Home Office questions

Run in to Parliament – not literally – to prepare for Home Office Questions. Lively debate between Nick Clegg (No 1 in the Lib Dem Home Affairs team), Mark Hunter (No 3) and myself (No 2) on which subject to go on. ID cards narrowly squeaked it ahead of asylum and immigration and the robbery figures to be released later this week.

The new Minister for ID cards, Joan Ryan, has a very hard time defending the indefensible and Nick has some dynamite statistics. 88 million American identities have been stolen. A single master database such as is envisaged for the ID scheme will provide a great big honey pot for criminals to steal from.

Mark’s researcher tells us that our visit to Heathrow next Monday is now off. We were originally invited by the group running the immigration operation at Heathrow to come for a visit. But when we said yes we would like to come, it then it had to go through Immigration National Department and then we needed the permission of the minister – and now eight weeks later they had phoned to say the date was no good. What are they scared of? You might think they were blocking our visit…

After Home Affairs questions there was, not surprisingly, a statement by the Foreign Affairs Minister (in the Foreign Secretary’s absence) on the Middle East. Listening to the statement and ensuing debate, I return to my view yesterday but even more so: the only solution is negotiation and all the huffing and puffing in the chamber, and all the hand wringing about how important it is to get back to the road map, is no substitute for real action and commitment both now – when it is vital to bring forward a ceasefire – and in the future – when there is no crisis and no world’s media looking on.