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Given what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the pressures that are on us to ensure that we have law and order, security and a lack of fear, what does he say to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, who covers my area, and to the Police Federation, who say that all the measures that he is introducing will give them an incredible burden of bureaucracy, which is having a great impact on how they fulfil their duties in ensuring that the public of Greater London in particular are reassured, as I am sure he wants them to be? There is a gap between what he intends and what the police can enforce.
I have not heard one word from the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis or from the commissioner-elect to suggest that bringing together the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, immigration and Customs brings anything but a reduction in bureaucracy as those services combine to share information and investigation and to support the Metropolitan police. I have heard no suggestion that the extra resources now and in the immediate future into the special branch services run by the Metropolitan police do anything but free up officers to be diverted to neighbourhood team policing, which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I saw only two weeks ago in Bexley, and which we were proud to reinforce. The deputy commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, was with us, and was proud of the programme that he, the Mayor and the Metropolitan Police Authority are putting in place.
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I hope that later this week, when we announce the police grant, we will be able to reinforce the programme of continued expansion of the neighbourhood policing programme that is being put in place throughout the country. Clear, definable and quick identity, to which I shall turn in a moment, helps rather than hinders the police.
I am not entirely sure what the intervention was intended to demonstrate. I cannot find any proposed measure, with the possible exception of the charities Bill, which obviously the police have a major interest in, that would increase anything such as paperwork.
Mr. Blunkett: Yes, I have. I have experimented. I filled in such a form. It took 90 seconds of dictation, but it might have taken seven minutes if the person I was dictating to wrote very slowly. We will improve the forms through electronic equipment that will allow information to be tapped in, which can then be used for intelligence policing and will be held on the mainframe computer.
As that issue is not in the Queen's Speech, I shall make progress with some of the things that are. The capacity of the security services to protect us is dependent on how we resource them. That is why we have doubled the resources and capability of the security, intelligence and special branch services. That is why since 2001 we have put in place an extra £2 billion of security and resilience investment. That is why we are putting in place new electronic border controlsthe first in the worldthat will allow us to be able to monitor and surveille those coming in and out of the country, and will enable us eventually to be able to reinstate embarkation controls, which were done away with a decade ago.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. If they do not work, they will be utterly useless. I am glad that we are getting such agreement this afternoon. To be totally honest, I think that across the House, perhaps with one or two exceptions, most Members agree in their heart of hearts with most of what I am saying. There will be differences of nuance and approach. One thing is absolutely certain: despite the fact that we are clearly closer to a general election than we were a year agoI will put it no more strongly than thatI intend to continue listening, responding to and, where possible, accommodating the concerns of all Members of the House on my own side and on the Opposition Benches. Some of the measures will undoubtedly be improved by the strength of people engaging positively with them.
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Mr. Mark Oaten (Winchester) (LD): I agree that we have a great deal in common on some of the issues, particularly in relation to terrorism. With that in mind, was the Home Secretary disappointed that the Leader of the House chose to try identify a difference between the parties and imply that one party was stronger on terrorism than others?
Mr. Blunkett: It is not like the old adage: one party is not at prayer while the other is singing hymns. This is not about a particular political party being better at securing the well-being of the nation. The point that the Leader of the House was rightly makingI have made it myself over the yearswas that our party too often neglected the explanation of what we were doing in terms of security, law and order and policing, to the point at which there was a perception in the public mind, God help us, that the Conservative party was more likely to secure well-being in the community of the population. As it happened, that was a complete calumny, not only because as we saw in the Conservatives' last Parliament, they reduced the number of police, let more prisoners out of prison and failed to address youth justice, but because the people whom we represented over those years were hardest hit by crime and less secure than those whom the Conservative party represented at that time, although not now, as they represent such a small and diminishing area of the populationand long may it remain so.
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): As the Home Secretary is putting words into the mouths of the Opposition, will he remind the House on how many occasions he voted against the prevention of terrorism Act?
Mr. Blunkett: As a stickler for not saying I have a number when I do not have one, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will tell me. Would he like me to give way so that he can tell me how many times I voted? I remember voting for the renewal of the Act. [Interruption.] Ahso the question is not whether I voted for it, but whether I voted against it. My glass is half full, not half empty, and that is the way it is going to be. To remove fear of difference in our communities, we need to strengthen hope and have half-full glasses rather than half-empty ones. Strengthening our identity is one way of reinforcing people's confidence and sense of citizenship and well-being. Knowing one's true identity and being able to demonstrate it is a positive plus. It is a basic human right that all of us should treasure, so reforming the identity system, as I will spell out in a moment in relation to the Bill that we published today, is crucial.
Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con):
As we are having a touch of agreement, may I ask the Home Secretary whether he agrees that some of his measures are raising fears, to which I hope he will respond, relating to personal freedom? There seems to be an enormous proliferation of the state database. Recently, for example, there has been the integrated children's system, and we are going to have a centralised medical database, while anyone who applies on a form for a university loan will see that there is an enormous number of questionsand so on. It smacks of the beginning of an authoritarian state.
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Mr. Blunkett: I do not accept for a moment that a sensible, rational, computerised system of medical records is a threat to the individual. The system means that medical records can be transferred immediately and are accurate and available. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for HealthI am pleased that he is here this afternoonhas pointed out that some administrations have got piles of forms all over the place and records here, there and everywhere and that it sometimes takes weeks to transfer people's records. To secure the immediate transfer of records is a positive gain for people and provides security against bad prescription and bad treatment.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): Will the Home Secretary confirm that in last year's consultation document the Government stressed that the carrying of ID cards would never become compulsory? We now understand that an ID card will have to be produced to apply for a passport, which is mission creep towards "compulsory", is it not?
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