New Clause 2 — Passport fees for holders of ID cards

18. Relief from Tax (Incidental and Consequential Charges) – in the House of Commons at 2:15 pm on 15 September 2010.

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(1) This section applies to a person ("P") who-

(a) held a valid ID card on the day on which this Act was passed, and

(b) paid a fee for the card.

(2) On the first occasion after the passing of this Act on which P applies for a passport, the fee charged for the passport shall be reduced by £30.'.- (Meg Hillier.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs, Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 4- Transfer of information from National Identity Register to Identity and Passport Service

'The Secretary of State must ensure that any information recorded in the National Identity Register which-

(a) relates to a person ("P") who has indicated that P wishes to retain P's identity card until its expiry date, and

(b) is relevant to an application by P for a passport, is transferred to the Identity and Passport Service.'.

Amendment 5, page 1, line 16, in clause 2, leave out from 'day' to end of line 10 on page 3 and insert

'will remain valid until their expiry date.'.

Amendment 6, page 2, line 13, leave out clause 3.

Amendment 8, page 2, line 16, in clause 3, at end insert-

'(2) The Secretary of State must, before the end of the period of four months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, present to Parliament a report identifying the information destroyed in accordance with subsection (1).'.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I shall not rehearse all the arguments that were made in Committee, but the Opposition are concerned about the mean-spirited nature of the Bill. Some 14,000 people took up ID cards, most of which were paid for, and those individuals thought that the cards would be valid for 10 years. It was a simple transaction not just with a commercial body, but with Her Majesty's Government and, indeed, the Identity and Passport Service, one of the most trusted public bodies in this country, as research shows. Yet if the Bill goes the way the Government wish and, similarly, through the Lords, one month after Royal Assent those individuals will lose the ability to use the card that they had thought would be valid for 10 years. We have tabled some new proposals and given the Government a choice about how to deal with the matter. There is still an opportunity for the Minister for Immigration to recognise that, in his haste to get rid of identity cards, which for him is a big ideological issue, he does not need also to be unfair to those who in good faith paid their £30.

The new clause and amendments detail two proposals. There is no money resolution attached to the Bill, so we cannot press for a refund. However, we propose that the fee that people paid be added as a credit to the passport database. The data-matching would be relatively straightforward, given that everybody who holds an identity card, including myself, has, or has recently had, a passport. Of course, there are data protection rules, and we would have to gain permission from those individuals, but I would happily give permission for my data to be transferred.

In the process, we would lose the fingerprint, because it cannot be stored- [ Interruption. ] I am glad to see that the Minister is listening. It cannot be stored on the passport database- [ Interruption. ] I am being ironic: the Minister will, I hope, be listening in a moment. It cannot be stored, because the Government, in their desire to get rid of it so quickly- [ Interruption. ] In their reckless desire to get rid of it quickly, I repeat for the Minister, the Government do not plan to introduce passports with fingerprints. However, that credit would give some comfort to those who paid £30, and it would represent basic fairness.

The Government make great play of fairness; they often point to their coalition agreement, which makes much of it; and, as we seem to be quoting manifestos today, each individual party spoke about fairness in its manifesto, so we ask that the proposal be considered. It would be a relatively straightforward transaction, and with another amendment we will probe the Minister on a further issue. If the Government are planning to destroy the data, they will have to handle the information and do something with it, so they might as well pass it over to the passport database.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Conservative, Hexham

Does the hon. Lady expect the repayment to be made to those persons who received that particular facility for free?

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Shadow Minister (Home Office)

If the hon. Gentleman had had the courtesy to listen, he would have heard me deal with that point at the beginning of my comments.

We also suggest an alternative, so the Government have a choice. The Minister has two options in order to be fair to those members of the British public who bought a card in good faith. The alternative is to allow cards to continue for 10 years and, again, with the permission of the individual cardholder, for data to be migrated to the passport database, which is not a terribly difficult transaction, so that ID cards can continue as passports. We recognise that that is not a perfect solution, because with few cards already out there and, given all the points that we rehearsed in Committee about someone's ability to recognise the document, there might still be issues. However, that would represent a choice for the individual who had paid their £30 to have the card.

Photo of Aidan Burley Aidan Burley Conservative, Cannock Chase

We learned in Committee that of the 14,670 ID cards that were issued, almost 3,000 were given free of charge, so only 11,000 cards were paid for. Are the Opposition, in the second of their two options, suggesting that we maintain the card infrastructure for the next 10 years just for those 11,000 people, at a cost of £50 million to £60 million for 16 people per constituency?

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Shadow Minister (Home Office) 2:30, 15 September 2010

That is not what we are suggesting, as the hon. Gentleman would see if he read the new clause. As I said, we are suggesting that the information be migrated to the passport database.

We recognise that this is a rare area of unity for both Government parties, which is perhaps why it is being rushed through. The Government clearly want to get rid of the national identity register. However, it would not be difficult to migrate data to the passport database, especially given that everybody who currently holds a card has recently held, or currently holds, a passport. Of the 11,000 people affected, many may choose not to take up migration of the card. If there were to be the option of a credit on their passport database, some may not choose to take that up either. However, it would give them the option. I believe that it can be done relatively cheaply, and that it is fair.

This is being done with the ideologically driven haste of the Minister. We have debated this previously and I know that he is passionate about getting rid of ID cards, but basic fairness is involved. Frankly, those who bought in good faith from the trusted Identity and Passport Service have been diddled by this Government. If the Minister gets up and talks about what his manifesto said, we will be driven to despair. We discussed this in Committee. When somebody buys a passport or an identity card, or has any other transaction with Government, they will not necessarily take into account something that has been said in a political manifesto. Government has some degree of continuity and when an individual has bought something in good faith, there needs to be some recompense for them.

We recognise, reluctantly, that both parties in this Government had a mandate to get rid of identity cards; as I said, it is one area of unanimity within the coalition. Therefore, whatever our position on that general issue, we will not press the matter to a vote. However, the issue of compensation is very important, and we will seek to divide the House on the new clause unless the Minister can give us some reassurances.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

I rise vigorously to oppose the new clause.

We have to be absolutely and abundantly clear about the fact that identity cards are exclusively and solely a new Labour creation. Every single other party in this House made it absolutely clear that we would have nothing whatsoever to do with them and that if we had even the remotest opportunity to get rid of these useless and intrusive lumps of plastic, we would do so immediately. We actively encouraged people not to take out ID cards. For those who did so, under new Labour encouragement, that was their free and fair choice: tough luck to them. We are now enacting exactly what we told them. The new coalition Government are absolutely right to try to get rid of ID cards. They said they would do it in 100 days. I am disappointed that it will take a little bit longer than that, but thank goodness we are getting rid of this hated, obtrusive and ridiculous scheme.

We refer to these as ID cards, but let us give them their proper name. They are not ID cards, but NLID cards-new Labour identity cards. They are a monumental folly that symbolises new Labour's attempt to create the anti-civil libertarian state, and thank goodness they did not get away with it. Instead of droning on about compensating the poor mugs they encouraged to take out ID cards, why do not Labour Members get on board and join us in celebrating the removal of these things? Nobody wants them.

Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne North

I appreciate the very strong feelings that the hon. Gentleman is conveying, but I want to draw out his views not on whether ID cards should be abolished but on whether individuals who paid for them honestly and in good faith should be recompensed, as suggested in the new clause.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

I am grateful for the hon. Lady's intervention. We told people who were thinking about taking out an ID card, "Don't do it-we're going to abolish this scheme." In fact, if someone took out an ID card in Scotland, they would not require compensation but having their head looked at. The Scottish Government made it clear that people would not be able to use an ID card to access public services in Scotland. We did everything we could as a Government and as a party to discourage people in Scotland from taking out ID cards-and thank goodness they listened to us. I think that perhaps one in 10 of the people involved took out an ID card in Scotland. Anyone who did so would have to be the biggest new Labour cheerleader waving in and celebrating the arrival of the anti-civil libertarian state in Scotland. They would need to have had "Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath's Finest" tattooed on their chest to have taken out an ID card in Scotland: that is how ridiculous a proposition it would have been.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Conservative, Harlow

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way in the course of such an impassioned speech. Does he agree that not all Labour Members take the same view? In fact, the Labour party leadership candidate, Edward Miliband, has said that ID cards were a great mistake and that the party should show some humility and admit that it got it wrong.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because I have that quote from Edward Miliband, who said:

"As someone who is liberal on social issues and civil liberties, I accept that in government we were too draconian on aspects of our civil liberties...We have to have to be able to say we won't go back to ID cards."

