Previous SectionIndexHome Page

David Davis: The hon. Gentleman has not been here all day, so he is not qualified to comment on the Bill, as he lacks the information or attendance record to do so.

The first test in that important series of tests deals with clarity of purpose. That matters, because it has implications for every other aspect of the Bill. As I said at the outset I, like the hon. Member for Walsall, would be persuaded as a sceptic to support the measure if it had the aim of dealing with terrorism. We tried to include that aim in the Bill, but we failed because the Government refused to do so. We tried to make the priorities explicit, but Ministers refused. Foreign travellers, particularly from the European Union, can come here under EU rules without identification for three months, which means that the Bill is quite inadequate for use as an anti-terrorism measure, unless we have a way of dealing with that problem. The common travel area is another problem, as is the issue of Ireland, which I shall address in a moment. Those issues may be soluble, but there has not been a single attempt to answer our questions. If identity cards are an anti-terrorism measure, it should be made compulsory to carry them, otherwise they will not work. I do not want to have such a compulsory card in this country. As has been said, we do not want to hear our policemen saying, "Papers please, citizen". However, there has been not been any attempt to answer the problem.

The Bill could have been used to tackle illegal working but before we introduce a draconian measure we should try everything else first. For several years under this
10 Feb 2005 : Column 1738
Government, under legislation that the Conservatives passed to make the employment of illegal immigrant workers a crime, there was one successful conviction a year. Only after the tragedy at Morecambe bay and the brave campaign of the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Geraldine Smith)—she is a Labour Member, but I am happy to give her credit—and, I am afraid, a campaign by my party on the failure of Government policy that led to the departure of a Minister, have we gone from one conviction a year to well over 600 operations a year against employers of illegal immigrant workers. That is what must be done first; instead of throwing away liberties, the Government should do their job.

On benefit fraud, we have again not been told all. The Home Secretary told us that the provisions will save us tens of millions of pounds; the cost of the scheme may be tens of billions of pounds. I hope that he is never Chancellor, because with that sort of return on capital, the Government will go bankrupt very quickly.

Mr. Charles Clarke: Black Wednesday.

David Davis: Those claims have been discounted recently, I notice, but I am happy to recognise the single success of the Government's freedom of information programme so far.

The primary problem is not concealment of identity, but concealment of circumstance, of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), the former Secretary of State for Social Security, was only too well aware during his review of the issue during the 1990s.

We have had no answers. On illegal immigration, which was raised on Report today, my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) made the very good point that nine tenths of the issue is dealt with by the asylum identity card—a registered card. So we have 90 per cent. of the solution for 1 per cent. of the grief.

My point to the Government is that those questions could have been answered in Committee, but no attempt was made to give an answer. Why? It is hard to understand why, unless the Government do not believe their own case or their supposed reasons for the ID card. That is very worrying, and it is more worrying in many ways than other points that I shall raise in a moment.

Dr. Palmer: The right hon. Gentleman says that his position is consistent: the Conservative party supports ID cards, but on condition that these questions are answered. He says that it would be possible to answer them, but he feels that the Government have not done so. Does that mean that a Conservative Government would answer their own questions and introduce ID cards?

David Davis: The hon. Gentleman should not put words in my mouth. If I wanted someone to rearticulate my views, I would not pick him.

What have we heard today? We have heard from the Home Secretary—I think that I am quoting him correctly—that this issue shows that the Tory party is "soft on crime, soft on immigration, soft on terror." We will let the public decide the plausibility of that proposal. In many ways, I would worry more about
10 Feb 2005 : Column 1739
being called stupid on crime, stupid on immigration and stupid on terror, which is the risk if we do not get the matter right. That is the point: we must get it right. It is a question not of being pro or anti a particular matter, but of getting the issue right.

I have to say that this is a very poor start to the Home Secretary's serious debate on liberty and security, because this issue is one of the key components of that debate; indeed, perhaps it is the most important one. Let us go on to the second test, which concerns technology.

Mr. Bercow: Is there any chance of anyone else speaking in this debate?

David Davis: I beg my hon. Friend's pardon; I shall be as quick as I can.

The second test is important, and I shall quote the Home Affairs Committee, which said that it is

Again, we put that point into an amendment, which the Government turned down. Not only the Home Affairs Committee, but Privacy International and the Association for Payment Clearing Services have raised concerns.

Mr. Browne rose—

David Davis: No, I will not give way because I am pressed for time.

The next issue is the high value of the database, which will be an extremely large target that will attract attack. Putting aside the weaknesses on biometrics, the Government have not even tried to answer how they will prevent those attacks, which will destroy the system.

Test three concerns cost, which has gone from £1.2 billion to £3.5 billion to £5.5 billion. Conventional wisdom puts the overall cost somewhere between £10 billion and £20 billion. Bart Vansevenant, the director of the organisation that runs Belgium's ID card system, has said that

How will the Government control the cost? They do not have a good track record. Would that money be better spent on trying to stop illegal immigration, terrorism and benefit fraud?

The final issue concerns civil liberties and privacy. In the words of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher), this is the "largest change in relationship between the individual and the state". Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, has said:

As the debate has progressed, it has become increasingly apparent that many organisations—more than we thought—will have access to the database, which means
10 Feb 2005 : Column 1740
that the scope for unauthorised access will be unmanageable. There is even the possibility that the data must be shared with other countries such as Ireland, because of the common travel area.

Mr. Shepherd: The Home Secretary introduced a new concept in his winding-up speech, during which he would not take an intervention. He said that his card will enable us to "assert the right to be here". I do not know what that means. Is he telling my constituents and the people of Britain that they have no right to be here unless they assert it through his means of an ID card?

David Davis: My hon. Friend makes the same point as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central. ID cards involve a completely new view of citizenship. Being a subject of the Crown is a right, which it is not for the Government to give or take away.

The Bill deals with massively important issues, and we    have adopted a constructive approach. The Government have denied us time for debate and answers to proper questions, and they have even delayed the response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. This House has had no chance to consider the Bill, but the Home Secretary promised a serious and constructive debate on security and human rights.

Next Section IndexHome Page