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Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Does the Home Secretary accept that if he were coming to the House at the height of a major terrorist campaign and recommending a compulsory identity card for the security of the community, his proposal would be seriously considered on both sides of the House? However, he is now trying to sell as a convenience card something that seeks to combine the functions of several separate existing cards but may well incorporate technology that would allow an indefinite number of functions to be added in future. Does he not realise that, in doubting his proposals, we face the old problem of capability versus intentions? He has stated his honourable intentions, but surely he should realise that people are worried about the capability of what he proposes to be indefinitely extended?

Mr. Blunkett: I do not even take offence at the idea of impugning my intentions; I simply say that there is much greater security in ensuring that Parliament's will is enforced under my proposals than there is in the smart card technology that already exists and is used by private enterprise. There is a two-way street in relation to privacy and avoiding intrusion, and it does not simply depend on protection from the state.

The hon. Gentleman's first question was about why I did not introduce such a proposal in the aftermath of the events of 11 September. I reject the suggestion that we would have been able to deal with such a proposal intelligently and thoughtfully. It would have been seen, quite rightly, as a railroad and as something introduced on the back of a terrible tragedy, and it would have been irrational. That is why I rejected such a notion on the "Today" programme three times within a fortnight of 11 September. We must consider the issue coldly in the light of day—either it is worth having in 10, 15 or 20 years' time, or it is not worth having at all.

Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes): Is my right hon. Friend aware that a television poll revealed this lunchtime that 84 per cent. of people have no problem whatever with the concept of identity cards? Does he think that that is because we all have an array of cards that identify us in

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our purses and pockets? We have cash cards, credit cards and store cards that track our shopping habits and allow us to have coupons that tie in with those shopping habits. All hon. Members have passes to come in and out of the House and record our movements around the House. Frankly, I do not understand why people fear entitlement cards.

Mr. Blunkett: My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that I agree. I have four cards in my possession—

Shona McIsaac: I have 17.

Mr. Blunkett: My hon. Friend has an extremely heavy purse or handbag, and I shall avoid being handbagged by it.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Having just completed a report for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on clandestine migration, may I warmly applaud the objective of the Home Secretary but regret his pusillanimity in not seeing his consultative proposals through to their logical conclusion? Would not any law-abiding person be perfectly happy to carry an identity card or an entitlement card if doing so will improve the likelihood that only those people who are entitled to work do so and only those who are entitled to be in Britain are in Britain, and if doing so will diminish the likelihood of individuals carrying out terrorist offences or impersonations? If, in the consultation, the public express the desire for the compulsory carriage of such cards, cannot the Home Secretary accede to their wish?

Mr. Blunkett: I welcome very much the spirit of the hon. Gentleman's remarks and, having examined the issues, I respect greatly his understanding of them. I shall resist the temptation to be overwhelmed by the feeling of the British people wanting to have to carry them. That is not least because the reason for the decision on the card in 1952, other than the tragic refusal of the Labour Government to get rid of rationing in time and the link that was made in people's minds, was a cause celebre court case in relation to someone who had left their card at home. If we go ahead, I have every intention of carrying my card. I do not want to be accused of breaking the law, however, if I have left it in the wrong jacket.

David Cairns (Greenock and Inverclyde): Given that the issuing of passports, driving licences, national insurance numbers, Home Office reference numbers and entitlement to benefit are all administered on a UK-wide basis, does my right hon. Friend accept that it would be utterly illogical and perverse to deal with this matter on anything other than a UK-wide basis? May I clarify a technical point? Is my right hon. Friend saying that he does not envisage any new technology being involved, but that existing tried-and-tested technology will be used? If so, that will go some way to allay the fears of those of us who, although we have no civil libertarian objections, are very concerned about the ability to advance from a standing start to 44 million or 60 million cards in a very short period.

Mr. Blunkett: We accept fully in the document that we could not proceed from a standing start, and that identity cards would have to be introduced on the back of

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the issuing of the photocard driving licence and photocard passport, which are both now being introduced. Additional technology would be necessary to expand the potential for the development of the card. We estimate the cost of that to be £107 million. Again, that is part of the document. I accept entirely the first part of my hon. Friend's question. I suggest to him, however—I am sure that he will articulate this north of the border—that were we able to introduce a card that dealt substantially with organised fraud, and were Scotland not to have such a card, Scotland would become an absolute haven for fraudsters. Not even the Scottish National party would want that.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): My right hon. Friend said in his statement that it would be possible to use the identity card in connection with new voting methods. Is he aware that it could be used in connection with the established, traditional and very good voting methods that already exist in this country? It would aid considerably electoral registration as, despite rolling electoral registration, probably 1 million or more people are still missing from electoral registers who could be placed on them using identity card techniques. It could also be used as a voter identity card. A move in that direction has been made in Northern Ireland, but a United Kingdom identity card provision for voting would probably be a great advance in stopping fraud, not just in Northern Ireland but on a wider basis.

Mr. Blunkett: I congratulate my hon. Friend on his long campaign on this important issue. I represent a constituency that has more than 10 per cent. under-registration, so I also feel strongly about this issue. He is entirely right to want to avoid fraudulent voting, and registering to vote has the real potential to increase the right to vote.

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Points of Order

4.31 pm

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. At Home Office questions on 10 June I raised the case of a paedophile who, having served a prison sentence, changed his name by deed poll and reoffended. The Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety advised me that, if I sent him the information, he would deal with the case as a matter of urgency. Such were his words that the next day our local paper, the Express & Echo, reported it as a pledge on his part.

However, in trying to follow up the case, I now find that the Minister has passed the paperwork to his Under-Secretary and, despite several telephone calls from my office, the Under-Secretary's office has been unable to identify where the paperwork is or tell me what is happening. Next week, the Police Reform Bill will give us a window of opportunity to deal with a matter that the Minister promised would be dealt with urgently. We might be able to close the loophole by tabling an amendment to that Bill.

On the day that I raised the matter, I hand delivered the necessary information to the Home Office, because I took the Minister at his word. The way in which the case has been handled is not just a contempt of the House but will come as a great disappointment to the victims. Therefore, can you assist me, Mr. Speaker? When such matters are raised on the Floor of the House, hon. Members should have every expectation that a Minister's word is his bond.

Mr. Speaker: I regret that this has happened to the hon. Lady in seeking to represent her constituents. I hope that the appropriate Ministers will see the record of today's proceedings and look into the matter urgently.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, about which I gave your office brief notice. Following his good fortune in the private Member's ballot, the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) used his time extremely well, in the view of many of us, to introduce the Marine Wildlife Conservation Bill on Friday 26 October. He received strong support from both sides of the House and from all who were present. He cannot, for understandable personal reasons, be here at the moment, but he knows that I am raising the issue.

After a number of successful pleas, the Bill went into Committee on Wednesday 21 November and members of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—Ministers, in particular the Minister for the Environment, my right hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher), and civil servants—worked extremely hard and put in a great deal of effort. The Bill then received its Third Reading in the House of Commons, and has now gone to the other place.

For a number of complicated reasons, it seems that certain Members of the other place want to bury the issue. Is it acceptable that a Bill that was introduced by an Opposition Member with strong departmental support from the Government and with the strong support of Labour Members, all of whom are interested in the issue, should suddenly evaporate for what might be termed a bit of skulduggery in the other place? It is unacceptable that a private Member's Bill introduced in the House of

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Commons should be allowed to fail in the other place, which has not considered it in anything like the depth that this House has.

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