Come on, the rest of you-catch up! He might be your leader, because according to the opinion polls, he is ahead. You are way behind current thinking on this. Labour had a good record on civil liberties until new Labour came along-please get back in touch with your civil libertarian roots.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I am interested to hear the Scottish National party's position. In fact, people could not easily apply for ID cards in Scotland, and that is why very few did so. They were not formally launched there at the point at which the Government changed, but they would have been coming and I am sure that there are many people in Scotland who would have liked to have had one.

Leaving that aside, it would be interesting to know what the SNP's position is on fingerprints in passports, which is something that Members from many parties in this House, both Government and Opposition, have indicated is very important, and something that my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North has not ruled out.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

If you will allow me, Mr Deputy Speaker, because we are straying somewhat from the terms of the debate, I would say to the hon. Lady that I am very pleased that the coalition Government are picking up the Scottish example as regards databases. They have seen the good sense of the SNP Government in their approach to these issues, and I congratulate them on following and copying their model.

Given that it was Labour Members alone and exclusively who encouraged people to take out ID cards, why are they asking the taxpayer to help with compensation? It should be the Labour party that compensates the poor souls who took them out. It has all these trade union funds-what is it going to do with them? If you want compensation to be paid to these people, pay it yourself.

I have one bit of comfort for all those who have taken out ID cards in the course of the past year: they are becoming a collector's item. This is really intriguing and interesting. Forget about compensation-all they need to do is get one of the great Labour champions of the anti-civil libertarian state to sign their card. If anyone watching this has an ID card, they should get Mr Clarke, Mr Reid or Jacqui Smith to sign it, and that will increase its collectability. They might get more than the £30 that they want the Government to pay them back. Here is a good idea: they should get the absolute champion of ID cards, Mr Blunkett, to sign it; they would probably turn a profit given the collectability that that would have in the future. The collectability of ID cards makes them almost like little bits of the Berlin wall, appropriately, and that is how they are likely to remain.

I make a plea to the Labour party: get on board with this. Get in touch with your civil libertarian roots, find a new agenda, listen to what is happening in your leadership contest, and forget about droning on about compensation and trying to get this scheme to go on. It is done, finished-move on. I am with the Government on this one. We should reject this new clause, make sure that nobody gets compensation, and end the scheme tomorrow if we can.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Conservative, South Swindon

It is a real pleasure to follow Pete Wishart, who, with Celtic chutzpah, put the damning case against identity cards and the national identity register extremely well and with great wit and humour. I pay tribute to him.

I am sure that Meg Hillier will forgive me for saying that the fortitude with which she moved the new clause characterised her approach throughout the long march of ID cards up to the top of the hill and now, happily, down again. She reminds me of Queen Victoria during the Boer war. When it was put to her in the early stages that there was a possibility of defeat, she memorably said, "I do not accept the possibility of defeat. It does not exist." The attitude of the hon. Lady and the former Government to ID cards is encapsulated in that memorable quotation. There has been a state of denial and an almost fanatical refusal of the reality of how the debate on ID cards has shifted since the early days, when I concede opinion polls were somewhat against those who opposed the cards.

There is no doubt that there has been a sea change in public opinion in recent years, encouraged not only by parties in the House but by a genuine campaign across the country against the menace of ID cards and the national identity register. Yet the former Government did not listen to that campaign or to members of my party, the Liberal Democrats or the nationalist parties. There was a grand coalition against the proposals, but still they pressed ahead. Worse than that, to use another military metaphor, they laid booby trap after booby trap to make it as difficult as possible for people to withdraw from the scheme. That is where the new clause fails the test that we should set it.

Although I appreciate the spirit behind the proposal, there is no doubt that members of the public who chose to buy an identity card would, by definition, have been aware of the raging debate about that contentious issue. I have to say to them, caveat emptor-let the buyer beware. When buying the card, they knew that it was my party's stated intention to take immediate steps to end the scheme, and that other parties were saying exactly the same thing. The message was loud and clear.

The situation is rather like the one 13 years ago, when the Labour Government came to office. They made their position clear about certain policies, for example promising an end to tax credits for people on private health schemes. We are not here to debate that now, but it is a parallel point. Labour was elected to office overwhelmingly and carried out its policy, as it was entitled to do. The electorate were given a clear message, and the late Government did not renege upon their promise. They pressed ahead based upon the mandate that they had received. Although we can debate the merits of that decision, it was their prerogative. Now, 13 years later, we are in a similar position. We have a Government consisting of two parties that made their position crystal clear before the election, yet if we accept the amendment, we will be applying a different rule.

Politics is a tough occupation-I am sure we all have direct experience of that. We win some, we lose some. Labour comprehensively lost the argument on identity cards and the national register, and I submit that in those circumstances, the best thing for it to do is accept defeat gracefully and not press the new clause.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

Mr Buckland was eloquent and I agree with much of what he said, above all about the centrality of the manifesto on which a party is elected. The Conservative party was elected on a very clear manifesto against the alternative vote, and of course Conservative Members are now marching into the Lobby to vote for a referendum on it. However, he will have to learn a lesson about politics that I have had to learn for much of my life, which is the pleasure of swallowing one's previous pledges and standing on one's head. On AV, which is far more important than this minor Bill, the Conservative party is doing both. The nation will duly take note.

Pete Wishart was wondrous in his eloquence. His speech was clearly a bid to join the coalition, and I would have thought that he should get a ministerial job. The Government are short of Scottish talent. Actually, they are short of talent, and he is both Scottish and talented. He should certainly be sitting on the Treasury Bench. He represents the nationalistic passions of Scotland, the country where I was born and where an awful lot of my family still live.

I wish that new Labour had been the inspiration for ID cards, but it was not. The Netherlands, Germany, Spain and France all have them. They are a European idea, but in today's evolving political landscape it is always important to hear the nationalist rant against European practice. That is another reason why the hon. Gentleman may find himself much happier sitting on the Government Benches.

I turn to the new clause itself, which is not about the origins and use of ID cards, or about whether they were in the manifesto that the British people supported, just as they handsomely supported the party opposed to AV and defeated the one in favour of it. It is simply about whether the state can confiscate money. The hon. Gentleman is wrong; it was not taxpayers' money that paid for my ID card but a £30 cheque or credit card payment from my miserable pre-Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority salary. I am not sure whether it is a claimable expense. As euro-waffler-in-chief, I do an awful lot of travel in Europe, but I am not sure whether I could put in a claim for an ID card.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

The Minister is quite right. However, it was my money that paid for my ID card, and the state has no right to confiscate my money. If it took a house or land from me by compulsory purchase, it would have to pay the due sum.

Photo of Aidan Burley Aidan Burley Conservative, Cannock Chase

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his decision to buy an ID card, whether or not he intended to claim the money back, was entirely a free choice? He had a choice whether to buy one, and he chose to do so. These are the consequences.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

I am terribly sorry, but I obtained my ID card and paid my £30. The new Government are rightly seeking to confiscate it, but they owe me modest compensation for doing so. I would never be allowed, under your stern tutelage, Mr Deputy Speaker, to accuse the Ministers of misleading the House or not being straight with us, but may I say that they are being a right pair of tea leaves at the moment? They are going to steal my money and not hand it back. [Interruption.] I mean that they are fond of tea and coffee. A very sound principle of British law is that if the state changes regulations and confiscates an individual's property that was bought in good faith, forms of compensation are normally paid.

