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I am afraid that I must point out to the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) that his argument misses the wood for the trees. He is a tremendous advocate of identity cards and he argues that we do not know what the position will be in eight years' time, but I point to the exampleas I have done beforeof "Nineteen Eighty-Four". When George Orwell wrote that book in the 1940s, he was projecting forward to what would happen in circumstances that he foresaw at that time. I recognise the motivation behind the right hon. Gentleman's argument, but he is completely missing the point. The Information Commissioner made it abundantly clear that the Bill will fundamentally alter the relationship between the individual and the state. He has kept very quiet about the arrangements made and the amendments tabled since our debate on Second Reading. I should be very interested to know his thoughts now, but I doubt whether he has changed his opinion very much.
The plain fact is that this is a matter of principle and the Bill constitutes a fundamental change in the relationship between the individual and the state; whether one calls the Government's approach a flip-flop, a change into reverse gear or a tactical retreat makes no difference to that fundamental point. This is the offence of which I accuse the Government: they are engaging in a cynical exercise to gain more control over the individual, and in a way that is inimical to the liberties of the people of this country.
"An identity card scheme of the sort and on the scale proposed by the Government would undoubtedly represent a significant change in the relationship between the state and the individual in this country."
Mr. Cash: With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that sounds to me like a pretty typical report from the members of the Home Affairs Committee. They say, "We concede that this is a matter of fundamental importance to the relationship between the individual and the state, but it doesn't matter: we've got a whole range of other reasons that we can invoke for making such a change." We have seen some pretty remarkable Select Committee reports over the years, but that one just about takes the biscuit.
John Bercow: We have just heard the verdict of the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) and his Committee, but does my hon. Friend recall that it was the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) who arguedas long as two years agothat, yes, compulsory ID cards would indeed change the relationship between the individual and the state, in the sense that they would allow him to overcome his sense of alienation and to assert his identity. I have met a lot of people in Buckingham who have grumbled about the loss of identity, but I have yet to hear any of them say that the problem would be addressed by a compulsory ID card from this Government.
Mr. Ellwood: The Orwellian scenario to which my hon. Friend referred is not that far away. We established in Committee that not only an ID card reader but a biometric reader will be needed at every airport terminal and in every police car, so the requirement to hold an ID card is not really necessary. Once the information is on a database, we will have to enter our details at a given terminal every time that we are arrested. That makes the whole debate on ID cards and compulsion completely obsolete.
Mr. Cash: The real reason why the Government are including arrangements relating to biometric procedures is that they are based on a European directive, and the Government know that perfectly well. It is time that the House understood the extent to which domestic legislation is driven by European directives and regulations. The Home Secretary knows that that is why it is impossible to change the arrangements in the Bill. He has already signed up to them. He has given it away in principle and in practice.
Mr. McNulty: For the sake of clarity and just in case the hon. Gentleman is not clear on the point, may I say that when we discuss primary legislation, we mean this Parliament, not the European Parliament?
When Mr. Frattini referred, on "The World at One", to the fact that he was in favour of securing our borders, he made it clear that he meant the EU borders. It is also clear that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his remarks yesterdayand the day before and the day before that, in his jostling for the premiership of this
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countrymay be taking a divergent view of the principles in the Bill. The Home Secretary shakes his head[Interruption.] He has his fingers crossed. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer refers to the necessity of ensuring that we secure our own borders, that is not the same as the arrangements that have already been set up and that are dedicated to preserving EU borders, not our own.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): Surely the hon. Gentleman knows that under the Hague arrangements, which followed the Tampere discussions, the European countries, working together, could do a great deal to combat international fraud through the use of identity procedures.
Mr. Cash: I am grateful for that intervention, but I thought that the hon. Gentleman was about to refer to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) on this matter. The plain fact remains that whether one considers the Tampere discussions or the Hague conventions or arrangements made at a summit in The Hague or in any other circumstances, the provisions in the Bill are inimical to the principles and liberties on which this country has been built. We do not have state control or a police state, but this Bill is the beginning of such arrangements. Ministers know that to be the case, although they are camouflaging it under a range of matters, including terrorism and state security. In essence, they are giving away the fundamental liberties of the people of this country and that is why we should oppose all the measures in this Bill.
Mr. Gerrard: I shall be brief, so that other hon. Members have the chance to speak. I shall try to stick, as little of the debate has done, to the substance of the amendment. It deals with the simple issue of compulsion. I could go on at great length about the Bill, as I have in the past, but I want to point out that no other country is doing this. No other country is going down this road. I think that in a couple of years the whole issue will be abandoned. The idea that the Home Office, of all Departments, will get this massive infrastructure to work, which nobody else in the world has managed to do, is unreal.
I do not wish to exaggerate the importance of the amendment, because it would not affect everybody. It affects those people who will not be caught under clause 5. The amendment will make a difference because primary legislation, with proper debate and scrutiny in this place, will be needed before a move to compulsion. I would much rather have that than secondary legislation. We should welcome the fact that this step has been taken; it is an improvement, although it does not deal with the aspects of the Bill that concern some people.
I emphasise the point that I made in an intervention: the relationship between the amendment and clause 15, which covers the power to make public services conditional on identity checks. The Minister confirmed
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earlier that if the amendment is accepted clause 15 cannot come into effect without further primary legislation, and that is important.
Mr. Charles Clarke: I confirm that what my hon. Friend has just said is correct. The aspects of the Bill dealing with free public services could not come into effect until primary legislation to make the whole system compulsory had been passed.
Mr. Gerrard: That is an important effect of the amendment and I welcome it, because some of the last people to receive a card, who would in the end be caught by compulsion, are those who rely on public services.
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