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Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): My right hon. Friend is generous in giving way and he is making a powerful and cogent speech—[Interruption.] Does he agree that the welcome measures in our manifesto—on keeping embarkation records and proper entry and exit records—would be well underpinned by the proposed system if it could be made to work?

David Davis: I would go further than that and say that such an arrangement would be a necessary aspect of the system. If the Government are to argue that
 
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immigration controls are a high-ranking priority, as I think that they will, embarkation controls and better border controls will be a necessary component.

Mr. Salmond rose—

David Davis: I am not giving way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: Was it not the right hon. Gentleman's Conservative Government who scrapped embarkation controls in the smaller ports?

David Davis: If I recall correctly, it was embarkation controls for the EU, which were no longer legal. It was the present Government who scrapped them for the rest of the world. I want to make some progress now.

Finally, we must examine the very real concerns about civil liberties, which were dismissed far too easily by the Home Secretary. That goes to the heart of the concerns expressed by so many Members on both sides of the House, including some members of the Cabinet, so it is right and proper to discuss them. I think that the Home Secretary was wrong in his article this morning to call those who are concerned about civil liberties "woolly". That is erroneous and does not help the progress of the Bill.

The scheme proposed today will involve the establishment of a national identity register, the use of the latest technology and the gathering of information on millions of people. That register will be the hub that allows access and collation of vast amounts of data on individuals from many Government databases.

One issue that has arisen today concerns legal advice from the Attorney-General about data and privacy. In the interest of informed debate on this matter, will the Home Secretary publish the advice from Lord Goldsmith, which would be advantageous for debating the arguments about privacy? In practical terms, any database at the heart of the national identity register must be secure. People who misuse the data, particularly Government officials, must face stiff penalties. At the moment, the Bill has smaller penalties for civil servants than for anyone else, which is the wrong way round.

We know that unscrupulous people somehow managed to get at information on the police national computer about the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, and we know that the Pentagon and Microsoft have both been hacked into. The proposed system has to have tens of thousands of access points, so it must be rendered more secure even than Microsoft has so far managed with its own headquarters.

Parliament must oversee the nature of the data used on the cards and must control who has access to them—the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) at the outset of my speech. Those are the sort of safeguards that we want to see in place, especially when, to be frank, we know that the Government sometimes have no concern for people's privacy or civil liberties whatever. This is a Government who regularly smear their opponents—a Goliath who have tried to steamroller Pam Warren from the Paddington Survivors Group, who savaged the 94-year-old pensioner Rose Addis, who spat out the press officer Martin Sixsmith and who rubbished the reputation of David Kelly.
 
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In an ideal world, we would not need identity cards. Sadly, our world is not ideal, but increasingly dangerous. Today we accept that it is necessary to legislate for the possible introduction of ID cards. It is necessary to put the structure in place. Many people believe that they will be a useful weapon in the fight against crime, fraud and international terrorism. It is right that we listen to those people and support the principle that the architecture for their introduction should be put in place, but it is also right that we ensure that the proposals are scrutinised very carefully, so that we achieve the aims of the Bill at minimum cost and minimum incursion on people's liberty and privacy. That is why we will support the Bill—[Interruption]—but it is also why I commend the motion to refer the Bill to a Joint Committee of both Houses.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. I remind the House that Mr. Speaker has placed an eight-minute limit on Back Benchers' speeches, which applies from now.

6.19 pm

Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab): I welcome the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and I welcome him to his job. He referred to the report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. I hope that hon. Members who scrutinise the Bill in Committee will find our report, and the minority reports, a helpful guide to pretty much all the major issues that need to be looked at in detail. I am already grateful to the Government for taking on board at least some of the changes highlighted in the Select Committee's earlier report, particularly in terms of making the aims of the Bill more precise. There have been some changes—not yet enough—to the powers of the commissioner and in the bringing in of the Government's chief scientific officer to advise on the state of development of biometrics. All those are important safeguards.

From the discussion so far, it is fairly clear that not all right hon. and hon. Members have yet read the Bill in any great detail. I hope that will change in the weeks to come, and I should like to highlight a few important issues.

In my view, there is no doubt that introducing a national identity register—that is what we should focus on, rather than the cards themselves—brings a change in the relationship between citizen and state, not least because there is a formal requirement to provide one's biometrics to a state register. Nothing like that exists on citizens at the moment, and there are other, perhaps less intrusive, requirements to provide changes of address and other information.

That, I think, is the only fundamental change in the relationship between the citizen and the state. In the debate so far, it has been hard to understand exactly what it is that the Bill's opponents are seriously worried about. Everyone talks about the Bill as though it were some terrible step into the unknown, but one never hears a precise example of what people are actually worried about, other than the point of principle, which is an arguable one.
 
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In truth, even if all the data on the new national identity register became freely available, which will not happen and which is not what is proposed, there would be less intrusive information, less private information and less damaging information available through that than is routinely available today to the police, the security services and a whole variety of private companies from telephone companies, credit card companies, store card companies and the like. The fears behind the civil liberties argument, other than those on the principle itself, are, in my view, greatly overstated.

The question, as the Select Committee said, is whether the potential gains of the system outweigh those fears. To some extent, that depends on individual assessments.

Mr. Marshall-Andrews : As my right hon. Friend asked for a concrete example, may I give him one? If the Bill goes through in its present form, it will undoubtedly be possible for the Secretary of State to initiate not primary but secondary legislation—that being the important thing—to add, for instance, criminal convictions to the data stored. That is one concrete example that is undoubtedly right and that causes me and a lot of other people great concern.

Mr. Denham: That issue can be addressed in Committee. I see no reason to do what my hon. and learned Friend suggests. In fact, all criminal convictions are already immediately accessible on the police national computer. It is hard to see why the Government would wish to do that. If somebody is, for example, taken to a police station and arrested, and if the police identify that individual using the national identity register—that is, after all, what it is there for—it will take a mere matter of seconds to establish whether that person is also on the police national computer. I do not see that as a fundamental objection.

It seems to me that the reason for the card is this: if we believe, as I do, that terrorism is a significant threat; if we believe, as I do, that the facts of illegal immigration, illegal working and abuse of access to public services are not only major issues in their own right but significant social issues for our society, because people perceive all that as being unfair, unchallenged and something that should be dealt with; and if we see criminal identity fraud as a problem, we need to listen to the agencies who tell us, as they told the Select Committee, that having a robust system of personal identity will, in the words of the famous Sir Robert Mark, when talking about motor car tyres, make a "significant contribution" to solving the problem.

That is what the Select Committee was told. It was not told that terrorism would be abolished, nor that identity fraud would disappear, nor that there would be no benefit abuse, nor that there would be no illegal working. It was told that because it would be easier to tackle points of identity, a robust identity system would be desirable. That is why, in principle, the Bill should go ahead.

I will give way very briefly to the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale). I realise that it will cost me time.
 
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