That is not just my view but that of a distinguished Conservative adviser, Lord Levene, who I believe the Prime Minister has hired to advise him on reducing defence expenditure, or perhaps more accurately to achieve smarter procurement in defence, which is his speciality. He wrote a very cross letter to The Times, about which we later had a very nice telephone conversation, in which he said that it was quite preposterous that having bought his identity card in good faith, he should now have it confiscated without any compensation. I bow to Lord Levene as a banker, a man of affairs, a business leader and a distinguished Government adviser, and shelter behind his outrage. Frankly, it does not matter if we are talking about one person or 14 million people. I put it to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire that the Government could do themselves no end of good by accepting the new clause, because 14,000 or 15,000 people, in good faith, took out ID cards- [ Interruption. ] Sorry, 11,000 people paid money for cards and others got them free. They have used the cards for three months, so compensation could be made pro rata. It would do the Government no harm-they have sent letters to Lord Levene and me, but they will be sending more-to put a little cheque in the post for those people.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Minister for Immigration

The right hon. Gentleman was in danger of coming close to a serious point, and I thought it deserved to be dealt with. I am sure he has read the Bill and the Identity Cards Act 2006 carefully, so he will be aware that the Government of whom he was such a distinguished and eloquent supporter for so many years wrote the legislation so that the ID card, which he says is to be confiscated, is not his property. The ID card has always been the property of the state, so he cannot run the argument that his property will be confiscated.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

I am grateful for that hair-splitting point. My passport remains the property of the state, but the plain fact is that I and 11,000 others paid £30. That is not a lot of money, but it was paid in good faith. New clause 2, gently and in a friendly way-there will be other opportunities to make similar points-says that there should be polite compensation. That is a long-established principle of British democratic practice. We are talking peanuts, so the Government would do themselves no harm at all if they erred gently on the side of generosity.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Conservative, Hexham

I shall not detain the House long, but the Bill has rightly been described as a long march. The previous Government's policy began years ago as a proposal for a compulsory scheme, forcing ID cards on individuals. As a result, there was tremendous opposition. It is surely a rare day when the Conservative and Liberal coalition is supported by Justice and other individuals and organisations that promote civil liberties.

The Government, having decided that the scheme would be compulsory, indicated in the previous Parliament that the scheme would be voluntary. I confess that my vast research was not into answering the question whether schemes in other parts of Europe are compulsory rather than voluntary, which Mr MacShane raised. However, the UK scheme was voluntary and people signed up it.

The 2006 Act wound its way tortuously through the House, slowly but surely, faltering at every step, like some relic of yesteryear, as the previous Government attempted to demonstrate tremendous moral fibre in some shape or form. They were in the position of having to carry the measure, and the scheme eventually became voluntary. As soon as the scheme became voluntary, the argument in favour of repayment fell away. People were not obliged to sign up for an ID card, and could instead rely on their passports, driving licences or alternative documentation.

The reality is that people voluntarily signed up to pay for an ID card. They were not forced to sign up, so the Government's approach must be dramatically different. The decision to sign up is for the individual, and the legislation states that if they do not want to sign up, they do not have to do so. It is not incumbent on the state, at this or at any other stage, to pay compensation.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

Let me ask the hon. Gentleman a question so I can get this clear: if he voluntarily buys a house and the council comes along and takes it off him, is he saying that the council does not have to pay compensation?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Conservative, Hexham

A variety of things could happen in that situation, not least suing the council. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that various people who gave evidence to the Public Bill Committee indicated that they might contemplate suing the Government. People could sue the council if they were put in that position.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

That is not so much the key point as the context of such decisions. When lots of people are saying, "Do not buy this because we are going scrap it," people are making an informed decision. If they choose to buy voluntarily an ID card, that is surely up to them.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Conservative, Northampton North

To continue the example of the house sale, an individual buying a house despite knowing that there is something wrong with it, such as subsidence, is the same as Mr MacShane in respect of his ID card.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Conservative, Hexham

The position has been explained and I am sure that it is fully comprehended. We should not detain ourselves on the £30 any further in the House. Liberty and Justice support our point of view.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Shadow Minister (Home Office)

Liberty is also in favour of removing ID cards for foreign nationals, or biometric identity documents, or whatever people wish to call them. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with Liberty? Is he aware that surveys revealed that the Identity and Passport Service is one of the most trusted public bodies in the country? That trust is being breached by the Government's decision. All we are saying to the Government is, "Be fair to those who bought an ID card." Frankly, the idea that everybody read all the manifestos, as some hon. Members are saying, rather overrates their importance, and suggests that hon. Members are not in touch with the many people who do not follow politics and daily read manifestos .

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs, Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs

Order. May I remind the hon. Gentleman that the debate is quite tight and that he should speak to the new clause? He should not draw Members into other areas.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Conservative, Hexham

I apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker, if I have in any way drawn Members into other areas.

The short answer to the hon. Lady is to ask her this question: if the ID cards satisfaction survey showed that they were so popular, why did so few people sign up? Fewer than 15,000 signed up, and several thousand did not have to pay.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Minister for Immigration

Meg Hillier inadvertently misled the House by saying that Liberty is against biometric residence permits. I have Liberty's briefing for today's debate. It states that-

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs, Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs

Order. I do not think that the permits are part of the debate, and we are being drawn into other areas. I am sure that Mr Opperman would like to continue his speech.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Conservative, Hexham

I do not intend to go any further on that point. My final point is that we should not sign up to proposed new clause 2.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

I, too, do not want to take too long on new clause 2 and in speaking to amendment 8. I enjoyed the contribution of Pete Wishart. I am going to try to find out who the 10 people in Scotland who want to join his fan club are, and I will do anything I can to put them in contact with him.

I want to acknowledge that there is one area of agreement. The Lib Dem and Conservative parties both went into the election on a promise to abolish identity cards, and we cannot really find fault with that. Of course, the Lib Dems also promised thousands of extra policemen, and I do not know where that figures in the current arrangements. However, if people are going to pray in aid that their manifesto commitment is the great justification, we need a total explanation. As far the Lib Dems are concerned, their justifications amount to nothing.

This is a relatively small issue, and we could go too far on it, but the people who bought ID cards did so in good faith-

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham 3:00, 15 September 2010

It is a narrow point, but it is an important point. Since 1945, there have been many elections-although perhaps not recently-in which a party has said that if elected it would nationalise a private industry. The owners of the shares in that industry-even if the shares amount to £20 and were bought on the day of the election-always received due compensation. We do not confiscate without some compensation. That is a very important point of British democracy.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

There is a principle here, and that is my point. People bought these cards in good faith. It is all very well for other hon. Members to say that it was clear that if the election results went a certain way they would be abolished, but everyone-including the hon. Members for Hexham (Guy Opperman), for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) and indeed for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart)-must remember that no one won the last election. The Conservatives did not convince the electorate of the merits of their manifesto, nor did the coalition partners. That is why we have a coalition. The election result was not clear cut and no single party succeeded in convincing the electorate that they had a right to govern by themselves. In that context, it would be reasonable to show a bit of humility in the proposals the Government make.

I have no objection to the Government choosing to abolish ID cards, but I do object to them seeking to penalise and punish those who bought cards in good faith. The electorate will remember all these grand speeches saying that those people do not count for anything and the derogatory remarks-although I am sure that they were made in jest-of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire. Hon. Members should recognise that those people acted in good faith and it is not appropriate to penalise them.

We do not want to make a massive deal of this, but the Minister has had quite a lot of time to think about it. We are talking about a relatively modest amount of money, but the precedent it would set is very important. If the precedent is set that people will be punished if, after having acted in good faith by doing something that the Government of the day encouraged, it will cause paralysis in many other areas.

Photo of Aidan Burley Aidan Burley Conservative, Cannock Chase

The hon. Gentleman said that this proposal would cost a relatively modest amount, but does he have any idea how much it would be? The current cost of maintaining the present system, as we know from Committee, would be £50 million to £60 million over 10 years. Other hon. Members have suggested migrating the data to the Passport Service, but I have no idea what that alternative proposal would cost. Does the hon. Gentleman know what the cost of maintaining the system for 11,000 people would be?

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

Fortunately, I do not suffer from the voodoo economics of Conservative Members, so I do not have a clue where the hon. Gentleman gets the figure of £50 million or £60 million. We are saying that there should be a £30 discount when the person who currently holds a card next applies for a passport. Under whichever education system hon. Members operate, they should be able to work the figure out for themselves.

