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Identity cards would be a nuisance to the vast majority of the public. As we have already heard, they would be expensive and a major invasion of privacy. The cards would have those three problems and, I suggest, no benefits. They would increase crime rather than reduce it. They would lead to increased alienation between the police and certain sections of the community, probably young people and people with dark skins.
The cards have the potential for a great deal of increased state control over the individual. The areas that the hon. Member for Norfolk, North mentioned as being nice ways of reducing crime, would lead to greater state control over individuals. The House should think carefully about that.
I shall deal briefly with the question of nuisance. We must accept that we all have a portfolio of identity cards at present. I checked last night and I have a trade union card, a card to get into Brinnington Labour club, a Labour party membership card, a savings book, a cheque book, a House of Commons pass, a National Trust card, a kidney donor card, an AA card, a driving licence, a Co-op book, a video shop card and a library ticket. I suspect that many hon. Members may have more cards than I do and that many people will have fewer.
The attraction of all the existing cards is that we have total choice about when we present the cards and about the services that we wish to get from them. If we happen to lose one of them, it is usually possible to use one of the others to establish one's identity--
Mrs. Maureen Hicks (Wolverhampton, North-East) : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we have no choice when it comes to using our identity cards to gain access to the Palace of Westminster and that that is a compulsory card? I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has ever refused to enter this House because he had to use an identity card.
Mr. Bennett : I do not wish to get drawn into that. I do not think that it is a compulsory card--I believe that it is voluntary. I have seen many hon. Members enter the building without displaying their card. That makes it a little awkward on occasions for the policemen. It may be a little below the dignity of some hon. Members to be asked for their card. They assume that because they are on
Column 1274national television, they are well known and do not have to produce a card. As it is difficult to draw the line between someone who is readily recognised and somebody else who is not, there are often embarrassments about producing the card.
Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West) : I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman's experience has been like mine. Although I do not claim in any way to be as instantly recognisable as many hon. Members, I have never once in my entire period of membership of this House--since 1983--been asked to show my card. The Bill claims that the possession of identity cards will aid the police and reduce crime, but the only possible way in which that could work would be if cards were asked for of virtually everybody on virtually every occasion. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that is the only way that the cards that we carry would be of tremendous value to security.
Mr. Bennett : Yes, I accept that. I used to have rooms at Abbey gardens, and when I had to run across to vote, no policeman on the door ever stopped me to ask me to show my identity card to get in. I admit that I have lost my parliamentary identity card twice. On one occasion, I was changing my jacket and put the card down on the mantelpiece. It slipped between the wall and the fireplace. I had no intention of removing the fireplace to get it back so I simply reported its loss and got a replacement. On the other occasion, I was driving into the car park and can remember having laid the pass on the dashboard. I did not know where it had gone. So again, I simply asked for a replacement card. About a month later the other card reappeared from the bottom of the dashboard having slipped down. There is no real problem in losing those identity cards because they are easy to replace. A problem with the system is that if the cards are easy to replace, there will be little inconvenience to anybody, but if identity cards are difficult to replace, they will be a considerable nuisance.
On one occasion my credit card was damaged by the machine that it went through in a shop. There was some inconvenience in getting it replaced. I have also managed to damage my driving licence because of a leaking biro in my pocket. I do not think that I am particularly incompetent, but I challenge any hon. Member who votes for the Bill to be absolutely certain that he or she has never lost any card and had to have it replaced. If they can demonstrate that, on occasions, they, too, lose identity cards of one sort or another, they must recognise the problems that some people will experience if a national scheme is introduced.
Another problem is that some individuals like to change their appearance from time to time. I went through quite a difficult period when I had a passport with a photograph of me without my beard. My passport used to be scrutinised carefully, with the immigration officials looking at me and at the picture in the passport for quite a long time. Having looked at my employment, however, they would usually quickly let me pass. However, I am certain that many people will, from time to time, want to shave off a beard, grow a beard, throw away a toupee or want to change their hair colour from dark to blond. Obviously, it does not help if the photograph on one's identity card presents a very different image. Simple things like wearing or not wearing glasses can produce
Column 1275considerable problems. I do not think most people would feel that they ought to have their card changed every time there was a detail change, small or substantial.
So far as I can see, the problem about cards is that if it is a cumbersome process to replace them they become a nuisance to individuals. On the other hand, if it is an easy process they increase the opportunity for fraud and for misuse. Let me put a question to the hon. Gentleman who is promoting the Bill. What would happen if one of my constituents came down from Manchester to work in London for three or four weeks and, fairly early on, had his card stolen? Would he have to return home to get the documents necessary for replacement, or could he be issued with a temporary card here? I suggest that it would be wholly unreasonable to expect someone to return home to get the documents necessary for replacement.
