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Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): If identity cards are introduced, as has been suggested, will my right hon. Friend confirm that Irish citizens living in this country will not need to have any form of ID whatsoever?

Mr. Clarke: No, I am not saying that. The Bill applies to everyone who is legally resident in this country, including Irish citizens. Once it is compulsory to register, Irish citizens resident here would be obliged to register. The common travel area is unaffected in principle by that definition, although, as I told the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden, a series of practical questions arise that are subject to active discussion in those circumstances. There is no requirement or need for the Irish Government to introduce an ID card system because of what our Government do—it is for the Irish Government to make their own decisions.

Following his contact with the Irish Government, the right hon. Gentleman suggested that they would actively consider whether it would be wise to introduce a card system if we did so. I am sure that they would do so in such circumstances, but the key issue is how properly to share information. Apart from any other consideration, there are serious political issues that need to be tackled very carefully.

Mr. Hollobone : What rights would other countries have to access the UK identity cards register if we hold information about their citizens?

Mr. Clarke: None.

John Bercow rose—

Mr. Clarke: I was about to stop giving way, but I shall make an exception for the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow).
 
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John Bercow: I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's generosity. As he will know, of 45 clauses in the original Bill no fewer than 25 provided for order-making powers. He has celebrated the fact that the Government will require the use of the affirmative procedure in many instances in future, and he is perfectly entitled to do so. However, as it is vital that our proceedings are intelligible to outside observers, will he put on the record something that we in the Chamber know? If there is a debate on the affirmative procedure, that does not mean a debate on the Floor of the House. It means a debate upstairs, in a small Committee compromising no more than 30 Members and often substantially fewer. It is important that the public should not—inadvertently, of course—be misled.

Mr. Clarke: Having participated in many such debates with the hon. Gentleman I know how much he enjoys talking in Committee, often at length, on the issues involved. I believe that he does so in the knowledge that they will be reported and noticed outside.

John Bercow: Only in Buckingham.

Mr. Clarke: I know that people are well educated in Buckingham, and they will follow his contributions with particular care.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab): To pursue the question asked by the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) about access by foreign countries to the register, what concerns me most about the Bill and the database is the issue of who will have access to it and who will give approval for that access. Is it possible for the intelligence services of a foreign country, such as the USA, ever to have access to the database?

Mr. Clarke: As I said a moment ago, no—perhaps my hon. Friend did not hear that answer. That is not the way in which the system will operate, and what he envisages simply could not happen. There is a clear case for the House to disagree with the Lords amendments, so I urge it to disagree with Lords amendments Nos. 16 and 22.

David Davis: May I begin by saying that I am sorry that the Prime Minister cannot be here today? I doubt that his absence will have as great an influence on the votes tonight as his previous absence, but at least the Home Secretary and I can draw some pleasure from the fact that the phrase, "Detained in South Africa" has a nicer tone today than it did 20 years ago.

I wish to discuss the national identity register much more than the piece of plastic or the biometric attached to identity card. The rather arcane subject of this debate is designation. In practice, it is the most controversial and, indeed, the most important debate that we shall hold today, because it will determine whether the ID card scheme is covertly rendered compulsory or not. In 2005, under the heading, "Strong and secure borders," page 52 of the 111-page Labour manifesto said:


 
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I heard what the Home Secretary said about consultation papers and so on, but any reasonable member of the public would deduce that they could choose whether or not to have an ID card when they renewed their passport. That is a perfectly reasonable conclusion to draw, but it is the opposite of what the Government intend. To justify what this Bill does, the Labour manifesto should have said: "We will introduce ID cards, including biometric data like fingerprints, backed up by a national register and rolling out initially on a compulsory basis for a progressively larger portion of the population as people renew their passports." That is the truth of today's proposals.

Faced with that fact, Baroness Scotland, speaking on behalf of the Government, tried to claim that passports are voluntary. That is not the case if someone's work takes them abroad, nor if their parents live abroad, nor if their spouse or partner is from an another country. Nor is it the case if their children travel abroad, fall sick or get into trouble. It is a novel interpretation of "voluntary" if the price of a foreign holiday is a requirement for inclusion in the national identity register. The Lords therefore amended the Bill, quite properly in my view, to remove that creeping compulsion, and make inclusion on the register optional when someone receives or renews a passport. That is what the Government are seeking to reverse, for reasons to which I shall return.

The Government may ask why that should be voluntary. If people are already getting a passport, what is the reason for turning down an identity card? There are many good reasons for not wanting to be on the national identity register, which involves a large number of pieces of data about each individual being put on a single Government database, many of them the access keys for other Government databases. That is the important point: it is a central database with access keys effectively to all the other Government databases.

6 pm

It is disingenuous of the Home Secretary to say, "We've already got all those." One of the transitions that has taken place over the past several years under the Government, and to a small extent under the previous Government too, is the removal of barriers to the transfer of information around Government. Those barriers were a protection of the liberties of the individual, and now they have gone. Many have gone for good reason—to make the Child Support Agency work, to stop terrorism, and so on—and the Bill will accelerate that process.

I ask the House to forgive me for a political point, but it is one that I care about very much. After the way the Government treated Martin Sixsmith, Pam Warren, Rose Addis and others, seeking information about them and using it to destroy reputations, I would not trust them with data about my life, let alone anyone else's.

Mr. Denham: The right hon. Gentleman has spoken about bringing together different databases and his concerns about that. Can he give me an example of two
 
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pieces of data that are currently held on separate databases that he does not want brought together, and why?

David Davis: I shall use the examples that I was discussing. When Pam Warren, the rail safety campaigner, was a thorn in the side of the Government, a special adviser, I think, was known to say, "Let's look into her political background, her sex life and other such things." [Interruption.] A medical database can give all sorts of information—visits to clinics, visits to gynaecologists and the like. I shall be happy to take an intervention from the Home Secretary, if he wants to tell me that in due course it will not be possible to access medical databases through the system.

When people set about trying to create an embarrassing story about somebody, the more detail and the more data they get, the better. Experts in the area have spoken to the official Opposition, and I suspect to the Liberal party as well, of their concern that the audit trail will be loaded on to the database—in other words, every point of access on the database will be logged and recorded. If those on the Government Front Bench want to challenge that as untrue, I am happy to take an intervention. No. Okay.


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