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Identity Cards Bill

– in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 29th March 2006.

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Further consideration of Lords messages

Lords amendment: No. 22M.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary 9:36 pm, 29th March 2006

I beg to move, That this House
agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this we may discuss Lords amendments Nos. 22N and 22O.

These amendments were tabled in the other place by Lord Armstrong of Ilminster. They were accepted by my right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Scotland on behalf of the Government and passed by an overwhelming majority of 227. They were also supported by Conservative Front Benchers, although I am not sure that David Davis agreed with their decision. In fact, there are many rumours about his chagrin, which are no doubt exaggerated, but I am sure that with his characteristic statesmanship he will be able to put the House straight on any of his personal concerns.

I note that Lord Armstrong's proposals were not supported by the Liberal Democrats in the other place, who sought to take yet another opportunity to do whatever they could to destroy them. I sometimes think that it is a little sad that the greatest achievement in the Liberal Democrats' history—the Parliament Act 1911—is being so betrayed by the Liberal Democrats who are currently in Parliament.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

No, I shall not

Earlier today, the Commons re-affirmed its view, for the fifth time, that those who apply for a designated document should have their details entered on the national identity register and be issued with an identity card. As hon. Members know, that was fundamental to the Government's approach in implementing the ID cards scheme, from our first consultation exercise in 2002. That was followed by a policy announcement in 2003, the draft Bill that the Home Affairs Committee scrutinised in 2004, the Bill that was debated before the 2005 election and the Government's manifesto commitment.

We have now agreed, as a concession-seeking compromise, that anyone who applies for a British passport could say that they did not want an ID card to be issued. However, that applies only to applications made up to 1 January 2010. As I have said during our debates, we have been constructive in seeking compromise on many points and I am grateful that Lord Armstrong, to whom hon. Members should give credit, has persevered in his honourable attempts to secure an agreement.

There are three critical points of difference between the amendment that he tabled in the other place, which was overwhelmingly agreed to, and his resolution, which we considered earlier. First, Lord Armstrong's amendment preserves the integrity of the national identity register. It ensures that the details of all applicants for designated documents will still be entered on it. That will mean that they will be afforded the protection that that will provide from identity theft. It will also provide the wider benefits to society by ensuring that attempts by people to establish multiple identities are more easily detected.

Lord Armstrong's acceptance of the importance and integrity of the national identity register was an essential point of his amendment in the other place at this stage. It was not covered in previous amendments and it is the key point that has enabled us to accept it. I observed the debate in the other place and Lord Armstrong made it clear that that first point was essential.

T

Blatant lie! The original approach was marketing it as an "entitlement card" which would only be used by people collecting state benefits in order to prove that they are owed said benefits.

Submitted by Tom Morris

Photo of Nick Palmer Nick Palmer PPS (Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State), Department of Trade and Industry

As my right hon. Friend knows, I introduced the original identity cards measure. Earlier today, I proposed the way forward that the Lords have now taken. Does he share my pleasure that the Lords have agreed that all applicants for a passport will go on the identity register so that we can make genuine progress, as our manifesto commitment outlines? In a non-partisan spirit, will he congratulate the Conservative party on reversing its position again?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

To be candid, I find non-partisanship on the issue difficult. However, in its spirit, I pay genuine tribute to my hon. Friend Dr. Palmer, who has campaigned for identity cards for many years since his election in 1997. It has not been an easy pitch on which to bat but he has done it exceptionally well and made his case powerfully. I am glad that, today, Parliament has paid tribute to his work. Earlier, he drew attention to the critical importance of the national identity register. Lord Armstrong's acknowledgement of that has enabled us to support the amendment from the other place. The integrity of the national identity register has been the central point that enables us to accept Lord Armstrong's amendment.

Secondly, the amendment removes from the scope of any opt-out, designated documents other than the passport. The new amendment removes any opt-out from the residence permit, which specifies the right of third country nationals to reside in this country and the terms and conditions that they must honour. I noted from the earlier response of David Davis that he accepted the logic of that change

Photo of David Davis David Davis Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

The Home Secretary is right. That is why I asked him to clarify the point earlier. The change improves and reinforces the relevant aspect of the Bill.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I detected from the right hon. Gentleman's earlier response that he understood that point and I am grateful—in a non-partisan way—that he has.