I like and respect the Minister and I trust what he says, but clause 3 states that the information on the national identity register will be destroyed. It is fair to say that when this was discussed in Committee his knowledge of the technical detail of the register was almost as good as mine, and neither of us is likely to get a job with Bill Gates any time soon. We know from the information that was presented to the Committee that there is some doubt in Government and in Government organisations about what is meant by the national identity register. We cannot pass legislation in good faith and then discover that it cannot be implemented because the Minister has been asked to do something that he is not technically capable of doing.

I make this point for two reasons. First, since the election, my colleagues and I have listened to the grandstanding from the Government Benches about their civil libertarian credentials. That will work in the early months of government, when it is easy to run around saying that they are against speed cameras or DNA testing, but it will not work when they face constituents who have suffered and want to know why the Government are not on their side- [ Interruption. ] If the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire wants to come to the defence of his new-found friends again, I will give way.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

I just wanted to give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity to say whether he is in line with the thinking of Edward Miliband, who has said that the previous Government were too draconian on civil liberties. Is that an admission that the hon. Gentleman recognises?

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

Let me be blunt. I may find myself loyally serving my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband-who knows-but I am not against ID cards. Nor would I say that the previous Government, in the circumstances with which we had to deal, were draconian. We took the difficult decisions that were necessary, and there will come a time when Ministers in this Government have to come to the House to tell us what they are having to do to protect the public because of a deterioration in our security situation. It is easy to grandstand now, but tomorrow always comes-and what is said now may come back to haunt you.

It is all very well painting a bleak picture of the previous Government, but can the Minister tell us today how the information contained on the national identity register will be destroyed? He will know that in the evidence given to the Committee the chief executive of the UK Border Agency was not entirely clear what the national identity register was. Some people thought that it was to do with facial geometry, some thought it was not. Some people thought that it was to do with a Sagem algorithm, whatever that is, and others thought that it was to do with the Cogent algorithm. One person thought that it was "co-ordinated" and another said that it is not a box with everyone's name in it-I think we know that much.

I do not want to push the new clause to a vote, but is the Minister able to tell us today how he will comply with the requirements of clause 3? If not, will he agree to come back to the Chamber and report what has happened? The last thing that I want to do is be back here at some point in the future accusing Ministers of failing to comply with their own legislation.

Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley

It is a pleasure, as always, to follow Steve McCabe. I have done it so often he might want a restraining order at some stage.

I understand the argument for why the people who foolishly bought an ID card should get some compensation- [Interruption.] I am not saying I support that argument, but I can see its logic. However, I struggle to see the logic behind the arguments for new clauses 2 and 4, one of which would, if I am right, see the existing cards be valid for nearly another 10 years. The other would provide for a discount, at some point during those 10 years, if someone applied for a new passport. I struggle to see, however, how having ID cards that are still valid in nine years and nine months would give those holding them the advantages they sought when they paid for them. Where would those ID cards be accepted as a proven form of identity? What is the risk that people could forge them? Would people struggle to tell the difference, if they did? Would people be able to travel around the EU using an ID card instead of a passport? I struggle to see how that would happen, and it would open up the door to a manner of identity fraud different from what we already have, so I cannot vote to keep them in place for the next 10 years.

The idea of credit against a passport is a better one, but again we would have the problem of having to keep the data for all that period. We would also have the problem of how to process that data. I presume that the easiest way would be that, when a person applied for a passport, they would have to send in their ID card to prove that they actually had one in the first place. Again, however, how would we deal with people who had changed their names, lost their ID card or found it useless for eight years until their passport renewal came round and had to dig it out from the bottom of a draw somewhere? There would also be the risk that people might try to create fraudulent cards, meaning that someone would have to go back to the original list of people with ID cards for proof. And how would we handle the fact that not everyone actually had paid for their card? I accept that the proposal provides for that, but it means that someone would need a record of who had paid for their card and who had got theirs free.

With respect, therefore, I cannot see how we can vote for either of the two solutions. There is no way I can vote for either. Given some of the concerns raised by Opposition Members about the legal issues involved in scrapping ID cards without compensation, I would be grateful if the Minister could repeat the assurance he gave us in Committee that the Government had received solid legal advice that it is legal and will not be overturned at huge cost to the taxpayer resulting from the court proceedings subsequent to this process.

Photo of Julie Hilling Julie Hilling Labour, Bolton West

Hon. Members on both sides have been extremely rude to constituents of mine who have written to me about how they bought an ID card in good faith. I assume that a lot of Members in the Chamber today were not part of the pilot programme in which constituents were able to buy ID cards. Had they been, perhaps they would also be speaking up on behalf of those constituents who bought ID cards but will not now get a refund. Those who have written to me are mainly pensioners and on a low income. They decided that they were only going to be travelling as far as Europe and that therefore an ID card was a good value alternative to paying the full amount for a full passport. These people are taxpayers.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Conservative, Northampton North

May I ask how many of her constituents wrote to her about this?

Photo of Julie Hilling Julie Hilling Labour, Bolton West

Especially in a marginal.

I have received letters from about a dozen people in my constituency, and as I say, they are on low incomes and are taxpayers. Each of them entered into a contract with their Government saying, "I will purchase an ID card, and for that I will have the benefit of travel within Europe and other benefits, such as proof of identity, for 10 years." It is not unreasonable for those constituents to expect either to get their money back or to receive credit for it.

Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley

Will the hon. Lady confirm my understanding that those constituents will already have had a passport that they can use to travel to the same places?

Photo of Julie Hilling Julie Hilling Labour, Bolton West 3:15, 15 September 2010

I will happily answer that question. The only people who prior to the election could get an ID card were those whose passport had recently expired. They were mainly elderly people who made a decision not to travel further than Europe, and they were mainly people who could not afford, or found it difficult to afford, the full cost of a passport.

Several Members have talked about how the message was loud and clear that the ID cards would disappear. My constituents are not fortune-tellers and could not say what the outcome of the election would be. In actual fact, they made their views clear by returning a Labour MP, so it is insulting to them to say that they should have expected the ID cards to disappear.

Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Conservative, Peterborough

In all fairness, the hon. Lady should concede that it was almost unprecedented in all the polices taken through by the Labour Government for a break clause to be flagged up by the then shadow Home Secretary and others. That sent a very strong signal to commercial organisations that the current Government would not continue with the ID cards programme. I am not saying that all her constituents will be reading the trade press, or even the quality press, but it was clear that both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative party had made manifesto commitments to abolish ID cards.

Photo of Julie Hilling Julie Hilling Labour, Bolton West

My constituents could not have foreseen at that point that there would be a Con-Dem coalition. How could they have known what would be in the coalition agreement, especially given that it does not bear much resemblance to the manifestos?

Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne North

Does my hon. Friend agree that many of the constituents who have written to us and who we deal with, and who are concerned about not receiving any compensation, do not follow avidly the words of a shadow ministerial team? Largely, they are probably not interested in the pronunciations of a shadow ministerial team, but are busy trying to survive day to day on a state pension, to make ends meet, to get their shopping and to look after their grandchildren. They are not avidly following the intricacies of the position of the shadow ministerial team.

Photo of Julie Hilling Julie Hilling Labour, Bolton West

I thank my hon. Friend for making that point, because I agree with her absolutely.

If someone buys a service from the Government, whatever their colour, they would expect their Government to continue to provide that service, and if they did not continue to do so, they would expect to be compensated. That is the major point.

Photo of Louise Mensch Louise Mensch Conservative, Corby

I thank the hon. Lady for being so generous in giving way. I put it to her that her constituents ought to be complaining to the Labour party, which was in Government at the time, because it was made clear to them that we would not be continuing with this scheme. The fault for the costs that her constituents have borne should rightly be laid with Labour Members and the Labour Front-Bench team. Is that not true?

Photo of Julie Hilling Julie Hilling Labour, Bolton West

The hon. Lady does not quite understand that my party, the loyal Opposition, does not have the power to make payments. If only we did. If only we had the power to say to those who bought identity cards, "We will reimburse this money."

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

Can we nail this extraordinary new constitutional doctrine that because a party thinks it is going to win an election, everything should come to a dead halt before the people have voted? I saw the shadow Home Secretary at the Great Eastern Tandoori restaurant in Pimlico the day after the election, except he was not to become the Home Secretary. Should he receive compensation? We really have to stop this nonsense. Power might have changed hands, but we should still accept responsibility and pay the compensation.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs, Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs

Order. Members are getting carried away with interventions, and we ought to stick to the point. Mr MacShane should know better.

