem to enjoy the twisting in the wind that we observe. Why else did they agree to introduce compulsion only following further primary legislation for that 15 or 20 per cent. of the British public who do not have a passport? They did it because they were complying with their own manifesto. They knew what "voluntary" means, but now they pretend it means something else.

This is not about the Salisbury convention or about a proper balance between this House and the other. It is about a Government who are guilty of intellectual dishonesty on a grand scale and who do not have the decency or the common sense to understand that, admittedly unusually, the public have read their manifesto and taken them at their word.

We recently had the derisory spectacle of the Secretary of State for Health throwing the Labour party's manifesto commitment on smoking in public places into the ashtray. Clearly, manifestos are relied on only when it suits the occasion, but it is surely better to have half an eye on the wording if they want to rely on it.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

Has the hon. and learned Gentleman been able to discover a single example of any occasion during or immediately after the general election when the Home Secretary gave the explanation that he gave to the House tonight? Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the new interpretation has arisen only since, as he said, the suggestion of primary legislation to do with compulsory ID cards?

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Trying to extract from the Government's words any coherent intellectual basis for the case that they are now making is extremely difficult. The Government have changed their reasons for supporting not only identity cards, but the national identity register, and they change their position on what they mean by "voluntary" and what they think they mean by "compulsory" day by day.

As the Home Secretary undoubtedly had reported to him, because he is neither deaf nor stupid, the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality said in Committee that the Government accept that their arguments in support of identity cards and the national identity register as a bulwark against terrorism are flawed. He also said that they accept that their arguments in support of identity cards and the national identity scheme as a bulwark against general crime, immigration breaches and other matters are all flawed. As each defence has been removed from them, they have returned to the argument that they will find ID cards "more convenient".

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone 10:15 pm, 13th March 2006

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that this is an extremely good example of what Lord Hailsham once described as "an elective dictatorship"?

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

It is but one example, and we have had several since 1997.

On 13 February, the Government agreed that compulsory registration on the national identity register and the identity card scheme for the 20 per cent. of the population who do not have passports should require new legislation. Did they think that the remaining 80 per cent. of the population would not notice that attempt at compulsion by stealth? Unless one voluntarily applies to renew one's passport, one will face a financial penalty.

All the information set out in schedule 1 to the Identity Cards Bill must be spewed up into the Government's great bucket of information. Some 40 million British citizens are being told that to be compelled to do something at the Government's convenience—they will have to go through a processing centre; individually, they will probably have to pay a lot more than £30 directly; and collectively they will have to pay millions indirectly—is a voluntary process.

Look at what the Government are now proposing and compare it with the words of the Home Secretary just a moment ago, when he read out his own manifesto:

"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."

I know that the Government do not like hearing their own words, which allow the public to appreciate precisely what they mean, but they will hear them again and again until they realise that their arguments are flawed and that the public are no deafer and no more stupid than the Home Secretary.

The Government have said that identity cards will defeat terrorism, welfare fraud, general crime, immigration breaches and identity fraud. They have said that it is vital to introduce identity cards and the national identity register to deal with all those problems. If that were the magic of this great scheme, they would not "let it roll out" over the next 10 years; they would have introduced it yesterday or the day before.

The Government have stopped believing in anything that they say, and even if they keep saying it, they know that it will not produce the results that they claim. There is no urgency in their programme—assertion has followed assertion, but they know that that will not do. They have resorted to an argument based on public convenience and a deliberately misleading reliance on an international obligation to introduce biometric passports. Many Labour Members realise that the argument in relation to biometric passports is utterly flawed, because it is simply not a proper comparison. As Lynne Jones mentioned on 13 February, biometric passports will contain perhaps three biometrics, not 13. There is no obligation under our international treaties to make the passport a gateway to the national identity register.

