CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

HOME AFFAIRS – ENTITLEMENT CARDS – 3 July 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: 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?

[David 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.]