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Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South) (Lab): I do not have any problems with identity cards. I have several of them. I have a passport, a driving licence, a bank card, a credit card, a supermarket loyalty card, an NHS card and probably several others that I have forgotten about. None of these is perfect and secure and we all have our horror stories about what happens when they get stolen, go missing or get misused. But we continue to use them, for two reasons: one, because it is our choice to use them, and two, because there is an assumption that we have reasonably, or tolerably, secure firewalls between them. When I go on holiday, I present my passport but I am not asked to present the shopping list from my last visit to the supermarket. When I go to renew my driving licence, I am not asked whether my credit card can stand it. When I go to the bank, they do not ask when I last went to the doctor. The dangers in the Bill are that by putting all those information systems into one card, it creates something that is an invitation to criminals and hackers. It is a honeypot for crime. And we have yet to convince ourselves, let alone the public or even the experts, that we have the technology that would withstand that.

I will try to confine my speech to my worries about three things. A number of claims made in the Bill are unproven or just not true. In terms of the effects—in terms of tackling terrorism, crime or drug trafficking—I am very grateful to a retired scientist who took the trouble to undertake a European comparison of crime statistics on four parameters. He broke the EU 15 down into the eight that had voluntary ID cards, the four that had statutory compulsory ID cards and the three that had no ID cards. The figures are interesting. Over the past five years, the group that had the highest level of terrorist incidents and the highest rate of homicides were those that had compulsory cards. They also happened to have the greatest increases in drug trafficking and in crime. By contrast, those without cards had the lowest rate of terrorist incidents and the lowest rate of homicides, and had the most success against drug trafficking and in crime reduction.

What does that prove? Nothing. It does not make a case for or against ID cards; it just says that they are not relevant or central to tackling those challenges. In the countries that have ID cards, they have them because they are popular with their citizens. But by and large, they have their own firewalls in them. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) said when she was moving her reasoned amendment, the key to this is that there is separation of data storage in those systems. We could have the same ID card system here, but it would require us to undertake a commitment that the responsibility and control was going to be placed in the hands of the citizen, not the hands of the state, and that is fundamentally at the heart of my objections to the Bill as currently drafted.
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I worry about the scope for what people refer to as function creep. The best example of this that I came across was in the United States, where I understand that the Bush Administration wants to introduce radio frequency ID chips to the passports of all foreign nationals. It is a great idea for the CIA; it will allow it to remotely monitor those who are there on lobbies and on demonstrations and who hold beliefs or convictions that the Administration disagree with, and it is a reflection of the sort of paranoid society and Administration that one finds on the other side of the Atlantic. It is an American thing but not a UK thing.

I thought I had better check that with the Home Office, however. I got a reply today from the Minister, who pointed out that in the UK

That is the power of stop-and-search without the hassle of the stop. If we do that, we fundamentally declare war on our own citizens. With the presumptions of criminality and the right to spy, we move from the open society to the surveillance society in an insignificant, unrecognised sweep because none of these proposals has to come back to the House for primary legislation. That is why we must oppose the Bill.

9.25 pm

John Penrose (Weston-super-Mare) (Con): Much has been said this evening about the likelihood of cost overruns with a large and complicated Government IT project. My constituents are of the same opinion and are deeply concerned about the possible cost and time overruns. But I also want to speak about a more fundamental principle: civil liberties. There are two pillars that underpin our civil liberties in this country. One of them is made up of the legal brakes on the Government's use of information and on their behaviour—things such as the Data Protection Act 1998 and habeas corpus—but the other pillar that upholds our civil liberties is largely forgotten. It is the simple, practical difficulty of marshalling information about the citizens of this country.

The information that the Government hold on any one of us is scattered and incomplete at present. The simple, practical difficulty of collecting all the information together and using it for any nefarious purpose is a fundamental guarantor of the civil liberties of each and every one of us. It is no accident that, if we compare what happens in this country with what happened in East Germany, for example, before the Berlin wall came down, we would see that there were thousands and thousands of detailed files on each of their citizens. It is a facet of totalitarian regimes to hold large quantities of data on their citizens that is not shared by freedom-loving democracies, such as Britain.

So while we are right to be concerned about the possible cost overruns and the difficulties of managing a complicated Government IT project such as the ID card
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database, we should also be concerned about the dangers of what happens if the IT database is successful. It would, for the first time, allow Governments and other people in this country to see a unified picture of the information that is collected on each citizen. That is a dangerous precedent to set. If we had had both those two pillars underpinning and upholding our civil liberties in this country yesterday, and we choose to support the Bill today, tomorrow one of them will be knocked away. That is dangerous. It is why the Bill is unsafe, why it deserves to be opposed and why I shall vote against it this evening.

9.28 pm

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): I am grateful to the House for allowing me to take part in this important debate. There are many reasons, both of principle and of pragmatism, to vote against the Bill, but I intend to touch on only three: the politics of the Bill, its implication on issues of race and what is says for the future.

First, let me remind my Labour colleagues that it is barely two months since we won an historic third term, and we are now embarked on squandering political capital on this doomed Bill. [Interruption.] Even the Almighty agrees with me. It is a doomed Bill because even if thunder and lightening cannot stop it, and even if the House cannot stop it dead in its tracks tonight, we know for sure that it is doomed to overrun its budget and to spiral in costs. The scheme will experience IT failure and the Bill will not achieve any of the claims that the Government make for it. We also know that the scheme will become especially unpopular at exactly the wrong point of the political cycle. There will come a time when not one Labour MP will want to be reminded that they voted for the Bill.

I have consistently raised worries about race with Ministers and colleagues, so it is no coincidence that the Muslim Council of Britain, the Commission for Racial Equality and other organisations representing ethnic minorities have expressed their concerns about the Bill. A recent poll showed that 77 per cent. of ethnic minority people believed that they would be discriminated against under the Bill. There can be no doubt that the Bill will lead to the compulsory carrying of ID cards—and that from there it must lead to the compulsory presentation of ID cards. We know from the French experience that if we move to such a system, the number of stops and searches on black, Asian and Muslim people will rise, which will be detrimental to community relations.

One of the first issues on which I ever campaigned—without the help of the Almighty, when I was a younger and even more radical woman—was the sus laws. If Ministers understood the strength of feeling among people in ethnic minority communities about the prospect of being randomly stopped and asked to present their ID, they would think twice about the Bill. I know that the Bill will not provide for the compulsory carrying of ID cards, but that must come.

As the evening has worn on, the Government Whips have subjected several of my colleagues to their usual rough-hew methods of persuasion. However, I say to colleagues in the closing minutes of the debate that voting against the Bill would be far from betraying our
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Government or going against Labour principles, because we would be doing the Government a great service. The more the public hear of the Bill, the less they like it, so the sooner it is stopped in its tracks, the better.

9.32 pm

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