The Government will not tell us what further documents are to constitute that gateway. One of the 61 powers that the Bill gives the Home Secretary to make law by statutory instruments allows him to create a list of designated documents. So far, the Government admit that it includes passports, residence documents and other forms of travel documents—but what are those other documents, and where is the list? They have not a clue, and it shows every time they argue for the Bill and against the Lords amendments.

What will this exercise cost? Again, the Government have not a clue, and it shows. [Laughter.] It is interesting that they seem to think that this attempt fundamentally to change the relationship between citizen and state is a matter of risibility. The problem that they face is that they no longer have any understanding of the public, any understanding of what they are in business for, or any understanding of what this House is for. The longer they go on sniggering, the longer the public will find their arguments increasingly unattractive. Will this resistance to the Lords amendments make the national identity register and the identity cards scheme fit for purpose, to use a favourite phrase? They have not a clue, and the history of this legislation shows it. Do they know if and when, or how, these proposals will adversely affect the individual? They have not a clue, and if they do, they do not care.

Parliament should protect the citizen against the overbearing Executive. That is our duty, and tonight it should also be our pleasure. We are not here for the convenience of this arrogant Government. Let us hold firm for liberty and common sense. I urge the House to support the Lords amendments.

Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

The "Oxford English Dictionary" gives the following definition of "voluntary":

"done, given, or acting of one's own free will".

This debate is not only about the fate of a Bill that will introduce one of the most expensive, illiberal follies in recent times—it is also about our specific disagreement on the meaning of that one word.

The Labour party's manifesto at the last election was refreshingly—some would say uncharacteristically—clear on the introduction of identity cards. ID cards would, the manifesto said—it bears repetition—be rolled out

"initially on a voluntary basis as people renew their passports".

Liberal Democrat Members take that to mean simply what it says—that when renewing their passports, individuals will be able to choose, of their own free will, whether they wish to receive ID cards as well. Yet by way of a painful linguistic contortion that the Home Affairs Committee has rightly condemned as stretching

"the English language to breaking point", the Government now seek to persuade us that "voluntary" actually means "compulsory". In rejecting Lords amendment No. 16, the Government are saying that every time someone renews their passport, they must receive an ID card; that every time someone applies for a new passport to pop across to Calais, visit relatives abroad or go on holiday to sunnier climates, they must receive an ID card; and that every time someone goes abroad for business with a new passport, they must receive an ID card.

About 80 per cent. of all Britons possess a passport and are likely to wish to renew it in the coming years. How can the Government seriously ask us to believe that a scheme that could compel up to 80 per cent. of the British population to possess ID cards is voluntary? That is possible only if we all suspend our shared understanding of the English language. A Government who specialise in stealth taxation now want to start on stealth compulsion. A Government who have built their reputation on spin are now reaching new heights of doublespeak.

Photo of Robert Smith Robert Smith Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

The Government pray in aid the fact that people are free not to travel, but I do not think that many people who voted at the last election believed that the Government seriously meant that they had to stay at home and not leave this country if they did not want an ID card.

Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

My hon. Friend makes a compelling point. The problem is compounded by the fact that the Home Secretary has told us that any move to fully fledged compulsion will be made through primary legislation. We are being asked to accept that gratefully as a significant concession. What possible purpose will be served by primary legislation to make the possession of identity cards compulsory if they have, to all intents and purposes, already been made compulsory for the vast majority of the population? Legislating badly is one thing. Legislating for something that the Government have already imposed surreptitiously on the British people is at best a waste of parliamentary time and at worst downright cynical.

There are many good reasons for not making such a flawed Bill compulsory. It is based on the flimsiest costings. Only last week, the London School of Economics estimated that the Government would rack up a deficit of £1.8 billion in 10 years unless they significantly raised the fees for identity cards and new biometric passports. The Government's guesstimate—it is no more than that—of a fee of £93 for the combined card and passport already appears entirely implausible.