Mr. Skinner : I think it was established during the course of the speech of hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill that there was going to be so much detail on the card that it would not be a card at all, but a Filofax, to be printed, perhaps, by Rupert Mudoch and his friends.
Mr. Bennett : I am not sure whether it would be a Filofax, but one of the frightening things is that, while it might be a very small card, there might be a whole lot of computer-encoded information on the magnetic tape. In other words, although the card would not tell my hon. Friend an awful lot, it might well tell other people a lot of things--perhaps things that he did not know but that were convenient for other people to put on his card, identifying him as someone who should perhaps be treated very carefully by authority because he was likely to make a fuss.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : Did the hon. Gentleman notice, as I did, during my hon. Friend's speech, how the purpose of this pass, or this internal passport, or whatever it is to be called, widened? It started off that a police officer was the only person required to see it. Then we got to the DHSS and a whole range of other people who are presumably going to be able to see it. A whole range of information will be on this card in one form or another.
Mr. Bennett : Yes, I can imagine all sorts of implications as to who should see it. Certainly there ought to be arrangements by which any encoded information on a card could be checked by the individual.
Mr. Bennett : Obviously the hon. Gentleman is aware of the expense involved in that. All I want to say at this point is that the more information you put in, the more safeguards you provide, and the more you attempt to prevent people from misusing the cards, the greater will be the expense for the state and for the individuals. There is also a major issue about privacy. How much information will go on the card? It is already accepted that details of appearance, national insurance number, address, car--if one owned a car--driving licence information, next of kin, blood group and so on would all seem to be sensible items of information to include. But ought a criminal record be included? Obviously, those concerned about cracking down on crime might consider that to be useful information. Where would we stop?
Column 1276be included is a person's poll tax number? Certainly, the Government are trying, under this poll tax, to take a lot of privacy away from people, and the poll tax officer, with all his powers, might be able to confiscate a person's identity card to stop him moving around the country, and might thus create all sorts of problems for individuals. Has my hon. Friend considered that point?
Mr. Bennett : No, I want to make a little bit of progress. It may be said that the points I made just now about what it is reasonable to include are all right--for instance, criminal convictions, if there have been any-- but what about police suspicion about an individual? Ought that to be included? What about questions concerning an individual's health? It might be very helpful if various pieces of health information were encoded. But all of this starts to erode the rights of the individual.
Mr. Ralph Howell : The hon. Gentleman has reminded me of a little part of my speech that I had forgotten to include. This card, if it were framed as I have suggested, would have the information that I have spelt out, which would be readable by the individual carrying it. There could be a panel where information, such as blood group or allergies or next of kin, could be included voluntarily. But I am not advocating a card that would have information that was not readable by the carrier.
Mr. Bennett : I thank the hon. Gentleman. The trouble is that once an identity card system has been introduced, the pressure to put on all sorts of extra things, and to make all sorts of information available, will grow steadily. It will always be slightly more convenient for Governments to have information included than to resist having it included.
I want to pose this question : to what extent does an individual have a right to change his identity? The tendency is for most people to assume that it is only criminals who want to change their identity, but I do not accept that. There are occasions on which people may have very good reasons for wanting to change their identity. At the moment anyone trying to do so can find it a very difficult process, but I think people have the right to do so. Let me give two examples.
First, a constituent of mine came to me very distressed that, over the years, she had suffered a considerable amount of violence from her ex- husband. Almost every time he had a little to drink he would turn up at her house and be abusive. She got a court injunction, but it was not all that easy to enforce. In the end, she moved to the other end of the constituency. She changed her name, and for three years she managed to live at her new address with a totally new identity and without suffering any harassment or difficult. She was extremely relieved.
Unfortunately, her ex-husband was so persistent that, after three years, he managed to trick one of the very few officials who knew where she had moved into giving away the district. As a result, she found that he was going round that district regularly at the weekends asking if anyone knew where she lived. Fortunately, he did not know that she had changed her name, and so she was aware that he was looking for her before he had a chance to find her.
Column 1277What she was extremely upset about was the fact that some official had passed on information about where she was living.
Under this Bill would it be easy for someone to change his identity so that there could be a different name on the identity card? It seems to me that it was perfectly reasonable for the lady I have cited to want to change her identity. It was not a criminal thing at all ; indeed, she was actually trying to avoid crime.
