Clause 10 — Verification of information

Part of 18. Relief from Tax (Incidental and Consequential Charges) – in the House of Commons at 4:56 pm on 15th September 2010.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Minister for Immigration 4:56 pm, 15th September 2010

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It is a huge pleasure to move Third Reading. The Bill has now proceeded through the scrutiny stages of this House. I appreciate that this is a short and simple Bill, but it is a genuinely historic one-not only because, as mentioned, it was the first Bill introduced by the coalition Government, but because its content is historic and marks a significant shift in direction in the relationship between the state and the citizen in this country. That in itself represents a significant step forward.

The House has agreed to destroy data held by the state without condition or distinction. Consigning the ID cards scheme and the national identity register to the scrapheap reflects the absolute commitment of the coalition Government to reduce the interference of the state and return power back to the people. I am very proud of what the Bill will achieve and I am encouraged by the support for it in all parts of the House. I emphasise "all parts" because we have had some fairly partisan debates this afternoon, but even Labour Members have admitted that the Conservative party had a clear commitment in its manifesto, as did the Liberal Democrats and the nationalist parties in their manifestos.

Many of us welcome the fact that two fifths of wisdom is beginning to creep into the Labour party in that two of the five leadership candidates have decided that the ID card scheme was a mistake. I fear for those who have expressed such strong support for that scheme; if the wrong Miliband wins, they could be in trouble. I also fear for the peace of the dinner party in that the civil libertarian/authoritarian divide is beginning to open up in the Labour party and has even opened up in the Miliband family. This will be an issue that they will have to resolve in a few weeks' time.

This Bill has sought to repeal parts of the 2006 Act that dealt with the ID card scheme, but we have been careful-I want to emphasise this-to re-enact the important powers on fraud prevention and detection available to protect the public. There is no reduction in public security as a result of the Bill; rather, it is about seeing an enormous increase in public freedom.

I am grateful to all hon. Members who have taken part in the Bill's scrutiny. We have taken on board the concerns raised on Second Reading and in Committee on information verification, and we have successfully tabled amendments to strengthen safeguards for the public and raise accountability. We noted the comments made in Committee about transgendered people, and will engage in further work with international colleagues in relation to the points raised about passports.

The Bill should also be seen as part of a wider programme to increase individual freedom. Along with Bills such as the freedom Bill, it will, as I have said, alter the balance irrevocably, giving us more powerful citizens and a less than all-powerful state. That is one of the significant changes for the better that the Government will be able to achieve for the country.

There was a discussion about who was responsible for the ID card scheme: about whether it was a new Labour creation, or, ingeniously, the creation of my noble and learned Friend Lord Howard of Lympne. The truth is that it was neither. We had ID cards in this country during the second world war. They were abolished in the 1950s, to great public acclaim, by a Conservative Government who concentrated, as we have done throughout the decades, on the importance of maintaining the power of the citizen.

In times of crisis, Governments often return to ID card schemes, and it was clearly the view of the last Government that Britain was at war after 9/11, that we were at war with terrorists permanently, and that we therefore needed to be put on a permanent war footing. It is at the heart of the contention of those of us who voted against the original Bill, and campaigned successfully against it-as has now been proved with the passage of this legislation-that we cannot and should not lead our lives as though we were in a state of permanent warfare: that if people's freedoms are restricted so much in an attempt to defend those freedoms, those who threaten our freedoms have already won.

This is a significant victory for the British people. I pay tribute not only to Members on both sides of the House who have supported the Bill, but to the various pressure groups which have been involved. Liberty and Justice have been mentioned, but I also pay tribute to the No2ID campaign, which can chalk itself up as one of the most successful pressure groups in history. It was formed less than 10 years ago, and within a decade of its formation it has achieved its principal aim.

No doubt all the pressure groups that I have just praised will spend the next few years complaining that we have not gone far enough in various directions. However, I look forward to constructive discussions with them. The broad conclusion that the country can draw from the passage of the Bill is that the march of freedom is happening again, and the British people are beginning to recover their historic freedoms and gain new freedoms. That is one of the many ways in which this Government will improve the lives of people throughout the country.