Listening to the right hon. Members for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett) and for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson), one would have thought that they were introducing nice, cuddly, friendly, inexpensive little things that would not bother a soul. The truth is that ID cards would have changed for ever the nature of the relationship between
the citizen and the state. ID cards, and the much more dangerous national register, would, for ever and a day, have put the onus on the citizen to have his information shared. They would have changed the relationship around entirely, so I am pleased they have gone.
Where on earth did these things come from? I wish to be charitable-you know me, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am charitable when I can be-so I should say that perhaps they were an incoherent, bizarre, knee-jerk response to the events of the past decade. One can imagine the conversation around the Cabinet table, with the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough saying, "Listen boss, I have a new idea that will show that we are actually doing something-ID cards. They will upset the civil liberties brigade, but that plays well with the focus groups. They will certainly wrong-foot the Tories." One can just picture the enthusiastic nodding of Messrs Reid and Clarke as they thought that they had come up with a cunning plot to get one over on the Tories and seem as though they were doing something. That is what it was all about-I am being charitable to them. They wanted to be seen to do something in the face of the dreadful events at the beginning of the previous decade.
Of course, time passed and the cards did upset the civil liberties brigade, but time also proved that, for tackling terrorism, the cards were as much use as Emu without Rod Hull. They would have done nothing to tackle terrorism. We have seen the events in Spain and Turkey. Fair enough, I accept that, as hon. Members have said, there were convictions based on the use of ID cards, but the cards did nothing to stop those events. The story had to change: the cards could no longer exclusively be about tackling terrorism, but had to be about more than that. Seemingly, they were about tackling identity fraud and illegal immigration and would even help people to play the lottery. They would be not so much ID cards but supercards-the cure of all society's ills. The problem was that nobody believed a word of it. Despite the ridiculous rewriting of history about what identity cards were and what they were intended to be, everyone knew what they were. It was the difference between the state and the individual.
Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman's speech, which we are all enjoying, but does he accept that the ultimate irony in all this is that although ID cards were to remedy all of society's ills, as he has outlined, they were to be voluntary at first? There was to be an attack on social security fraud, terrorism and criminality, but people had to volunteer for it.
Pete Wishart: The hon. Gentleman is right. That contradiction was even acknowledged by Labour Front Benchers as being the thing that would do ID cards in. What was the point of them if the scheme was to be voluntary? Could anyone see Mr Terrorist popping off to his post office voluntarily to apply for an ID card? That was never likely to happen. It was a ridiculous idea and the Labour party knew that, as has been acknowledged by its Front Benchers.
Labour persisted with the scheme, but that approach and all the talk about the new things that ID cards would do only further confused the already sceptical public about what the cards were all about. The right
hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle is right that ID cards were quite popular in their early days. At first, about 80% of the public thought that they would be a good thing, but that number slowly went down over the years as the public became familiar with what the cards were to do and as they heard the arguments and saw the costs escalate year after year. What ID cards became for new Labour was not so much some great suggestion that it was bringing to the British people as a political virility signal-something that a dying and decaying Government had to push forward to be seen to do something.
When I was preparing this speech, I had no idea what the right hon. Gentleman was going to say. I did not know whether ID cards were to be dumped or to be the first inclusion in the next Labour party manifesto. Indeed, I still am not sure exactly what the Labour party's position is on them. We know that it is not voting against the measure tonight. What I have heard from Labour Members so far is that they think that ID cards are still a good idea, but the way that they have described them is like no other description of them that I have ever heard.
I had thought that ID cards would be subject to the same sort of revisionism that has been seen with some of the Labour leadership candidates. I thought that they might go the same way as the Iraq war or Alf Garnett's immigration policies, but, no, it seems that they are still to be a feature of Labour's new vision and version to reconnect with the British public. They will be there to try to reconnect with the British public.
Mr Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): Might the hon. Gentleman be being a little harsh on the Labour party? That might seem an odd thing to say, but this idea has rested since time immemorial in the Home Office, which pulled it out yet again in Michael Howard's Green Paper, which was defeated. There is a long history of the state-the Crown-seeking to number and identify every citizen in this kingdom.
I come to where we are now. I welcome the Bill, but a few issues concern me and I say this with all sincerity to the Minister for Immigration. I am still concerned that foreign nationals are expected to have ID cards. It might be called a permit or something else, but it seems to me to be quite like an ID card. I wish that the Government would do away with the whole scheme. Why keep an element of a discredited scheme? All I can see is some kind of divisive legacy to Labour's ID cards if they are kept for foreign nationals. I hope that he will reconsider that.
I want to ask a bigger question. What are we to make of the Conservatives as the champions of civil liberties? That is great, but it certainly does not chime with experience. Throughout the last few decades, the Conservatives were totally illiberal when it came to proposing legislation, although they found a new thirst for civil liberties in opposition. I hope it stays.