Photo of Julie Hilling Julie Hilling Labour, Bolton West

I remain absolutely convinced that my constituents deserve fair treatment. They deserve either to have the money refunded-sadly, this mean-spirited Bill does not allow that to happen-or for their identity cards to continue, although I accept that this might be difficult. The easiest thing would be to allow them £30 credit towards a passport.

People have talked about alternative means of identification, but I wonder whether those hon. Members who are present know how much they cost. All those alternative means of identification cost more than the identity card. Those who are disabled-for instance, those with a visual disability or other conditions-cannot get a driving licence; and indeed, if someone was never going to drive, why would they apply for one? However, a driving licence is one of the few photographic means of identification that we have in this country. The identity card was therefore valuable a tool with which people could prove their identity, which is becoming increasingly important and difficult to do nowadays.

Let me finish by saying that I believe that the Bill is mean-spirited. The Government should give £30 credit to those affected, and I very much hope that hon. Members will vote for that later.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I have known you long enough to know that when you frown in the way that you have, Mr Deputy Speaker, you wish and expect short speeches from hon. Members. I therefore intend to be brief.

I came into the Chamber mindful of the Opposition amendment and with a view to supporting the proposal to pay compensation to those who have taken out voluntary cards. However, I have listened to what hon. Members have said, including the thoughtful speech by Guy Opperman. It is probably right that people should have been cautious in taking out a voluntary card, knowing that the policy was not carried in all parts of the House. However, it would have been better for the Government to pay the money back as a good-will gesture than for us to be fighting about £30 multiplied by 11,000 on the Floor of the House. I understand that the principle is important, and I say to my hon. Friend Julie Hilling that the 12 constituents and others who may have written to her are obviously deeply concerned. Perhaps £30 is not a lot to some people, but it is certainly a great deal to the kinds of constituents whom she mentioned.

Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne North

Just to clarify whether £30 is a significant amount, in fact, we are not talking about £30; we are talking about the additional £50 that will be required to get another valid form of identification. An extra £50, making £80 in total, is a lot of money for some people, and particularly for pensioners, who have to save for some time to afford it.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I agree with my hon. Friend: it is a lot of money for some people, but it is not clear whether there is a huge point of principle, based as it is on the fact that people were clear that identity cards were an absolutely partisan policy on the part of the previous Government. Only my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South-

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I thank my hon. Friend for reminding me-I think I just about know the difference between my sister and my hon. Friend, who was so often the conscience of the Select Committee on Home Affairs when it considered the issue in the previous Parliament. We accepted that the previous Government had an absolute right to put through their legislation on ID cards. It was only my hon. Friend who reminded the Committee on so many occasions that he thought that the policy was wrong.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

As for the previous Government, obviously there was controversy among Labour Members on the subject-it would have been odd if that were not so-but does my right hon. Friend not agree that the original idea for identity cards came from Michael Howard, when he was the Home Secretary in, of course, a Conservative Administration?

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I cannot say for certain, but my hon. Friend is wiser and has been in this House for longer than me, so if he quotes Michael Howard from a few years ago, I accept what he says.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend Mr Winnick: Michael Howard had a proposal for something called the smart card. He tried to get it through this House, but he could not do so.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs, Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs

Order. Let me remind hon. Members that we are discussing new clause 2. These points are not relevant. I am sure that you will wish to return to the new clause, Mr Vaz.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

Unfortunately I did not know about those points until they were made. Had I known that they would be raised, I would not have given way. However, as you say, Mr Deputy Speaker, this is not a debate about Lord Howard; it is a debate about new clause 2.

Although I came into the Chamber wanting to support those on my Front Bench-and I still want to, because I have great respect for my hon. Friend Meg Hillier, who was a superb Minister, appearing many times before the Home Affairs Committee on identity issues, including the cost of identity cards and their implementation-I am probably minded to abstain if there is a vote.

I understand that the Minister has written to- [ Interruption. ] Let me say to my right hon. Friend Mr MacShane, for whom I have enormous respect and affection, that I do not think that what is proposed is the equivalent of the nationalisation of British Steel, with the Government moving in to take away somebody else's property, including his own. As the Minister said, the card that my right hon. Friend is waving before me is the property of the Government. However, that is a side issue. I understand that when he makes his point, he comes from the steel capital of Britain, but we are not talking about the nationalisation of British Steel.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend-for whom I worked as a Parliamentary Private Secretary for many happy years-for giving way. I would be quite happy to concede the financial point if the Government were prepared to cut a deal and let me keep the card until it expired. That seems quite reasonable, because it is a European card. Every time I have used it to go through airports in the past three months, people have said, "Ooh, that's a good idea! The Brits are becoming like us." Well, thanks to the coalition, now we are not.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

Let me say to my right hon. Friend, the former Minister for Europe-

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Europe)

We have a set of former Ministers for Europe in the Chamber.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

Indeed. Let me say to my right hon. Friend Mr MacShane that he is the last person who needs an identity card to get into France. He is probably the only former Minister for Europe to be fluent in half a dozen European languages. His very face is sufficient to get him into the European Union.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

But we are in the European Union.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I meant the mainland European Union.

Anyway, before this becomes a debate about the European Union, let me say that I shall abstain on new clause 2. However, I am attracted to amendment 8, which stands in the name of my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) and for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson), and not just because they are distinguished members of the Home Affairs Committee, as Mr Burley is, but because there is a lot of merit in what they say. The Minister should take amendment 8 seriously. I do not know whether my hon. Friends will push it to a vote, but the destruction of the data is an important issue.

When I raised this matter on the Floor of the House, following the Home Secretary's announcement that ID cards were to be abolished, either she or the Minister-I cannot be sure which-said that there would be a huge event in which all the data would be destroyed. I think that it was said, perhaps playfully, that there would be a big bonfire, and that Members of the House would be invited to attend such an event. I know that that was meant in jest, but this is a serious point.

I support what the Government are doing to remove the names of innocent people from the database. That is absolutely a move in the right direction. Pete Wishart asked whether the previous Government had lost their way on civil liberties issues, and I would say that we did a little, partly because of a lack of scrutiny by this House, rather than through any intent on the part of the Government. We should have been better at scrutinising legislation.

I hope that, when the Minister responds, he will give us a clear statement on how the data are to be destroyed. My hon. Friends who have tabled amendment 8 have proposed a time limit of four months, within which a statement must be made to the House. I do not believe for one moment that that is an unreasonable request. I hope that the Minister will give my hon. Friends the assurances that they seek. This is not a huge issue, but it goes to the heart of what the coalition Government say that they are going to do with these data. We must not keep the data unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, and I hope that he will give some comfort to my hon. Friends, and an assurance that the data will be destroyed within four months.

Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Conservative, Peterborough 3:30, 15 September 2010

It is always a pleasure to follow Keith Vaz, although he lapsed from his usual urbanity and eloquence when he did not recognise the difference between his charming sister and Mr Winnick-

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

Who is also quite charming.

Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Conservative, Peterborough

That goes without saying.

I am quite fond of Steve McCabe, but he rather over-egged the pudding. Let us remember that it was his Government who gave us 90-day detention without trial. In 2005, they told us that it was imperative that we force through that measure, disregarding hundreds of years of close attention to civil liberty and due process. They were then humiliated in an unprecedented vote-given that they had a 66-seat majority-and the proposal went down to 42 days.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The previous Government did not give us 90 days. That proposal was defeated by the House of Commons.

Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Conservative, Peterborough

It was indeed defeated, by one vote, because of the good sense of many of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues on the then Government's side who saw that it would not be sensible to traduce the British traditions of liberty and fairness on the back of a scare campaign from some people who were taking an authoritarian, draconian approach. To be fair and open-minded, as I aspire to be, I should say that the debate went on in my own party as well. Some Conservatives took the view that we should be tough on law and order, and that we should do the right thing and support the then Prime Minister. A small number of my colleagues voted for that proposal. I must not perambulate too far from the new clause that we are debating, but we must bear in mind that context as we listen to Labour Members' arguments about civil liberties today. Pete Wishart was absolutely right to say that, until that point, there had been a fine tradition in the Labour party of support for civil liberties.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

I want to ask the hon. Gentleman, whom I respect, whether the best symbol of a Government's faith in civil liberties is their support for a phone hacker in No. 10 and a Minister who spies on his own colleagues and friends-

Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Conservative, Peterborough

I shall defer to the good sense of the Deputy Speaker and pass over those issues. I am mindful, of course, that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak has worked in the Whips Office, and that Whips are a bit more bare-knuckled in debates than some others. I shall move swiftly on.

