Mr. Ben Wallace (Lancaster and Wyre) (Con): I do not intend in the short time allocated to discuss the ideology behind the ID card, but rather to bring some of my experience to the debate. I worked a number of years in the field of counter-terrorism, both in the armed forces and alongside some civilian agencies. I am well aware of the issues that people face in fighting terrorism on the ground. Until recently, I was the director of the Government's own organisation, Qinetiqthe Defence Evaluation and Research Authority, as it used to be knownspecialising in the area of security and ID. That organisation is one of the biggest research bodies in Europe, so it knows a thing or two about technology. It is currently working on a number of projects in the Home Office.
There are a number of flaws, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the proposals, the first being the idea that this ID scheme will help deal with terrorism. In my experience, we never caught any terrorists on account of ID cards. We caught them as a result of surveillance, human intelligence, intercepts and perhaps the good use made of knowledge about the community in which the terrorists lived.
One real problem that the Home Office seems not to recognise is that terrorists adapt to weakness in the system, and this system is weak in a range of
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areastourist visas, for example. Last year, 24.7 million tourists visited the UK. For a terrorist organisation, the weakness is obvious: no longer need they use citizens of the UK as their operatives to attack the UK, as they can import them from outside. That is precisely what they have already done across the world. There are 850,000 Irish citizens resident in the UK and we have already heard that the scheme has nothing to do with them.
Failures overseas are relevant. According to a Labour Member earlier, ID cards helped to catch the culprits after the suicide bombing in Madrid. In fact, they did not: it was mobile phone intercepts that caught them and helped the Spanish follow up what happened. The Home Office also needs to be aware that a suicide bomber is a one-time weapon. It was first seen in train attacks in Chechnya, which is where al-Qaeda's specialty originated from. [Interruption.] Perhaps Home Office Ministers should do their homework before shouting from a sedentary position. Terrorists adapt to weaknesses in the system: that is the issue, and the proposed ID card will not solve the problem.
About 50 per cent. of terrorists currently identified or languishing in jails in Northern Ireland have no previous record whatever. They have never had any trace to terrorism, so they will be able to use their new ID cards with impunity. Clearly, 50 per cent. of the people who have been involved in terrorist attacks will have free rein and the Bill will not solve the problem.
The second flaw relates to the prevention of identity theft. It is true that the database will allow an identity to be stolen only once, but the system needs to be set up and 48 million people will have to join the queue to get an identity card. So when the Under-Secretary presents himself and the database says, "I'm sorry, but a Mr. Burnham is already on here. Here are his biometrics and birth certificate, and a passport has been issued"incidentally, the birth certificate is the real flaw in the identity systemthe Under-Secretary will say, "Well, I'm Mr. Burnham. I'm the genuine article." The fundamental change is that the onus will then be put on the genuine Mr. Burnhamthe innocent individualto prove to the state that he is the real thing, not the person who stole his identity the year before.
People will be able to steal others' identities under the proposals, and I can all but guarantee that in the next 10 to 15 years a terrorist attack will be perpetrated by someone with a new identity card. When that happens, the Government's scheme will be exposed as an expensive, flawed scheme that has also taken away many liberties.
The issue of privacy is also important. What the Government have not said is that the database will log every question put to it. The pattern of questions put to it will indicate exactly who someone's doctor or dentist is.
First, the approach must be "sensitive". Some people may believe that the scheme may be prejudiced in its operation and that their identities will be sought unnecessarily and unfairly, because of either their ethnic origin or something else different about them. However, we hear such points from the Conservatives who, even after the Stephen Lawrence report, refused to accept that there was institutional racism in the police. The best way to deal with institutional racism that would lead to people being identified because of their race, religion or other difference is to address the problems in the police force, not to deny people the opportunity of identifying themselves properly and having proper protection before the law.
Secondly, the approach must be "cautious". Well, the Bill is extremely cautious. The cautious, incremental approach to introducing the measures means that some hon. Members are running away with the most imaginative ideas we have seen for some time. Indeed, their suggestions are matched only by the imagination of my constituents who want to extend the Bill ever further to include even more situations in which their identity should be protected or produced. For example, people in my constituency want medical records to be included in the database. I do not think that that is a good idea, and it is not covered in the Bill. It is important that when somebody requires medical treatment, they receive it on presentation before a doctor and are not asked questions at that point, especially in an emergency. However, it is proper and appropriate that people should pay for the services if they are not entitled to them.
