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Simon Hughes: Will my hon. Friend give way one more time?

Mr. Allan: No. If hon. Members believe that the Bill does not pass the tests of proportionality and necessity and that too much uncertainty remains about exactly what we are being asked to buy and how much it will cost; and if hon. Members believe that any additional money for which Parliament asks from citizens could be better spent on other measures to achieve the same objectives, I urge them to vote against the Bill.

Dr. Palmer: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Earlier, the Opposition spokesman criticised the Government—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I can already sense that it is not a point of order but a point of debate.

Dr. Palmer rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I shall let the hon. Member try again, but I hope that he will not take up too much time.

Dr. Palmer: Will you confirm, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that new clause 2 was not selected by the Speaker and that that is the reason why it was not debated?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The record will show that. This particular occupant of the Chair does not have such recall, but I am sure that the record will show whether that is correct.
10 Feb 2005 : Column 1744

5.38 pm

Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow) (Lab): I shall be brief because I know that other hon. Members want to speak. My position has always been clear. I voted against the Bill on Second Reading and the more I hear about it, the less I like it. I shall vote against it again this evening.

I agree with one point that the Home Secretary made. I do not agree with much that he said about the measure but he was right about the Tory Front-Bench position. It is pathetic not to be able to reach a decision about whether to vote for or against such an important measure on Third Reading. We have had a limited time for debate this afternoon, but what are the reasons for that? The usual Front-Bench channels made agreements to discuss the measure on a Thursday, when there is one less hour for debate, so those on the Tory Front Bench are shedding crocodile tears.

Listening to the debates on some of the amendments this afternoon, I felt as though I was listening to discussions about angels on pinheads, because, however we amend the Bill, we cannot make it acceptable. What it sets out to do is fundamentally objectionable. The Joint Committee on Human Rights raised a host of objections to it, and I have just had a brief chance to read through the Government's response to them. It does not really answer them.

On Second Reading, we debated issues such as whether the cards would become compulsory. I am absolutely sure that it will become compulsory to have this card, because the Home Secretary said on Second Reading that this was the first step towards compulsion. We also discussed disclosure to service providers, the police and people in the private sector, and the audit trail that will exist. The real problem with this measure will be the register, rather than having to carry a card.

The public's view on this will change. At the moment, we might find 80 per cent. of people saying that they support the measure, but once they realise that they are going to have to have these things, their view will change. Once the next, short step is taken, as I believe it undoubtedly will be, and carrying the card becomes compulsory, public opinion will certainly shift. We are going down a very dangerous road.

Everyone here knows which people will be the most likely to be asked to produce their card when it becomes compulsory to carry one. All the evidence from every European country that has cards—including those where they are voluntary—shows that the people who are most often asked to produce their card are from minority ethnic communities. To pretend, as the Government did in their race relations assessment, that this measure will actually improve race relations, strikes me as absurd.

I do not like enabling legislation of this kind. A mass of detail remains to be introduced in secondary legislation, which means that it will never be properly debated in this place. Of course, we cannot amend secondary legislation, so whatever form it takes, we shall just have to take it or leave it. I am also unconvinced that the Home Office can produce information technology infrastructure that will work, which could perhaps be the saving grace in all this. This concept is fundamentally flawed in principle, and we should not be going down this road.
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5.42 pm

Mr. Hogg: I entirely agree with the speech that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard). Indeed, he made his points with a great clarity that I could not surpass. I shall confine myself to speaking for just a few minutes.

It is not right to say that the Bill has been properly debated. The Home Secretary is wrong about that. Had he been present during the Report stage, he would have appreciated that fact. He has only to look at early-day motion 684, which has been signed by many of his hon. Friends, to see what was omitted in Committee.

I am perfectly willing to accept that there are some benefits to be gained from identification cards. The question is: how do they weigh in the balance with the disadvantages? I agree entirely that the money involved in this provision could be spent very much better in dealing with its stated objectives differently. I am extremely sceptical about the ability of the technology to deliver, and, if it fails, very serious injustice could result. I question whether the measures will address the questions of terrorism or serious fraud, because a high proportion of such cases rest on questions not of concealed identity but of concealed circumstances or concealed intentions.

On matters of principle, I shall confine myself to two points. First, I believe that this represents a huge extension of statism. We are changing the relationship between the individual and the state, and we should not do that without a really compelling reason.

Secondly, I entirely agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Walthamstow. Inevitably, what will happen down the track if this policy is to be made effective is that the citizen will have to carry and produce an identity card on demand. He is entirely right that that will bear down most oppressively on the ethnic minority communities.

I have been in the House long enough to remember the old sus laws and what rows they caused. I do not wish to create a situation in which the ordinary citizen can be arrested for not carrying a card. That is the inevitable consequence of that which we do today. It is wrong in principle. I hope that my party will change its mind and vote against this Bill.

5.45 pm

Mr. Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab): I want to speak in favour of the Bill. It is supported overwhelmingly by more than 90 per cent. of my constituents in Hodge Hill. They will be surprised and disappointed to hear about the Liberal Democrat and Conservative position tonight. Not too long ago, Liberal Democrat Front-Bench Members voted in favour of a ten-minute Bill supporting the principle of ID cards. They will also remember that more than a decade ago, the Leader of the Opposition, as he is now, said to his party conference:

My constituents will be particularly perplexed to hear the Liberal Democrat position that this money would be best spent on police, because this is not public money. This is money raised from individual contributions. No one in the House would seriously propose that one
10 Feb 2005 : Column 1746
should finance the police by passing a hat around in the community and hiring as many police officers as one could afford from what is left in the pot. That is the implication, however, of the Liberal Democrat policy in this area.

Mr. Allan: Will the hon. Gentleman remind us what the Prime Minister said about ID cards at the same time?

Mr. Byrne: Can I remind the hon. Gentleman what his colleague the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) said in the police revenue debate last week? He said that his answer was

He was unable to refute the charge that that would end up with rich communities hiring more police while the rest of us were left in the lurch.

People in Hodge Hill see three clear reasons why this Bill deserves their support: it is a fast track to a fairer deal in public services; it is the best means that we have for tackling illegal immigration; and it is another spoke in the wheel for tackling global terrorism.

Many Members will have read the report of the 9/11 commission and will have seen, like me, the conclusion:

The report continued:

That is exactly the kind of development that ID cards will allow, and that is why the proposal deserves commendation from both sides of the House.

5.48 pm

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