The central database for ID cards will be far more powerful than any other equivalent ID database used elsewhere in Europe. Experience in the United Kingdom suggests that initial use will soon be expanded. When ID cards were introduced as a wartime measure in 1939, they had three stated purposes: conscription, national security and rationing. By 1950, an audit found that that had expanded to 39 stated purposes. The inevitable creeping expansion of the information held on individuals by the state will unalterably change the relationship between citizen and Government in this country.

The Bill is based on flimsy costings, does not have a clear purpose and now rests on a fictional use of the English language. Such a measure is bad enough. It should not now be foisted on the British people through the back door. I urge hon. Members to support the Lords amendment.

Photo of Richard Shepherd Richard Shepherd Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills

Both Opposition Front Benchers have made much of altering the relationship between the citizen and the state. They are right. One of the most curious aspects of the measure, which is being foisted on the British public, is its link to the royal prerogative. The Home Secretary exercises the royal prerogative in issuing passports. He is the determinant of that.

I am therefore puzzled that the Home Secretary uses something that is in the gift of the royal prerogative—whether we have passports is down to the Government, not to any right in legislation—and links it to this appalling Bill, which diminishes the liberties of the House and our people exponentially. He will not even take questions properly to try to advise us about why he finds the royal prerogative the right means for directing the new Labour concept that each one of us should be numbered, identified and subservient to the state. It is a perverse proposition, which reduces us greatly. Passports should not be the route whereby he forces on the British people something that appeared in the Labour party manifesto as a voluntary opportunity.

The House should stand with the House of Lords and reject this miserable Government's proposals.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I am not opposed to the concept of identity cards but I oppose the misuse of the English language. I am surprised that my relatively close neighbour, the Home Secretary, is trying to argue what he knows will, in parliamentary language, not be accepted by most people as being close to the truth.

Anyone who read the Labour party manifesto believed that the Government proposed that identity cards would, at least initially, be introduced voluntarily. The Home Secretary now suggests that, somehow or other, getting a passport is a voluntary concept. A passport is a right. It is what the Government give us to say who we are when we wish to pass ports to go to other countries. We have a right to have it and no Home Secretary should deny it to us unless there is a genuine reason of state for his doing that. To tell us that we cannot have a passport unless we are prepared to pay extra for something that we do not want is not to suggest that we have a voluntary choice. It is, in any language except parliamentary language, untruthful to suggest that. I say to the Home Secretary very directly: no one outside this House believes you. No one thinks that what you say, as a translation of the Labour party manifesto, is what anyone else ever thought, and those on the Benches behind you do not believe it either, because they are honourable men who understand what the English language says—[Interruption.] Well, there is one lady there who does believe you, but most do not.

If this country moves from a position in which to hold a passport is our right, we shall move to a position that Britain has never been in before. I do not have a passport because I want one; I have one because it is my right to have one, should I require it. For the Government to say that I cannot have a passport unless I comply with their proposal also to have an identity card is to make that compulsory. When I next apply for a passport, I shall want an identity card because I am in favour of them in principle. So of course I shall ask for one. However, those who do not wish to have one should not be forced to have one. That is the difference between voluntary and compulsory.

Photo of Lynne Jones Lynne Jones Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak 10:30 pm, 13th March 2006

The right hon. Gentleman says that he is in favour of identity cards, but is he in favour of the people who apply for passports subsidising the identity card scheme so that he can have a cheaper identity card?

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

That question is so unimportant compared with the central philosophical issue with which we are dealing that I am not going to answer the hon. Lady.

I want simply to say to the Home Secretary that he must consider very seriously how he is going to get the British people to believe him about anything else after he has explained away the words in the Labour party manifesto to mean something that no sane person could possibly believe they meant at the time. In those circumstances, he stands condemned both as Home Secretary and as a Member of Parliament.

Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

There are two constantly repeated assertions with regard to the compulsory ID card system. The first is that the Government planned all along to deliver a compulsory ID card scheme from the start. The second is that this ID card scheme is required in order for the Government to meet their international obligations. I should like briefly to question those assertions.