While my constituents let their imaginations run away with them, so do several hon. Members. Some of the suggestions I have heard today are extraordinary descriptions of the powers in the Bill. The power to protect us from the things that hon. Members have mentioned are included in other legislation that the House has already accepted. Moreover, the protection that we seek in being able to have our identities checked already exists, irrespective of the Bill.
Thirdly, the approach must be co-operative. Many of the surveys that have been conducted show that many people would be most co-operative with the legislation, because they desperately want to see it introduced. The co-operation must be between the service providers and the recipients, and that would be improved if both could be certain that they were receiving what they were entitled to. That co-operation must be built up, and we must use secondary legislation, which some people disparage, at appropriate stages to ensure that if we extend the powers of the Bill to other services, we provide the type of entitlement card that we envisaged originally.
The next point was about key stakeholders, and for me, they must be my constituents. They have told me loudly and clearly, in numbers, that they support the principle of an ID cardmore than 90 per cent. of them responded to a survey. They also told me to exercise caution, as there are some cost issues that they do not like. They want certainty about the costs and, especially, that people who cannot afford a card will be properly protected. I ask Ministers to ensure that the provisions of the Bill will allow for exemptions and exceptions to payment. We should do that carefully and considerately and look at how we can reduce or discount payments for
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people who cannot afford them. If we do that, we shall build up the safeguards and give my key stakeholders the protection they want.
Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey and Wood Green) (LD): There are so many reasons to oppose the Bill that unfortunately I do not have time to go through them all. However, I have almost complete confidence that the costs will spiral out of control so I put my faith in that. Watching the Prime Minister equivocate about the costs yesterday was our best practical hope, because with spiralling costs comes unpopularity and the Government are sensitive to unpopularity.
We know of the Government's record on IT failure, but I warn hon. Members that IT success brings equal challenges. We have only to consider the congestion charge. I have been dealing with hon. Members' complaints about that, and a simple glitch in the congestion charge is enough to tie anyone up in correspondence for months trying to get it sorted out.
I want to talk about the disproportionate discrimination that will be wrought by the Bill on ethnic minorities. After five years as a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and chairing the stop and search implementation panel, I have seen that disproportionality at close rangethe stops under section 4. Under other legislation, DNA can be taken from innocent people and four times as many black people as white people have their DNA held. That is how legislation that starts innocently ends up.
I have seen what happens when there is a voluntary principle in legislation; for example, when the police are looking for a criminal whose DNA has typed them as a member of an ethnic minority. In south London, 1,000 voluntary DNA samples were wanted for a horrendous crime, but when 125 people refused to give DNA they received a letter telling them that their reasons for refusing would be investigated by a senior police officer. When five of them continued to refuse, they were arrested and the police were able to take their DNA, which was kept even though all five were released. That is how the voluntary principle works.
The dog whistle for me is civil liberties. The measure is a monumental raid on everything that I have grown up believing in; it is a real shift in power between the state and the individual. I am free. I want to be able to walk out of my front door as an innocent person if I am doing no one any harm. No one has the right to hold any information about me and I should not need a licence to walk out of my house.
The ID card system is quite different from border control. Yesterday, the Prime Minister seemed to be offering us "buy one, get one free", when he mixed up biometrics and the advances in technology that can secure our border controls with ID cards, but his arguments were spurious; the two things are completely different. Passports are purpose-driven, as are driving licences. If I choose to exchange information about myself for a facility that I want to use, that is fair game, but I do not want all my information in one basket; that is a charter for criminals. It is bad enough at the moment with one piece or another being subject to raids by sale.
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Recently there was a case of a bank member of staff selling private information. I do not think that the Government can guarantee our safety on this.
For all those reasons, I shall vote against Second Reading tonight. I urge Labour Members, particularly those Members who want a free vote and would vote against the Bill if such a vote were allowed tonight, to remember what it felt like to vote for the war and then have to face the electorate when their heart was not in it.