I want to talk about authority and establishing one's policies before an election. I made the point to Julie Hilling that-

Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Conservative, Peterborough

By a circuitous route, Mr Deputy Speaker, I shall speak to that new clause-

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs, Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs

Order. It might be helpful to the hon. Gentleman to know that he can talk about these matters on Third Reading, if that is the route that he wishes to take. If he could just speak to new clause 2 now, that would be much better.

Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Conservative, Peterborough

I shall speak specifically to the proposal about compensation, Mr Deputy Speaker. Please forgive me if I meandered somewhat.

There is, of course, precedent for a party being elected, putting a programme forward and sticking to its manifesto commitments without paying compensation, even at a modest level. For instance, one has to think only of the assisted places scheme, a windfall tax on utilities or the national minimum wage-they all had fiscal ramifications, but the Conservative party in opposition did not insist that there was any necessity to make specific compensation to specific groups.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

On a minor point, this new clause is not asking for compensation per se; it asks for a reimbursement of £30 only for those who subsequently apply for a passport. It is designed to right a wrong; it is not a general request for compensation.

Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Conservative, Peterborough

The substantive general point, which the hon. Gentleman does not want to concede, is that what is happening is a direct result of a new Government who with their coalition partner have a mandate to take a decision that has fiscal ramifications through new legislation. My point is that the precedent has been set in the past for new legislation having financial ramifications; it will inevitably affect some groups of taxpayers and voters, but the Government will not see fit to compensate them in a particular way, even on a modest scale.

Of course it is regrettable that some of the constituents of the hon. Member for Bolton West will be in a difficult position as a result of the decisions made, but I come back to the point that the two parties that form this Government won 60% of the vote on an unequivocal commitment to abolish identity cards, whereas the party that was unequivocally in favour of them comprehensively lost the election on 6 May. Although only a modest amount of money is involved, the amendment is inappropriate, particularly during a time of less than benign financial circumstances when we need to reduce the deficit.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to contribute to the debate.

Labour Members fully understand that repealing the Identity Cards Act 2006 and scrapping ID cards was a manifesto pledge of both the Conservative and the Liberal Democrat parties and that they are fulfilling a pledge to the electorate on this issue. In fact, I think this is one of the few actions taken by the coalition Government that can claim at least some sort of mandate from the public. I add, however, that Labour was elected in 2005 with a manifesto pledge that stated:

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

That was the manifesto basis on which the decisions were made.

The current Government have taken the scheme in its infancy and killed it off before it has even had a chance to prove itself-in terms of finance, security, issues of identity theft, protection and, indeed, popularity, or any other measure of its worth. As we learned in Committee, the Government have their arguments, but in my view their reasons for revoking ID cards are weak, mean and, most important of all, costly to the taxpayer. In Committee, the Minister for Immigration stated that he was committed to abolishing identity cards

"because it was-and, until the Bill is enacted, is-an expensive and misguided scheme." --[ Official Report, Identity Documents Public Bill Committee, 1 July 2010; c. 43.]

That assertion is, I contend, completely wrong and misguided. The ID card scheme will become more expensive as soon as the Bill is enacted because the expenditure has already been incurred in setting up the scheme-on infrastructure, computer software and so forth. Furthermore, recovering that money relies on allowing the ID card scheme to continue. Conservative Members should remember that the expenditure was incurred subsequent to a manifesto commitment by the previous Labour Government.

I do not want to dwell on the motives behind the Bill, and I suspect that the motives of Liberal Democrats are completely different from those of Conservative supporters. It is clear, however, that Conservative Members base their opposition to the ID card proposals on a false premise.

Photo of Heather Wheeler Heather Wheeler Conservative, South Derbyshire

I assure the hon. Gentleman that those who write to me in my constituency are asking me to scrap the ID legislation as quickly as possible, purely on the grounds of civil liberties. I find it astonishing that there can be any debate about this for much longer. Indeed, a number of people have suggested that we should wind up the debate immediately, although obviously a good many Members want to continue it. I have not received a single letter asking me-

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The hon. Lady's intervention is far too wide of what we are discussing at the moment.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

I do not think that the Government's arguments have been effective. Aspects of the scheme deserve to be retained, and they are embodied in the new clauses and amendments. Clause 2 states:

"All ID cards that are valid immediately before that day are to be treated as cancelled by the Secretary of State at the end of the period of one month beginning with that day."

In Committee, the Minister stated proudly that this was the Government's first Bill. I am astonished that he can be pleased with himself, given that this first Bill from the new Government breaks a contract that was established between citizen and state. As was pointed out by my hon. Friend Julie Hilling, people put their faith in the Government and bought ID cards. They entered into that contract on a voluntary basis-there was no element of compulsion-and I believe that they have been let down sorely and spitefully by the Bill and the Government. The Government's behaviour is illogical, unfair and frankly unnecessary.

Hon. Members have suggested various reasons why people may have decided to invest in ID cards. The need to protect their identities must have been a major concern, as identity theft is a huge problem which costs the economy billions of pounds and causes individuals untold stress and suffering. They may simply have wanted a more versatile method of identification-Labour Members have given some excellent examples of that-or even a proof of age. Whatever their reasons, they entered into a contract, and that contract should be honoured, but the coalition Government are tearing it up, and people who acted in good faith can justifiably feel let down.

Members on the Government Benches have argued that it might have been reasonable for people to expect ID cards to be scrapped if the Tories won power. That applies to the Liberal Democrats as well, as it was in their manifesto. But should we really be sending the public the message that they should not take too much notice of what the current Government say, because the next Government may say something different? That is a dangerous message to send.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

I know that the hon. Gentleman is already a very assiduous constituency Member of Parliament. When constituents asked me about ID cards before the last election, I gave them clear advice: I advised them not to obtain ID cards, because they were too controversial and might be rescinded. What would the hon. Gentleman have said if a constituent had asked his advice about ID cards, given that they were so contentious?

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

That is dangerous territory, which we explored earlier today and in Committee. If that principle is to be applied to what a Government may do, should it be applied to nationalisation without compensation? Is that the logic of the argument?

The decision to terminate existing and operational ID cards one month after Royal Assent-I assume that the Bill will be passed today-with no compensation for those who have purchased cards is not only shameful, but a travesty. I mentioned that Labour had made a manifesto pledge to the public, and that the public had returned Labour to government in 2005. We implemented a scheme allowing a citizen to receive, for a £30 fee, a card which would expire in 10 years. For the current Government to come to office and turn that system on its head without consideration for those who participated in the scheme on a voluntary basis, and had handed over their money in good faith, strikes me as a complete dereliction of duty which sets a dangerous precedent for the future.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Conservative, Hexham 3:45, 15 September 2010

The hon. Gentleman talks about this being a dereliction of duty and so forth, but this is a scheme costing billions of pounds for barely 12,000 people that was trotted out in circumstances where there was no prospect of it being taken up.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

The scheme is in its infancy and, essentially, it was only marketed in two areas-Manchester and London. It would have been rolled out further and then, presumably, have had much greater appeal. There is an interesting contradiction: the big corporate interests who were involved in this scheme were paid compensation, but no recompense is to be made to ordinary citizens who paid £30 for a card.

My hon. Friend Catherine McKinnell mentioned that £30 figure. It may seem a trifling sum to some Members, but for a great many people, including many of my constituents, it is a considerable amount of money. There has been some discussion of why individuals on low incomes might have chosen to spend such a sum on an ID card, and whether many did so. We must consider the fact that alternative forms of identification are more expensive-for example, a provisional driving licence is an accepted form of ID commonly used by younger people as proof of age and it costs £50. There is a cost reason that led some people voluntarily to choose to buy an ID card, therefore. People on lower incomes who needed to prove their age would naturally be inclined to opt for an ID card, but whether the person who bought the card was on a low income or a millionaire is, in fact, irrelevant because the behaviour of this Government in not addressing the unfairness and injustice contained in the Bill is deplorable.