The other case I have in mind concerns a lad of about 13, who had been in a great deal of trouble in his local community. He had never been convicted of any crime, but the police had certainly come to the conclusion that he was one of the ringleaders in a lot of trouble on the estate. The community policeman very sensibly said to his father, "If this lad stays here, sooner or later he is going to be in the courts and in serious trouble. I suggest that you persuade him to go and live somewhere else. He might get a fresh start."
The lad moved to live with his married sister and he got into no more trouble at all. He grew up and came to me some years later about a different problem, and he mentioned this to me. When he moved and changed his Christian name information held by the police in Stockport passed to police in Tameside, and so he was able to start with a clean sheet. There are lots of teenagers who get a certain reputation in a particular neighbourhood and, perhaps rightly, they are picked on by the police. The big advantage to these young people is that they can change their identity. I could give other examples, but I believe that it is reasonable for someone to be able to change his identity for perfectly legal reasons.
The legislation will certainly increase crime.
Mr. Cohen : My hon. Friend made excellent points about people who legitimately want to change their names. Is he also aware that people might, quite legitimately, want to change their name and identity as a matter of personal choice because they do not like their name? I am aware of a former Minister whose brother did not like the name of his daughter.
Mr. Cohen : No, it was Cohen actually. I think it is an excellent name, but the family did not like it, so they changed it--quite rightly, because that was their choice. We would surely not want to get people into trouble with their identity cards because they wanted to change their name for that reason.
Mr. Bennett : I accept that problem. Unfortunately one sometimes gets saddled with a name that suddenly becomes identified with someone who is daily hitting the headlines for criminal reasons. If one has that name, it can cause problems.
Mr. Bennett : If the identity card carries a person's name and he changes his name so that he is commonly known by a different name, it is essential for him to change his identity card. If it is easy to change the identity card, people with criminal reasons for wanting to change their
Column 1278name will take advantage of that. The number on the identity card then becomes important and starts to count--not the name. If the number counts, the information held against it can cause problems. If it is easy for people to change their identity, it becomes difficult to make the system stick. If it is made difficult to change identity, that will cause problems for some people who have every right to change their identity.
The Bill will increase crime because, quite clearly, stealing and forging identity cards for various purposes will hold attractions for some people. The measure will not stop terrorist activity and other serious crime. We know that terrorist groups can forge fairly complicated documents, such as passports, with considerable success. It will not be difficult for such people to produce forged identity cards and get round the legislation.
Mr. Beggs : I feel, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree, that there is more evidence of the illegal sale of legitimate passports in this country than there is of the manufacture of illegal passports.
Mr. Bennett : I do not think that that is very relevant. If people can get round the complicated problems of the forgery and illegal use of passports, a number of criminals will, fairly quickly, turn their minds to forging and reproducing identity cards. We are offering some entrepreneurial criminal the opportunity to set up in a new avenue of crime --the production of illegal identity cards.
Mr. Stern rose --
The Bill will not solve crime, but increase it. It will increase alienation, too. If the identity cards are to be effective, people will have to ask to see them. I suspect that if a policeman sees a certain category of people he will be circumspect about asking to see their identity cards. Other groups of people, particularly youngsters and those from ethnic minorities, are likely to feel--even if it is not true--that they are being stopped much more frequently than others.
I could make much of the issue of state control. I was alarmed at the way in which Kent miners were, in my view, illegally stopped when going to picket in the north of England. I have also been concerned about the way in which people going to the summer solstice at Stonehenge have been stopped. If identity cards are introduced, police will be more likely to exercise that sort of state control. I shall mention one or two specific problems : first, the matter of whether the Bill will solve under-age drinking. I do not think that it will. In my experience, it is a fair challenge to many youngsters to try to get round the present drinking laws and they will simply tackle getting round the identity card with the same enthusiasm. In many pubs, at least in the north of England, youngsters have taken to carrying photocopies of birth certificates. The up-to-date landlord knows that photocopies of birth certificates are useless. Youngsters have developed two simple tricks. First, they copy a birth certificate, put a bit of Tippex on and then re-copy it. In that way they can changed their age by one or two years. The second common practice is to photocopy the birth certificate of an elder brother or sister. If identity cards are
Column 1279introduced some under-age drinkers will use the identity card of someone else in the family who looks reasonably like them. Also, publicans meet problems because they often face groups of drinkers, some of whom are under age and some over age, and they are not sure who is drinking what. The hon. Member for Norfolk, North said that there would be a card of one colour for those under 18 and a different coloured card for those over 18. If someone ends up having to show the card as he puts the glass to his mouth, that will not solve the problem.