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

In a non-partisan way, will the Home Secretary accept two points? First, Liberal Democrats, with whom he may disagree, have at least been consistent in opposing identity cards on principle and in practice. Secondly, for those of us who continue to resist the ridiculous incursion of the state on the individual, if we all renew our passports now, we will not be subject to the ludicrous new system for probably 10 years.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Andy Burnham dealt with the second point earlier. Consistency and idiocy are characteristics of the Liberal Democrats and I look forward to the response of Mr. Clegg.

M

The man's a fool

Submitted by Murk Read 1 more annotation

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

Unlike my hon. Friend Dr. Palmer, I have never been enthusiastic about identity cards and I have not changed my mind. However, I believe that, ultimately, the will of the elected Chamber must prevail. Among the critics, I am pleased—perhaps others are not—that the Home Secretary was willing to make some movement towards a compromise. I congratulate him on not being as dogmatic as he could have been. The compromise is acceptable, however much I dislike the scheme.

T

Presumably, if the elected chamber decided to introduce a "Final Solution", then the House of Lords should bow down to their supremacy. The defence of our liberties and human rights? Pah!

Submitted by Tom Morris

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. As I said earlier today, his position has always been clear. It is true to say that we have been flexible, but so too have Lord Armstrong and those in the other place in making important and significant changes. The first relates to preserving the integrity of the national identity register; the second to removing from the scope of any opt-out designated documents other than the passport—

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

No, I will not give way.

The third concession that Lord Armstrong has made is that, once the passport becomes a designated document, his amendment will provide for a time-limited opt-out for people applying for passports also to be issued with an ID card. I share Lord Armstrong's view, which he expressed again in the debate, that it will be a small number of people who choose to opt out. However, while those who opt out will not be able to prove their identity securely in a range of transactions with public and private sector organisations—that is the choice that they would make in opting out—they would also not be required to inform the authorities of changes in prescribed details such as their address. That obligation applies only to those to whom an ID card has been issued. If we agree to the amendments from the other place, as I hope we will, the opt-out will extend until 1 January 2010.

R

This is a threat to those who don't get ID cards. I don't have one now and I have no problems buying services. Yet he is saying I will have problems in the future if I don't get an ID card. This is state rackateering. Maybe they'll come round and make my legs break in a fall while they're at it.

Submitted by R Griffiths

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

No, I will not give way.

On those three key points, Lord Armstrong's amendment preserves the integrity of the national identity register, deals with the question of residence permits and documents other than passports, and proposes a time limit of 1 January 2010. These are important changes, and I repeat my appreciation for the approach that he has taken in seeking to secure agreement.

C

The Home Office used to say that the National Identity Register would be a new, clean register. They've since abandoned that in favour of merely making it an extension of the Passport Service database. Hence, I'm not sure what Clarke means by the "integrity" of the Register in this...

Submitted by Chris Lightfoot Continue reading (and 1 more annotation)

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

Before I give way to my hon. Friend—which I will because I am a generous, non-partisan type of chap—I need to point out that, in the other place, Lady Anelay suggested that these proposals meant that the audit log would not apply to those registered when applying for a passport in this initial phase. For the avoidance of doubt, I need to make it clear that that is not strictly correct. Once registered, any provision of information from the register will be logged, which provides a safeguard to the individual.

R

The ONLY safe guard is no ID card.
Governments are incompentent administrators, they always have been and always will be. They'll probably use this as an excuse to out source to the private sector. Probably to a company that the current government have an interest in.

Submitted by R Griffiths

Photo of Lynne Jones Lynne Jones Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. Will he tell the House something about the charges for the passport and the identity document? In particular, will those people who decline to receive an identity card be exempt from paying the charge of £30 or thereabouts?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

No, they will not—[Interruption.] Let me make two points. The overall pricing strategy for these documents will be determined after the Bill has received Royal Assent, as we have made clear all the way through. We have given a variety of indications about unit costs, and we have made various commitments in the House that will be honoured, but the actual pricing strategy will be determined on that basis. Secondly, concern was expressed in the other place—I cannot speak for this place—about the principle of whether a person should be required to have an ID card, as opposed to being on the national identity register. We are accepting the proposal from the other place for an opt-out on the principle of accepting an ID card, though not on the issue of the national identity register. In respect to the other place, its Members were very clear that the cost issues were not a matter of concern for them.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

I will not give way.

