Parliament debates identity cards

Busy day as, after the committee stage on incitement to religious hatred, it’s the Second Reading debate on ID cards in the Chamber.

I am soooooooooo against ID cards – and desperate to get called to speak in the debate. The debate starts at 3.30pm and will conclude with a vote at 10pm. I know that I will have to sit in the Chamber for all that time – to have even a flying chance of catching Mr Speaker’s eye to get called. But it will be worth it.

Charles Clarke moves the proposed legislation – defending the indefensible. David Davis (Tory Shadow Home Secretary) then gets a go – and delivers a good speech. Unlike most of the Tories who only so recently in the election were for the introduction of ID cards – Davies was always against them. As power shifts from Michael Howard to the wannabe leaders – the wind has blown Tories into opposition. Latecomers – but nevertheless – finally on the side of the angels.

Then there are another couple of speeches before the Speaker comes to Mark Oaten – the Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary. He gives a great speech – and then the debate moves on to back benchers who are limited to 10 minute speeches.

As the day wears on into night – I bob up and down as each speaker finishes hoping to be called. Hour after hour passes. The debate in itself is fascinating – and many, indeed most, of the speeches from all sides of the House (including Labour) are against ID cards. Ironically – the outcome will depend on Labour rebels – and whilst the words are strong, I doubt whether the votes will follow in adequate numbers to defeat the Government at this stage.

Without rehearsing the whole argument – the bill falls on so many counts, one is spoilt for choice as to what to oppose. (There’s plenty of good background on the arguments at www.no2id.net).

For me – the key is civil liberties. This proposed legislation flies in the face of everything I believe in. I was born free and thought I was innocent until proven guilty. I have the right – inalienable right in my view – to walk out of my front door without the need to prove anything to anyone so long as I cause no harm. I do not need the Government’s permission in the form of an ID card – a license to do this – let alone a license that will cost between one and three hundred pounds, is technologically unsound and will lead to a database of information about me that no one – not state nor anyone – has a right to know! I will be treated like a criminal. I will be fingerprinted and information on me stored on a national database – information that no one needs to know or has a right to know.

OK – you get my tone on this!

So there I am, bobbing up and down, as hour after hour passes. I hold the front bench for the Home Affairs team – whilst Mark and Alistair (my Lib Dem numbers 1 and 2 on the team – I am number 3) go to eat. As the clock approaches 8.30pm – I am becoming despondent about my chances of being called – as more people are still rising than there is time to call them. Suddenly Mr Deputy Speaker (the Speakers change throughout the session) announces that because so many people still want to speak – the speeches will now be cut to 5 minutes for the next hour. At 9.20pm – finally – I get called.

I make my key points: civil liberties, the problems with righting wrong information giving history of IT problems and the discrimination that will follow as ID cards become compulsory (which they will – as sure as eggs is eggs) towards members of ethnic communities who from my experience with police stop and search will be stopped and asked to produce the card in the end.

I cite what has happened with DNA and how now innocent people’s DNA is being kept on a database and how much more black DNA is being stored than white DNA in London.

Then we are into the winding up speeches. The Labour man – Tony McNulty – chooses to attack me from the Despatch Box as he closes, calling me irresponsible and wrong. So I must be doing something right!

Then the Speaker calls for Ayes – and there is a roar of ‘ayes’ from the Labour benches. Then the Speaker calls for the Noes – and there is a roar of ‘no’ from the Lib Dems and the Tories. It’s all very tribal and traditional, but we have the shouting match before the Speaker calls out ‘Division’ – and the bells start ringing as we pour into the lobbies to vote in person. Sadly – not enough Labour rebels rebel – and the second reading is passed. The Bill now passes into its Committee Stage.

Amazing to have had a voice and a vote (however tiny) in opposing something I believe will destroy our way of life and begin the journey to a police state. And – many, many local residents have contacted me to say they care passionately too. The weight of opinion in my postbag is very clear.