The Swedish Government have introduced their new biometric passport, which complies with the International Civil Aviation Organisation's recommendations on biometrics and machine-readable travel documents. It has digitised facial images of the holder stored on a microchip on the card, so there is no requirement for a central database. Fingerprints will be added at the appropriate time by February 2008. The passport also complies with the United States visa waiver programme requirements. So the argument that we need a compulsory identity card, let alone a central biometric register, is plainly wrong.

We could have done as the Swedish Government have done, and introduced a basic biometric passport with the inclusion of fingerprints at the appropriate time by February 2008 or, in line with the Labour manifesto pledge, introduced a genuinely voluntary biometric ID card in conjunction with the new passport. The Home Secretary suggested earlier that the collection of the necessary information would have been one and the same in either case. This could all have been done on a similar basis to the Swedish model, with the biometric information held on the card rather than on a central database, with all the costs and dangers implicit in that.

There is no obligation under any international treaty or domestic manifesto pledge to issue a compulsory biometric ID card. There is absolutely no requirement to roll out from day one what is effectively a compulsory ID card through the issuing of a passport under the false insistence, or disguise, that it is voluntary, and then to do so compulsorily for any number of spurious reasons in future—not least the fraudulent pretext that £1.7 billion will be saved, mainly in the private sector. That is a falsehood; it was not rebutted properly in the last debate. It would be wrong to introduce the compulsory ID card and the national biometric database on that justification.

I want to speak briefly on the Government's manifesto pledge, which others have spoken about:

"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."

This is not voluntary; it is effective compulsion. As the manifesto expressly stated that it would happen on a voluntary basis, the Lords' disagreement does not violate the Salisbury convention, as it says precisely that the passport option means that people are not voluntarily joining the ID card scheme. To all intents and purposes, this is wholly compulsory. On that basis, my hon. Friends and I shall support the Lords amendment.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

This is compulsion—there is no doubt about it. Stewart Hosie has made that perfectly clear, as have others from our Front Bench. I am extremely glad that our own side has adopted the position of truculent opposition to these proposals in the House of Lords, and tribute should be paid to those in the House of Lords for the great work they have done on the Bill.

When the Bill started out on Second Reading, some of us were perhaps more truculent than others on the subject, but the fact remains that we have arrived at a sensible attack on the Bill, which the Home Secretary has completely failed either to deflect or to deter. The real problem is the votes that the Labour party will muster in the Lobby, which is why reference was made earlier to an elective dictatorship.

This is not just some minor matter; this is about the liberty of the subject. As I pointed out on Second Reading at the beginning of these proceedings some months ago, it is reminiscent of the state that George Orwell predicted in his book "1984". It is all very well the Home Secretary shaking his head, but the plain fact is that the case is made that this is compulsion. He tries to wriggle out of it, but he fails. He has been completely outdone by the report from the London School of Economics, those in industry who have commented on this, and the non-governmental organisations.

The reality is that these proposals are iniquitous, unacceptable and a serious infringement of the liberty of the individual. They should be consigned to the dustbin.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

The Home Secretary knows that I have the highest regard for him—[Interruption.] Come on, we have had many exchanges in the House and I have the highest regard for him, but he would admit that this is not one of his finest hours.

I came to the House willing to be persuaded by the Home Secretary's argument, but I have been not only unpersuaded, but more persuaded by the argument of my hon. Friends that we should support the Lords in their amendments.

The fact of the matter is, as those of us who have been Members a long time know, that the best debates in the House always take place after 10 o'clock. They are the best attended, and people listen to the argument and speak their mind. I want to speak my mind on something that no other hon. Member has mentioned—that is, the cost of this charade to our constituents. For the average family, the cost of obtaining a passport—which, as my right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer said, is a right—will be increased.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

No, the Government's proposal will increase the cost. This is disproportionate. Before we vote on the issue, we should consider the Labour party's manifesto carefully, although there is compulsion—be in no doubt about that. Whether someone has a passport is not a voluntary matter, as 85 or 90 per cent. of our constituents need a passport. We have a right to have passports.