The date of 1 January 2010 adds a little bit of uncertainty to the Government's plans for implementing the scheme, but we believe that that uncertainty will be manageable. That is a judgment that we have made in discussions with Members of the other place on these matters. Lord Armstrong's proposal has the support of the Government as one which, in our opinion, strikes a sensible and acceptable compromise. It is important that that is the case, and I again pay tribute to his work.

In drawing the ping-pong of this Bill to a close, I would like to express my appreciation to the people who have worked so hard on this piece of legislation: first, to my ministerial colleagues, and even to the Opposition spokespeople—and, indeed, Back Benchers—of all parties in both Houses who have worked so hard in this process. I know that it has been a difficult Bill, but people have sought to address it in a constructive and positive way, even when we have disagreed—except the Lib Dems.

Secondly, I want to pay tribute to the staff of Parliament. They have dealt with what has been one of the longest ping-pongs with integrity and professionalism. On behalf of the whole House, I express appreciation for their work.

Thirdly, I want to express appreciation for the officials in the Home Office and elsewhere who have worked on the Bill. They are dedicated and they sought to give professional advice, without any partisanship, to everybody involved in the debate. I pay tribute to their work in developing and taking forward this scheme.

R

It's always nice to be professional when criminalising a nation. Well done everyone.

Submitted by R Griffiths

Photo of David Davis David Davis Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

Let me start by associating my party with the Home Secretary's final comments about the staff involved—his civil servants, the staff of the House and the support staff for all the parties. I include the Liberal Democrats in that, even though, despite the generous and non-partisan nature of which he made so much in his speech, he does not.

The Home Secretary started by attempting to tease me about my view on this amendment. The amendment reminds me of an old story told to me by a regimental sergeant-major some 25 years ago, which I shall repeat solely for the purpose of amusing Stephen Pound, who is in his place. The officers' mess had given the sergeants' mess a barrel of beer and the commanding officer asked the sergeant-major what they made of it and whether they liked it. He said, "It was just right, sir." The CO said, "Just right?" He said, "Yes, sir. If it had been any worse we couldn't have drunk it, and if it had been any better, you wouldn't have given it to us." That about sums up this amendment—just acceptable.

The amendment is a major concession by the Government in one respect—nobody who does not want an ID card need have one before the next election. That, of itself, is worth having. If the election comes at its latest possible date, there will be a small gap from January 2010 until May 2010, but people can avoid that, I guess, by buying their passport a few months early.

The Home Secretary referred to two unpalatable aspects of the compromise that he struck with Lord Armstrong, in which the Government drove Lord Armstrong away from his original intent. First, there is the maintenance of the requirement for entry on the identity register. Despite what he says, that is mitigated without the ID cards, because the information that goes with the ID card is limited—most perniciously, the so-called audit trail. The Home Secretary said what is legally correct—the audit trail will still exist. But, of course, the origin of the data for the audit trail is the ID card, so that will not be there.

Secondly, and more interestingly, the Government desperately resisted having the sunset date, on which full compulsion takes effect, after July 2010. They insisted that it should move forward to January 2010. Why was there such agony over those six months? The answer is obvious—they are desperate to avoid compulsion becoming an issue in the next general election. In that, they will fail.

The amendment mitigates and defers the worst aspects of a very bad scheme. It does not, however, cure the scheme.

R

Nice of the Tories to lay their cards on the line.

How dare they play so fast and lose with our freedoms just to improve their odds of re-election. They're using this issue as a political football in the hope it’ll ensure they’re election as the party who stands against the National (social) ID card scheme.

Submitted by R Griffiths Read 2 more annotations

Photo of David Davis David Davis Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in one moment.

The Government have not met any of the tests that we set at the beginning of the ID cards process: on cost, there is a massive £19 billion bill; on effectiveness, it will fail to stop terrorism, immigration fraud, crime, fraud and ID theft; on privacy, all our fears have been confirmed.

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

The Liberal Democrats are not surprised about the position of the right hon. Gentleman's party now, as it has changed so often, but we are confused in one respect. If he shared, as he said in the House previously, the view that the iniquity was not just the card but the information being held on the national register, how is it now acceptable to his party that one need not have the card until 2010, but one has no opt-out from the blessed national register?

Photo of David Davis David Davis Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 10:00 pm, 29th March 2006

The hon. Gentleman cannot have listened to the last paragraph of my speech, that paragraph being my reason for not giving way to him immediately. The simple truth is that this is not a perfect amendment. It is the best that we are going to get out of this Government. We have a poor scheme. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has debated the issue with me throughout the Bill's passage so far, and he should treat it seriously, as he well understands.

