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: This is compulsionthere is no doubt about it. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Stewart Hosie) has made that perfectly clear, as have others from our Front Bench. I am extremely glad that our own side has adopted the position of truculent opposition to these proposals in the House of Lords, and tribute should be paid to those in the House of Lords for the great work they have done on the Bill.
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When the Bill started out on Second Reading, some of us were perhaps more truculent than others on the subject, but the fact remains that we have arrived at a sensible attack on the Bill, which the Home Secretary has completely failed either to deflect or to deter. The real problem is the votes that the Labour party will muster in the Lobby, which is why reference was made earlier to an elective dictatorship.
This is not just some minor matter; this is about the liberty of the subject. As I pointed out on Second Reading at the beginning of these proceedings some months ago, it is reminiscent of the state that George Orwell predicted in his book "1984". It is all very well the Home Secretary shaking his head, but the plain fact is that the case is made that this is compulsion. He tries to wriggle out of it, but he fails. He has been completely outdone by the report from the London School of Economics, those in industry who have commented on this, and the non-governmental organisations.
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale) (Con): The Home Secretary knows that I have the highest regard for him[Interruption.] Come on, we have had many exchanges in the House and I have the highest regard for him, but he would admit that this is not one of his finest hours.
I came to the House willing to be persuaded by the Home Secretary's argument, but I have been not only unpersuaded, but more persuaded by the argument of my hon. Friends that we should support the Lords in their amendments.
The fact of the matter is, as those of us who have been Members a long time know, that the best debates in the House always take place after 10 o'clock. They are the best attended, and people listen to the argument and speak their mind. I want to speak my mind on something that no other hon. Member has mentionedthat is, the cost of this charade to our constituents. For the average family, the cost of obtaining a passportwhich, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) said, is a rightwill be increased.
Mr. Greenway: No, the Government's proposal will increase the cost. This is disproportionate. Before we vote on the issue, we should consider the Labour party's manifesto carefully, although there is compulsionbe in no doubt about that. Whether someone has a passport is not a voluntary matter, as 85 or 90 per cent. of our constituents need a passport. We have a right to have passports.
The cost of what the Government are doing to our constituents with this Bill is something that we should reject. I urge the House to agree to the Lords amendments. Let Labour Members vote as their hearts and minds tell them to vote and reject the Government's amendment. Let us deal with this matter now.
There may be disagreement on quite how freedom to travel should be defined. I share the view that there is a freedom to travel. It is a European Union freedom, certainly. There may not be a right to have a passport historically, for the reasons given by the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) and, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), it was always a question of the royal prerogative, and the Foreign Secretary would sign the inside of the passport. However, there is no doubt that there was a common understanding that people would be able to travel if they needed to.
The Home Secretary has come here tonight to say to the elderly relative who is told that his or her child is ill in another country, "This is a matter of free choice, but you must have an identity card if you want to visit a relative who is very ill." The Home Secretary has come to the House to say to a business person, "If you want to do business and fly the flag for Britain, you must have an identity card as a condition of your choice to go and sell our products abroad." The Home Secretary is saying to the civil servant who is told that he must go and do work for our country abroad, "You must also have an identity card." That is not freedom of choice in the conventional sense of the term, and the Home Secretary can never persuade us that it is.
Furthermore, the argument is clearly disingenuous. Originally, a supplementary part of the Bill provided for a piece of secondary legislation to be passed by both Houses before compulsion took over from the voluntary system. Then we were told that we would have a different Billbecause this Bill did not provide for compulsion, compulsion would be dealt with separately. Only now, at this last stage, are we being told that under this system there will now compulsion if people want passports.
Finally, there is a constitutional point that I want to make to the Home Secretary. He has come here seeking to persuade us that the House of Lords should not be followed. The Government may have a majority of Members in this place, but it has a lower share of the vote than any majority Government since 1832. It has no justification for complaining that the House at the other end of the corridor should not do its job and ensure that Government proposals that were not in the manifesto are stopped by the British Parliament. The House at the other end of the corridor is the creation of this Government: it is put there by this Government; it is nominated by this Government; it is bought, in part, by this Government. The House at the other end of the corridor is entirely a new Labour creation. The Government have a cheek to come here and tell us that, with their minimal moral and political authority, they must ask the House of Lords to reject a view that the House of Commons has passed, and insert another view.
On these Benches we stand by principle, we stand by practice, we stand by precedent, we stand by democracy, and we stand for the right of Parliament as a whole to do its job as a whole and to throw out this Bill as a whole, if that is the view that the other House holds to. We encourage the other House to hold to it because the other House is right. The Home Secretary can persuade
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no one tonight that he is right. He is flawed, fundamentally wrong, and trying to deceive usbut we are not buying any of it.
Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central) (Lab): There is a perfectly logical case for compulsory identity cards. If one believes, as the Home Secretary does, that they really will deliver something very important in the fight against terrorism, fraud or impersonation, of course we should have a universal card, and a universal card is only possible if it is compulsory. However, that is not what our manifesto says. It says that there should be a voluntary scheme, and that there will not be a universal scheme for many years. At present, there are no overt Government plans for such a scheme, and it will be rolled out very slowly. Therefore, the benefits that can only accrue from an ID card scheme will not happen until it is a wholly universal scheme. The whole enterprise is deeply logically flawed.
The Home Secretary has got himself into an appalling semantic tangle. If he is trying to persuade not only this House but the public that the word "must" means "voluntary" and that the opposite is the case, and that what he is suggesting is not what the Lords are suggesting, then he has got himselfas I have in this sentenceinto a terrible logical tangle. If we believe in a voluntary scheme, as the Home Secretary and the manifesto say that we do, there is no way that we can reject the Lords amendments. The Lords make it very clear that the scheme is voluntary, not compulsory. By rejecting the amendments, the Government will be opting for compulsion. They should have the courage of their convictions and say that this will be a compulsory universal scheme, but the Home Secretary will not do that. If he is going to nail his flag to the mast of a voluntary scheme, the Lords amendment must be supported.
With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to respond to this debate. I had not intended to, but the use of the word "deceit" by the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) provokes me to do so directly. Let me be very clear about the process. The first consultation document that this Government issued on an identity card scheme, in 2002, canvassed the option of a universal scheme linked to passports. When we announced the decision, in principle, in November 2003 to introduce ID cards, it was made clear then that there would be a two-stage scheme. It was stated that the second stage would be compulsorythat it would apply to every UK residentwith a civil financial penalty for failing to register and to obtain an ID card when required.
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It was also made clear in November 2003 that during the initial stage, as well as introducing a voluntary plain ID card for those who do not have a passport, the intention was to link the issue of ID cards to that of more secure passports. That is why we stated the following in Cmd 6020, in November 2003:
That announcement in principle was put into effect when the Government published the draft Identity Cards Bill in April 2004, with a provision in clause 5(2) requiring an applicant for any designated document to register and to be issued with an ID card alongside the designated document. We were again very clear that in the first stage of the ID card scheme there should be no possibility of obtaining a designated document such as a passport without an ID card. The provision requiring applicants for passports or other designated documents to obtain an ID card was also included in the first Identity Cards Bill, introduced before the election, which was passed by the House of Commons in February 2005 and given a Second Reading in the Lords in March 2005.
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