I cannot see why the cards that have already been issued cannot in some way remain valid until their expiry date. The parties in the coalition Government have only a handful of policies on which they truly agree and I accept that not continuing with the ID card is among them, but not enough care has been given to reimbursing cardholders or to making some attempt to maintain already issued cards, perhaps with some reduced functionality. There remains a database for passports, and this card could perhaps, at least in some way, remain an authenticated identification document. Did the Minister seek any advice on possible functions for the already issued cards, or was he content just to allow them to fall? There seems to me to be no reason why the cards cannot remain valid until the expiry date.

The Government are abandoning ID cards without any concern for the expenditure that has already been incurred by the taxpayer or any consideration for current ID cardholders, and with little thought for the future of British passport security and the use of biometric data. The Minister has had every opportunity to address the issues Opposition Members raised in Committee, and it is a shame that he was unable to work with us, at least to try to improve some aspects of the Bill.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Minister for Immigration

We have heard a festival of synthetic indignation from Labour Members over the past hour or so. We know they do not mean it because they did not even vote against the Bill on Second Reading, so they do not oppose it very hard. They are scratching around to find ways to express some opposition.

As has been amply illustrated by Pete Wishart, there are, however, some glimmers of light in the authoritarian dark that was the Labour Government. One or two of the leadership candidates, including Edward Miliband, have said the previous Government were wrong about ID cards. The right hon. Gentleman says he thinks his party should move on from that idea. As that has been stated several times during the debate, I feel it is only fair also to record-

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Minister for Immigration

I will in a moment, after I have paid tribute to the hon. Gentleman's colleague, Ms Abbott, who has consistently been against identity cards. As we are mentioning the Labour party leadership candidates who are virtuous in this regard, I should mention her too, because no Labour Member did.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

I hate to interrupt the Minister when he is in such fine flow, but I just want to suggest to him that he has misunderstood our position. This is not synthetic indignation and nobody on our side is rejecting the Government's right to abolish ID cards-in fact, a number of us have acknowledged it. We are objecting to the mean-minded attitude that sets out to punish the relatively small number of people who bought ID cards in good faith.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Minister for Immigration

The hon. Gentleman made that point, with characteristic eloquence, in his speech, and I will address it shortly. I am pleased to report to the House that, as those who sat through the Committee stage will be aware, the Labour party has come up with no new ideas to defend the ID cards scheme since then; we have heard all these arguments before.

This group of amendments, which groups together all the arguments that the Opposition can make against the Bill, is a series of impractical and expensive suggestions, made, I suspect, with varying degrees of seriousness. If I were to be kinder than I have up to now, I might say that some of them may excite genuine feelings among Opposition Members, but others have been tabled for the sake of it.

First, I shall deal with the point raised by Julie Hilling and repeated by Steve McCabe about refunds or passport-related refunds. We debated this extensively in Committee, and I recognise that £30 is a significant sum to many people, particularly those who are struggling economically in these difficult times, when the Government have had to absorb a terrible economic inheritance from their predecessor.

I do not have any data on the socio-economic status of the very small number of people who bought ID cards, nor, as far as I am aware, do any Labour Members. Before anyone stands up to ask me about this, I shall say that I do not propose to waste any public money by undertaking a survey of who they are. There are times when even those in this House need to step back and apply some common sense to the matters before them. I do not think that anyone in really difficult economic and financial circumstances would have thought, "What is the best thing to spend £30 on this week? I know, a very controversial ID card that will enable me to travel to Europe, but not anywhere else in the world. That's the most important thing to spend my last £30 on." I do not believe that one person in this country took that decision, and I have heard nothing from those on the Opposition Benches opposite during our discussion of this Bill to convince me that that is any way a realistic proposition.

I further point out to Meg Hillier, who leads for the Labour party on this, that the charging system for ID cards introduced by her Government took no notice of the ability to pay. They set a flat fee, which took no account of whether someone was unemployed, an old-age pensioner or in full-time employment, like Mr MacShane. Sadly, he is no longer in his place, but he was asking us whether he should have claimed for his ID card on expenses. I would have thought that, at the time, that would have been a seriously terrible idea.

The only exception made on this flat fee of £30 that these allegedly struggling people were paying was for those who were in employment and working at one of the airports, where the then Government were anxious to foist the scheme on people in its early days. Anyone in that position would have been one of the 3,000 or so who were given a card free of charge. Those 3,000 lucky people-all, by definition in full-time employment-represent almost 20% of those to whom any card was ever issued. Of course, those cards were paid for by the taxpayer, so when one actually looks behind the indignation expressed by Labour Members, one does not find any substantial argument on this, which they have made the main point of their attack on this Bill.

The Government inherited an ID card scheme that has found very little favour with the public. That is a key issue. Many Opposition Members have talked about the costs, and Grahame M. Morris advanced the extraordinary proposition that even though he accepted that the coalition Government had the perfect right to get rid of the ID cards scheme, we should have carried on with it because the longer it went on the further the costs would be spread. That seemed to me an extraordinary attitude to parliamentary democracy. This is a key issue as the taxpayer has already paid £292 million with fewer than 15,000 cards having been issued-20% of them paid for by the taxpayer. So the calculation at the moment is that the cost to the taxpayer so far is about £20,000 per card. If we exclude the cards issued free of charge, it is £25,000 per card. That is by any standards a scandalous waste of public money that lies squarely at the door of Ministers in the previous Government.

The argument has come from the hon. Member for Easington that the scheme would have become self-financing over time. Based on public demand, there is no evidence to support that, particularly when the cost report in 2009, produced by the Labour party when it was in government, showed that a further £835 million was to be spent on ID cards by 2019, either by the taxpayer or by individual citizens having to sign up for those cards.

In the light of those facts and the already excessive spending of taxpayers' money on an unpopular and deeply intrusive scheme, we have proposed this Bill. That is why we opposed ID cards in opposition and why we have introduced this Bill so quickly. We do not see why the taxpayer should have to pay yet again. During the debate, several of my hon. Friends asked how much the cancellation would cost, and the answer is about £400,000. As I have illustrated, enough has been spent on the scheme and the taxpayer should not face a further bill of the best part of half a million pounds. That is why we have been clear that refunds will not be offered.

Photo of Julie Hilling Julie Hilling Labour, Bolton West

How much would it cost the taxpayer, though, if people had a £30 credit when they applied for their passports? Why would it be costly?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Minister for Immigration

As a practical point, the vast majority of people who have bought ID cards already have passports, so it would be entirely valueless to them.

There are practical difficulties with the amendment. It would require the keeping of identity card records for many years to come to ensure that only those who were entitled to a refund could apply for one. I shall come on to the point made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak about the destruction of data, but we have made it very clear that we will destroy all the data obtained under the ID cards scheme and that we do not wish to retain any data for this reason or for any other.

I observe in the group of amendments that we are discussing that the twin threats are unnecessary data retention and cost to the taxpayer. Those are the two things that Labour Members who proposed the amendments seem to be concerned about. I assume that new clause 4 is intended to be helpful in avoiding the need for an individual to provide further personal information in the event that they should subsequently apply for a passport. Bridget Phillipson is, I am sure, aware that, as I have just said, the vast majority of ID cardholders are or were passport holders, so the information relevant to a passport application will already be held on passport records.

In any case, the proposed new clause misses the point of the Bill. The Identity Documents Bill is about scrapping the ID card scheme and destroying the national identity register. We are opposed to the register in principle on the grounds that it is a database holding huge amounts of personal and biometric data simply because a person has applied for an identity card. We do not believe that holding the data is either necessary or proportionate for the purpose for which they were obtained. Instead, it represents a significant intrusion by the state into the lives of our citizens. That is why we are looking to destroy all the information recorded on the NIR. Officials are currently finalising work with contractors on how that will be achieved and the Information Commissioner's Office has been notified of the destruction process.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee 4:00, 15 September 2010

That is very reassuring, but in his mind and that of the Home Secretary is there a time scale by which this should be done? We appreciate that contractors have been instructed, but has the Minister said that the Government would like that done in a certain number of months?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Minister for Immigration

It would be slightly premature for me to give too much detail now because the legislation has not been passed. We have tried to be as clear as possible in saying that we will do it as quickly as possible after the Bill has passed through all its stages, but I do not wish unnecessarily to annoy or provoke the other place by saying anything else.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

Can the Minister give the House a categorical assurance that all the information will be destroyed within two months of the Act passing?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Minister for Immigration

The hon. Gentleman has ingeniously asked the same question as his right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, to which I shall therefore give exactly the same answer, or revert to an old parliamentary phrase and refer him to the answer I gave some moments ago. We are in contact with the Information Commissioner's Office about the destruction process, as I have said, precisely to ensure transparency and openness about the physical destruction process.

