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I want to illustrate the uncertainty that exists among Ministers by quoting some exchanges between them and others in the past. In 2002, in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir Teddy Taylor), the then Home Secretary said that he would not rule out the possibility of the cards making a
He said on a later occasion that they could make a contribution towards countering terrorism, but that it would not be their primary purpose. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) was taking a break from ministerial office at the timeotherwise he would not have asked these questions of the then Home Secretary:
"May I ask my right hon. Friend, first, whether he accepts that it is for those who are in favour of the card to make a case for it, not the other way round? Secondly, will he confirm that the card will be little or no use in combating terrorism? Thirdly, given the unhappy history . . . of Government information technology projects, are we not entitled to be sceptical about some of the claims made for the card?"
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Government might be resistant to his new clause because they themselves do not believe that an identity card can significantly reduce the risk of terrorism?
On illegal immigration, a MORI poll found that a third of the people surveyed tended to support a card because they believed that it would prevent illegal immigration. Are they right? In the few moments remaining to me, I should like to point out that all new asylum seekersthe poll showed that most people were referring to asylum seekersare already issued with a biometric card, so they are already covered. What about the 250,000 failed asylum seekers who are already in the country? How will the card help in that regard?
Mr. Allan: Does the hon. Gentleman have any sympathy with our amendment No. 44 in this group? We may not get to it, but we would like to divide the House on it. In it, we seek to dissociate ID cards from passports. British passport holders are the last people we need to issue with an ID card, as they already have a secure document.
What will the card do to prevent illegal immigration? What effect will it have on the millions of people who come to this country on short-term visits of up to three months? They would not need to register or have a card. Have the Government persuaded us that the card or the register will have an effect on illegal immigration? No, they have not. Have they persuaded us that the card will have a sensible effect on identity theft or benefit fraud? No, they have not.
Our other amendments are restrictive. I am concerned that the registrable facts that we shall have to supply include information about addresses at which we have previously resided in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. I have tabled amendment No. 11 to restrict that to the previous five years. We also seek to limit the nature of information about the addresses where we have lived. We are trying to limit the Government.
If the principal purpose of clause 1 is to help us to prevent terrorismor if it is notthe Government should say so. Our debate is uninformed unless we know that. Furthermore, we need convincing that it will do that. I am also reluctant for the state to have quite so much information from me as an individual, and the new clause seeks to restrict the information to an amount that we regard as reasonable in the circumstances.
David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): I should like to speak to new clause 5. In the limited time available, I want to explain that it aims to limit the use of identity cards to dealing with terrorism or an emergency and that it would introduce the necessity for the Government to seek parliamentary approval every year. As I have explained elsewhere, including on Second Reading, I do not accept that identity cards would help in the fight against terrorism. They would certainly have been of no assistance during the 30 years of IRA violence and murder.
Nevertheless, the Government put great emphasismore than on anything elseon the view that identity cards would help in the fight against terrorism. Therefore, I believe that, if we are to have such cards, their use should be confined to terrorist outbreaks or the kind emergency that I describe in the new clause. It would then be necessary for the Government to come to the House of Commons to defend and justify their view that such an emergency was about to occur, and to seek the approval of Parliament for the use of identity cardsincidentally, we have not had such cards for more than half a centuryand then, if Parliament gives its approval, it would do so on the basis of 12 months. Obviously, the Government would then come back if they require a renewal of powers given by Parliament for that purpose.
Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend concerned that the Government have made no response available to hon. Members to the concerns raised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights about the human rights aspects of the Bill?
That was mentioned in the debate on the programme motion. That is unfortunate, and
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perhaps the Minister will refer to it on Third Reading. The criticism that has been made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights is very important. I do not want to appear in any way immodest, but in some respects, it draws on some of the matters raised in the minority report of the Home Affairs Committee, which I recommend, with due modesty, that some Members read, even if the footnotes were not included as they should have been.
My other amendment relates to public services. In effect, my argument is that it should not be necessary for those seeking hospital treatment or access to other public services to produce an ID card. At Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dudley, North (Ross Cranston), who is a supporter of identity cards, said nevertheless that people do not want a society in which the response is, "Where's your papers?" Neither do I, although it would be, "Where's your identity card?" There are already enough checks on people coming along for registration or treatment at a GP surgery or hospital. It would be an undesirable state of affairs in which the first inevitable question asked of a new patient at a GP's premises or hospital is, "Can you show me your identity card?" That is what will occur if the measure is passed without amendment.
Mr. John Taylor (Solihull) (Con): The hon. Gentleman is addressing the question of producing an identity card in anticipation of public services. Would he take note of my recent experience buying a new motor car last autumn when the dealer required me to produce my passport? I suggest that the application of identity cards would not be confined to public service but might also become widespread in private sector transactions.
David Winnick: I note that point, but the hon. Gentleman satisfied the motor car dealer by producing his passport. If he did not have a passport, he would no doubt produce other evidence. There is all the difference between that sort of evidence, which we all carry on us, and an identity card. That relates to the debate on Second Reading.
The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Mr. Desmond Browne): Is my hon. Friend aware that the Government's reply to the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights is available in the Vote Office?
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