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Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op):
Earlier the hon. and learned Gentleman said that he was at one with the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow). Yesterday in the House that hon. Gentleman reaffirmed his commitment to a totally elected second chamber. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman have any concerns that an unelected and unaccountable House should continue to pressurise this House as much as it has done?
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Mr. Garnier: I might do, if the other place in its current constitutional get-up was not a creation of the Government and the Prime Minister, but since it is a creation of the Government and the Prime Minister, and since its current state is entirely supported by people such as the hon. Gentleman, who leapt through the Division Lobby with great alacrity to see the House of Lords turn into a creation of
Mr. Garnier: Of course, Madam Deputy Speaker, I respect everything that you say and the admonition that you give me. I may have used a word that the Home Secretary does not wish to hear or understand, but that is not the point. He will have to come to terms with the fact that we have a bicameral constitutional arrangement. It is entirely proper for the other place to present these amendments to this House, and all the more proper given that the other place is a creation of this Government. Having set up this new House of Lords, it is simply not good enough for them to complain when it sends back legislation in a form that they do not like. They should have thought about that before they mucked around with it.
On amendments Nos. 22G and 22H, which Ministers may or may not have read, it is important to point out that when we last debated this the Home Secretary was chuntering to the effect that the majority of Cross Benchers did not support the majority of 36 in favour of those amendments. Well, I have news for him. That majority contained within it a majority of Cross Benchers, so he has shot his own fox, if I may use an allusion that may be of interest to him.
The House of Lords has presented to this House two sets of amendments that would delay the onset of compulsion until after 31 December 2011. That entirely complies with the Labour party's manifesto on which it was elected at the last election. It would preserve precisely what that manifesto requiredthe rolling out of ID cards on a voluntary basisby allowing members of the public who so wish to enrol their details on to the national identity register in order to receive an identity card prior to that time. The House of Lords is doing no more than what the Labour party promised the public that it was about at that time.
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I have already indicated to the hon. and learned Gentleman that there has been sufficient discussion of party manifestos. I hope that hon. Members will now address their remarks to the amendments before the House.
If I may say so, Madam Deputy Speaker, it is extremely difficult, given that these amendments are about whether compulsion by stealth should be introduced with this Bill or at a later stage, not to place that in the context upon which the Government rely, as they did on the previous occasion and in the other Housenamely, their manifesto.
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The amendments would delayproperly, because they are in line with the Government's policy as advertisedcompulsion by stealth, or by express primary legislation, until after 31 December 2011. No Labour Member who has any understanding of the English language, or of the meaning of the words "promise" or "voluntary", can possibly complain about what the other place has introduced into the Bill.
Mr. Cash: I do not know whether my hon. and learned Friend is going to come to this, but does he think that the Home Secretary reached a point where he would be so dismissive of the arguments that have come from the other House that it might be appropriate for that House to insist on the Parliament Act?
Mr. Garnier: I shall leave that to the other place. I am arguing in support of the other place's amendments22G and 22H. Whether we get to a stage when the Parliament Act has to be employed is largely a matter for the majority in this House, although it is technically a matter for the Speaker. The Parliament Act is sometimes operated when the Government decide that they cannot have their way by any other means, as happened before the previous general election.
The Government have presented the argument here and in the other place that, if we are to have a bifurcated systema voluntary and a compulsory systemwhich the Labour party advocated at the election, we would have to expend much more money. The Home Secretary said that it would have implications for procurement. I am not sure that that is a good reason for overturning the relationship between the citizen and the state. I do not believe that the age-old system that allows us, the citizens, to walk the streets without being compelled to do something at the state's behest should be overturned or trumped by claiming that it would create all sorts of procurement implications. It may well create implications for the Government's IT procurement systemwe know the history of IT procurement for Home Office projects and others. It is therefore unsurprising that they are worried about that. However, that is not an argument for overturning the constitutional proprieties.
The Government might have a better case if they condescended to tell us what they believed the costs of the exercise would be. Their claim about the additional costs that the amendments would impose on the taxpayer would be more understandable if they condescended to tell us what they are. However, all they do is ritualistically repeat their abuse of the House of Lords or anyoneat the London School of Economics, on the Conservative Benches, on the Liberal Democrat Benches or even on the Labour Bencheswho dares to contradict the assertions that they make without evidence. That is no way to run a Government or conduct an argument in favour of overturning the amendments.
No evidence exists to show that a delay in compulsion would necessarily be more costly than the proposals for immediate compulsion. A series of less expensive,
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smaller scale trials and pilots would cost far less than is currently projected in the early phases of development and would inform refinements to the specification, which will help to achieve best value in the longer term.
It is also clear that, if the focus of the scheme's planning and development shifted towards developing and selling the benefits of the scheme as a tool for the citizen, voluntary take-up could substantially eclipse that by compulsion. If compulsion by stealth is so good and so popular, why do not the Government have the self-confidence to try voluntary take-up? If the public are sufficiently attracted and follow the arguments on cost, they will flock into the gulags and processing places so that their information can be put on the national identity register.
John Bercow : Irrespective of the number of people who come forwardin the first instance and for some timeto renew their passports, what is my hon. and learned Friend's assessment of the costs that the Government will incur as a result of proceeding with a plan for a massive new set of high street locations under the auspices of the great empire builder, Mr. Bernard Herdan, at which the transactions will take place? The sums of money will be huge. I do not know whether the Home Secretary realises it or whether he has been hoodwinked, but it will cost big time.
Mr. Garnier: There is no question about itit will cost a lot of money. The overall costs of the scheme range from, according to the Government's figures, something towards the top end of £8 billion, to the LSE's figures of between £19 billion to £22 billion. I have asked written parliamentary questions about the high street readers, which will be based in Department for Work and Pensions offices and those of other agencies, perhaps in hospitals and so on. I cannot guarantee to be accurate but, from memory, each individual reader machine will cost approximately £3,000. One can multiply that to get the total figure.
Mr. Charles Clarke: May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to withdraw the word "gulag"? To suggest that the identification process will be equivalent to a concentration camp or gulag is an abuse of language, and he has been very careful to attack us for the abuse of language in various ways. Will he now take the opportunity to withdraw the word?
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