I know you will be thinking, Mr Deputy Speaker, that all those Liberals will protect us and make sure the Conservatives do the right thing when they are presented
with the first national security brief that comes their way. However, although the Minister for Equalities is part of the Home Office Front-Bench team, most of the senior positions seem to be reserved for our Conservative friends. I wonder whether perhaps the Liberals are not trusted on the key issues for the Home Office; for example, the views of some Liberals on immigration might not chime so well with Back-Bench Conservatives. I am concerned that the Liberals have some work to do to make sure that those guys are kept on the right track. That is their job, because if the Conservatives go back to form, we may be in a bit of trouble. Only recently, the Conservatives opposed the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000, so the Liberals will have a tough job keeping the Conservative party on track.
But today is not a day to be churlish. There is good news. We have what we wanted-the end of ID cards. It is good riddance to bad rubbish. It was a dreadful, dreadful idea. I still do not know what Labour was thinking about. Now that Labour Members are in opposition, I hope they acquire a thirst for civil liberties again and that the party goes back to what it used to be when its members championed civil liberties.
Let us never again have a situation when any Government propose such anti-civil libertarian measures. Campaign groups have done an extraordinary job in bringing them to our attention. NO2ID and Liberty have been fantastic at informing the British public about the ID card proposals, and I pay tribute to their excellent work. I hope that the Minister for Immigration and the Front-Bench team will look at some of the outstanding issues such as ID cards for foreign nationals
Today is a good day. We have wanted rid of ID cards since they were first suggested. They have not been available for any Scottish services. To people who took out ID cards and want compensation-sorry. They should have at least identified that the cards were controversial before they bought them, and they should not be entitled to compensation. They took the risk of buying ID cards; it was their decision.
I did not think I would be following up a line about Rod Hull and Emu in my maiden speech. I have a lot of respect for the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). I have met him many times and agree with many of the things he said. Following the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, perhaps the hon. Gentleman and I can sit together during World cup matches and support England.
I want to say a few words about identity documents. As has been pointed out, I do not believe that terrorists will volunteer to get an ID card. I do not believe that after the public's initial enthusiasm for ID cards they wanted to be taxed again for more paperwork.
Many supporters of identity cards suggested that they would address illegal immigration. During the election campaign in Keighley and Ilkley, immigration was a big issue. Sadly, that was because many people
had lost confidence in the Government's addressing illegal immigration to this country. At that point, sadly, some people considered supporting right-wing extreme parties, as people in Keighley have done in the past. What was actually required to address the issue was not an ID card, but a strong, robust and sensible position on immigration-capping numbers and making sure that we secured our borders. The good news is that we did offer that, and the public listened and believed us. The two right-wing fascist groups that stood in Keighley were severely trashed.
I would like to compliment the work of my predecessor, Mrs Ann Cryer. I have known Mrs Cryer for many years and, politically, we first met when she was campaigning to save Oldfield school-at the time, the smallest school in the constituency-which the local Labour council was trying to close. She intervened, spoke to the Secretary of State and gained support to save the school. I was a councillor in that ward at the time-I still am, in fact-and many local people appreciated her intervention.
Mrs Cryer campaigned vigorously for the rights of women. At one event I remember attending, there was a significant proportion of members of the Muslim community. They had been segregated into women and men. Ann insisted on only addressing the women in the room if they were to be segregated. It was a powerful statement to the men in the room that the women did not need to be treated in that way.
Members will know of the work that Ann did in highlighting the abuse of young women by men in my constituency, and her work is being continued. Sadly, the abuse is still going on and the work of the police and social services is seeking to address it. The final piece of work by Ann Cryer about which the House will know is forced marriages, which are not to be mixed up with arranged marriages. Forced marriage is a vile activity that Ann fought against for nearly all her time as an MP. I am sure that she will continue the fight in retirement. I offer my wishes that Mrs Cryer has a long and happy retirement.
The family name will of course be kept in the Chamber for some time to come, in that the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (John Cryer) has been elected. I met him for the first time in 32 years a couple of weeks ago. He and I went to school together. He was the Labour candidate in the mock elections in 1979 and I was the agent for the Conservatives. [Hon. Members: "Who won?"] Sadly, he won on that occasion. In the same year, his father, the late Bob Cryer, won the parliamentary seat by 78 votes, the first time that Keighley had not gone in the direction of the Government of the time.
I am from the village of Oakworth, and live there. Before I leave the Cryers, I should say that Ann, Bob and John are all from Oakworth and, obviously, they have all become MPs. I have the great privilege of representing my town as well. The first MP for Keighley was from Oakworth. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr Pickles), is from Oakworth. The son of the local vet, one Alastair Campbell, is also from Oakworth. The Notting Hill of the north, possibly? Or maybe there is something dodgy in the water.
I have listened to many maiden speeches over the last couple of days and many Members have talked about
their constituency being the jewel in the crown of the country. They are wrong; mine is. The place I represent has Brontë country: Haworth, the wuthering heights and the wildness of the moors. Ilkley moor looks down on the town of Ilkley, a beautiful place with a great sense of identity. There are also the great towns of Keighley and Silsden. It is an immensely diverse place with great wealth in parts of it. Sadly, there is also great poverty. Keighley Central is one of the most deprived wards in the whole country, to the extent that some people are still using outside toilets, which is a disgrace in the 21st century.
In parts of the constituency, life expectancy is nine years longer than in other parts. Educational attainment is low, particularly among Muslim young men and boys, who are not achieving their potential. Unemployment is high. Drug dealing and drug abuse is a big issue. I have the great privilege of representing a beautiful place which is immensely diverse, with a great populace and huge social issues that need to be addressed. On our estates, there is third-generation benefit dependency. Many young members of our Muslim community are not ambitious or aspirational and do not have the opportunity to break out of the poverty in which they live.
I believe that education and skills are the way forward. To benefit from that-Ann said this and I repeat it-our young people must come to school speaking English. There is a huge issue associated with that, not just in the Muslim community, but in the white community. Understanding of the English language is poor in many of our white working-class areas. That needs to be tackled.
Until a couple of weeks ago, I had the great privilege of being the leader of Bradford council, which is a tremendous honour. Bradford is a place of massive challenge, but also a great city. I put on record my thanks to the chief executive, Tony Reeves, and his staff for the tremendous work that they do, particularly in education and with looked-after children, which is extremely important to his team.
I took on the responsibility of attempting to address community cohesion in Bradford. We were asked how such an academic philosophy can be put into practice. The answer is through an educated work force, decent homes, and people being healthy, having jobs and living in a safe environment. Then, when communities are brought together, they do not simply tolerate each other, but respect each other. I want to aspire to promoting and achieving that during my term as the MP for Keighley.
Finally, I am former Private Hopkins of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment and I am extremely proud of that. It is now amalgamated into the Yorkshire Regiment, which gets its new colours next week. I have watched this place making decisions, and sometimes not being able to make decisions, about war. We send our guys and our women to war, and it must be a legal war. I am very much aware of my responsibility in sending those young men and women to war. We must give them the right equipment and, when the conflict ends, look after and care for them.
Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab): May I congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on being elevated to your position? I thank you for giving me the honour of making my first speech in the House on today's date, 9 June, which has some significance in my locality. May I congratulate also those other hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches today? They include the hon. Member for Gosport (Caroline Dinenage), my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), the hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham), my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones) and the hon. Members for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer) and for Keighley (Kris Hopkins).
I particularly welcome the hon. Member for Keighley and his maiden speech, because I know that he, as a former leader of Bradford city council, will bring local government experience to the House, albeit from a different political perspective from mine. Furthermore, Mr Deputy Speaker, you need not worry about me undermining the British film industry by giving away any secrets about the demise of the house elves in my constituency, as happened last week.
It is with enormous pride that I stand here, honoured to represent the people of my home town, Gateshead, where I have lived for more than 30 years. In doing so, I am conscious of the fact that I follow in the footsteps of a formidable predecessor, David Clelland, the former MP for Tyne Bridge, whose constituency formed half the new constituency of Gateshead. The other half of the constituency was represented in the previous Parliament by my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson), who, I am glad to say, is still with us.
David Clelland was not only an excellent representative of the people of the Tyne Bridge constituency and a first-class Member; he was and remains a personal friend. Having worked with David for more years than I care to remember, first as Labour party colleagues, subsequently together as councillors and, most recently, he as MP and I as deputy leader of Gateshead council, I know all too well the great passion that David has always devoted to representing the people of Tyne Bridge and, in particular, Gateshead. David would be the first to say that his work was both an honour and a privilege. However, I want to place on the record my gratitude and that of the people of Gateshead for David's contribution, both as a councillor and as a Member of Parliament, to making Gateshead an even better place to live.
The mantle of representing Gateshead has now fallen to me. Gateshead is truly a great place, made all the better by the people who live there. The fact that this is a debate on the Identity Documents Bill may be a flimsy pretext for saying that, of course, the people of Gateshead and of Tyneside are very proud of their distinct north-east identity. None the less, it is true-and we do not need any documents to prove it. One of Gateshead's most famous inhabitants in the 19th century-possibly fictitious, but well known-was a young lady by the name of Cushy Butterfield, whose description in song gives us some insight into the Tyneside males' mindset at the time:
"She's a big lass and a bonny lass and she likes her beer.
And they call her Cushy Butterfield and ah wish she was here."