My Lords, I welcome the noble Baroness’s comments. Indeed, I recall her intervention last year.
I need to place on record once again, on behalf of colleagues, our concern and regret that the decisions taken by the committee did not include an inquiry into national identity cards. This is certainly the third year, perhaps even the fourth, that this committee has refused to entertain the idea of such an inquiry. It has been blocked again by the usual coalition of Liberal Democrats, who historically have opposed the introduction of national identity cards, and Conservative members of the committee. When the coalition was running the country, the Conservatives were forced by the Liberal Democrats to back down and abolish Labour’s programme.
I am also told that members of the committee are advised—indeed, I think it is some members’ view—that it is not necessary for Members to indicate the scale of support in the House for inquiries that they are suggesting. I challenge that; I believe that is quite wrong. I believe it is for Members, when submitting subjects for inquiry, to be able to indicate the scale of support. In the case of national identity cards, support came from right across the political spectrum, from left to right. It came from those with more liberal views on social issues as against those of a more conservative disposition. It came from Brexiteers and remainers. Brexiteers were particularly interested as they see ID cards as important in conditions of restrictions on free movement and management of entitlements, which are at the heart of much of the Brexit debate. Equally, remainers call in aid experience of the benefits of the introduction of these cards in other European states. The stats are very interesting. Of a European population of 742 million across 28 states, only four states have resisted their introduction: Switzerland with 8.5 million, Denmark with 6 million, Liechtenstein with 37,000 and the United Kingdom with 66 million, a total resistance of just over 10% throughout Europe.
Next year, we will try again, but I do not live in hope any more. Persistence simply is not paying, and it is very hard to know how to proceed. Right across this House, people often ask me when we will get this inquiry. This political resistance within the committee—which is now obvious to everybody—requires the reforms suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech.