Identity Cards

– in the Scottish Parliament at 10:40 am on 24th February 2005.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid None 10:40 am, 24th February 2005

The second Scottish Green Party debate this morning is a debate on motion S2M-2463, in the name of Patrick Harvie, on identity cards.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 10:49 am, 24th February 2005

Let me begin by establishing clearly the intentions of the United Kingdom Government. The Identity Cards Bill will introduce a national compulsory system that will use biometric information to tie each individual to a national identification register, which will be a vast database that will contain information on all of us. Ultimately, the information will be shared across many Government departments and agencies. That is the way in which function creep—although the term had yet to be coined—took place under the old ID cards system during and after world war two. By the time Winston Churchill moved to abolish ID cards 53 years ago, the cards were being put to dozens of previously unintended uses.

The bill also contains substantial new powers for the Home Secretary, including powers to alter almost every aspect of the way the scheme will operate. The move to compulsion may be as arbitrary and as discriminatory as any future Home Secretary sees fit.

There are substantial political challenges to the proposal and there are technical and financial considerations. On the technical side, there are problems with every one of the planned biometric systems. There are inherent problems with any database on that scale and, because the information on it will be used for such a wide range of purposes, the consequences of mistakes could be appalling for individuals. On the financial aspects, the overall cost of the scheme to the taxpayer is currently estimated at £5.5 billion. Given the record of large Government information technology projects—this is the biggest in history—there are few of us who do not expect that figure to rise.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Has Patrick Harvie noted that, according to clause 3(3) of the Identity Cards Bill, there can be no mistakes in the database? There is

"a conclusive presumption for the purposes of this Act that the information ... is accurate and complete".

In other words, even if it is wrong it becomes legally correct. Is not that interesting?

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

Stewart Stevenson has given us one of many examples of the worrying sense of legal presumption in the bill and of how the information will be used in ways that benefit the state but which will in no way benefit individuals.

At a fundamental level, identity cards are a solution looking for a problem. Originally, their introduction was suggested as a way of controlling access to public services, but as soon as the terrorist attacks on America took place the tone changed. Few people pretend that the ID card system will offer any meaningful protection against such attacks. Even David Blunkett, as Home Secretary, admitted that that was not the primary purpose of the legislation and that people would be capable of getting access to valid identification cards on false names. How much of a problem is it to be saddled with a false name for the rest of one's life if one is a suicide bomber?

What are the other supposed advantages of the system? Charles Clarke claims that it will save up to £50 million a year in reduced illegal benefit claims. Even if we accept that figure—which I question—it pales into insignificance in comparison with the level of unclaimed benefit, which was, according to the Department for Work and Pensions, at least £3 billion in the financial year starting in 2000. How dare the Government waste billions on a system to save such a small sum, when so many legitimate benefits are left unclaimed by the people who need them?

Of course, all that is the background. The calls to the Scottish Executive are that it should go beyond its previous statement—which I welcome—about use of the cards in accessing devolved services, and that it should explain fully how access to the ID database, which is the real threat to civil liberties, will be used by devolved institutions.

There is much to support in the Liberal Democrat amendment, which reflects the strong stand that Liberal Democrats have made at Westminster on the issue. We can also support the Scottish National Party amendment, so I look forward to hearing Stewart Stevenson's speech. However, the Labour amendment in the name of Alasdair Morrison makes reference to identity cards as

"a central tool in the fight against organised crime and ... terrorism".

As I said, even David Blunkett who introduced the bill made it clear that that was not its primary purpose, but it seems to be the only argument cited in Mr Morrison's amendment.

ID cards are yet another example of the automatic leap to authoritarian positions by new Labour. Before 1997, I remember marching alongside Labour party members to protest against restrictions on civil liberties. "If this kind of thing carries on," we agreed, "we'll be seeing the introduction of a police state." Well, here we are.

Two terms of Labour rule later, and what is on the agenda? We have detention without trial, house arrest by Executive order, police forces rumoured to be buying water cannons to deal with public protesters and now the introduction of compulsory identity cards.

Photo of Christine May Christine May Labour

I have listened carefully to Patrick Harvie. In spite of all he says, does not he agree that research still shows that 80 per cent of people say they would welcome ID cards?

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I am grateful that Christine May has reminded me of that, and I remind her that the more information people find out about the proposal, the less they support it. The more people who find out that individuals will have to pay up to £85, as well as there being the £5.5 billion bill to the taxpayer, the fewer people support the proposal.

The defence of the mechanisms of the police state that new Labour politicians are introducing is as follows: "If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear." Would we feel the same way if the state wanted to read our mail? Would we feel that because we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear? Would we feel the same way if the state wanted to search our homes? Would we feel that we have nothing to hide, so we have nothing to fear?

As I leave my flat in Glasgow in the morning and get the bus into town, I pass Labour's nostalgia campaign posters—highest employment, lowest interest rates, best this, most that. [Applause.] Labour members can clap away; it is a selective list of achievements which is designed to convince us that—as the slogan went—things have only got better. We will present the flip side of that in the run-up to the Westminster election. Among our messages, we will remind the people of Scotland of Labour's latest great achievement—the first ID cards since rationing. We will remind people why ID cards were abolished in the first place and we will oppose the steady erosion of the past half century of civil liberties.

I wish, of course, that this Parliament could vote down what is deeply regressive legislation. We cannot, but we can ensure that its implementation in Scotland will be subject to the very tightest controls. We can make it clear that this Parliament wants to go forward, rather than to take a step back to a more repressive age.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the Identity Cards Bill currently being considered by the Westminster Parliament; is concerned at the lack of time devoted to the scrutiny of this Bill, which has left important questions unanswered over how the identity card scheme will work in practice; believes the proposals to be flawed on political, technical and financial grounds; is concerned that the national identity card and database offer an ineffective response to problems of security and fraud and pose an unacceptable threat to civil liberties; notes that the current cost estimate for the scheme is £5.5 billion and that further escalation of this cost is expected; rejects the Prime Minister's belief, stated on 1 December 2004 in the House of Commons, that "it is legitimate and right, in this day and age, to ask people to carry identity cards" which appears to go far beyond the current scope of the Bill and would require the consent of the Scottish Parliament; welcomes the Scottish Executive's position that identity cards will not be required to allow access to devolved public services, and calls on the Executive to make a full statement on the intended use of the identity database by devolved institutions.

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour 10:56 am, 24th February 2005

Oh dear, oh dear, Presiding Officer. This is a classic case of Green party members individually and collectively getting their civil-libertarian undergarments in a twist. It is not a pleasant sight. When prizes for sanctimony are being handed out at the end of term, I have absolutely no doubt that Patrick Harvie will be right up there with our good friend, Mike Rumbles, vying for first place.

If the Green party members listened to real people and to the people whom they claim to represent, MSPs such as Patrick Harvie would have stood shoulder to shoulder with MSPs from the city of Glasgow—colleagues who are sitting to my left and to my right today—and with other Labour MSPs from across Scotland who fought for and secured the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004. The Greens were found wanting on that important issue. They are certainly not in touch with reality, as their motion eloquently demonstrates. If the Greens cannot be trusted on antisocial behaviour—an issue that is of fundamental importance—why should we listen to them on issues relating to national security and the protection of citizens' identities?

I mentioned my Liberal Democrat colleague, Michael Rumbles, but I am surprised to see that the amendment is in the name of Jeremy Purvis, who is a fine gentleman. I cannot believe that he allowed the following words to appear in the Liberal amendment, which suggests that Parliament

"notes the consistent opposition to these proposals by Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons".

Liberal Democrat MSPs are obviously not keeping up to speed with what their colleagues are actually doing and saying down the road at Westminster. I refer specifically to Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on home affairs, who recently said:

"With 80 per cent in favour of ID cards, I recognise that it will be a very popular measure."

Those were sensible words. He went on to say:

"I supported a private Member's Bill on the issue a couple of years ago."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 20 December 2004; Vol 428, c 1969.]

If that is the Liberal Democrats' definition of consistency—

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour

I am certainly happy to give way on that issue.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

Does Mr Morrison accept that, in the same speech, Mark Oaten went on to put forward a strong case against ID cards, because he has seen the light and realised that they are wrong, both in practice and in principle? When he mentioned the figure of 80 per cent, he was quoting a Labour minister—he was not saying that he agreed that 80 per cent of people support the proposal.

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour

I sincerely thank Iain Smith for reinforcing the very point that I was making about Liberal Democrat consistency. I refer him to a quotation from a sensible sage, Sir David Steel, who is reported to have said on 23 November:

"I think the people will find them very useful. And although the Lib Dems are against a compulsory scheme, even if you had a voluntary scheme I think you'd pretty soon find that people wanted to have them."

I also refer to quotations from other people. Sir John Stevens, the Metropolitan police commissioner said:

"It is absolutely essential, in the modern world, the dangerous world we live in, that we have proper means of identification."

The Financial Services Authority stated in July last year:

"in the long-term if the identity card were a more effective token of identity than any currently available, this could contribute substantially to the fight against crime and reduce the cost to industry."

The British Medical Association states:

"Identity cards that contain information about the bearer's right of access to public services clearly have the potential to assist in the efficient delivery of health services."

Those are all wise words.

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour

I have only a minute and a half left. Otherwise I would give way to Jeremy Purvis, who is a fine young man.

The United Kingdom Government has consulted on the principle of ID cards and on the draft legislation. Public support is high and was high, with about 80 per cent of people being in favour of such a scheme in 2002; I have no doubt that the figure would be well over 80 per cent today.

ID cards are not a threat to our liberties. Our liberties will be strengthened if we are able to protect our own identities and live in safer and more secure communities. I say to Mr Rumbles that the ID card scheme is part of Labour's wider agenda to make our communities safer and more secure at every level, from our homes and our neighbourhoods to our country.

ID cards will protect people from identity theft and identity fraud, which undermine people's sense of security. ID cards will certainly also help to tackle illegal working, abuse of the immigration system and fraudulent use of free public services, all of which can undermine people's belief in fair distribution of society's burdens and benefits and, thereby, undermine communities.

The Opposition parties' voting record in Parliament speaks for itself. They have proved consistently that Labour is the only party in this Parliament and at Westminster that is prepared to take action on the serious issues that are related to crime and other matters. I urge members to support the amendment in my name.

I move amendment S2M-2463.4, to leave out from "is concerned" to end and insert:

"welcomes the current position of the Scottish Executive in relation to devolved services; believes that identity cards are a central tool in the fight against organised crime and international terrorism; further notes that ID cards would provide a gold standard of identity in the modern world, and recognises that ID cards have attracted overwhelming public support as they assist significantly in delivering safer, more secure communities."

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 11:01 am, 24th February 2005

Like some of the older members of the Parliament, I still have my identity card from the previous time. Identity cards were abolished when I was six so I have some experience of them, on which I will, of course, draw. When identity cards were abolished in 1952, they had 39 purposes as distinct from the three for which they were introduced. Patrick Harvie was right to remind us of function creep, just as we have seen mission creep in military campaigns.

In order to consider the matter pragmatically it might be useful to apply the tests that the Tories applied when they examined the issue in 1995, as I suspect that those tests are relevant, pragmatically, today. The tests are that identity cards have to be sufficiently reliable, they have to be accompanied by protections to civil liberties and they must not entail disproportionate cost. I hope that by the end of the debate we will be able to see that, on a pragmatic basis, the proposed ID card scheme fails all three of those tests. Of course, I also take principled issue with what is going on, but my colleagues will develop that aspect later.

I will test the proposals pragmatically. Let me look at the reply that Tony Blair gave in the House of Commons on 9 February. He stated that a biometric passport might cost £70 and an ID card a further £15. No price is given for an ID card on its own, but it is expected that it would cost between £55 and £70. It is not a cheap item for the individual.

On 11 January, Alistair Darling appeared to confirm to my Westminster colleague for Banff and Buchan that it would cost approximately £500 million to introduce these cards in Scotland. On 20 December, Charles Clarke illustrated the other side of the equation when he confirmed that he envisaged that we would reduce benefit fraud by only £50 million. That is compared to a cost of £5,000 million and rising for the introduction of the system. That is without even thinking about the costs that will not appear in the bill. It is clear that the technologies involved are challenging and would need to be operated by skilled operators. People from Mr Morrison's constituency would not be greatly pleased to find that if they wish to have access to an identity card or a biometric passport, they must get on a plane or a ferry to the mainland to go to one of the few centres that have the skills and equipment to issue the cards. Another issue is whether equipment for checking the cards will be available elsewhere.

Clause 1(6) of the Identity Cards Bill states that the database entry continues after death—even if someone is dead, they are in the database. Of course, the information is absolutely perfect in law, despite the fact that there are opportunities for the secretary of state to change it.

Let me, as a fan of Sewel motions, point to a fundamental issue that the Executive must consider carefully. It is perfectly clear that clause 17 of the bill treads on the feet of the Scottish Parliament. Clause 17 refers to "any other enactment" and clause 17(6) specifies that that includes

"an Act of the Scottish Parliament."

We need to debate the matter further in this Parliament. We should have a Sewel motion to do so; it would be improper to proceed further without that. I will wait with interest to see whether we get an opportunity to discuss the issue on an occasion when ministers respond to the debate.

I move amendment S2M-2463.1, to insert at end:

"and expresses concern that the data format and operation likely to be associated with proposed identity cards conform to no formal international standard and carry the real risk of data disclosure to commercial interests."

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat 11:06 am, 24th February 2005

The first duty of Government is to protect its citizens, but the protection is not only from terrorism or invasion. Protecting the liberty of individuals inside the country must have the same status as protecting the country's borders.

We have to be vigilant against glib questions about the challenge to civil liberties such as, what is the problem with having to prove our identity if we have nothing to hide? The Home Secretary is presenting the case for ID cards, which are to be voluntary at first and compulsory eventually, to fight terrorism, organised crime and immigration abuses. I have the highest respect for a gentleman in the chamber, Mr Morrison, who argues that it is inconsistent to be for law and order and not to support ID cards. However, the position is entirely consistent, because the proposed national register has limited scope, but at what financial cost and to what bureaucratic extent? Much of the information already exists and should be better regulated today. It seems senseless to create a brand new national bureaucracy.

The case was put forward that identity cards would assist in the fight against terrorism. However, neither the New York nor Madrid terrorist attackers used false identities to carry out their evil. The US defence—increasingly offence—budget, now stands at nearly £500 billion, but even with that colossal budget the US does not have compulsory ID cards and there is no national database of biometric data for every US citizen. The congressional 9/11 commission report stated that better co-ordination of intelligence was needed, not a greater bureaucracy to database law-abiding US citizens.

The Labour Party might point to there being 80 per cent support for identity cards in opinion polls, but did the Government listen to the opposition to the illegal war in Iraq before going forward on another false premise?

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Does Jeremy Purvis agree that it is reprehensible that the 80 per cent figure was derived by pollsters finding out what people would support and then claiming that that represented 80 per cent support? It was not a straight question.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

Indeed. If there was ever an example of Dantonesque politics or the attitude of "There go my people, I must follow them," it is on this issue by the Government at Westminster and it should be condemned.

As Stewart Stevenson said, the only period in history when British subjects have been required to carry identity cards was between 1939 and 1952 under the National Registration Act 1939. The system ended because of the stinging comments of the then Lord Chief Justice. He stated that the act tended to

"turn law-abiding citizens into lawbreakers, which is a most undesirable state of affairs."

None of the other major common-law countries in the world—the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—has a national ID card system. The cards in the UK will be issued in 2008 and the Government has suggested that Parliament could decide in 2011 or 2012 whether to make it compulsory for everyone to have the cards, although not to carry them. How long would that be the case?

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

No. I am afraid that I do not have time. I will come on to the Greens in 20 seconds.

Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons have voted against the Government's proposals consistently and in Scotland Liberal Democrats have ensured that ID cards will not be compulsory to access services that are devolved. If there is a huge fear that there will be a flood of abuse of public services in Scotland, why is the Labour Party opposed to the ID cards being compulsory to access devolved services? The Labour Party has not supported that because it has seen the sense of what the Liberal Democrats have proposed in the Parliament.

The Conservatives are sitting on the fence. They originally supported the proposals and are now abstaining. Alan Duncan, one of their MPs, refused to take the party line during the debate at the second reading. The reason that he gave for not being in the chamber was:

"I think there's a large carol service in the constituency, at which I might suddenly have to read a lesson."

The Labour Government, together with a compliant Conservative party, is eroding our liberty.

Unfortunately, the Greens have missed an opportunity today. On the morning that I hear that they will rip up their cards, and on the morning that they are making statements, they are also writing in the newsletter of the south Edinburgh Labour Party. Where is the point of principle there?

This is not an issue on which to play party politics. If members are opposed to ID cards, they should vote for the Lib Dem amendment.

I move amendment S2M-2463.3, to leave out from first "notes" to end and insert:

"regrets the introduction of the Identity Cards Bill to the UK Parliament, notes the consistent opposition to these proposals by Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons on the grounds that they will be ineffective in their stated aim of reducing terrorism; believes that there is an excessive cost to the individual and the taxpayer in introducing the identity card; believes that it will lead to increased discrimination and harassment; is concerned for the protection of civil liberties with the lack of definition of how the card will be used; further believes that the UK Government should explore more effective anti identity and benefits fraud, illegal immigration and illegal working measures; is further concerned with the UK Government's intention that by 2013 it will be compulsory for UK citizens to possess an ID card and to produce it when accessing designated public services, and welcomes the commitment by the Scottish Executive that identity cards will not be necessary for accessing devolved services."

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative 11:10 am, 24th February 2005

I think that we have all noted the irony in Mr Purvis's concluding remarks.

The subject of ID cards is one that tends to polarise opinions. This debate has already reflected that. On one side, people argue about the defence of civil liberties; on the other, people argue for the maximum protection of the state. However, it is fair to say that we would not be debating this issue were it not for the events of 11 September 2001.

Conservatives would not have countenanced compulsory ID cards before 9/11, but since 9/11 it has been incumbent on all of us to examine carefully any measures that might enhance the nation's security. Identity cards, if introduced properly and effectively, might indeed help to do that. However, it should be remembered that, even if the Identity Cards Bill is passed at Westminster, the introduction of ID cards will take years. It is vital that any legislative proposal be subjected to searching scrutiny and thorough debate.

We have to accept that a modern world, with the increasing use of new and emerging technologies, requires new safeguards and frameworks to govern how information is used. We have to listen to the views of people such as the police, who tell us that the cards will help them to wage a war on crime, and the security services, who tell us that the cards will be a useful weapon against terrorism. However, we must be sensitive to the legitimate privacy of the law-abiding individual and ensure that fundamental issues of liberty are adequately addressed.

Although Conservatives support the principle of ID cards, we have a great deal of sympathy with the Green party motion. The Government has failed to give enough time for proper scrutiny of this important bill. During the committee stage of the bill, six and half of the clauses were not even debated and much of the remainder was rushed through.

Furthermore, a number of key questions have not been answered. First, we must be clear about the purpose of ID cards. As Patrick Harvie said, one of the main objections to the wartime identity card was mission creep. The card began with three distinct purposes and ended up with 39. In the debate on the current bill, the Government has claimed that a national identity card is needed for everything—from benefits and services to dealing with people trafficking. It is important to understand precisely what the Government's priority is. The Government must make clear the specific purposes for which an ID card is required.

Secondly, we must be clear about the capabilities of the technology—a point that Stewart Stevenson raised. Biometrics technology is not infallible. The system must be robust—from the card and biometric reader, through to the communications system and right into the central computer, database and software. I have to say, Presiding Officer, that if electronic data in this Parliament can confuse me with Robin Harper, such frightening technical frailties would be completely unacceptable in any system for ID cards—I see the members of the Green party applauding; I did not expect my point to be so warmly received.

Stewart Stevenson made a very good point when he suggested that the bill, once enacted, could give legal effect to technical error. That is a troubling thought.

Thirdly, we know that what the Government is proposing is one of the most ambitious technology projects that this country has ever seen. The Government therefore has to have in place the organisation capable of introducing the scheme. There is no evidence that that is yet the case.

The scheme will have to be cost effective, but we know that costs have already soared. They have almost doubled overnight, from £3 billion to £5.5 billion.

Finally, we have to examine the very real concerns over civil liberties that are at the heart of the anxieties that many members have expressed—especially as this scheme comes from a Government that seems to have no concerns for civil liberties whatsoever and that displays an increasingly sinister obsession with political control, with a consequent disregard of individual freedom.

In an ideal world, we would not need identity cards. Sadly, our world is not ideal but increasingly dangerous. It may be necessary to legislate for the possible introduction of ID cards. However, because the Government has failed to answer material questions on the issue, the Scottish Conservatives will support the Green party motion.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

We move now to the open debate. I will not be able to call everyone who has requested to speak.

Photo of Chris Ballance Chris Ballance Green 11:15 am, 24th February 2005

ID cards will not be an effective tool in tackling terrorism. Since 9/11, the United States and United Kingdom Governments have successfully created a climate of fear that is intended to pacify the public and to allow the Governments to introduce measures that will for ever alter and restrict our civil liberties.

The reality is that ID cards have little impact on counter-terrorism. A study published last year found almost no evidence to establish clearly how identity cards could be used to prevent terrorism. The study further revealed that two thirds of known terrorists operated under their true identity and that the remainder used forgeries or impersonation to create fake identities. A terrorist organisation that can forge passports can forge ID cards just as easily. It could even turn into big business for organised crime. The French Government discovered that fraudulent production of its new "unforgeable" smart card quickly became, during the mid-1990s, one of the most profitable criminal activities in the country.

At Westminster, David Blunkett, who introduced the Identity Cards Bill, admitted that it would be possible to acquire a valid ID card under a false identity but said that an individual who did so would then be stuck with that false ID card for life. One might ask how big a problem that would be for a suicide bomber.

My second concern is that, far from increasing security, harmony and peace in our society, ID cards will worsen the harassment of ethnic minorities. Perhaps most worrying is the thought that ID cards could provide another pretext for stop and search—a policy that has often been directed at ethnic minorities. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has raised serious concerns about the impact of ID cards on black and minority ethnic communities. The council argues that the identity card could lead to discrimination against minority groups. That concern is based on sound research evidence and it is a concern that I share. Research in European Union countries has shown that ID cards impact disproportionately on ethnic minority groups and end up increasing the tension between the police and ethnic minorities.

Rural areas such as my South of Scotland region will not be immune from such concerns. Recent research on rural racism has highlighted the fact that ethnic minorities in the Scottish countryside are frequently the victims of repeated racist abuse and prejudice. The Executive says that tackling racism is one of its priorities, so how can ministers support ID cards when they increase racial tension and work against the aims of the Executive's anti-racist strategy? There is solid evidence of the impact of ID cards on race relations in other countries, but has the Executive even considered the potential problems of ID cards?

The Greens want a peaceful Scotland that is free from racial tension and a more peaceful world that tackles international terrorism by implementing truly effective measures. That is why we cannot just sit back and allow the Home Office to ride roughshod over such aims and impose its policy on Scotland.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I do not think that there is any time for an intervention. If Ms McNeill wants to be called to speak herself, she had better allow Mr Ballance to finish within his four minutes.

Photo of Chris Ballance Chris Ballance Green

As my four minutes are just about up, I will finish by saying that the Government's measures are unacceptable. They are ill thought out, ill founded and unplanned, and have been rushed through with a minimum of consultation. It is important that we state our concerns about them.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I call Cathy Peattie, to be followed by Carolyn Leckie and then Pauline McNeill. I am afraid that that is all there will be time for.

Photo of Cathy Peattie Cathy Peattie Labour 11:19 am, 24th February 2005

ID cards could fulfil several useful purposes. They could be used as a means of countering the social exclusion that prevents people from opening bank accounts and participating in modern consumer society. Even taking internal flights can be difficult if various forms of identification are not presented. Not everyone has a passport or a driving licence, or even a household bill in their name. Young people need to be able to present proof of age and identity when they are out and about. It would be helpful if they did not have to carry a passport around with them. My own experience tells me that passports left in jeans do not wash particularly well.

That said, the issue can be addressed in a number of ways that include several variations on the ID theme. We need to have a full debate that enables people to understand the pros and cons of the way in which ID cards could affect their lives. We need to consult people and listen to their concerns to ensure that the benefits of identity schemes do not come at the expense of civil liberties. We also need to assess whether the benefits of the schemes justify their cost.

The Scottish Parliament does not have the final say on the ID card proposals. Indeed, many aspects of their impact are reserved. However, it is inevitable that there will be knock-on effects and various devolved aspects of their use.

The Government says that it would not be compulsory to carry a card. The decision on when ID cards would become compulsory would be taken by the UK Parliament when take-up had reached an appropriate level and when public acceptability and the technological feasibility of schemes had been demonstrated.

ID cards should remain voluntary, as the First Minister has said on more than one occasion. He said:

"we have consistently advised the UK Government that our policy position is that any proposals for" an

"identity card system in the United Kingdom ... should not and will not be compulsory for use in relation to devolved services in Scotland."—[Official Report, 13 November 2003; c 3254.]

Photo of Mark Ballard Mark Ballard Green

Does the member therefore disagree with what Tony Blair said on 1 December in the House of Commons? He said:

"We think that it is legitimate and right, in this day and age, to ask people to carry identity cards".—[Official Report, House of Commons, 1 December 2004; Vol 428, c 627.]

Surely that was a call for compulsory cards.

Photo of Cathy Peattie Cathy Peattie Labour

I said that the cards should be voluntary and I will continue to say that we need to have a fair and open debate on the issue. However, if a system can be devised to address the issues that I have mentioned, I believe that it deserves consideration.

There are differing views in the business community about the implications of an ID card scheme. There are also arguments within the information technology industry about the technological feasibility of the system and, of course, there are many questions around the issue of civil liberties. That said, if an ID card system is worth doing, it is worth doing well. We should take time to ensure that there is a wide and inclusive debate.

The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive will have a full opportunity to influence the development of ID cards. We need to ensure that their use is consistent with devolved decisions and initiatives. ID cards may become inevitable, but their success will depend on consensus. If the public are opposed to a Government policy, the policy is fatally undermined. We have an example of that in the poll tax. It is clear that we need full discussion and consultation at every stage of the process. We heard earlier that 80 per cent of people want to have ID cards. If the public are involved at all levels of the debate, they will support the policy.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Before I call the next speaker, I want to make it clear that there will be time for closing speeches.

Photo of Carolyn Leckie Carolyn Leckie SSP 11:23 am, 24th February 2005

When I watched "Minority Report", like many others, I thought that I was watching a sci-fi fantasy set in a totalitarian state. I thought that it could not possibly transfer to my reality, but how wrong I was. Let us be clear that this is about the power of the state and about control over individuals.

In June 2004, the United Kingdom information commissioner, Richard Thomas, said that he viewed the scheme with "increasing alarm". He said that he was not opposed to identity cards in principle but that the British plans were more ambitious than any other scheme in the world. He called the scheme "unprecedented" in international terms and said:

"This is beginning to represent a really significant sea change in the relationship between state and every individual in this country ... it is not just about citizens having a piece of plastic to identify themselves. It is about the nature of the information held about every citizen and how that is going to be used in a wide range of activities."

If we need protecting from anyone, we need protecting from the state.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Does the member share my concern at clause 19(2)(b) of the bill, under which information may be shared with the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6? Given that the Intelligence Services Act 1994 makes it clear that the service's operation is limited to foreign matters, that means that information may be sent abroad as well.

Photo of Carolyn Leckie Carolyn Leckie SSP

I thank Stewart Stevenson for that piece of information. It will not surprise him to know that I think it abhorrent.

The operation of an ID card system creates problems that put personal safety at risk. Last year, a worker at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency leaked personal information about car registration numbers to animal rights activists who then targeted individuals. The existence of the database would increase the potential for abuse by individuals on the far right or by someone with a grudge against a former partner.

Given that the cards might include medical information, anyone who got access to the database could find out and exploit people's physical and psychological weaknesses. Of course, that risk includes exploitation by the multinational corporations that would operate the database.

Chris Ballance referred to the concerns about the increasing harassment of ethnic minorities, which are concerns that are shared by Trevor Phillips, the chair of the Commission for Racial Equality.

Terrorism is being used, although not very credibly, as an excuse for the database to be set up and for ID cards to be issued. If the technology is available to implement the system, it is also available to counter it. Sophisticated networks would be able to obtain counterfeit cards that would provide even more credible false identities than those currently available. That would increase the risk that access could be gained to areas where terrorism could be carried out. Terrorism will be prevented only by political solutions and the biggest single step that could be taken is for the US and its allies to stop interfering in and profiteering from the rest of the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many errors are predicted in the database. Passports are stolen and used to maintain false identities. Among the technologies that are used by Atos Origin UK, the prime contractor of the trial, is NEC's automated fingerprint identification software, which is considered to be the best of its type in the market and which is used by the US Department of Homeland Security among others. According to NEC, the technology has been found to be 99.3 per cent accurate. When scaled up to the UK population, the margin of risk would amount to 420,000 people being mistakenly identified—legally, they would be somebody else. It is not just the state that will retain and abuse this information; multinational companies will use it as well.

Ministers should look at the example of the Australia card. It started off with opinion polls in support of it, but a mass movement arose and defeated the card after a campaign that led to the dissolution of Parliament, a general election and unprecedented divisions within the Labor Government—I must say that that would be nice. The UK Government could have another poll tax on its hands—

Photo of Carolyn Leckie Carolyn Leckie SSP

I will finish by quoting David Blunkett, who said:

"Knowing your true identity and being able to demonstrate it is a positive plus. It's a basic human right all of us should treasure."

I do not need Blunkett, Charles Clarke or any member of the Government to tell me who I am and neither does anyone else.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

While that speech was taking place, we conducted an inquisition into where the time has gone. We discovered a double entry: we had Mark Ballard down twice to close for the Green party. I am sorry, Mr Ballard, but you are not going to close twice. After calling Pauline McNeill, I will be able to call Brian Adam.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour 11:28 am, 24th February 2005

Whoever we are, we all guard our identities. However, we live in an age in which we exchange information about ourselves by telephone or over the internet almost daily. That exchange of information, whether it is concerned with banking, ticket sales or insurance, is made because of the convenience of receiving services in our homes. However, it comes at a price. Companies hold more details and information on us than ever before. We should all think about the issue.

The internet is now more frightening than ever. I am thinking of the spyware programmes that track the websites that we surf. Most of us are low-tech people who think of cookies as something that we have when we need a sugar fix. However, the high-tech among us, particularly Stewart Stevenson, know that cookies are a form of computer technology that is used to record a footprint on every website that we visit.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

No, thank you.

We live in a world in which we are already exchanging massive amounts of information about ourselves. It is important to remember that that is the context of the debate. Today, we are being asked to debate a motion on the subject of the Identity Cards Bill that is before the UK Parliament. It would appear that we are debating the proposal against a backdrop of overwhelming public support. Carolyn Leckie said that ID cards could be the new poll tax, but she fails to recognise that, whether I agree with it or not, public support is now reaching 80 per cent, which is not something that any political party can ignore.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

I cannot accept that the protection of civil liberties is the sole preserve of any one person here. It would be wrong to have the debate in that context. I have never been comfortable with the idea of an ID card scheme—I will say more about that in a minute—because there are issues of individual privacy that we must weigh up when considering such schemes. However, we have to acknowledge that, for whatever reason, attitudes have changed.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

No, I will not.

Chris Ballance raised the potential harassment of racial minorities. Neither I nor any other member takes that matter lightly. It is a serious consideration for me, and I am sure for everyone, in determining the type of scheme that we would have, but I would like there to be some acknowledgement of what has been done by all parties and the Executive. Agencies that would operate any scheme are making progress in the way that they deal with ethnic minorities. We should not jump to the conclusion that our police forces will harass ethnic minorities. It should be recognised that we are making progress.

Whatever our position on ID cards, and whatever the reasons for people supporting them, it is crucial that we should agree on the facts. However, clearly we do not. One briefing that I have received shows that the Spanish police stated that nearly all the terrorists involved in the Madrid bombing said that it was made easier by Spain's ID card scheme. Others think that that is not the case. We need to talk about the facts.

The benefits of an ID card scheme are overstated. ID cards have the potential for use in the fight against terrorism, but that has to be carefully considered. We all accept that there are certain situations where we have to prove who we are, and that requirement will increase. However, many people are concerned about the cost of the scheme. Members have mentioned the system of biometrics, which we are just beginning to learn about, but it is a validation system not an identity system.

I cannot support a compulsory scheme. I would not support a scheme that meant that citizens would have to produce their cards either on the spot or in a police station. Such an element of a scheme would not be justifiable. However, I ask Parliament to note that in the UK bill there is no mention of a compulsory scheme. That may be planned for the future, but I would oppose it. I welcome the Executive's position that devolved services will not demand an ID card.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party 11:32 am, 24th February 2005

That is the key question—whether ID cards will be compulsory or voluntary. The Executive's position is that ID cards will be voluntary for accessing services in Scotland, but I can see no purpose to ID cards unless they are compulsory. The very people whom ID cards are designed to catch out are the very people who will avoid them if they are voluntary. There is no point in a voluntary scheme, and especially not one that will involve such significant expenditure.

I point out that the Executive already has a record of introducing and supporting voluntary schemes to access services. Significant sums from the modernising government fund have been expended in the city of Aberdeen to develop an access and entitlement card, which effectively is what any voluntary scheme will produce. The questions are, how long did it take to get the scheme up and running, how successful has it been, and what services have been put on it? I tell members that it has already cost many millions—much of which has been provided by the Executive—and it has had significant teething problems, to say the least. The number of people using it, out of a population of 200,000, is currently projected to be 40,000 at most, with an ambitious target of 70,000 eventually. Currently, the card only allows access to school canteens, and it is projected that it will be expanded to allow access to concessionary fares schemes in the near future.

I have significant doubts about whether that is value for money. I have significant doubts about whether the entitlement provisions for any national scheme will be of much value in any case. Undoubtedly, unless the scheme is made compulsory, it will be of no value whatsoever in terms of benefit fraud or security. In fact, any scheme would be no more valuable than those little badges that we are given when we go to public buildings or major corporations, where nobody ever checks what the badge says. I have no doubt that the scheme is well intentioned but, in terms of practicality, it is not a sensible measure.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat 11:35 am, 24th February 2005

It is important that the context for this debate is the principles and practicalities of the scheme. I am disappointed that those who support ID cards have failed to make a principled case for their introduction. It is simply not good enough to accuse those who oppose ID cards of being soft on crime because, frankly, there is little or no evidence that the proposed ID cards will help in the fight against crime, terrorism or benefit fraud. Indeed, the 9/11 bombers were travelling under their own identities. Spain has ID cards, but that did not prevent the Madrid bombings. Only 5 per cent of benefit fraud is the result of identity fraud, so 95 per cent of benefit fraud would not be affected by any ID card scheme.

The ID card scheme that is proposed in the UK Government bill is flawed and expensive, and has nothing to do with the fight against crime or with preventing terrorism. Frankly, the money that is going to be wasted on a national ID card system would be better spent on proper measures to deal with fighting crime, such as putting more police in our communities. Neither is the system practical. There is no evidence that the technology has been proved. The Government does not have a record of successfully introducing mass computerised systems. In fact, quite the opposite—it has a record of completely failing to introduce national computerised systems successfully. The technology is unproved.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

To correct Pauline McNeill, does Iain Smith share my concerns that under clause 7 there are powers for an order to be laid to make the scheme compulsory?

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

I am deeply concerned about any proposals to make the scheme compulsory. I think that it will be made compulsory, but by the back door, even if those powers do not exist. Everyone who gets a passport after 2008 will be forced to have a national identity card, whether they want one or not. They will also be forced to go down the unproven route of biometrics. If they do not have a passport they will not be able to travel abroad, so they will have to have a national identity card. Surely that is a breach of civil liberties if ever there was one.

The issue is also one of principle. Government should hold only such data on individuals as is necessary. It is a basic principle of data protection legislation that the data held should be only the minimum that is necessary for the purpose for which it was collected, and it should only be held for as long as is necessary for the purpose for which it was collected. It is also a basic principle that only those who require the information for the purposes for which it was collected should have access to that information, and that information should not be given to others without consent. The proposed national identification register in the bill breaches all those fundamental principles of data protection.

As a party, we are opposed in principle to the national identity card scheme. Mark Oaten has made his position clear on that. I quote from his speech, which Alasdair Morrison also seemed keen to quote:

"I will happily rehearse why I have changed my mind. I am concerned about the cost implications and the civil liberty implications. I am not convinced that ID cards will work in relation to terrorism and I do not believe that they will help to tackle benefit or health fraud. It is a completely flawed system and now that I have seen the detail I fundamentally oppose the Bill."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 20 December 2004; Vol 428, c 1970.]

We are consistent in our position, which contrasts with that of the Conservatives, who do not know which way to turn. How they will vote depends on which shadow minister one asks on which day. Michael Howard said that he supported the ID card system, but now the Conservatives are going to vote against it. The Conservatives in this chamber could not make up their mind for this debate, and will probably have changed their minds again by this afternoon. The Conservatives do not know where they are on ID card systems. Frankly, I am not surprised that Annabel Goldie's identity was confused with Robin Harper's, because the Conservatives do not know where they face on this issue. No one can tell what face the Conservatives will present on identity cards, because they have so many that it is very confusing. I beg members to support the Liberal Democrat amendment if they really want to get rid of the national identity card scheme.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Alasdair Morrison was not present for the closing speeches. Will you make a ruling on that or confirm that it is a discourtesy to the chamber?

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

There is nothing about that in the standing orders and I cannot make a ruling about the presence of members during closing speeches. However, members are well aware that we expect that those who have participated in a debate will be present for all the closing speeches. I am happy to confirm that that is the position.

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative 11:41 am, 24th February 2005

I want to pick up on Iain Smith's point. He is consistent with his Labour partners, who in turn have consistently railroaded legislation and Sewel motions through the Parliament without adequate scrutiny. The legislation on ID cards is another example of that. Sadly, we live in an age where the importance of taking measures to prevent terrorist attacks cannot be underestimated. That is surely something about which all parties have a common view.

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

I am sorry, but I must press on. Contrary to Pauline McNeill's assertion about civil liberties, part of the process of delivering such measures involves obtaining intelligence to counter terrorists' plans and, in turn, encroaching on privacy and civil liberties, which should never be done lightly. For that reason, it is vital that every suggested approach to countering terrorism be scrutinised thoroughly and examined in detail in order to demonstrate that it takes full account of similar or related experience to ensure, as far as possible, that it will be workable and that it will achieve its stated purpose. That approach must be adopted in considering the introduction of ID cards, as with any other preventive measure.

It is therefore a matter of grave concern that there has been a lack of time for parliamentary scrutiny of the Identity Cards Bill at Westminster. Despite that lack of scrutiny the UK Government—like Alasdair Morrison—has made a number of claims in respect of ID cards.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

Will the member explain whether the Conservative party is in favour of or opposed to ID cards in principle?

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

I will explain it plainly and slowly in words of one syllable. We are, in principle, in favour of anything that can address terrorist attacks.

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

That is a yes, with the proviso that the measure is considered properly—which the coalition never does. On Thursday the Lib Dems may pat themselves on the back and say that they are opposed to the scheme, but who knows what they will be doing on Friday?

Alasdair Morrison and the UK Government have said that ID cards will be a vital tool in challenging organised crime and terrorism, will prove invaluable in tackling illegal working and immigration abuse and in countering identity fraud and will facilitate access to public services and help in establishing people's entitlement to such services.

Since the issue was mooted, the proposed card has developed from being an entitlement card with an emphasis on the link between it and the use of services to an identity card that is intended also to disrupt terrorists' use of false and multiple identities. It is clear that in the Government's eyes the purpose of the card has evolved; it now views ID cards as the magic solution to a number of serious problems. There must be doubts about cards being such a solution; although Spain has had them for years they did not prevent the attacks of 11 March 2004, which is regrettable.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The member is in her last minute.

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

Furthermore, although the cards are intended to tackle fraud, it is inevitable that they will generate fraud as those who are not entitled to them try to get around the system.

All those questions remain unanswered and we have no details of the costs and benefits, nor the necessary reassurance about the protection of privacy. Patrick Harvie highlights those points in the motion, which is why we will support it. It is essential to acknowledge, as Annabel Goldie said, that even if the bill is passed, it will take years to come fully into force. In the meantime, the problem that it is intended to address will not just remain, but will worsen.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 11:44 am, 24th February 2005

We have no hesitation in supporting Patrick Harvie's motion. The amendment in Stewart Stevenson's name is meant to attract support for the motion, not subtract it. Clearly the matter is one of balance. We require to balance the rights of the individual with the rights of the state and the costs involved with the benefits that will accrue. We have to weigh those factors on the scales of justice to see whether the measures are deliverable.

Based on what Cathy Peattie said, it appears that the measures are not only benign, but positively beneficial. The costs will be minimal and the benefits will be substantial. We will be able not only to take a Ryanair flight within the UK, but address the threat of international terrorism and organised crime. If only that were the case—when we drill down into the details we see that it is not. In terms of terrorism, civil liberties and costs, the bill is weighed on the scales of justice and is found wanting.

The bill will not address terrorism. As many speakers have said, Spain has ID cards, but they did not stop the atrocity in Madrid. The state of Israel has ID cards and it knows that the way to address terrorism is not simply through employing sophisticated technology, although it has it manifestly across the board. The way to address terrorism is not to whip up a climate of fear whereby we move from a McCarthyite reds-under-the-bed situation to a Blairite terrorist-around-the-corner situation. The way to address terrorism is two-fold: first we must address the root causes, the inequalities and injustices that permeate the world and allow terrorism to fester, on which the likes of Chomsky have commented at length. Secondly, we must identify the perpetrators. When Britain faced the provisional Irish Republican Army, which was probably the most sophisticated terrorist outfit known for generations, if not in the history of modern society, it did so successfully in the main through gathering sophisticated intelligence and identifying the protagonists without bringing in measures that would manifestly fail, whether internment or ID cards. It all comes down to getting sophisticated intelligence. We have to consider whether the benefits are applied or lost. If we introduce the measures in the bill we will create a greater pool of people from which to select and recruit terrorists, rather than address the problem and identify perpetrators.

On civil liberties, given that the devolved legislature does not seek to make the cards available—for all the benefits that Ms Peattie and others have suggested would accrue—why would we want to incur the cost? If the card would allow people to access benefits as a citizen of the state, there would be an argument for it. However, given that this legislature, which is in charge of health and other services, access to which would form the beneficial basis of the system, says, "We're not having it", there is clearly no benefit to it. That takes us back to the cost involved, which would be substantial. If the cost were minimal, we could say that perhaps on balance the cards were worth it. However, we are talking not about millions, but billions and the costs will continue to rise.

Will the system provide any benefit in addressing terrorism? No it will not. Will it provide any benefit in protecting civil liberties and improving citizens' rights to access matters of state? No it will not. Will it provide benefit in making this a safer country and providing the sophisticated intelligence that our police and security services require or in providing a more visible police presence, which is the best method of making people feel secure and able to play their part? No it will not. When the bill is weighed on the scales of justice it is clearly found wanting, which is why we oppose the position of the Westminster Government.

Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour 11:48 am, 24th February 2005

The debate has been interesting and worth while and I thank the Greens for allowing us the opportunity, however brief, to touch on some of the issues associated with ID cards and debunk some of the myths that are bandied about, which have been repeated this morning. Patrick Harvie touched in his opening remarks on the potential cost of introducing ID cards, but he forgot to tell us that most of the cost is in producing biometric passports, which are becoming increasingly necessary in the world anyway.

Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour

No, not just now. The three non-European Union countries that I have visited most recently are Cuba, Australia and the United States, all of which have visa entry requirements. Without biometric passports, entry to the USA will become more difficult and far more expensive. The same goes for other countries. Iain Smith seemed to say that we should not endorse biometric passports, but that we should take a King Canute approach to international travel, ignore what other countries are asking for and say that, as usual, the United Kingdom knows best.

What we have heard this morning sets out clear dividing lines between those of us on the Labour benches, who are in tune with public opinion, and those on the Opposition benches, who are out of touch and are ignoring public opinion. And when have we heard that before? We heard the Opposition ignoring public opinion last year, in relation to antisocial behaviour. We won that argument, with Johnnys and Sallys-come-lately now supporting the very measures that they once opposed. Despite any vote in the chamber this afternoon, Labour will win the debate on identity cards.

Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour

It was interesting that not one of the SNP speakers this morning commented on the practice of other European countries, with the slight exception of the previous speech, which at least mentioned Spain. Given that the SNP liberally flits around the map of Europe, finding one country after another to fit whatever argument it is advancing on any given day, it is interesting that we have heard nothing from SNP members about the practice of any other small European nations that have identity cards. The pick-and-mix mentality continues.

Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour

In the Tories' opening speech, Annabel Goldie attempted, but ultimately failed, to hide the Tory splits over this issue. We know that they are divided on the issue at Westminster but their failure to produce an amendment for today's debate shows that their small group in Edinburgh is also divided on the issue. Indeed, Miss Goldie's opening speech sounded as if it had been drafted by committee.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Please sit down, Miss Leckie.

Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour

The first half of Miss Goldie's speech acknowledged the new post-twin towers world that we live in, but in an attempt to hide the Tory divisions, she hid behind a spurious argument about the amount of time the bill is getting at Westminster.

Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour

No, thank you.

The question, which Margaret Mitchell went some way towards answering, is simple: are the Tories for or against the use of identity cards? They cannot have it both ways, even if they are only portraying the contradictory views of their UK leader and the shadow Home Secretary.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

My goodness; democracy can occasionally be found in the Labour party.

I have disposed of my speech notes to the official report, but I will repeat what I said earlier. The Conservatives, in principle, support ID cards. I cannot make that any clearer. I then articulated—

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

Why are they voting for the Green amendment, then?

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

I went on to articulate the significant list of reasons why this incoherent, ill-founded, incomplete, uncosted, unscrutinised and untested proposal deserves legitimate questioning and criticism.

Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour

Quite simply, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. We will see how the Conservatives vote this evening.

Miss Goldie gave, as an example of an argument against ID cards, yesterday's mix-up between her voting card and Robin Harper's voting card. I would have thought, however, that that example highlights why we need a gold standard regarding our own identity. I am sure that there was nothing fraudulent in yesterday's mix-up but that is not the case in relation to an increasing number of people who misuse others' identity to perpetuate crime. As someone who has had their identity stolen and in whose name a loan has been fraudulently obtained, I know that from first-hand experience.

It seems strange that those who oppose identity cards fail to acknowledge the amount of identification that we all carry every day. At least, if we had an identity card made to a gold standard, we would have clear, foolproof evidence of our own identity. That way, we would all know where we stood.

Photo of Mark Ballard Mark Ballard Green 11:53 am, 24th February 2005

The debate has demonstrated the tremendous amount of genuine concern that members in all parties have about the impact of ID cards on the people of Scotland. We heard concerns expressed across the chamber, from Margaret Mitchell through to Carolyn Leckie. We heard strong speeches from Jeremy Purvis and Stewart Stevenson. Further, we heard genuine concerns about this scheme—which is a compulsory scheme—from Labour backbenchers. In particular, we heard from Annabel Goldie that the Identity Cards Bill has been rushed, which undoubtedly means that it is flawed. The consultation that Cathy Peattie asked for is not going to happen because Labour is trying to push the bill through Westminster before the general election. There is no opportunity for that proper consultation or, as Annabel Goldie pointed out, proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Does the member share my concern that under paragraph 6(g) of schedule 1 to the bill, all those who add their signatures in support of someone's application for an ID card will find themselves in the database involuntarily?

Photo of Mark Ballard Mark Ballard Green

I agree completely. That is a good example of the fact that the bill provides minimal oversight of the scheme and that the detail of the scheme has major civil liberties implications that have not been properly discussed. The Home Secretary is effectively being allowed to become a law unto himself. He is given 31 new powers—nearly two thirds of which do not require any parliamentary oversight—all to facilitate Scott Barrie's holiday plans by enabling him to visit the United States of America more easily.

Of course, there are concerns not only about the fact that the Identity Cards Bill is fundamentally bad law, but about the effectiveness of the scheme to deliver the benefits that Alasdair Morrison and others have suggested might exist. Iain Smith made valid points about the principle and the practicality of the scheme.

Members have raised legitimate concerns about the role of ID cards in countering terrorism. Many have pointed out that the USA's system of identification did not protect its citizens against the terrorist outrage of September 11 because the bombers of the two towers were generally carrying valid identification, and that Spain's ID card system did not protect the people of Madrid from a terrorist outrage in the form of the Madrid train station bombing.

Concerns were expressed about the cost-effectiveness of the scheme. We have seen cost rises in Government programme after Government programme. For example, the national health service information technology programme was supposed to come in at £6.2 billion but its eventual cost was £18.8 billion. I do not believe that the current £5.5 billion price tag of the ID card scheme will be the eventual price tag. The cost will go up and up.

We have heard genuine concerns from members of all parties about the inability of the legislation to ensure that the cards are effective in relation to issues such as benefit fraud, illegal working and illegal immigration. Stewart Stevenson made a valid point about the costs and the benefits. Iain Smith pointed out that 95 per cent of benefit fraud is not about identity, but about people working in the illegal economy. An ID card system will not tackle that.

Using evidence from the countries that currently use ID cards, Chris Ballance pointed out that issues of ethnic tension are exacerbated by the police powers that accompany ID cards. The Tories scrapped the sus laws that were in operation in Brixton in the 1980s because of the ways in which they were being used against ethnic minorities. We do not want them to come back in the form of ID cards.

The massive database will contain an unprecedented amount of information on people. That is a genuine concern. In this chamber yesterday, the identities of two of our members—Robin Harper and Annabel Goldie—were confused by the database of 129 people. Even if it is 99.3 per cent accurate—a figure that Carolyn Leckie mentioned—a biometric database of 60 million people will confuse hundreds of thousands of identities.

The Executive might be able to ease our concerns over the use of ID cards to access devolved services but Charles Clarke has stated that, ultimately, the scheme will effectively be compulsory. Under clause 2(4), Charles Clarke, as the Home Secretary, will have the power to enter into the national database information about a British citizen without their consent. This is a compulsory database. In the debating chamber in Westminster, Tony Blair has said that he wants everybody to carry ID cards. I heard what the Labour backbenchers said but this is a compulsory scheme—make no mistake about it—and the support that was demonstrated in the opinion polls that were quoted will disappear rapidly when it becomes clear that the scheme will be compulsory.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

It will have to be quick.

Photo of Carolyn Leckie Carolyn Leckie SSP

Does Mark Ballard share my astonishment at the lack of consistency of Labour members who quote opinion polls as justification for implementing policy? If they were going to implement popular policies, they would abolish the council tax and they would not have bombed Iraq.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Please wind up, Mr Ballard.

Photo of Mark Ballard Mark Ballard Green

I agree with that, and I agree with Stewart Stevenson—a Sewel motion will be necessary. We might not be able to vote against the Identity Cards Bill becoming law, but the Executive must take the concerns of the Scottish Parliament forward. We can all encourage the people of Scotland to join the national campaign against ID cards. Members from all sides of the chamber have said that the bill will be costly, unworkable and ineffective. It will undermine half a century of work on civil liberties and worsen discrimination again minorities. I urge all members to unite behind the Green party's motion.