Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will think carefully. It is inappropriate for members of the royal family to be brought into this debate.

Mr. Shepherd: Of course, I accept your view, Madam Deputy Speaker, but this is an enormously important constitutional debate, and we are talking about the relationships between the citizen and the state.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. We are actually discussing Lords amendments rather than the wider context of this Bill.

Mr. Shepherd: I do not mean to argue, Madam Deputy Speaker, but the whole point of the debate and the Lords amendments is whether to introduce compulsion or discretion, and I was inquiring as to the extent of the compulsion or the extent of the discretion. I see that the Clerk looks agitated, so I shall leave the matter there. Nevertheless, I would be grateful if the Home Secretary were to address that narrow point. The wider point still remains—the issue is effectively about compulsion. I do not find the Lords amendments especially attractive, but I shall vote for them. These two equal Chambers of Parliament—[Interruption.] The two Chambers are indeed equal in our constitutional terms.
29 Mar 2006 : Column 887

We are debating the amendments, because they have been sent here from another place. The Government are threatening that if they do not get their way, they will invoke, if necessary, the Parliament Act. I will stand by the Lords amendments for the purpose of asserting the freedom of the individual.

Martin Linton (Battersea) (Lab): I rise to speak as an unashamed supporter of compulsion in ID cards. I was the first to suggest the idea of an entitlement card and it was always conceived not as a compulsory to carry scheme, but a compulsory to have scheme. I regret the fact that the Government have resiled from that position. However, I now hear the words "voluntary" and "compulsory" used in slightly different ways and there may be room for, if not a compromise, at least a meeting of minds.

Lord Phillips, in the other place, and some hon. Members have described the Swedish ID card as voluntary. Indeed, the LSE document, which has been used as background by many hon. Members, also describes it as voluntary. Indeed, it is voluntary in an important sense, but it is not voluntary whether someone is on the identity register. People are placed on that at birth, and their national identity numbers include date of birth. However, if people have passports or driving licences, they do not also need to have an identity card, for the simple reason that the passport or driving licence can be used for exactly the same purposes as they might need a national identity card. It is voluntary in that sense—

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way?

2.30 pm

Martin Linton: I am sorry, but we must all heed Madam Deputy Speaker's words of warning and we need to make our points in the short time that is available.

Lord Armstrong of Ilminster is moving towards that sort of voluntary scheme, and I could happily live with that. Even Lord Phillips said that his amendment

If he means by that that one would be on the ID register but could choose whether to have an ID card, he should support the solution that is beginning to emerge. It is the ID register that is important, not the actual possession of a card.

When my passport runs out and I have to renew it, I cannot see that it will make much difference if an ID card is thrown in as well. I shall be happy because it provides an additional form of identity. The point was made in the last debate—it is central to the issue of voluntary and compulsory—that the information one gives to the Passport and Records Agency to renew one's passport is exactly the same as that required to go on the ID register. It consists of name, address, date and place of birth and nationality or immigration status—

Mr. Garnier: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
29 Mar 2006 : Column 888

Martin Linton: No, I am sorry but we are all under a time pressure—[Interruption.] If hon. Members look at the relevant schedule, they will see that it is those four pieces of information that are required—

Mr. Garnier: You do not understand.

Martin Linton: With respect, it is other hon. Members who have failed to understand the basic point that the information is the same, and it is the registers that are different. Indeed, the No to ID website requests people's forename, last name, house number, road, town, postcode and e-mail address. Even the organisation campaigning against ID cards requests very similar information from the people who log on to its website as that required for a passport or driving licence or by the ID register.

My central point—I think that Lord Armstrong is moving towards it—is that no compulsion should be attached to having the ID card, but people who renew their passports should have the same basic information duplicated on the ID register. I see no reason why we should therefore prolong the argument—

Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Martin Linton: I am sorry, but this is a one-hour debate. I consider myself lucky to have caught your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I want to make my points.

The argument put by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that the passport is not really compulsory has been widely mocked by people on the other side of the argument, but they must address the argument that if passports are compulsory, they are surely just as objectionable as ID cards. The ID card is no more than a passport to public services. It is a different form of passport, to be used in a different context. When someone wishes to obtain a benefit or open a bank account, they will not need to take their passport, which is a bulky document, because they will be able to use their ID card. It will work exactly the same as a passport does when crossing international borders. It will be a domestic passport and I do not understand why people object to one, but not the other.

At the heart of this debate lies deep confusion about the words voluntary and compulsory. If people are prepared to go along with Lord Armstrong's approach and accept that the important aspect is not the card but the register, we can all find common ground on which to agree.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): I continue to be deeply concerned about the question of compulsion. It is still inherent in the principle of the Bill and I will not change my position on that. It concerns the relationship between the individual and the state, as the Information Commissioner said. The information that will be accumulated will not be changed by a compromise along the lines that are being discussed, although I understand the motivation for the compromise.

Mr. Garnier: Is my hon. Friend also concerned that the hon. Member for Battersea (Martin Linton), who made the last speech that we endured, failed completely
29 Mar 2006 : Column 889
to understand the difference between the requirement for a biometric passport, so that the biometrics can be read by a passport officer at the port of entry, and an ID card, which provides the gateway into the national identity register?

Mr. Cash: I could not agree more. The gateway is also the entry point for a form of compulsion that one would normally associate with countries that do not enjoy the freedoms of democracies such as the one in which we live—

John Bercow: Common law countries.

Mr. Cash: Indeed. The fact remains that this is an extremely important Bill. It is a very dangerous Bill, and much sophistry has been used by the Government in claiming the advantages of it. They have failed to understand how pervasive the state surveillance arrangement will be in practice and I am also deeply concerned by how it will differentiate between citizens. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) mentioned members of the royal family, but I am concerned about the ordinary man in the street and the differences in the timing of application. I have received a new driving licence and passport in the last week, because mine were stolen. Therefore, my exemption will extend until 2016.

I accept your ruling on my point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I understand it, but the principle that lies behind the issue of hybridity is not just a technical question. It is about treating people equally. The common law of this country should not contain one law for one section of the community and a different law for other sections. We apply the same principle in taxation. The constitutional question at the heart of this issue is not the difference between the two Houses, but the infringement on the freedom of individuals of this country and the differentiation between individuals who should be treated equally. I am utterly opposed to the principle of the Bill and will continue to be so.

Next Section IndexHome Page