|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Garnier: I want to reinforce my right hon. Friend's point. I understand that since the 1996 legislation was passed, there has not been a single case of a jury trial being retried as a result of nobbling.
My hon. and learned Friend is quite right. To be fair, those on the other side of the argument may cite the Northern Ireland example, but that is rather different because the community is affected entirely by terrorism. In general terms, however, we achieved the right outcome last year, so the Conservative party will stand by that position in the coming months.
29 Nov 2004 : Column 395
I want to move on from terrorism to identity cards. Let me tell the House plainly that before 9/11, I would not have countenanced them for a moment. Since 9/11, however, we must at least consider them. Identity cards are not a panacea in the fight against terrorism. Spain has identity cards, but they did not stop the terrorist attack in Madrid. Turkey has identity cards, but they did not stop the attack in Istanbul. Identity cards are no substitute for the practical and sensible things that the Government could be doing to reduce the terrorist threat now.
Again, I must remind the Home Secretary that his Government continually warn of the imminent threat of terrorism. However, even if identity cards are introduced, they will not take effect for some time. We have set tests that the legislation must meet before we will offer it our support. To make things easy for the Government, I have kept the number of tests down to fiveI am sure that the Home Secretary is used to the concept of five tests.
First, the legislation must clearly define the purpose of the cards. The Government are being vague at the moment, so we need to know whether they will deal with terrorism, illegal immigration, welfare fraud or other matters. How will the purposes be prioritised, because the demands of each are different?
Secondly, will identity cards effectively address the purposes that are laid out? Is the technology sufficiently well developed and robust? As the Home Secretary implied, we must consider not only the cards, but the measurement systems, communications and software that will be needed to support them. Will they be robust against deception or attack?
That brings me on to my third point. Is the Home Office capable of making the cards work? Let us be honest: the single Government Department that one would not want to put in charge of a major technology project is the Home Office. It is famous for the passport office disaster
The Home Office is famous for the immigration computer collapse. [Interruption.] I seem to be exciting the Home Secretary. We now learn that the computers to support ID cards might be provided by EDS, which provides the computer system that supports the CSA, which the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) mentioned. That is not exactly confidence boosting, is it? I hope that the Home Secretary will try to address the problem on Second Reading and Report so that we can get a clearer idea of the likelihood that the system will work.
Fourthly, when the Government have decided the purpose of ID cards, will they really be the most cost-effective way of tackling the problems? At the moment we barely know who is in our country because we have no proper embarkation controls at our ports[Interruption.] I am happy to give the exact story to any Labour Member who wishes to intervene, so I do not think that they should. Reintroducing such controls, as we will do, will cost a mere £27 million, which is nothing at all compared with the £3 billion cost of the cards[Interruption.] I am not sure that I can repeat the Home
29 Nov 2004 : Column 396
Secretary's comments. He intimates that £27 million is not a good number. Let me put it this way. The figure of £27 million comes from the National Audit Office. The figure of £3 billion comes from the Home Office. I know which one I trust, and that is just for the database.
Finally, there are real concerns about the threat to people's civil liberties. With this Government we should be more cautious than ever. Remember, this is the Government who tried to gather information on the background of Pam Warren, the survivor of the Paddington rail crash, when she questioned their commitment to reform the railways. This is the Government who tried to attack the reputation of the 80-year-old Rose Addis when her family complained about the treatment she received on the NHS; and it was this Government who dragged the name of Martin Sixsmith through the mud simply because he dared to take on and expose the methods of spin and deceit that they made their hallmark. Frankly, why should anyone trust this Government of all Governments to treat the information they hold about them with respect and sensitivity?
I am going to put a question to the Home Secretary, which I hope he will answer on Second Reading. Will he give me a guarantee that the legislation will include specific clauses to punish severely anyone who misuses the Government database for political, commercial or personal ends?
David Davis: We will look at that in detail. I am pleased to hear that offer. A quick glance through the Bill today did not reveal that guarantee, but we will see it when it comes up for debate, no doubt as a Government amendment, when we will consider it carefully and ensure that it delivers what the Home Secretary says it will deliver before we take the matter further.
The introduction of identity cards may be necessary, but such a major alteration to the balance in the relationship between the individual and the state should not be taken lightly. So I can tell the Home Secretary that this Bill, too, will face the most careful scrutiny from Opposition Members.
Mr. Bercow: I am glad that my right hon. Friend is suitably sceptical about identity cards, to which many of us believe there are cogent objections. Pursuant to the last question that he put to the Home Secretary and his reply to it, does my right hon. Friend agree that on the subject of the purpose of the cards, it is also important to elicit from the Home Secretary a commitment that the Bill will not contain provision for order-making and regulation-making powers that would enable the Government to add to the purposes effectively through the back door?
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. The progress of the Bill has been marked by the avoidance of difficult questions at every turn putting them off and taking them at some point laterso that people vote for something that is not compulsory yet, but which might be one day. He makes
29 Nov 2004 : Column 397
a good point about the purpose. The reason for raising the purpose at the beginning of the tests is that it has an impact on whether the scheme will work and on its cost-effectiveness. It also has an impact on what we need to do to protect civil liberties and personal privacy along the way. So he is right. We will try to avoid Henry VIII clauses or similar measures in the course of our discussions on the Bill.
