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Lord Phillips of Sudbury rose to move, as an amendment to Motion A, leave out from "House" to end and insert "do insist on its Amendments Nos. 16 and 22, and do disagree with Commons Amendment No. 22C in lieu".
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in the House of Commons two days ago just 60 minutes were allotted to debate the amendment that we passed in this House on Monday of last week by a majority of 61, making the ID card scheme voluntary. It overturned us on a heavily whipped vote by a majority of 33. None of the 14 speakers, besides the Home Secretary, supported the Government.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, would the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, tell your Lordships' House what the difference is between the whip in the House of Commons on that particular day and the whip that the Liberal Democrats have on today?
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I was hoping to get into my amendment, but I will answer the noble Lord's point. There is a huge difference in terms of severity. The noble Lord shakes his headI shall leave it at that and continue with my speech.
By far the major part of the Home Secretary's opening and closing speeches were devoted to trying to reinterpret the Labour Party manifesto at the election last year. At col. 1249 he quoted from the manifestoand these words have been repeated several times:
I am afraid that my primary school teacher, Miss Lovelace, would have give Mr Clarke 0 out of 10 for that. She would have pointed out in the sweetest way, because she was never nasty to a wayward child, that the word "voluntary" in that sentence related to ID cards, not passports. It plainly did not say or mean to say, "We will introduce ID cards initially on a compulsory basis as people renew their passports voluntarily". Indeed, more than 80 per cent of the population have passports. Yet that is the cock-eyed
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interpretation that is now pressed on the public by a Government who seem to be losing their sense of shame.
Only an administration that desperately needed to dis-impale itself from the hook of its own making would resort to such double-speak. If this was a City prospectus, the financial equivalent of an election manifesto, the FSA would be down on it like a ton of bricks. The Square Mile may not be a beacon of moral scrupulousness, but it would scoff at the verbal gymnastics being employed by the Government. Noble Lords should listen to the Home Secretary again. In the same speech, he stated:
"That position is that the scheme will initially be based on a stand-alone identity card, issued on its own on a voluntary basis, or together with a document such as a passport, which is also issued on a voluntary basis. That seems to be clear and unequivocal".[Official Report, Commons, 13/3/06; col. 1249.]
Conceivably, Mr Clarke, that is so, but only so long as you do not link the two, as the designation process under Clauses 4 and 5 does, and only so long as the designation process does not, in making that link, force the citizen seeking or renewing a passport to take out an ID card as well. But that is precisely what it does. It staggers me that we are still discussing that point. Try that argument out on anyone in the high street or in a pub and you will get an "are you mad?" look.
The inglorious reality is that the reason the Labour manifesto last year talked only of "voluntary" ID cards, was to disarm the opposition that was already apparent from civil liberties lobbies, among whom there are many Labour voters and for whom the issue of compulsion was important, if not vital.
When Mr Clarke wound up on Monday, he stepped yet deeper into his own verbal bog, arguing that what really matters is not the manifesto at all, but what was said before the manifestonamely what was in the Bill published in 2004. Indeed, the noble Baroness gave us a long peroration today of what happened before the manifesto. But that, too, is patently feeble. We all know full well that what matters for the purposes of the manifesto mandateand the Salisbury conventionis what is in the manifesto. You cannot sanctify manifestos by claiming, as the Commons regularly does, the right to override this place on the basis of commitments in themmost recently on the Hunting Billand, at the same time, ignore a particular commitment on the grounds that you do not much like it and have had second thoughts. We know full well that manifestos sometimes very intentionally change old policies and priorities and adopt new ones to attract wider public support at elections. If, besides scanning the 111 pages of Labour's last manifesto, the public are also supposed to have reviewed what Labour Ministers said and what Bills were before this House and the other place in the previous year or two, the situation would be as daft as it would be unrealistic. What would the poor voter be supposed to make
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, while the noble Lord is in the middle of this argument, I put it
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to him that he may be confusing two separate, albeit related, issues. One is what is included in the manifesto and the other is the primacy of the elected House. Will he deal with the second one, which is the matter before us today?
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I can deal with it very simply. I am the first and last to acknowledge the primacy of the other House. I would never challenge it for a second. But here we are dealing with an exceptional case in which this House is seeking to uphold the manifesto of the Government, and that is the truth of it. I shall continue if I may.
