It is true that some years ago, when considering the terrorist problem in Ulster, I suggested that identity cards might be helpful, but I was persuaded by the powerful argument of the security forces to the effect that – contrary to what the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) said – any benefits that they would derive in terms of combating IRA terrorism would be greatly offset by the problems they would face in enforcing compliance were a minority of the community to resist the use of ID cards. That is a problem that we may well face if we try to introduce this measure, particularly given that – as we now know, and as the Government acknowledge – its principal purpose is to deal with unlawful terrorism. That is certainly the principal demand of the public.
The general public mistakenly believe that most members of ethnic minorities are immigrants, which is not true- of course, most of them were born here and have British nationality – and that most immigrants came here illegally, which is not true either: most came here legally. The general public therefore believe that the police need to have the power to compel people to have these cards about their person at all times, and to have the right to stop and question anyone who looks or sounds foreign, in order to get them to justify their presence in this country. I find that abhorrent, and I am astonished that that there is any Member in this House who does not find it abhorrent that our fellow citizens, just because they are a different colour or have a different accent, could be constantly required by the police – and will be, ineluctably, if this measure is on the statute book – to justify their presence in this country, simply to satisfy the mistaken belief on the part of many people that such a requirement will help to control illegal immigration, which it will not.
This is a fundamental change in the relationship between the citizen and the state. Such a change has only ever been introduced in countries that had authoritarian, fascist or communist Governments. It has never been introduced in a country with a common-law system, and I hope that we will not set the appalling example of adopting that system here today.
— Peter Lilley, Commons Debate on ID cards, 28 June
(The wonderful reasons why the DUP are opposing this bill, even though they believe in ID cards, can be found further up the page!)