Where in this Queen's Speech were the radical and distinctive policies that we were promised by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster last week? Where was the unique and distinctive vision for Britain? Nowhere. If the Government want to fight the next election on the issue of crime and security, we are more than happy to do so.
People know that the Government have spent seven years focusing on the wrong priorities. They also know that the sudden interest in tackling crime is born out of political calculation rather than real resolve. But real resolve and real action are what we need: action to put more police on the streets; action to put more criminals behind bars; action to help turn people away from drugs; action to get a grip on immigration; action to keep Britain safe from harm. Those are the people's priorities. Those are our priorities. Those are the things that will decide the next election, and for us, that election cannot come soon enough.
Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab): In the brief time I have available, I should like to deal with two of the major criticisms that have been made of the Government's proposals in the Queen's Speech. That unfortunately means that I will not have time to deal with the criticisms made by the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis). His speech was a disgraceful performance. He abandoned any pretence of making an overall assessment of the Government's record to date. It is of course fine to point to areas where crime has not gone down, but only if proper credence is given to the fact that, according to the British crime surveythe best measurecrime overall has come down substantially under this Government and that that is an achievement of this Government. The chance of being a victim of crime is at its lowest level since the British crime survey began. Not only did he disgracefully not even acknowledge that reduction, he did not begin to say how the £1.7 billion-worth of cuts in the Home Office budget that his party proposes would help build on the success so far.
The criticisms that have been made of the Queen's Speech fall into two categories. One is that the Government are playing with the politics of fear. The other is that of the liberal left and has been made, among others, by Baroness Kennedy in a recent article in The Guardian. I want to touch briefly on both.
29 Nov 2004 : Column 398
I do not believe that there is any evidence that the Government are playing on the politics of fear. Indeed, it would be a dangerous game for Governments even to attempt to do so. That is something for Oppositions, as we have seen this afternoon. The major measures in the Gracious Speechthe Identity Cards Bill, the creation of the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the introduction of the National Offender Management Systembuild on the real achievements of the past few years, and each addresses a clearly identified problem and need in an appropriate way. There will be much to do to scrutinise the detail of that legislation, but I do not see how any of those measures can be seen as trying to whip up a fear of crime.
The more fundamental criticism made from a liberal left perspective, and often reflected in our media, is that the Government are in some way indulging in a fundamental act of illiberalism; in a wholesale sweeping away of freedoms and protections; in a casting aside of principle; in using the excuse of terrorism, asylum seekers and criminals; and in exploiting fear to encourage people to sacrifice freedom and privacy. Those are all criticisms made by Baroness Kennedy in The Guardian last week. I hold no personal grudge against her; she is an eminent lawyer and she puts the case articulately.
We need to respond not because those views are necessarily held by the population as a whole, but because there is an influential body of opinion that agrees with her and, indeed, regards that criticism of the Government as an unchallengeable truth. That leads some people to say, "Perhaps we just have to go along with this Government because the other things they do are good." That view needs to be challenged, because those of us who believe that we take a liberal left position and who are on the centre-left of politics should feel comfortable with the Government's agenda. At its heart, it is a progressive one. The view that the proposals are fundamentally illiberal is a sweeping assertion that does not stand up to analysis. It disguises and covers up the reasons why the Government have developed their approach.
I agree with that, but to create that social bond, the legal and criminal justice system must be seen to work and must enjoy public confidence. It is not good enough to assert that our system is the best available if every member of the public can point to its failings.
The conflict that has emerged under this Government is between measures that are designed to tackle specific failings in the system and a legal and judicial system that at times appears either to deny or ignore the problems. In past criminal justice Bills, the Government have had to address court delays, the causes of cracked and failed trials, the unnecessary adjournments for reasons of tactics or personal convenience, and management of the system that left so many witnesses feeling as if they were on trial. Too few people in the criminal justice system were prepared to admit or tackle those problems. The Government have been forced to deal with the
29 Nov 2004 : Column 399
consequences of the major legal development of my lifetimethe parallel system of decision making developed entirely by the courts, with no reference to Parliament, in judicial review. There are few areas of government that cannot be challenged, usually at public expense, under that procedure.
It was not rhetoric that killed so many people on 13 March this yearit was terrorism in a European capital city like our own. It is convenient for some people to speak as if terrorism is a rhetorical trick by the Government, thus avoiding the harsh and difficult questions about what we want to do and what decisions we want our Ministers to face. It is not wrong to work to secure the asylum system and tackle illegal immigration. If just law contributes to a social bond, it should underpin the essential fairness that we need in a strong society. If we want people to support fair taxes for decent public services, we must ensure that those services are not used by individuals who are not entitled to them. If we want to balance a market economy with decent rights at work, we must ensure that good employers and legal employees are not undercut by unscrupulous individuals. To do so, and to tackle terrorism, we need a robust system of identification and serious action against people traffickers, so we should welcome the initiatives in the Queen's Speech, because they help to provide the social bonds that unite us as a society with progressive values.
We need good law to provide the foundations of a strong society that can offer good public services and decent protections at work. We want a society that does not turn its back on others, but manages both economic migration and refugees legally and soundly, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary seeks to do. The problem with being told that the whole exercise is illiberal is that it may deflect us from the proper examination of specific issues, including oversight of the identity card scheme, the practical use of terrorism powers and the way in which the police use the new general power of arrest. Rather than just claiming that the Government are involved in a big illiberal exercise, the House should scrutinise those individual issues and make sure that we get them right.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|