The Chairman of the Committee made the point that I had jokingly suggested that we might have a sort of auto-da-fé of all that unnecessary information. I was only half joking when I said that and, sadly, it is not possible because the information is on various databases, so we are going to have to delete it. To answer the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak's technical question, that is like any other act of removing information and involves deleting it from the various databases. That is why we are doing it in conjunction with the Information Commissioner. The hon. Gentleman is waving the Bill it me, so I will say that it must be done within two months of Royal Assent. The reason why I cannot give the exact answer that the Chairman of the Committee wants is simply that I do not know when Royal Assent will be, but I hope that it is soon. We will then do it as soon as possible within the two months set out in the Bill. I hope that reassures the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak. There is a serious point here: if one believes, as we on the Government side do, that this information has been held unnecessarily, it is sensible to get rid of it as soon as possible, and Parliament needs to know about that.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Minister for Immigration

Let me anticipate what the hon. Gentleman is about to ask. It has always been my intention that when that had happened, Parliament would be informed by way of a written ministerial statement about both the process and delivery of destruction. I could not be more open or transparent about this. We will do it within two months and as soon as possible after Royal Assent. When we have done it, I shall produce a written parliamentary statement that will say not only that we have done it but how we have done it. I hope that I have finally satisfied the hon. Gentleman on all those points.

On new clause 4, I suspect that hon. Members may not have considered its cost implications. There are significant costs associated with establishing whether a person wants their record to be retained, what information he or she is content to be transferred, the security and data transfer costs and, finally, future storage costs-particularly if the person does not subsequently apply for a passport. I am afraid that this is another amendment that seems intent on adding again and again to the cost of the ID card scheme. We want to scrap the scheme at minimal cost to the taxpayer. The new clause would not achieve that aim and would not remove the state's ability to retain data without good reason.

That profligate approach is evidenced in another of the amendments before us, supported by the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South. We covered the issue of the life expectancy of the card during earlier stages of the Bill and indicated then that the cost of implementing that amendment would be between £50 million and £60 million over 10 years.

I note that the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch has not added her name to the provision, despite tabling something similar in Committee. She indicated in Committee that she thought that figure was at the top end of the estimates, but I am not sure of the basis on which she reached that conclusion. The estimate is a reasonable reflection of the exorbitant cost to the taxpayer that would be incurred by providing a service over the next decade for fewer than 15,000 people, almost 3,000 of whom did not pay for their card in the first place. Leaving aside the cost, the proposal would mean retaining the whole national identity register for another decade, which would involve holding the fingerprints of 15,000 innocent people.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I wonder whether the Minister is speaking to the right provision because my name is attached to the amendment, as it has always been.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Minister for Immigration

I apologise to the hon. Lady. If she wishes to associate herself with such a ridiculous proposal, I am happy for her to do so.

The proposal would mean that cardholders would run the risk of their card's usefulness diminishing even further over time because of the very small number in circulation. That would be likely to result in little or no future engagement or investment by travel operators, carriers and other agencies in accepting ID cards. The provision would give cardholders the false hope that their ID card would continue to be useful, if they had found it useful in the past. I recognise that the amendment to retain the national identity register has been tabled as a consequence of the proposal that ID cards should remain extant for 10 years.

The national identity register sits at the heart of our opposition to the whole scheme. We do not believe that it is the role of the state to gather huge amounts of personal and biometric information about its citizens unless there are proportionate and necessary reasons for doing so. Such reasons could involve the prevention and detection of crime, or national security and safety, but part of the underlying problem with the ID card scheme has always been that its purpose was ill defined, with the reason behind its introduction moving over time from dealing with terrorism to accessing local services.

The national identity register is nothing but a database containing data on individuals who have, by choice, applied for an ID card. The holding of such data represents a significant intrusion on the privacy of the individual. Scrapping the scheme and destroying the national identity register are major steps towards returning power to the public and reducing the intrusion of the state. We are opposed to building up banks of data that neither serve a specific purpose nor deliver a specific outcome. The national identity register fails on both counts.

I have dealt in some detail with all the new clauses and amendments tabled by Labour Members. Each of them fails on practicality, and many of them fail because they would create an extra charge on either the public purse directly, or the citizens of this country indirectly. They all fail, however, because behind them lies the desire to intrude far too much on the private lives of people that was at the heart of the previous Labour Government. As a civil libertarian, I genuinely hope that the future Labour party will reject that in its entirety.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I was puzzled by the Minister's speech because it sounded more like a rallying cry to a group of students than an attempt to address the new clauses and amendments. I should say, however, that I have no problem with rallying cries to groups of students in their place. In fact, not long before the election-when the Minister and I sat on opposite sides of the House-we addressed students together, and he announced that a Conservative Government would remove ID cards to an audience of about 25 people.

Let me make it absolutely clear that we tabled new clauses 2 and 4 as alternatives for the Government to consider as we try to find a way of providing some recompense to those members of the public who bought the cards in good faith. We would have preferred to have tabled a measure providing for a refund but, because there is no money resolution attached to the Bill, we could not. With that in mind, we intend to press both new clauses to Divisions, although if the first is agreed to, we will not need a vote on the second.

I need to pick up on a couple of points that the Minister made. We were not suggesting in the amendments-perhaps he should look more closely at them-that we expect the national identity register to continue. They were carefully worded to suggest migration of data to the existing passport database. In fact, the identity register would have been a modern passport database, had the Government had the courage to continue that approach.

New clause 4 is not about being helpful to those who already had passports or wanted a passport. It would allow cards to continue, but would attach them to the existing passport database. Accepting that the Government's intention is to destroy the national identity register, it sought to find a solution to that. The Minister has not given very good answers about why that could not be done. Had the Government included a money resolution, it would have been possible-instead of sending two letters out to everybody-to provide a refund to those who had paid or those who had applied for a refund, which would not necessarily have been everybody. The Government's approach is mean-spirited.

The Minister spoke about the state holding huge amounts of information. I hope that his Government still believe that the NHS should hold information on people, that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency should hold information, and that the passport database should exist. The national identity register was a modernisation of the passport database.

I assure the House and anyone else who may be watching proceedings today that there is nothing synthetic about our indignation. We recognise that both Government parties had clear policies on the issue, and we can do the maths. We know that we have limited options to improve the Bill, and we are trying to make the best of a bad job because the Bill does many things of which we disapprove. New clauses 2 and 4 attempt to provide some recompense to the people affected.

We have heard some disparaging comments. Mr Buckland spoke about politics being tough. It is clear that his Government are saying that it is tough on members of the public who bought a card. Pete Wishart spoke about the mugs who bought a card. That disparaging attitude may well be reflected in the Lobby, so let us be clear who is on the side of the consumer in this case. It is certainly not the Government.

The Minister used his cod maths when talking about the cost of the identity card scheme. It does not behove a Government Minister to be so flippant and free with figures when he well knows that the cards had to be paid for by fees. As is the case with the first issue of anything, when the first Mini rolled off the production line, it probably cost several million, if not billions of pounds, but for the last Mini, by definition, the cost per item was much lower because many thousand would have been produced. Identity cards had been issued for a few months at the time of the general election, but under Treasury rules they had to be paid for out of fees, just like passports, as the Minister knows. It ill behoves him to take that approach. I wish to divide the House on the new clauses.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

The House proceeded to a Division.

The House having divided: Ayes 189, Noes 302.

Division number 63 18. Relief from Tax (Incidental and Consequential Charges) — New Clause 2 — Passport fees for holders of ID cards

Aye: 189 MPs

No: 303 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name


No: A-Z by last name


Question accordingly negatived.