The cost of what the Government are doing to our constituents with this Bill is something that we should reject. I urge the House to agree to the Lords amendments. Let Labour Members vote as their hearts and minds tell them to vote and reject the Government's amendment. Let us deal with this matter now.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

I support my hon. Friend Mr. Clegg and the view that the Liberal Democrats have taken consistently for many years.

There may be disagreement on quite how freedom to travel should be defined. I share the view that there is a freedom to travel. It is a European Union freedom, certainly. There may not be a right to have a passport historically, for the reasons given by Mr. Garnier and, as was pointed out by Mr. Shepherd, it was always a question of the royal prerogative, and the Foreign Secretary would sign the inside of the passport. However, there is no doubt that there was a common understanding that people would be able to travel if they needed to.

The Home Secretary has come here tonight to say to the elderly relative who is told that his or her child is ill in another country, "This is a matter of free choice, but you must have an identity card if you want to visit a relative who is very ill." The Home Secretary has come to the House to say to a business person, "If you want to do business and fly the flag for Britain, you must have an identity card as a condition of your choice to go and sell our products abroad." The Home Secretary is saying to the civil servant who is told that he must go and do work for our country abroad, "You must also have an identity card." That is not freedom of choice in the conventional sense of the term, and the Home Secretary can never persuade us that it is.

Furthermore, the argument is clearly disingenuous. Originally, a supplementary part of the Bill provided for a piece of secondary legislation to be passed by both Houses before compulsion took over from the voluntary system. Then we were told that we would have a different Bill—because this Bill did not provide for compulsion, compulsion would be dealt with separately. Only now, at this last stage, are we being told that under this system there will now compulsion if people want passports.

Finally, there is a constitutional point that I want to make to the Home Secretary. He has come here seeking to persuade us that the House of Lords should not be followed. The Government may have a majority of Members in this place, but it has a lower share of the vote than any majority Government since 1832. It has no justification for complaining that the House at the other end of the corridor should not do its job and ensure that Government proposals that were not in the manifesto are stopped by the British Parliament. The House at the other end of the corridor is the creation of this Government: it is put there by this Government; it is nominated by this Government; it is bought, in part, by this Government. The House at the other end of the corridor is entirely a new Labour creation. The Government have a cheek to come here and tell us that, with their minimal moral and political authority, they must ask the House of Lords to reject a view that the House of Commons has passed, and insert another view.

On these Benches we stand by principle, we stand by practice, we stand by precedent, we stand by democracy, and we stand for the right of Parliament as a whole to do its job as a whole and to throw out this Bill as a whole, if that is the view that the other House holds to. We encourage the other House to hold to it because the other House is right. The Home Secretary can persuade no one tonight that he is right. He is flawed, fundamentally wrong, and trying to deceive us—but we are not buying any of it.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

There is a perfectly logical case for compulsory identity cards. If one believes, as the Home Secretary does, that they really will deliver something very important in the fight against terrorism, fraud or impersonation, of course we should have a universal card, and a universal card is only possible if it is compulsory. However, that is not what our manifesto says. It says that there should be a voluntary scheme, and that there will not be a universal scheme for many years. At present, there are no overt Government plans for such a scheme, and it will be rolled out very slowly. Therefore, the benefits that can only accrue from an ID card scheme will not happen until it is a wholly universal scheme. The whole enterprise is deeply logically flawed.