In my view, the mitigation will defer some of the worst aspects of the scheme, but it will not solve the problems. I should have liked to have no national identity register even after the next election, but we had no prospect of delivering that, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. His party's spokesman had a part in it.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Photo of David Davis David Davis Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I will not, if my hon. Friend will forgive me.

I will accept the Government's limited stay of execution, but I do not accept the Bill as a whole. It is still an unwarranted intrusion on the privacy of the individual. It is still ineffective, costly and potentially dangerous. It is still a massive reversal of the relationship between the citizen and the state. While I recommend that my party support the amendment, let there be no doubt that my first act when I take over as Home Secretary after the next election will be to do away with the Bill.

T

Quick, everybody, write that down. The previous history of the Tories is that they are just as infringing of our civil liberties as the current lot. Let's keep our eyes peeled for that in their next manifesto.

Submitted by Tom Morris Read 1 more annotation

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

It is worth my placing our objections to the amendments in the context of the Bill as a whole. The Bill has raised some of the most fundamental issues of principle imaginable. The introduction of identity cards will usher in one of the most far-reaching changes in British public life in recent times. It will change, unalterably, the relationship between the individual and the state by massively increasing the quantity and scope of information held centrally by the Government on each and every British citizen. It will revolutionise the capacity of the state to monitor the movements and behaviour of each and every one of us. It erodes privacy, and in extremis it will curtail freedom—and, to boot, it comes at a cost.

Even after all the debates that we have had, we still do not know the true financial cost of the Bill. The latest independent financial assessment from the London School of Economics estimates that the Government will run up a whopping deficit of £1.8 billion in the first 10 years of its operation. We still do not know who will run it. We still do not know how the database will be organised, and the Government's lamentable record in running large IT projects raises serious questions over whether it will ever be run successfully at all. It is a monstrous expression of big, big government.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

As an unrequited opponent of the Bill in principle, let me ask the hon. Gentleman a question about the disposition of the votes in the House of Lords. Is it the case that the Cross Benchers somehow or other pulled out in such a way as to guarantee that, if the measure returned to the Lords, there could not be the same result as on the previous occasion? In other words, has Lord Armstrong become rather economical with the votes?

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

It is certainly true that the amendments before us now are very different, in two important respects. First, as has already been pointed out, they would provide an opt-out only from having the card: a person's details would still be entered in the register. Lord Armstrong's first set of amendments refer to the register rather than the holding of the card. Secondly, they introduce the sunset clause referring to 1 January 2010, which simply does not pass the acid test of falling on the other side of the latest conceivable date for a general election.

The Bill is also based, as we know, on a form of covert compulsion by the back door, despite the Government's own election manifesto commitment to the voluntary introduction of identity cards. That makes the Government's agreement to introduce separate primary legislation to usher in full-blown compulsion at a later date a largely redundant concession.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

Does the hon. Gentleman concede that his own general election manifesto made specific reference to the proposals in the terms that we are now discussing? Admittedly his party was in opposition, but he was clear about the fact that this was the meaning of the proposals. The suggestion that this was "covert" is quite wrong.

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

I am glad that the Home Secretary scrutinised our manifesto with the care and attention that we have devoted to that of his party. Our manifesto stated, dare I say, the flamingly obvious, which is that it was always the Government's intention to ram the Bill through as a compulsory measure—and that is exactly what they propose to do now, if on the slightly later date of 1 January 2010. We were right back then, we have been right throughout all these debates and we are right this evening.

That is why we have consistently argued that the British people should be given another opportunity at the next general election to judge for themselves this illiberal, expensive and possibly unworkable scheme. That is why we agreed with Lord Armstrong when he said yesterday:

"There are a good many people out there who genuinely thought that the Government were proposing a voluntary scheme, and they were prepared to go along with it on that understanding".—[Hansard, House of Lords; 28 March 2006; Vol. 680, c. 651.]

And on that understanding alone. Incidentally, that is also why I found myself in unusual agreement with Mr. Redwood—he is not here now—when he said this afternoon, "We cannot accept a compulsory identity card in this Parliament, given the Government's position at the election and the strong sense among our constituents that we want freedom in this country."

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

Does my hon. Friend accept that tens of thousands of people—possibly millions—share exactly the view expressed by Mr. Redwood? The fact that the Government have gone back on their election undertaking and pushed this provision through Parliament does not mean that there will not be widespread resistance to it in the country. Many people simply will not accept that this Parliament has decided this issue on that manifesto.