The Bill will certainly not solve the problem of football crowds. Some newspapers said that it would solve the problem of people who travel from door to door. However, I suggest that it would be risky for anyone to allow someone into his house merely because he showed a national identity card. If he wants safety, he must make sure that the card is one issued by a legitimate organisation such as the gas or electricity board. It would be dangerous for anyone to be lulled into allowing someone in simply because they produced a national identity card. The Bill would have no impact on terrorists and in some cases might even produce false security. The fine imposed on somebody for not having an identity card could cause considerable hardship.
How much has the hon. Member for Norfolk, North looked at groups of people who already carry identity cards? He should spend some time considering university campuses, on many of which identity cards of some sort are already issued. Most universities and colleges have a problem because they contain certain facilities that students are entitled to use and others that they are not. One hall of residence might provide meals and another might be self-catering. There may be many attractive facilities on university campuses that people outside might like to use.
I have talked to many students who have told me about many dodges to get round student identity cards, and to many people who administer the cards. They all admit that it is a nightmare trying to keep ahead of all the dodges. Perhaps students are particularly enterprising, but I suspect that the sort of problems involving identity cards that crop up in most universities and college campuses would also crop up among the general public.
Within a short time of the cards being introduced they will be totally discredited and all we shall have achieved is to spend a great deal of money to no effect. I hope that the House will defeat the measure when it comes to the vote because it will prove an expensive nuisance and an invasion of privacy. It will increase crime and alienate many people from the police and law enforcement. It has much potential for creating a big brother state to control us all. Several Hon. Members rose--
Sir Rhodes Boyson (Brent, North) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Howell) on introducing the Bill. It will be the subject of discussion not only today but, I hope, when it goes to Committee and
Column 1280subsequently. Due to the attitude of the Home Office to a voluntary card system, this will be the first of many debates on the matter. I listened carefully to the speech by the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett). The Bill is not ideal, but no Bill--even a Government one--ever is. We can improve the Bill in Committee and it will be the start perhaps not of a march but of a movement towards compulsory identity cards within a short time. Last year, my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell) introduced a ten-minute Bill, which was defeated by 172 votes to 114. The payroll vote, as some people call it, was not used. That shows that the majority of Conservative Members are in favour of identity cards.
European integration and 1992, whatever our views on those things, have been mentioned. Only Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland do not have compulsory or voluntary identity cards. A card would bring us more into line with Europe, which has easier frontier controls and tighter internal controls. We have tight frontier controls but much slacker internal controls.
The card would do many things. First, it will assist in easier identification. We have a massive crime wave, especially of violent crime, and many people live in terror. I shall talk about that later. In introducing the Bill, my hon. Friend was right to speak about fear and violent crime. The card will help in that respect, especially if it has a photograph and a signature. Later I shall say how I believe the addition of fingerprints would help in other ways. A photograph and a signature would help to identify people who have terrorist or violent tendencies. As my hon. Friend also said, it would reduce credit fraud, which is estimated to cost £20 million to £25 million a year. Those who behave properly always suffer because of fraud, and I am old fashioned enough to be on the side of those who behave properly, and on that basis I favour the Bill.
There are also problems with social security fraud. The genuine social security recipient suffers when other people exploit the system. In my view, some social security fraud can be as high as 20 or 30 per cent., and that means that money is not going to people whose families desperately need it.
An identity card would also help in accident identification. I was told by somebody in the Strangers' Dining Room last week that American bodies in the Lockerbie air disaster were identified using fingerprints. One family suffered in London because they did not have fingerprints of their son who had been killed in the crash. The police and investigators had to go round the family's house and dust everywhere until they found the son's fingerprints. That is the first time that I have heard of such a case. Fingerprints can help better than anything to determine identity.
A person's blood group should be on the card. If somebody is involved in a traffic accident and is bleeding to death, it is necessary to know the blood group immediately. The card would also help to control illegal immigration, and we know that genuine immigrants suffer because of the illegal ones. The card would help to control under-age drinking. My hon. Friend has suggested different coloured cards for those under 18. Licensed victuallers have sent out 500,000 cards for completion and only 13,000 have been returned. Hon. Members will agree that we have a responsibility to keep an eye on what is going on in the public houses in our constituencies, and they know that it is difficult to determine whether a person
Column 1281is 18. People who are over 18 sometimes look younger and people who are under 18 sometimes look well above that age. That makes it difficult for licensees to comply with the law.
