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Identity Documents Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:43 am on 29th June 2010.

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Shami Chakrabarti: Your colleague in Hackney, Ms Abbott, famously said that she feared that identity cards would become a new pass law in the inner cities. I am afraid that that is a concern that I very much shared, and it is a concern that is partly informed by the experiences of French Algerians, Turkish guest workers in Germany, and so on. But none the less, the residual point remains, and that is the point we began to open up earlier in the evidence session about the resident documents for non-EU nationals. I am glad to see the Home Office moving from the original language—on its website—that we are keeping identity cards for foreign nationals. That was not a very comforting thought, because who looks like a foreign national—Dr Metcalfe, despite his New Zealand accent, or Shami Chakrabarti? On the street, one of us looks potentially like a foreign national and one does not. That, of course, was fed by the argument that immigration controls are what ID cards are about.

Now, I would like to see the database, in relation to the foreign nationals, severely limited, put on a statutory footing, constrained in all sorts of ways and limited to immigration control. Ideally, in the long run, I would, if it is possible, like to see the Government argue at  European level for the requirement to be changed in relation to Britain, where we do not have identity cards, from the requirement of a card towards a sticker or a vignette. The way we tend, traditionally in Britain, to do immigration control is via the passport. I would like the Government to leave open that possibility of renegotiation, but until that happens, to regulate tightly on a statutory basis the purposes to which these residency documents can be put and when they can be required as people go about their lives.