T

The point is well made. Over 10,000 people have pledged to resist the card and donate to a defence fund.

http://www.pledgebank.com/resist
http://www.pledgebank.com/refuse

Submitted by Tom Morris Read 1 more annotation

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

My hon. Friend makes a compelling point and I suspect that many people will renew their passports in the weeks leading up to the new compulsory deadline of 1 January 2010.

Of course we recognise the extent to which the Government have been forced to climb down and to defer the imposition of covert compulsion in these amendments, but this climbdown does not pass the key test: that any move to compulsion must, under all circumstances, occur after the latest possible date of the next general election. As has been said, it is also significantly less important as a concession than Lord Armstrong's original amendment, since it only allows people to opt out of having the cards; their details will still appear on the ID register.

I have admired and agreed with almost everything that David Davis has said about this Bill, but here we part company. He is prepared to go along with the Government's victory in ramming through compulsion during this Parliament on the basis that, in practice, things somehow will not be so straightforward. For us, second-guessing the precise timing of the next general election or predicting exactly what may or may or not occur between January and May 2010 can never be a substitute for an objection of principle. The imposition of compulsory ID cards must not under any circumstances occur before the electorate make their own views known where it counts—at the ballot box. That is why, once again, we will vote tonight—alone, if necessary—against the Government.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Hall Green

I want to make a very brief contribution. I was a member of the Committee that considered the original Bill and it seems to me that few Bills have been subject to as much debate and scrutiny as this one. I was interested to hear Simon Hughes tell us that millions of people are against this measure. In my constituency, it seems that thousands are in favour of it, so I do not know where he takes the temperature.

I welcome the compromise on offer tonight. I thought for one horrible moment that we were going to witness the spectacle that the Tory party membership witnessed during their recent leadership election: the remarkable facility of David Davis to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, or, in this case, from the jaws of a respectable draw. What we actually witnessed tonight was the alternative: him marching his troops to the top of the hill, screaming from the top of his voice that he is against every single measure in the Bill, and yet, at the end of the process, telling them to march back down and vote for it. If that is his principle, I am glad that I am on the Government side of the Chamber and not on his.

Photo of Lynne Jones Lynne Jones Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

On what basis did my hon. Friend conclude that thousands of people in his constituency supported the measures in the Bill?

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Hall Green

That is very simple: I regularly speak to thousands of my voters, and I listen to what they say. It is a simple process, and I commend it to my hon. Friend.

The provision will be tested in the future, but tonight's result means that we will be able to get on with introducing it. If people think that it is wrong, they can test it at an election and cause it to be undone. However, the goal has always been to protect people from dangers such as identity theft, fraud, and major, organised crime. Our constituents tell us that they care about such matters: the Bill gives us a chance to address them.

We have had too much delay. I am glad that we are at the end of the process, and that we can get on with implementing the scheme. We will then be able to tell who is right, and who is wrong.

R

This is a foolish argument. He's actually saying his constituents want to be protected from bad things. Really? What a suprise. He then makes the leap that therefore they support National (social) ID cards. Is misleading people really the way to behave when one is elected. Perhaps it's the norm or perhaps he doesn't realise the error in his logic.

Submitted by R Griffiths Read 1 more annotation

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

I end this argument as I began it. I am not certain that there will be a vote—[Interruption.] It sounds as though the Liberal Democrats will press this matter to a vote, and it is with great regret that I must tell the House that I shall enter the Lobby with them, as a matter of principle.

I have fought this proposal from Second Reading onwards, and I have been joined by people such as my hon. Friends the Members for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) and for Buckingham (John Bercow), among others. Not all of them will know what has happened this evening, and some may therefore not join the Liberal Democrats in the Lobby.

It was astonishing to hear the Home Secretary argue, in the most spurious fashion, that he had three bases for accepting these amendments. The amendments were tabled by Lord Armstrong, who I said earlier was being economical with the votes—an adaptation of the expression "economical with the actualité", with which the House may be familiar. By the sound of it, the amendments represent a stitch-up with the Cross-Benchers in the House of Lords.

What are the three bases for the Home Secretary's acceptance of the amendments? He mentioned the integrity of the register. Could any word be less well chosen, in this context, than "integrity"? This is not a matter of integrity.

The Home Secretary went on to say that all information would be on the register, but I am glad to inform him that I shall be excluded from the provisions until 2016. That is simply because, by an accident, I happened to receive a passport and a driving licence only this week. All the other people in this country affected by this authoritarian and totalitarian provision will simply be overridden by what has been described as an "elective dictatorship". As a matter of principle, I find it impossible to support the proposals.

In conclusion, I have never before voted with the Liberal Democrats on a matter of constitutional importance, but that party's tradition goes back to the great Liberal party. It has departed from that old Liberal legacy, which remains a bastion and a beacon of independence and integrity when it comes to the country's constitution and our people's right to make their own choices.

The Bill should be excoriated and put in the dustbin. I shall not support it under any circumstances whatsoever.

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

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.

M

'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.

Submitted by Murk Read 1 more annotation

Photo of Nick Palmer Nick Palmer PPS (Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State), Department of Trade and Industry

Very briefly, because we have all been debating the Bill for sufficient time, I should like to reaffirm the basic principle that the Armstrong amendment reaffirms this evening: as each individual in Britain renews their passports, and later, after the next election, we hope that for each individual throughout the country, everyone's identity will be secured, so we will not have a situation where others can pretend to be us. Like my hon. Friend Steve McCabe, when I consult my constituents, there are those who are in favour; there are those who are opposed, but I know no one who has argued that we should delay and delay until 2010 or beyond. So there is overwhelming support for the principle that we ought to get on with it, that we should get the register working and that we should get that protection in place for the British people.

Photo of Richard Shepherd Richard Shepherd Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills 10:15 pm, 29th March 2006

Through certain of our laws, this country has defined its character, and there are some laws that are of particular importance. Through our common law and our statute law, we can trace a finger to show why we are an independent, free and liberated country. If there was a message that we sent around the world, it was the concept of our liberty. It was reiterated through the declaration of independence of the United States and the constitutions of Australia, Canada and New Zealand. That is the tradition of which we are part.

Today we are faced with the final round of a Bill that restates who we are: we are the servants of the state if the new Labour Government prevail in the passage of the Bill. It looks a lost cause, but I believe profoundly that this nation is more vibrant and more lively and that it will in the end not tolerate this nonsense. If we look to the history of who we are and we stand firm by the belief in the individuality and autonomy of the citizen, we know that the measure gives unto the Government the central control of information through a register that may or may not be secure, and the information that we have had from people who understand these matters is that no system can render secure the information that is our personal data.

On the proposition of the Government therefore, the House is now prepared to launch billions of pounds in an experiment that not only diminishes the people of this country, but beggars them in a sense: it beggars them in liberty, but it beggars them through taxation, too. For what purpose is this engineered? The rules of the game have changed, we are told. To what extent does that mean that we must surrender the first presumption of every citizen of these islands that we are free, independent and not the servants of the state?

The House should go out with a ringing defiance of a majority predicated on party, because this is a measure that extends beyond the sense that we are loyal party men or women. We are representatives of something stronger, deeper, longer and more intense than anything that the Home Office now presents to us as the settled will of the new Labour Government. I agree with much of what has been said this evening: people will unpick and begin to understand about all those who will provide information to the Government, who say that they deserve to know all about us. What about the derelicts under the bridges beneath Waterloo? What about the old and confused? What about the mentally anxious?

Those are the people who will be squeezed to try to remember who they are, but we will remember who we are. One day, this Government will experience the wrath and indignation of a country that understands that this is not a small social measure; it is in fact a declaration by Government that the centralised state is more important and greater than the sum of every individual free citizen of the country that we were sent to represent. We should oppose to the utmost and to the end this benighted and wrong Bill.

J

Fine speech, sir. Keep it up!

Submitted by John Davis

Photo of Lynne Jones Lynne Jones Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

I will be brief. I just want to make two points. First, the Information Commissioner said:

"The measures in the Bill go well beyond establishing a secure, reliable and trustworthy ID card."

Secondly, none of our fellow states in Europe is going down the route of having the central database. Indeed, the European Commission's data protection working party believes that the centralised storage of biometric information on a centralised database presents an increased risk of data misuse. I share its preference for information to be kept on a smart card that is within the control of the individual. The Lords amendment does not address any of those issues. For the privilege of being involved in this draconian scheme and having their data on the centralised database, even those who do not wish to have an identity card, but want to have a passport, will have to pay £30. I remain opposed to the legislation.