In Committee we could consider the use of the card to control truancy. It is estimated that in some London schools truancy in the fifth year can be as high as 70 per cent., and in ILEA there have been estimates that the average for the whole of London is 45 to 50 per cent. The card would identify children who are getting into wayward ways instead of being in school under some sort of discipline. There is no doubt that if we do not get things right in schools in the fifth year, we shall have major criminals later. The boredom of that fifth year could lead pupils to break the law and turn to ways of gaining money illegally.
I shall listen to all that is said in the debate because there will be continuous discussion on this topic until the matter is settled. The poll tax has been mentioned. In that context, identity cards would help to maintain electoral registers. In some constituencies those registers are appalling. I believe that they are worse than they have been for 100 years. What we now call our constituency agents were originally appointed to check the electoral registers, and before long they will have to return to that job, especially in marginal seats. Presumably all seats are marginal--even yours, Mr. Deputy Speaker, under certain conditions, though we would never wish that upon you. If I were in what is called a marginal seat I would be seriously worried about the state of the registers.
All the problems that I have mentioned can be eased by information placed on a card for everybody to see. We have heard about the possibility of secret information being put on the card. There will be a great divide there, even among supporters of a compulsory card system. Should the card carry only basic factual information or should it carry other information on magnetic tape? Instead of a kidney donor card, people might want to put on the identity card that they are willing to donate their organs in the case of sudden death. It is difficult to put all that information on the card unless magnetic tape is used, and that will need to be discussed. I have not made up my mind about that, but I am suspicious of it and it is not intended as the Bill stands. I would put more on the identity card than my hon. Friend suggests in his Bill.
What rational person could oppose the Bill? It will be opposed by many Opposition Members. I find it astonishing that Members of the Labour party, many of whom I admire, should oppose compulsory identity cards. The old philosophy of Socialism was to take from the person with ability and give to the person with needs. That requires information--more information than Conservative philosophy requires. The Opposition would need to know who people are, their income and everything else. It is not my job to help the Labour party, and I draw attention to the fact that in Brondesbury, in Brent, the Labour party lost a seat yesterday. I am sorry to upset Opposition Members, but they may have lost that seat because they are losing touch with their people.
Sir Rhodes Boyson : I am sure that the Minister would like to know the party more than the name, but I can give him both. I will give him additional information, just as additional information can be put on identity cards. The party that won by nearly 400 votes and took the seat from the Labour party was the Conservative party, of which I and my right hon. and hon. Friends are proud to be members. The Liberal party came second and the Labour party, which has fallen on evil days--I am trying to help it to return to the purity of its early beliefs--came third, just ahead of the Green party.
Mr. Sedgemore : As the right hon. Gentleman is so worried about what is going on in the Labour party, may I report that I have just returned from Pontypridd and everything there is super, smashing, stupendous, wonderful.
Sir Rhodes Boyson rose--
Sir Rhodes Boyson : I do not want to be led astray by the hon. Gentleman. I wish to help him, but I must get back to the Bill. I have some other good thoughts which I can offer the Labour party on another occasion.
Some people oppose the measure on libertarian grounds. My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) may do so. But what liberty? The liberty that I am concerned about in my constituency is the liberty to travel safely on the Northern Line after 9 pm, to visit tower blocks and for the people inside them to leave them in safety, and to walk the streets in safety. That liberty is under threat in our society.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : My right hon. Friend makes the same point as my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Howell). No hon. Member who supports the Bill has yet told us how identity cards will help to improve freedom and individual liberty by supporting law and order. There is certainly no evidence of that from 1952.
Sir Rhodes Boyson : My hon. Friend is probably more aware of what happened in 1952 than I am. Perhaps he will enlighten me as to what happened then. The fact that everybody will have to carry an identity card with their name on it will in itself deter. Deterrence is much better than punishment. I offer that to my hon. Friend as a title for a speech.
I will explain why I feel so strongly on this issue. As recently as 1 February the headlines in the Evening Standard were : "Women in Fear on City Trains."
That is why the Guardian Angels have come on to the Tube. Vigilantes move in when security disappears. People give the Government the right to provide law and order in
Column 1283society, but once that breaks down they will take their defence into their own hands, and rightly so. It is an old political philosophy and we are near it. There is a strange coincidence in the arrival of the Guardian Angels and the number of police that I have seen on the Tube in central London. In the past fortnight I have seen six, whereas in the past year I have seen none, so the Guardian Angels have already done something for law and order. I have never met any of them and I have no designs on becoming one, although I am a guardian angel to my constituency.