The Home Secretary has got himself into an appalling semantic tangle. If he is trying to persuade not only this House but the public that the word "must" means "voluntary" and that the opposite is the case, and that what he is suggesting is not what the Lords are suggesting, then he has got himself—as I have in this sentence—into a terrible logical tangle. If we believe in a voluntary scheme, as the Home Secretary and the manifesto say that we do, there is no way that we can reject the Lords amendments. The Lords make it very clear that the scheme is voluntary, not compulsory. By rejecting the amendments, the Government will be opting for compulsion. They should have the courage of their convictions and say that this will be a compulsory universal scheme, but the Home Secretary will not do that. If he is going to nail his flag to the mast of a voluntary scheme, the Lords amendment must be supported.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary 10:45 pm, 13th March 2006

I was not going to respond to this debate, but—

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The right hon. Gentleman requires the leave of the House to respond.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to respond to this debate. I had not intended to, but the use of the word "deceit" by Simon Hughes provokes me to do so directly. Let me be very clear about the process. The first consultation document that this Government issued on an identity card scheme, in 2002, canvassed the option of a universal scheme linked to passports. When we announced the decision, in principle, in November 2003 to introduce ID cards, it was made clear then that there would be a two-stage scheme. It was stated that the second stage would be compulsory—that it would apply to every UK resident—with a civil financial penalty for failing to register and to obtain an ID card when required.

It was also made clear in November 2003 that during the initial stage, as well as introducing a voluntary plain ID card for those who do not have a passport, the intention was to link the issue of ID cards to that of more secure passports. That is why we stated the following in Cmd 6020, in November 2003:

"By linking the card scheme to widely held identity documents most people will get a card conveniently and automatically as they renew an existing document".

That announcement in principle was put into effect when the Government published the draft Identity Cards Bill in April 2004, with a provision in clause 5(2) requiring an applicant for any designated document to register and to be issued with an ID card alongside the designated document. We were again very clear that in the first stage of the ID card scheme there should be no possibility of obtaining a designated document such as a passport without an ID card. The provision requiring applicants for passports or other designated documents to obtain an ID card was also included in the first Identity Cards Bill, introduced before the election, which was passed by the House of Commons in February 2005 and given a Second Reading in the Lords in March 2005.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

No, I shall not.

After the election, the Bill was reintroduced and, yet again, we made it absolutely clear that once a document such as a passport has been designated, obtaining one would also mean being issued with an ID card. Nobody can claim, as the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey claimed, that our policy has not been entirely consistent on this point from 2002 right the way through. Moreover, no one can claim that in the many debates, in this House and in the other place, there has not been the fullest opportunity to debate these issues fully at every turn.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Even if one accepts the history of the Home Secretary's argument, what does he mean by "on a voluntary basis"? What does that mean, in English?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I have set that out clearly in what I have said, but I shall say it again if the hon. and learned Gentleman wants me to do so. The question, as Mr. Clegg said, is one of free will. Those are the words he used in his definition. That is the free will that people may exercise in deciding whether or not they wish to have a passport—[Interruption.] That is the free will over what they can do and how they can operate. That is what the wording means.

As I said, I wanted to respond to the points made by the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey. I hope that the House will now reject the Lords amendments and that we can vote to establish the will of the elected House on this question.

Question put, That this House insists on its disagreement with the Lords in their amendments Nos. 16 and 22, but proposes amendment (a) in lieu:—

The House proceeded to a Division.


Once again the Home Secretary tries too push through ID legislation without the consent of the people, as I have previously stated in other comments, has he forgotten, he is there to serve, not dictate.
The people do not want a flawed system.

Submitted by Peter Edwards

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the Aye Lobby.

The House having divided: Ayes 310, Noes 277.

Division number 186 Identity Cards Bill — Voluntary registration when applying for a passport — rejected

Aye: 310 MPs

No: 276 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name


Nos: A-Z by last name


Absent: 56 MPs

Absents: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendments disagreed to.

Amendment (a) in lieu agreed to.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. I ask hon. Members to leave quickly and quietly, so that business can proceed—[Interruption.] Order. Will hon. Members please conduct their conversations outside the Chamber if they are not staying for the debate?