Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I support Motion A1 moved by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, and oppose government Motion A. The objective of the noble Lord's Motion is admirably simple. It would enact the Government's manifesto commitment. The Minister said that she does not want to return to that lengthy argument and instead gave us a history of other government documents—all of which I have read because that is my job. The public, who go to vote in a general election as their citizens' duty, rely on a manifesto. If we cannot rely on it, why bother with elections at all?

The manifesto commitment said that the Government would introduce ID cards, including biometric data, such as fingerprints, backed up by a national register and rolling out, initially, on a voluntary basis as people renew their passports. This Bill and the Government's Motion would not do that. For all those who need a new passport, it would make the right to leave this country conditional, on us coming into compulsion, on being entered on the register and on buying an ID card. I could not put it better than the Minister's honourable friend, Mr Mark Fisher, did in another place on Monday evening this week. He said:

Mr Fisher is right.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords—

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I shall be happy to give way to the noble Lord if he is to say that his honourable friend has been misquoted. I see that is not the case, so I do not give way.

Compulsion it would be—compulsion by stealth, but compulsion no less. The government amendment in lieu does not change that. It is not just technical; it is cosmetic. I do not give way unless the noble Lord is to say that the government amendment is more than cosmetic. Perhaps he will wait until there is a relevant part of my speech on which he would like to intervene. If he wishes to speak on the government amendment, I shall give way.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. In this House, as in others, for a good debate it is essential for these kinds of interventions to take place. That seems to be sensible. The noble Baroness has been very helpful in e-mailing me various points following last week's debate. She is
15 Mar 2006 : Column 1229
very anxious to ensure that we maintain and keep to our commitments in our manifesto. Suppose we had agreed in our manifesto to double international development assistance but we quadrupled it. Would that be keeping to our manifesto commitment? I think it would. If we go beyond and improve on our manifesto commitments we do better than we promised.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am always so pleased to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes. I sometimes think he is my greatest ally on the Benches opposite. When I consider the manifesto commitments on education reform and what is happening in another place today, on reforming the health service and on smoking issues, of course, the noble Lord is right to point out that this Government can be relied on to abandon their manifesto commitments. He asked whether I would allow interventions and explained how important they are. What a pity that the Home Secretary in another place refused to do so on Monday night.

The Government's technical amendment would simply mean that compulsory application to the register with a designated document could be made either on one form or two, so compulsion by stealth is still there. As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, has said, we are then left with a huge audit trail of our lives. In the course of proceedings on the Bill we have heard many arguments. The Home Secretary has many admirers in this House and in another place. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, that for much of the time I am one of those admirers, but I believe that the argument put forward on Monday by the Home Secretary was surely one of the most extraordinary that we have yet heard and it should not be given house room by any Member of either House. He said that the manifesto commitment that a scheme would be voluntary would be true even in a regime where free British people would not be allowed a passport to travel unless they paid up and enrolled for an ID card because,

Oh, that George Orwell were alive today to hear those words. The Home Secretary says that it is all free will. I do not think that that is a definition of freedom that our parents and grandparents had in mind when they took up arms to defend it. On 6 March, the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, said (at col. 570 of the Official Report) that we should not exploit "infelicitous" drafting. I wonder whether the noble Baroness has had direct experience of drafting manifestos. Maybe she has. If she has, she will know that every word, in every sentence, in every manifesto is pored over, discussed, decided and cleared at the highest level. The pledge that ID cards would be rolled out voluntarily will have been agreed personally by the Prime Minister, as it would by every Prime Minister, and by the Home Secretary. So the Government must
15 Mar 2006 : Column 1230
have decided deliberately on the wording in the manifesto. They had the chance to state openly in the manifesto that, if elected, they would force us all to be registered and to pay for an ID card, but they chose not to do so.

Under the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, the individual would have a real choice and genuine free will and, if they wished, they could choose to go on the register and have an ID card. There is nothing to stop them. The individual could have exactly what the Home Secretary is trying to say that they have; they would have free will—free will to have a passport and, separately, the free will to have an ID card.

The Home Secretary and the Minister have repeated their Second Reading arguments about the purposes of the scheme. The Home Secretary went into some detail on Monday night. I simply remind the Minister as gently as I can that we set out five clear tests on purposes in Committee. We took great care to go through them, but the Government have failed to come up to scratch on each one. We believe there are quite simply other and better ways of securing our safety, reducing the fraudulent use of services, and managing migration—ways that would not pose a risk to our freedom to the extent that this grandiose scheme will do, and that would be more financially prudent. Even government departments have recognised that. The Minister in charge of the Bill in the other place, Mr Burnham, confessed to the press that government departments have not exactly been rushing to him with cheques in their hands to sign up to the Home Office scheme.

The Minister argued last week, as has the Home Secretary outside this House, that we should be bound by the advice of the Wakeham commission in recommendation 7 of its report—a report that the Government have not fallen over themselves to implement in other areas. The commission, chaired by my noble friend Lord Wakeham, recommended that the House should be cautious about challenging the clearly expressed views of another place on issues of policy. I entirely agree. We are always cautious, but every now and then come fundamental issues of freedom and ancient liberty. I believe this is one such issue.

We agree with the view of the Select Committee on the Constitution, which said:

If we believe that a government have got the balance wrong on such a significant matter, and one that is not covered by the manifesto, surely, if we have any role in this Parliament, we should have the right to insist on our view. I therefore strongly urge this House to support the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, and to defend the right of the people of this country to exercise their free will.

Lord Eatwell: My Lords, surely the noble Baroness, in urging the House to accept the amendment, will also want to consider its cost to the Exchequer. She has
15 Mar 2006 : Column 1231
referred to the cost of the proposal. Surely maintaining two registers will increase the costs. Will she tell us the cost of the amendment which she is supporting?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I will be delighted to do so as soon as the Government are prepared to tell us the costs of their scheme. So far, they have refused.

In urging the House to follow this road, it is important that we uphold the right for the people, not the Government, to decide voluntarily if they want to be enrolled for an ID card. Why do the Government not trust the people to exercise their free will? That is my advice to the Government; trust the people, and accept Motion A1.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page