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Column 1285If that is done to ensure that we are not exploited for our money, surely something must be done to ensure that we are not exploited by crime.
My case is not based on the idea that secret information may be held on an identity card. Throughout Britain there is a great fear of sudden violence being inflicted on people going about their business. That fear is felt especially in inner-city and downtown areas. The legislation is one attempt to help. Right hon. and hon. Members who oppose the Bill, as is their right --I recognise the integrity of their views--must propose alternative legislation to lessen people's fear. The opponents of the Bill have asked us what it will do. I wait for any of them to tell me what magic formula they can produce to bring safety to the people who come to my constituency surgery about the problems on the Chalkhill estate and in other areas.
I welcome the Bill because it offers the beginning of a debate on safety and on law and order in inner cities. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have experienced the problems. We believe that identity cards will assist considerably, and I welcome the beginning of a debate that will continue for several months.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : I oppose the Bill on grounds of principle and utility. I do not believe that my hon. Friends who support it have looked into the background to the previous two national registration schemes as closely as they might have done and seen the problems then.
It surprises me that Conservative Members--we are united in our philosophy- -who opposed and scrapped national registration in 1952 and who belong to a party which had a bonfire of controls and wanted to set the people free, should lead the campaign to bring back such restrictions. National identity cards are a profoundly unBritish idea which would lead to increased power of the state over the citizen. We must start from that position and ask ourselves whether what is suggested in the Bill is likely to improve law and order. If it is, is the price that we will pay in individual freedom worth paying? If it is not, should we have the Bill?
The history of national registration started, not in the second world war, as my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Howell) said, but in 1915 during the first world war.
Compulsory registration for people between 15 and 65 was introduced in 1915 and affected some 25 million people. The legislation made it clear that it would lapse as soon as the war ended, and it did. During the second world war, similar legislation was given a Second Reading in one hour and 18 minutes on 4 September 1939, and 46 million people came under the subsequent regulations. The legislation remained in place until 1952, when a Conservative Government, freshly elected to office, scrapped national registration and the national identity card as one of their first actions.
One can get a flavour of the period from reading the debates on the issue in 1945, 1947 and 1950, when
Column 1286Conservative Members repeatedly tried to pass Bills to scrap national identity cards. Aneurin Bevan, the Minister of Health, said :
"The National Register also renders valuable services to the Ministry of Food and the Board of Trade in connection with rationing of food and clothing, and to the Ministry of Labour in connection with the administration of National Service (Armed Forces) Act, 1939, and the Registration of Employment Order, 1941. Considerable use will also be made of the National Register for the purpose of bringing into operation the new scheme of children's allowances. The register has also proved valuable in re-uniting families which had been separated owing to evacuation and other incidents for the purpose of tracing individuals whose claims under the War Damage Act, 1941, have not been satisfied owing to their whereabouts being unknown, and in various other ways of benefit to the individual concerned." --[ Official Report, 6 December 1945 ; Vol. 416, c. 2497-8.] One can almost smell snoek and spam in that justification. I especially like the reference to using the card after the war "in various other ways of benefit to the individual concerned." Not one of the reasons why we had national identity cards during and after the war is now valid. I cannot believe that we wish to set up a bureaucracy of the size expected and made necessary under the Bill merely to ensure that some people feel free from fear. They would be no less likely to be attacked.
Mr. Ray Whitney (Wycombe) : My hon. Friend has given a fascinating history from 1915 to 1952. Would he like to continue that history into the next 37 years, with the serious social and economic problems created by the crime wave? Of course that did not just happen in this country. The Bill must relate to the history of the past 37 years, not to the history of the years between 1915 and 1952.
Mr. Bennett : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I shall return to the issue of the card's utility and the grounds on which I feel that it will not do any good in improving law and order. The evidence of the crime wave, which continued after the war, shows that national identity cards did nothing to prevent crime. There is no evidence from other countries that it did.