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

I will be brief. There is no real compromise in the amendments for UK citizens. They do not change the compulsory inclusion on the central biometric database, merely the carrying of an identity card. Although there is a time-limited opt-out in the amendments, that is only for carrying the card and that time limit ends prior to the last date possible for the next general election. That is important. This series of measures has been opposed, at least until tonight, by six Opposition parties and many Labour Members. It is a shock that the Conservative party has capitulated at this late hour. The measure is a fundamental shift in the relationship between the citizen and the state.

The Labour manifesto offered a voluntary scheme, not a compulsory one. Notwithstanding the power of the Labour Whips, given that a manifesto that offered a voluntary scheme was supported and backed by some 21.6 per cent. of the electorate, it was incumbent on the Government to accept the longer time-limited opt-out to allow the proposal to be put before the electorate at another election.

Many on the Labour Benches—indeed, many in the Chamber—will remember the opposition to the poll tax. When the scale of the opposition to carrying an ID card or to being included on a central biometric database rises to the scale of the opposition we saw to the poll tax, I fear that the entire edifice will collapse. Our resistance to the central database will continue.

Photo of William McCrea William McCrea Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I have listened with interest to the remarks that have been made. At the beginning of the whole debate, the Home Secretary pointed out that the measure was essential in the fight against terrorism. Those who come from Northern Ireland certainly have a great interest in that, because we have been doing that for more than 30 years, particularly and personally. Many of our colleagues have suffered grievously because of that. However, at the time when the Home Secretary was presenting the measure as so essential in the fight against terrorism, we could not understand why the scheme was going to be voluntary and was going to come in in 2008. Now we hear the date of 2010.

It is interesting to note that a Labour Member, speaking about how essential the measure was, said that it would aid the fight against crime, fraud and identity fraud, but seemingly someone can be a criminal or a fraudster, or be involved in the identity fraud game, up until 2010. As far as my colleagues and I are concerned, on the fight against crime or terrorism we believe that if something is essential, it is essential now. However, it seems that the measure is to do so with something other than the fight against terrorism. It is like Big Brother desiring all the details of the citizens of the United Kingdom. My colleagues and I will vote against the Lords amendments.

Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell Second Church Estates Commissioner

It is a pleasure to follow Dr. McCrea, who always speaks with experience. His experience was missed for many a year in the House, but he is now with us again.

It is said often—you know as well as I do, Mr. Deputy Speaker—that it is true that everything that can be said has been said, but not everyone has said it. At this stage of this Bill, everything that could be said, either in the other place or here, has in fact been said. I will thus not particularly draw out my remarks.

Mr. Clegg used his notes copiously, and copiously did he use them. May I give him some advice? He will be better off in the future if he puts more of his thoughts into his mind, rather than reading them from paper. He also said that the Bill was rammed through, but if I may say so, that shows a lack of intellectual rigour in his remarks. My hon. Friend Steve McCabe said that the Bill has been subject to scrutiny.

I wish to be kind to Liberal Democrat Members. I could say that their speeches are sanctimonious and filled with cant and hypocrisy, but I would not wish to cast aspersions on any particular Member. I have sat in the Chamber for many a year listening to the same kind of speech, but they have not had the slightest effect in the country or anywhere else.

I hold Mr. Cash in high regard. He made a fine speech, but I must remind him that he made the same speeches under the Government of John Major. He literally hacked that Government to death, but when it came to a vote of confidence, he found himself in the same Lobby as John Major. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to find himself in the Lobby tonight with the Liberals, Godspeed to him.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

The hon. Gentleman is trespassing on a matter of some importance. I simply say to him that if the vote of confidence had gone the other way, his party would have come into government with a more federal Europe than we would have achieved under the Maastricht treaty.

Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell Second Church Estates Commissioner

We might also have brought about the kind of economic reforms that we saw from 1997.

Let me make some kind remarks—I hope that they are kind—about Simon Hughes. He reminded me, if I might go into Shakespeare, of the blasted heath of "King Lear":

"I will do such things,—

What they are, yet I know not; but they shall be

The terrors of the earth."

I am sure that the country will take that into account. He urged the country to take note of him through our television screens, although, of course, that is against the rules of the House.

I will finish with a kind word for Mr. Shepherd. I simply say to him that Edmund Burke would be very proud of him tonight.

Question put, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 301, Noes 84.

Division number 208

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 22M agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.