Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:00 pm on 29th March 2006.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats 10:00 pm, 29th March 2006

I was warming to Mr. Cash until his last couple of phrases. However, I assure him that those of us who oppose the proposal are not saying that people should join us because it is a Liberal Democrat vote. The vote is against the principle so I hope that not only the hon. Gentleman realises what is going on, but that colleagues from all parties who have stayed true to their principles will continue to maintain their position.

The argument of Steve McCabe is flawed in one obvious respect. He says that we will be able to see how people respond when the Bill is passed. It is exactly because the Bill has been amended in this form by the Lords that we shall not be able to see people's responses so clearly. Until today, we were fighting the argument that there could be a choice. He and his Government are trying to ensure that there will be no choice.

I want to deal with the Home Secretary's repeated constitutional point. Today, he again lamented the fact that the House of Lords had stood so firm for so long. If there had been a clear Government manifesto commitment, the arguments about how the second non-elected Chamber should respond might have been different. But the Government manifesto was at least ambiguous, and many of us believe that their subsequent arguments were the opposite of their manifesto commitment. The other part of Parliament is thus absolutely within its rights to stand up to a Government who claim an unjustified authority.

The Home Secretary cannot deploy the argument against the Lords because they are hereditary, bishops or appointed. The current House of Lords was created by the Labour Government. It has been made up in its current form because of the policies of the Prime Minister and the Labour Government. It is no good their complaining that the Lords are not doing what they are meant to do; the Government put them there, some possibly, as we have heard recently, in unacceptable ways.

Colleagues in our party argued the case consistently in the other place. It is a great regret to me and many people outside this place that Conservative and Cross-Bench colleagues and Labour Back Benchers did not stay with my colleagues and take the Government to the wire. It would have been a perfectly justified constitutional challenge and a reasonable defeat of the Government, and would have resulted in a much better Bill.

If the Home Secretary thinks this is the end of the matter, he is wrong. Many of us have made it absolutely clear that we will do everything in our power, personally and on behalf of other people, never to have identity cards or to be on a national identity register. I encourage everybody listening and watching to renew their passports now so that they will not have to be subject to the ID card regime for the next 10 years. I hope that many will do so.

The Liberal Democrats hope that the Government lose their majority—not just their moral majority but their majority support among the British public, which they lost a long time ago—but also their majority in the House of Commons. They won only 35 per cent. of the vote and were backed by only 20 per cent. of the British public, yet they have a majority in the House of Commons. When that majority goes too, one of the first things that my colleagues and I will insist on in the next Parliament is that the ID card legislation is reversed.

We are happy to go to the country in defence of liberty, to oppose an increasingly authoritarian Government. That is true to our traditions, and the British public will respond far better to us than to the Bill, with its new powers of enforcement, even if there is a Labour majority for the proposal in the House of Commons tonight.


Posted on 30 Mar 2006 2:22 pm (Report this annotation)

'If the Home Secretary thinks this is the end of the matter, he is wrong. Many of us have made it absolutely clear that we will do everything in our power, personally and on behalf of other people, never to have identity cards or to be on a national identity register. I encourage everybody listening and watching to renew their passports now so that they will not have to be subject to the ID card regime for the next 10 years. I hope that many will do so.'

Hear, Hear.

Charles Efford
Posted on 30 Mar 2006 6:54 pm (Report this annotation)

Identity cards are the tool of tyrants all over the world. Britain does not have identity cards because we have never bee conquered or been run by a totalitarian government, until now.

Some politicians often promote ID cards because the rest of Europe has them, but these ID cards exist as an artefact of their less fortunate history. They were never the request of a free people, but a means of oppression retained by the government for administrative convenience.

Winston Churchill withdrew the ID cards issued during WWII in the early 1950's, because they had become a cause for complaint, as every petty official was demanding them at every opportunity. We will return to this world once they become compulsory. They will soon be very unpopular.

Local Councils, the government's shock troops for petty tyranny, will start to ask for them at every occasion. You will need them to get any government or council service. Other forms of identification will not do. They will scorn Passports and driving licences and insist on identity cards. If you forget it, they will send you away for it, and helpfully suggest that you should carry with you all the time. "It's much easier, y'know."

Why is Charles Clarke so keen on them, now that the original reason of combating terrorism has been refuted? A deeper meaning is probably a desire to conform to long term EU policy. Mr Clarke is, apart from being an instinctive, baleful, unsmiling authoritarian, a devout disciple of Europa. As Dennis McShane, the former Minister for Europe, has said, "Identity cards are inevitable. If we don't introduce them, the EU will." Charles Clarke is very likely just trying to sell ID cards as a British idea on behalf of the European Commission, which is probably why the Prime Minister is so keen on them as well.

It is inevitable that the identity card will become a European document. It is most likely that the EU symbol will appear on it as part of the EU's brand recognition campaign. The next step is for the scheme to be managed on a Europe wide basis.

Once the cards are in place the stage is set for continuous mission creep. Surveillance cameras were originally installed in the City of London to prevent terrorism. Now it is being proposed that they be used to detect motorists using mobile phones and not wearing seatbelts. For the moment the Government has said that looking in the car would be an invasion of privacy. This is surely just a brief delay while they think of another pretext to increase the reach of their authoritarian state.

As with security cameras, so it will be with identity cards. Next the government will have an advertising campaign to advertise the benefits of the card, which will also suggest that you carry it at all times. Just so that it is handy.

This will be the prelude to making the carrying of the card compulsory. The Police have already said that ID cards would be ineffective unless carrying them was made compulsory, but our politically campaigning Metropolitan Police Commissioner has been quiet on this in the current controversy. Eventually the police will be able to stop you and ask you for your identity card, and there will be a fine if you don't have it. But only criminals and terrorists will have anything to worry about, of course.

Soon there will be well meaning suggestions that ID cards should be adapted to enable people to identify themselves on the internet. At first, his will be done to protect children from paedophiles, but this will soon be extended to everyone, to stop criminals and terrorists y'know. Creeping censorship, to prevent the influence of pornography on the mentally unstable, will follow.

They would never do that, would they? It can get much worse. There is little limit to what governments can do when they issue a card which is, in effect, your identity. You don't exist without it. You cannot obtain any government or council services unless you have an ID card. The effect of this is being demonstrated by Israel in the Occupied Territories.

Israel wishes to annex the Jordan Valley, ostensibly to prevent terrorists from getting into the West Bank. It also means that they have any future Palestinian State surrounded, and strategically, they have control over the water of the Jordan River. To get rid of those Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley, they use the simple tactic of refusing to give them identity cards. Without them they do not exist. They cannot get through checkpoints, they loose all access to public and medical services. If they leave to get them in the Palestinian controlled area, they cannot go back. They are effectively deported and dispossessed. There is no war of conquest. It is ethnic cleansing by bureaucracy, cold, bloodless and administratively convenient. All made possible by that essential handy identity card.

We cannot be sure of the nature of a future European government, but because it is little constrained by the inconvenience of democracy, it will be able to sustain some pretty unpopular measures. What if a future EU government decided that the South East of England was overcrowded and decided to restrict the number of people living there? They could use the ID card as an internal passport by refusing all services and utilities to those not permitted to live in the region.

Too far fetched? Well, without ID cards it would not be possible. Once ID cards are introduced, bureaucrats will think up all sorts of new ways to use them. They are the tool of tyrants and petty tyrants will also find them very handy.

We are entering a world of EU conformity, which is bound to be exploited by the EU. We are thoughtlessly crossing the event horizon of an authoritarian black hole.