What would the poor voter be supposed to do, confronted with a Bill, which, as we said, came before the other place and this place before the manifesto, which says one thing, and the later manifesto, which says another? It is perfectly clear that the manifesto is what counts when the electorate go to the polls. It will not do for the Government to argue otherwise, in particular, because the Home Secretary is, after all, the embodiment and guardian of law and order, and that in turn depends on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I sincerely say to the House that the example being set by the Government in this instance is self-damagingindeed, it damages us all at a time when public trust in politics is already fraying. I say all this with genuine reluctance because I recognise what a hugely difficult job the Home Secretary does and what ability, energy and, in normal circumstances, decency the present incumbent brings to that onerous task.
Before I sit down, I need to say a word about the effects of our amendments because they have still apparently not hit home. Mr Clarke's first argument on Monday, and we heard it again this afternoon, was that unless, as he put it, the processes of taking out a passport and taking out an ID card were mergedthat was his wordcitizens would be deprived of what he called,
The answer to that is simple. If you believe that there are extra safeguards by having an ID card, as the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and the noble Baroness said last week, you will no doubt take out your voluntary ID card. That is fine. That is up to each of us to decide.
It is also for us to decide whether or not we better protect our identity against fraud by having an ID card. Again, voluntarism is best: first, because there is considerable disagreement as to whether the ID card will do thatI refer to the honey-pot riskand, secondly, because the overhanging and perhaps dominant issue in the general debate is whether we should be forced to hand over to the state the mass of Schedule 1 information that will create the database standing behind every card, as Tony McNulty, the Minister, put it on 13 February. Here, again, I am afraid that misleading statements have been made, most recently on Monday, when the Home Secretary said:
For a passport, you need give only your present principal address, compared with the prospect for ID cards under Clause 1 of providing not only all your addresses in the UK and abroad, but the time you have spent at each of those addressesback without limit. Your file at the ID registry will also contain 13 categories of personal reference numbers, compared with one or none for the passport, plus your record, registration and ID card history, validation information, security information, and, above all, your intimate audit trail information. None of that is needed for a passport.
Why do the Government continue to pretend otherwise? Add to that the danger of future pressure to add to the list of required data and the managerial imperativethe economic rationalisationfavouring merger of all state information on to the ID register. The Information Commissioner was surely right to deliver his sombre warning last October.
Like the noble Baroness, I do not propose to repeat the general arguments that I and many others of your Lordships deployed on 6 March, and earlier, in support of the Motion. Suffice it to say that this uniquely complex centralised scheme is ill thought-through, incompletely costed, hugely costly, technologically risky and corruptible both internally and externally. Furthermore, the ambitious claims made for it have steadily lost weight as they have been subjected to detailed scrutiny in this place and beyond it. A compulsory scheme will add to what has become, I am sad to say, a surveillance state of unparalleled reach among democracies. What is more, the majority of our EU partners either have no cards or voluntary ID cards.
The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, picked out Sweden, Finland and Denmark at the end of her speech last week to support her case, and said that they were "hardly totalitarian states". How true, but let us consider the facts. Sweden introduced a simple national ID card on 1 October last year, but it is voluntary. Finland has a simple and voluntary card. Denmark does not have an ID card at all.
Our Motion would allow those who favour cards, for whatever reason, to have them voluntarily without the compulsion of the Government's proposals. Very many would have cards; very many would not. I received a message when I arrived this afternoon from a woman who said that she represented a large number of embattled and battered women. She said, "For goodness sake, don't let them have compulsory cards because the register will be fallible and we will be vulnerable".
Over time, compulsion is likely to have a profoundly damaging impact on that trust and allegiance of the citizen towards the state and its organs without which our most cherished hopes and, indeed, the stated aims of the Government in this Bill cannot be realised. We and the Conservatives have abandoned the other
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several votes that were taken and won in this House during the Bill's passage. This is not conceivably a wrecking amendment, but a saving one. I beg to move.
Moved, as an amendment to Motion A, leave out from "House" to end and insert "do insist on its Amendments Nos. 16 and 22, and do disagree with the Commons Amendment No. 22C in lieu".(Lord Phillips of Sudbury.)
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