Sir Rhodes Boyson : I have tried previously to explain this to the hon. Gentleman. I have a high regard for his intelligence, and he, too, is a northerner. I always find his speeches fascinating and interesting in every way. I pay him every tribute, although it may damage him in his constituency.
The fact that people know that they carry a card which identifies them will deter. My research suggests that 10.14 per cent. will never go on the streets again once they have a card. That is a major statistic. It is a personal one, as nobody has done the research but myself, but I have no doubt that that would be the case.
On 12 January the Evening Standard said that more than one third of women in one area of Tower Hamlets are now carrying weapons for self-defence, as are many men. I will tell the House of three incidents in Brent. An 81-year -old woman returning from the sales in January this year was mugged, left with two broken limbs and died. A disabled spastic 23-year-old with limited use of his legs had his special bicycle broken for the third time while he and his father were paying their weekly visit to the grave of his mother. On Christmas eve, an 83-year-old woman was kicked and punched and had her £15 taken from her when she visited her husband's grave, as she always has done on the eve of Christmas. Even her posy of flowers was taken.
Those are just three incidents, but they bring horror to everyone living round about. If we ignore this great concern, we shall ignore something that is strongly felt, certainly in inner-city areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North has already referred to the mother and daughter who died in Camden because they had literally made their home into a castle. Two people in Stockwell died because of the defences built into their home to stop other people getting in.
Mr. Cohen : Such cases are horrendous and appalling, but I cannot see how an identity card would make any difference because criminals would not carry an identity card. Identity cards could make the position worse. A criminal could steal an identity card and gain access to peoples homes on false pretences. Those cases would be made more rather than less likely.
Sir Rhodes Boyson : The hon. Gentleman talks about people changing their identity. Both he and I have done it in a hairy sense in our lives from time to time. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) is also
Column 1284part of the secret hairy club in the House of Commons. A criminal would have to be clever to steal a card with a photograph which looks exactly like him. He would have to search for a long time and that would keep him out of mischief for many years. Obviously, there would be a line across the photograph to authenticate it. Perhaps that would be the answer. A criminal would have to spend his whole life going round the country. By the age of 65 he would have a free ticket to do that, and perhaps only then would he find somebody with an identical photograph. The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point.
What do the people at the bottom of the pile think about this? There is no point asking people who are driven around and live in salubrious areas. We need to ask what the grass roots think. I understand that a survey on truancy in schools is being carried out by a member of the noble House. I do not mean noble House in the Chinese sense, but the House that approximates to ours. If that survey asks not class teachers but headteachers what is happening, it may as well be burnt. Headteachers hoping for promotion will never say that there is trouble in their school until the day after they retire. We must ask the classroom teachers.
It is the same with the police. It is no use asking the chief constables. We must ask the constables on the beat in downtown areas. The 120,000 members of the Police Federation overwhelmingly want identity cards. Like me, they believe that this will help. Indeed, the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) may ultimately come to believe that himself.
We should also ask women. The Townswomen's Guild passed a resolution at the last general meeting for identity cards to be introduced to combat increasing problems of law and order. Mrs. Jean Ellerton, the national chairman, said :
"We had to have identity cards during the War because of the danger of Fifth columnists. The malaise of violence in our society is like a Fifth column, another enemy within the state."
Old-age pensioners suffer more than anybody from the fear of going out as they lose the ability to defend themselves. Mrs. Dorothy Rhodes--that is a good name and I shall repeat it in case any hon. Members missed it-- [Interruption.] I will speak to the hon. Gentleman privately. I must not interrupt my speech because of his sedentary remarks. I will save the time of the House by telling him afterwards if there is any relationship. Last year, Mrs. Dorothy Rhodes, president of the Conference of Old Age Pensioners, said : "Crime for the elderly is a very great fear. Fear is a killer, and imprisons pensioners in their homes, and something must be done to make them feel safer."
All of us carry credit cards--indeed, some people carry them like medals that they have won in the war. The wife of one self-employed building contractor told me that those contractors have to carry cards containing a photograph, signature and national insurance number. Those cards are issued by the Government and have to be renewed every three years, having been signed by two inspectors. I know that I must not go into the issue of which of us change our appearance or whether we may lose our identity, but if one of those contractors grows a beard or his whiskers fall out because he sits up too smartly in bed he has to get another card signed by two inspectors. The regulations covering those people are tight.