Mr. Ralph Howell : How can my hon. Friend say that, because the cards were abolished in 1952, no good could have been done? My hon. Friend cannot prove that. We do not know whether the crime rate would have been as great as it is now had we continued to have those cards. Will my hon. Friend address himself to what he would do to stop the increase in crime-- or does he feel that it is at an acceptable level?
Mr. Bennett : My hon. Friend says that the fact that the crime rate continued to rise during the second world war and in the 1950s and 1960s is not evidence that national identity cards did not work. I cannot see from the figures that those cards had any effect on the crime rate in those years, because it continued to rise. All the evidence from countries with national ID cards shows no diminution in crime.
I should be happy on another occasion to debate with my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North the nature of crime and law and order. There is a plethora of measures that we might take, and which the Government have already taken to combat crime. I do not think that the national ID card had any effect on law and order. The bureaucracy involved and the cost of the measure are out of all proportion to the effects of the card on crime.
Mr. Waller : Was it not significant that our right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) said that he would wait with interest to hear about some magic scheme from those who oppose the national identity card? Does that not reveal that the Bill's proponents see this is a magic scheme which will in some way solve all the law and order problems about which so many people are worried?
Mr. Bennett : My hon. Friend is right. That is why hon. Members who oppose the Bill have questioned the Bill's proponents about how they envisage old ladies living in council blocks in Camden being made more free and safe because they have to have a national identity card. For a start, we know that the first thing that criminals will do is to find a way around it. We will have a black market in identity cards. It is important to detect the criminal. We can carry all the cards we like in our pockets, but, if we cannot catch the criminal, it will not make any difference. Detection is all important.
I shall examine the principles underlying the Bill and where we should start. I start on the presumption that the state does not have the right to force the citizen to register his or her movements and that the citizen has the right to privacy.
It is up to the proposer and supporters of the Bill to come forward with such compelling and overwhelming reasons why the basic, long-held and cherished liberties of the individual and of English and Scottish law should be removed. The state--that is, the legal embodiment of society in the form of the Executive, the legislature and the judiciary--must be seen as a system of restraints on the activities of the individual, justifiable only insofar as it protects his or her freedoms and rights. The law should aim to provide a system of restraints which, although limiting freedom in some respects, maximises overall freedom. John Stuart Mill, who was not a Conservative but a classical liberal, in "On Liberty" in 1859, wrote :
"The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self- protection."
Later, I shall deal with how the Bill measures up to the principles of liberty and how effective it will be in practice in achieving what its proposer has claimed. Would its overwhelming utility justify an increase in the power of the state? From what I have heard from him, I do not believe that my hon. Friend has made out that case.
It is worth reminding ourselves of the reasons the Conservative party fought so hard to abolish the wartime identity card. W. S. Morrison, who was later a Speaker in the House, in the debate on the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Bill 1947--that has a nice period flavour about it--said :
"On general principle, and without going into the overriding temporary necessities, the idea should be that a free-born member of the community is entitled to go without let or hindrance in his own realm. He should not be under the necessity of proving his identity or of producing a document to vouch that he is an ordinary British citizen."
He concluded :
"We should do as much as we can to simplify life, and restore it to its ancient freedom, and absence of formality. We should restore to the citizen the dignity of his rights and
Column 1288privileges, without the necessity for the production of a piece of paper to prove who he is."--[ Official Report, 20 November 1947, Vol. 444, c. 1429-31.]
That was the view of the Conservative party after the war, when the national emergency and the reason for having identity cards had gone. In 1950, Chuter Ede, the then Labour Home Secretary declared : "The National Register and the identity card are something alien to the English way of life and I hope also to the Scottish way of life".--[ Official Report, Standing Commitee A, 27 June 1950 ; c. 55.]
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary brought the argument up to date in his speech to the Conservative political centre conference last week, when he said :
"I am sceptical of the State pushing too far in seeking to restrict individual liberty. There have been calls to ban completely the private ownership of firearms, or to legislate against amusement arcades in the hope that this will somehow induce financial responsibility amongst teenagers. The latest fashionable medicine for our social ills is the compulsory identity card. There are some arguments in favour of it, though its usefulness would depend on what sort of information was included. The more information you include, of course, the greater the dangers of error, abuse and excessive State power."
Having discussed the underlying principles, I will refer to the Bill and examine what is proposed. The 57 per cent. of the population who my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North said were in favour of the Bill will get the greatest shock. I suspect that this will lead the majority to revise their opinions about the usefulness of the Bill.
The Bill proposes that everybody aged 12 years or over ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom shall be in possession of a valid identity card.
The Bill applies to first-year pupils in secondary schools. They will be required to possess and carry an identity card and be subject to the criminal law if they do not do so. Also, 48 million people, if they are not in possession of a valid identity card, will find themselves
"guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3"--
that is, £400--
"on the standard scale."
That is in clause 1(3). Clause 1(4) states :
"A constable, if he has reasonable grounds for doing so, may require any person who is in a public place to produce his identity card for examination so as to enable the constable to ascertain its validity."
No sign is given of what constitutes reasonable grounds. The proposer of the Bill has failed to give any guidance on that point. There is no schedule listing the grounds that might constitute reasonable grounds. Are we to await case law or internal police or Home Office memoranda? It is difficult to think of any ground that could not be made reasonable under the clauses of the Bill.
Mr. Ralph Howell : I explained that the intention behind the Bill as drafted, whether or not it is properly drafted, is that the law will remain the same as it is now. If he has reasonable cause to do, a constable may ask any person to identify himself. That is an easier means of identifying oneself than at present.
I now refer to present police powers. The Bill will increase such powers, which we got rid of in 1982 when we abolished the sus laws. One has only to look at the way in which some high-profile chief constables use the road traffic Acts to operate in effect, random breath tests. The constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk,
Column 1289North is a classic example. Between 19 December 1988 and 1 January this year. Norfolk police administered 2,872 breath tests on "reasonable grounds", and achieved a success rate of 1.1 per cent. Having tested 2,872 people, they caught 33 drivers.
Mr. Bennett : If my hon. Friend compares the accident figures for Norfolk with those of Northumbria, where there is a 65 per cent. success rate in apprehending drunken drivers, he will see that there is no difference in the accident rate in counties in which the police breath-test thousands of innocent people and in those where they test people who they have reasonable grounds for believing are committing an offence of some sort. We must be careful how we extend police powers when we already see high-profile chief constables who want to make a name for themselves already using the law to its maximum, and sometimes appearing to go beyond their powers.
The police in Norfolk managed to get it wrong in 98.9 per cent. of cases over Christmas. What confidence can my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North have that they will not operate similar swoops on pedestrians doing their Christmas shopping in Norwich to check the validity of their identity cards?
Mr. Bennett : We have seen chief constables going over the top in setting up road blocks around the country and breathalysing people. Clearly, with the 98.9 per cent. failure rate, they are not doing so on reasonable grounds. I do not have my hon. Friend's confidence that, if the Bill is enacted, chief constables will not use the powers in the Bill for all sorts of things, such as swoops on supposed burglars. We already see it in car stops, and we can see it being done to pedestrians.
Sir Rhodes Boyson : Breath tests are presumably to stop drunken drivers. My hon. Friend drew a parallel with Christmas shoppers and said that the police will stop them. Presumably Christmas shoppers will not knock people over because they are drunk ; if they do, behaviour in his part of the country must be very strange.
Mr. Bennett : My right hon. Friend misses the point. Norfolk police, who have the worst breath test success rate, are stopping thousands of innocent people. Northumbria police are managing to stop more drunken drivers, despite having breath-tested only just over 200 people. If Norfolk police did their job more effectively, they might catch more people. The breath test figures show how different police forces use their powers.
Mr. Bennett : I have read the accident figures and there is no truth in what my hon. Friend says. The accident rate in Norfolk is no better than the rest of the country. I asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport
Column 1290a question about the figures specifically to ascertain what they showed. Clearly the methods of the Norfolk police are not a deterrent.
The powers of chief officers and police constables are being abused by some for high profile purposes. Whether they are effective is another matter, but I fear that under this Bill the same abuses will occur.
What will happen if Mrs. Bloggins does not have her card when a constable wishes to ascertain its validity? What questions will he ask to ascertain its validity? Will he ask, "Is this your photograph, Mrs. Bloggins? Were you really born in 1941? Are you sure that you still live at this address?" If Mrs. Bloggins does not have her card when a constable stops her, under clause 1(5) she will be not only guilty of an offence but a constable in uniform may arrest without warrant if he reasonably suspects that she has committed an offence under clause 1(3). I remind the House that clause 1(3) forces Mrs. Bloggins to carry her card.
Supporters of the Bill may argue that I am being unfair to Mrs. Bloggins and that she has a get-out in clause 1(5) should she be foolish enough to forget her card. Clause 1(5) says :
"Provided that if within seven days after the production of his identity card was so required a person produces the identity card at such police station as may have been specified by him at the time its production was required, he shall not be convicted of an offence under this subsection."
"Hold on," says Mrs. Bloggins, who is a qualified lawyer and unlike her friend, Mrs. Sniggins, has followed the Bill through its meandering subsections. "What about clause 1(3), which makes it an offence not to be in possession of a card? Is that not still an offence, even if I have been relieved of my criminality in not producing it for a constable under clause 1(4) if I go to the police station within seven days?"
We are putting thousands of people at risk. For the technicality of possessing an identity card, we shall be making them into criminals and liable to fines of £400 and the option, under certain subsections of the Bill, to up to six months' imprisonment.
Mr. Whitney : My hon. Friend is painting a harrowing picture of the harassment and persecution of Mrs. Bloggins under clause 1(4) and other subsections of the Bill. My hon. Friend fears that Mrs. Bloggins would be harassed, but has he any evidence that in France Mme. Leblanc has been similarly harassed? I suggest that there is no evidence of that.
Mr. Bennett : It is not compulsory to carry an identity card in France. A person merely has to give an officer his identity. Many abuses occur in France--the French police are not noted for their gentleness. If my hon. Friend thinks that the French police deal with the French public courteously and tactfully and demand their identity cards with complete correctness, he has another think coming.
Mrs. Maureen Hicks : My hon. Friend is making grave accusations about the police. Is he saying that the police will stop Mrs. Bloggins irrespective of whether they genuinely believe that she may have committed a criminal act?
Mr. Bennett : My hon. Friend has obviously led a sheltered life. I have been stopped when driving my car on a number of occasions--I cannot claim to be such a fine, upstanding member of the community as my hon. Friend
Column 1291the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) or my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson). The police operate road blocks to stop motorists and say, "Is this your motor vehicle? May we have a look at your tax? Would you mind getting out of the car, sir, and may we look in the boot?" They do not have reasonable grounds when they stop the motorist, but they will be prepared to justify afterwards their "reasonable grounds" for stopping him.
Mr. Bennett : I do not object to occasional road blocks to try to track down burglars. My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) is implying that road blocks do not take place. My hon. Friend must live in a different world from the rest of us, who experience this from time to time.
It is right that the police should have certain powers, but Parliament and the public should ensure that they do not overuse them or use them in a way that Parliament did not intend. Anyone who believes that, from time to time, individual officers do not abuse their powers and that officers do not go over the top is kidding himself. We must be careful to ensure that we do not give opportunities to the bullying policeman to use powers on members of the public for no good reason.
What bureaucracy will be needed to implement the provisions in respect of cards on Mrs. Bloggins and the rest of our constituents? Clause 2 says that the Home Secretary will make arrangements for the preparation and issue of the necessary forms and instructions to comply with them. I hope that he does not employ the author of the explanatory notes for income tax forms. He is instructed to issue cards, to give out new ones on production of a fee for lost cards and will prescribe the particulars to be put on the cards. Mrs. Bloggins's age will appear on the card. Do my hon. Friends remember the problems with people's ages appearing on drivers' licences? The Bill will make it compulsory for people to show their age on an identity card.
Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton) : The poll tax legislation comes into operation in Scotland this year. Everyone who fills in the poll tax form will, unlike the position in England, be required to give their date of birth. That has caused concern and trouble to the Scottish authorities. No one can understand why it is necessary, and not only women but men have objected strongly to having to give their date of birth.
Mr. Bennett : I take the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. The community charge information will be private and will not be published under the identity card system, people's ages will be public knowledge. Great care has been taken to disguise people's ages on their driving licences.
Some of my hon. Friends are suggesting that the community charge information should be on the identity card. The Government have given specific promises that that will not happen. Information given about the community charge will be privileged and kept confidential. To place that information on an identity card would be a breach of the undertakings that have been given.
Column 1292The Home Secretary will prescribe the material to be used in the fabrication of the cards and will give information for dealing with cards of deceased people.
An enormous state bureaucracy will have to be set up to administer the scheme, presumably involving local offices. Some 48 million people will be required to register initially. In an answer to a question that I tabled, my hon. Friend he Minister of State, Home Office said that it would cost £350 million to set up the system. Quite a few district hospitals could be bought with that money. It is further estimated that it will cost between £50 million and £100 million to run.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : Can the hon. Gentleman tell us how many policemen on the beat we would get for that sort of money? Many Labour Members have been pressing the Home Office that in areas such as Greater Manchester there should be more policemen. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that more patrolling policemen would be better than having identity cards?
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : Working on the basis that one police officer costs about £20,000, 50 police officers would cost about £1 million. The hon. Gentleman can work out how many police officers £350 million would buy.
Some hon. Members may claim that the Home Office has inflated the figures. Let us look at the costs and staff of the National Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre and the Passport Office. Neither registers as many names and addresses as would be required under national identity card registration. The annual running costs of the DVLC, with 6.6 million valid licences issued in the last year for which we have figures, was £21 million and there were 915 staff. The total number of licences issued is 27 million, which is over 20 million fewer than would be necessary under the Bill. The number of passports issued is 2,418,000 and there were 2,100,000 visitors passports. The cost for that was £42.9 million. The number of staff in post is 770 and the establishment is 923. One can see that the Home Office figures are not far out on the Bill. We are considering £350 million to establish the system and £50 million to £100 million to keep it running.
Mr. John Patten : Is my hon. Friend aware that the Home Office's calculation of the total cost of approximately £350 million for a compulsory registration scheme is based on comparative costs drawn from the Passport Office, where about £7.50 per passport unit is generally the cost?
Clause 2 requires the citizen to notify changes of address. The average person moves every seven years and 10 per cent. of the population have been in their present home for less than a year--that is 4.8 million people. A further 6.7 million people have been at their present address for between 12 and 36 months and another 5.7 million, or 12 per cent. of the population, have been at their present address for between three and five years. If one adds the number of new cards that would have to be issued on change of name, and if we assume a 2 per cent. loss rate, which is lower than that experienced by the clearing banks, one can see that there would be almost another 1 million cards that would have to be issued.
Column 1293One can see the enormity of the Bill. We are considering the issue of 6 million or 7 million cards a year. An enormous bureaucracy would be required and there would be great inconvenience to the average British citizen. Nor would the Bill achieve the aims and utility that it proclaims. Far from assisting with law and order, it would positively hinder it by creating new offences and police powers. It would clog up the courts at great cost and low benefit. It would divert scarce police resources for the enforcement of the regulations. With a loss rate of 2 per cent., there will be almost 1 million cards floating ownerless and many of them will find their way on to the black market, as the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) said. As surely as night follows day, such a market will rapidly be established by the criminal fraternity. Does anyone seriously believe that those who wish, for whatever purpose, to possess fraudulent cards will not be able to do so? The evidence of war-time and post-war Britain suggests that they will be able to possess them. In a Britain of national registration, conscription and rationing of food and clothes, 20,000 deserters remained undetected for years. They lived without difficulty, presumably with black market documents.
The evidence of other countries suggests that identity cards have no effect on law and order. The police have never expressed any difficulty in discovering the identity of individuals whom they have stopped. The evidence is that police officers have no difficulty in discovering the identity of people whom they stop by one means or another. The idea that we have to set up a system costing £350 million and £50 million to £100 million a year to run and a state bureaucracy employing 4,000 or 5,000 people with local offices everywhere, with great inconvenience, merely so that police officers may find it slightly easier to find out who the person is they have stopped is extraordinary.
The implications of the Bill are worrying. It will unnecessarily increase police powers. At present, a police officer can only stop and require a member of the public to give his name and address if the officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that that person is committing or has committed a criminal offence. A police officer can require the driver of a motor vehicle to stop under the Road Traffic Act 1972 or, in the case of an individual arriving at a port, under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984. Police officers are not entitled to go up to a member of the public and to ask for his identity without having reasonable grounds. The Bill will give police officers the right to stop a member of the public to check whether his identity card is valid. That would be a new offence and a new right will be given to the police. Whatever my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North may say, we would be giving the police a new right.
In the Willcock case, Lord Chief Justice Goddard said : "From what we have been told by Counsel for the respondent, it is obvious that the police now, as a matter of routine, demand the production of national registration identity cards whenever they stop or interrogate a motorist for whatever cause".
He went on to point out the damage that such laws do to police-public relations--a point that must be borne in mind when my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North talks about public opinion polls and the public reaction. Lord Goddard also said :
"To use Acts of Parliament passed for particular purposes during the war, in times when the war has passed, except that
Column 1294technically a state of war exists, tends to turn law-abiding citizens into lawbreakers which is a most undesirable state of affairs. Further, in this country, we have always prided ourselves on the good feeling that exists between the police and the public and such action tends to make people resentful of the acts of the police and inclines them to obstruct the police instead of to assist them." We should not go down that road of creating more offences and more reasons why the police will challenge the public and the public will challenge the police.
According to The Independent of 23 January, that view is now shared by most chief police officers. The powers in the Bill to stop an individual in a public place take us back to the sus laws of 1824, which were repealed some years ago as a result of their misuse by a small minority of police officers. Do we want to turn the clock back?
Another major implication of the Bill to which I referred in passing earlier is the attack on the right of the individual to privacy. Privacy, as J. W. Eaton has observed, is one of the personal attributes that most people cherish. Why should British citizens be forced, as citizens, to register with the state and to carry a card containing personal details that they must show to a police officer on demand? It will not stop at police officers. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North admitted as much, as have other hon. Members. Police officers will be the first. Soon it will be traffic wardens and then 101 council officials and other people who have the right to statutory entry to our homes. The information will be passed on to them. I do not believe that people will want to see such officials being given the right to see a national identity card on demand.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell) who is a sponsor of the Bill said in the debate on his ten minute Bill on 21 June 1988 :
"Clearly the Revenue and the DHSS will be able to assist on its-- the identity card's--
"production to help eliminate fraud it will be up to the holder to decide whether he shows the card to private individuals. If he does not, the person asking to see it will be able to draw his own conclusions in the absence of a reasonable explanation."--[ Official Report , 21 June 1988 ; Vol. 135, c. 976.]
That underlines the nonsense of those who argue for a voluntary system. How long before the attitude of mind, "What have you got to hide?" takes hold? The individual will find it impossible to be served in shops or to carry on normal business. Does the fact that a date of birth or residence of an individual is nobody's business count as a reasonable explanation?
The Data Protection Act 1984 was passed to protect the rights of an individual whose personal details are on computer. It was passed because of the increasing practice of recording personal data on computer. The Act says that such data cannot be used by unauthorised persons or be transferred between computers. In a letter today, the registrar has warned hon. Members of the serious consequences of the Bill. The Lindop committee on data protection described the use of a universal personal identity system and reported :
"It would present a considerable threat to the privacy and perhaps the freedom of the private citizen."
It is recommended that UPI should not come in unless there has been special legislation and a committee to examine its purposes. Finally--[ Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."] My hon. Friends may cheer, but I have spoken for less long than my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North and others. The Bill needs to have a reasoned case put against it on