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Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Clarke: I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice).

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): Why can my friend not tell us the failure rate of identifying biometrics that would be acceptable? The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality told me today that that is still being determined through stakeholder consultation.

Mr. Clarke: The report that I cited indicates that with irises on the database,

If there is iris recognition, facial recognition and fingerprint recognition, it significantly reduces the possibility of errors arising.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Clarke: I give way for a final time to the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown).
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Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): About 37 million people in this country aged over 16 would be liable to have an identity card over a period of time. There has been wide variation in the estimates of the cost of introducing the cards. The estimates range up to £5.5 billion, which would give a huge headline figure of about £140 per person. Whether that figure is accurate or not, will the Home Secretary undertake to produce a proper regulatory impact assessment of the costs that can be relied on before the House definitively makes up its mind on Third Reading?

Mr. Clarke: We have already set out a regulatory impact assessment that can be relied on, but I repeat the assurance that I gave earlier: before the Bill leaves the House, we will produce data in the form that the hon. Gentleman wants.

On all the grounds that I have set out, the ID card will protect individuals against the Big Brother state, rather than the opposite. I have talked about the costs, benefits and technical issues. I tell my hon. Friends who are considering voting for the reasoned amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak that accepting the amendment would be a vote against Second Reading, which would thus defeat the Bill, so I hope that they will agree not to do that. I commend the Bill to the House.

4.34 pm

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): May I congratulate the Home Secretary on a bravura performance in which he defended the indefensible? His performance was marked more by good humour than by hard facts—a point that I shall come to in a moment.

I shall start with an observation. If, 10 years ago, I had gone on the radio and said that within a decade a Labour Government would try to do away with jury trials, remove habeas corpus, eliminate the presumption of innocence, introduce punishment without trial and put house arrest on the statute book, I suspect that I would have been locked up. The Government, however, have tried to do every one of those things in the past few years; each time, they have chipped away at the basic liberties that we hold dear and which previous generations fought to protect. Today, the party which promised the generation of 1945 welfare from cradle to grave is about to give this generation surveillance from cradle to grave. We will not be party to such a measure.

The Home Secretary's proposals represent a fundamental shift in the balance of power between the citizen and the state. They are not just excessive but expensive; they are not just illiberal but impractical; they are not just unnecessary but unworkable, which is why this debate is important. The House has a serious choice to make today. We can choose to let the Government take one more step down the road to what their own Information Commissioner called the "surveillance society", or we can draw a line in the sand and say that enough is enough. We choose to draw that line, and invite anyone in the House who believes in liberty and freedom to do the same.

More than 50 years ago, the British courts ruled that the wartime identity card had outlived its usefulness, saying that it turned "law-abiding subjects into lawbreakers". As a result, Winston Churchill's Government introduced
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measures to abolish the card, but not before the three original purposes of the card had grown into 39 different uses. That is a warning to us all about the way in which Governments of all persuasions will take a mile of one's freedom if one gives them an inch. The Home Secretary will say that 50 years later times have changed, and indeed they have.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): My right hon. Friend has drawn attention to the way in which Governments develop their proposals. Would he care to remind the House that the National Registration Act 1915 did not originally require citizens to produce a card on demand? The Act was amended in 1918 to introduce such a requirement. Does he not think that, if the Government enacted the Bill, in due course it would be amended to make the carrying and production of cards mandatory?

David Davis: My right hon. and learned Friend has anticipated my next point. I would simply add that many of the security benefits—one can argue that there are some benefits—arise only if it is compulsory to carry a card. One must presume from the Government's approach that they have that in mind for the next decade. My right hon. and learned Friend, however, has made my point for me.

Dr. Palmer: Does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that it is misleading to suggest that to verify a claim of identity the police require the card itself, as they can merely check the claim against a database? His suggestion is one of the many misleading statements that are being made about the Bill.

David Davis: No, it is not misleading. Presumably, the police will have card readers that will make the process quicker, unless the hon. Gentleman is assuming that they will work off the biometrics. We have already heard that millions of our fellow citizens cannot provide those biometrics, so there is genuine concern that the Government will end up having to make such a requirement. I do not like to say so, but there is an intrinsic dishonesty in the way in which the Bill has been presented. The possession of a card has been presented as voluntary initially, then compulsory. This has not yet been said, but eventually it will become mandatory to carry one. We cannot otherwise achieve the benefits, including the Madrid benefits rightly raised by the Home Secretary. That is a dishonest way in which to present the Bill to the House.

I return to the more general point. The system that the Home Secretary is proposing will be far more sophisticated than that of the 1940s, the 1950s or the first war years. That makes it all the more important that what he is proposing is not open to misuse. The identity card itself is just the plastic embodiment of a much greater and potentially more pernicious thing—the new national identity register. That is what the Bill is essentially about.

The register is a massive database containing detailed personal information about every person in the country—a database that can be accessed by officials and public bodies without permission and without the person whom they are looking up ever knowing that it has happened. The Home Secretary talks about people
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exercising their rights under the Data Protection Act 1998. Very few people will do that, and it may be an expensive process. He did not outline any actions on the costs of that process, but if he wants to intervene, I will take a comment from him.

The individuals concerned may not know about that access, but the Government will, and they will keep a record of every time the card is used. They will know where we are and what we are doing. The Government's own Information Commissioner—remember, created and appointed by the Government, not some partisan person from outside; the person whose job it is to worry about the information handled by the Government—says that is "unnecessary". He says it is

Such a vision was originally set out by a man called Blair who changed his name to Orwell and wrote a book called "1984". It was supposed to be a warning, not a textbook.

Not long ago the Prime Minister was caught saying:

In that quote he was attacking what he called "the Tory Right". Today it is his new Labour Government who want to spend thousands of millions of pounds forcing us to sign up to be members of our own country.

As yesterday's report from the London School of Economics found—I do not want to give the Home Secretary dyspepsia—

The Prime Minister has always been concerned about making his mark on history. That is quite a legacy to leave.

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