Debates between Lord Desai and Lord Foulkes of Cumnock during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 6th Apr 2022
Elections Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Report stage & Report stage: Part 1

Elections Bill

Debate between Lord Desai and Lord Foulkes of Cumnock
Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I will speak to my Amendments 2, 3 and 4. Throughout the debates on the Bill I have been of an opposite view from most of my friends about the fear of identity cards. I do not have any fear of identity cards at all, nor do I believe that BAME people are so backward and so bad that they would be frightened by an identity card. I just do not see the logic. As I have said before in your Lordships’ House, India has ID cards; the 900 million voters there all use them and electronic voting machines. It is perfectly straightforward stuff and nobody is intimidated or discouraged from voting. If people are not voting, it might be that the quality of politics has declined and people do not see any point in voting—but that is a point that I will come to another time.

The main problem is that responsibility for getting an ID card should not be put on the voter. The Electoral Commission has to enable people to have an ID card. It has the resources. It is very simple. We live in a digitised world, so why are we still using pencil and paper?

For example, I recently moved from where I had lived for 17 years to somewhere in Lambeth. I immediately got a letter from the electoral registration office, saying, “This flat used to be vacant, now suddenly somebody’s occupying it. Will you please tell us who you are?” I sent back a form with my name and saying who else lived in the house. I posted it off and so I will be voting at my local polling station.

The electoral registration office has my particulars and my address. It would be very easy for it to send me an ID card. I do not see what the fuss is about. It has much more resources than I have as a voter, so it would be very easy for it to send me an ID card. It is a no-brainer, as far as I am concerned. My children’s and grandchildren’s generations laugh at this electoral system, in which people have to go to some booth, take a little pencil and put a cross.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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I do not understand what the noble Lord is saying. The last Labour Government started the procedure for introducing photo identity cards for everyone; the Conservatives scuppered the whole scheme. We should have had ID cards for everyone. The Government could then have introduced this, but they cannot when it is only privileged people with passports and driving licences who have photo IDs. The noble Lord should understand that.

Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I used to be on those Benches with the noble Lord, so I am not a stranger to that story. It was not only the Government who stopped it but the Liberal Democrats, whose great leader Nick Clegg cared so passionately for privacy that he has gone to work for Facebook. That was his price for agreeing to ID cards; the Labour Party could not pay it.

I do not care who was responsible—they were responsible, you were responsible—I now want to move on. The Bill is an opportunity for us to thoroughly rethink our electoral system, bring it into the 20th century if not the 21st and get on with it. We conduct our elections in the most antediluvian way possible.