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Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): Everyone agrees that law and order is a big issue but Conservative Members frequently suggest that no change is needed. I want to concentrate in the short time available on the proposals for identity cards. First, I shall focus on some of the good work that the Home Office has undertaken on electronic crime.
A number of speakers have said that the Department does not have the capacity to introduce an ID card system because of previous IT failures. That somewhat misses the point in terms of the superb work being done by, for example, the national high-tech crime unit, which launched a project called Endurance at the CBI this year, and in areas spanning simple nuisance through to extortion. Important issues surround Operation Ore and others matters in which a high level of policing was achieved by sophisticated techniques. A number of people have ended up appropriately serving jail sentences.
I want to make a point about the comments of the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten), who seemed to argue that some conspiracy theory is developing. For example, in an article published recently, he says:
I think it will be a long time before we have a Conservative Administration, but even I am not as afraid of them as that. We can confidently consider the ID cards proposals and be sure that in the civilised democracy in which we are privileged to live there will be a stable system that can be used.
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None is remotely secure enough to prevent someone else doing these things in my place and there is little or nothing in any of them to establish my unique identity. So let us move the debate on to what data an identity card would hold, where and when it should be required, and how the data disclosed should be used."
We can move forward in a positive way. We need to ensure, as the draft Bill seems to do, that when a police officer, with just cause, asks to see information he can legitimately do that. Eventually, as the system evolves, if a police officer seeks information from someone who has committed a road traffic offence, no one in the House will disagree that it is perfectly reasonable to use electronic data to ensure that that person is adequately insured. Of course, such an inquiry should go no deeper; it should stick at the matters relating specifically to the offence that has been committed.
Important issues need to be looked at and we should consider the booklet published by the NO2ID campaign. I see that the hon. Member for Winchester is looking across the Chamber; he is a contributor to the booklet. It is almost as if no Government could possibly procure any IT system, but that is manifestly daft. However, I urge the Government to heed advice that I have given before. First, they should ask why the function is needed. We have debated that this evening. Secondly, they must involve the end user and customer in design and development. That includes involving the public. Thirdly, they must ensure that the project is scaleable, which presents a real challenge to any IT designer. Most importantly, they must procure outcomes, not grey boxes. I strongly urge my hon. Friend the Minister to ensure that whatever contract is put out for the procurement of an ID system, not a penny piece is paid over until the system is up and running and working. If contractors do not want to participate on those terms, then we should not invite them to tender.
The Opposition expressed some concern about Henry VIII clauses in the Bill. They would not, I hope, extend that concern to Henry VIII clauses about technology. We do not want a technology-specific Bill. We need a Bill that is sufficiently broadly drafted to ensure that, as technology evolves, new technologies can be applied without having to consider fresh primary legislation. Clearly, the principles as to the limits to which the Bill can take ID cards need to be firmly established, but how they work technically should not be dealt with in the Bill. We need a technology-neutral Bill.
I have covered briefly some of the whys in relation to the ID card. I agree with the Government, and would go much further in terms of my model ID card. I have also covered some of the hows, but I advise caution on going forward. As I said, the Bill must be flexible, not technology-specific, and it must evolve as some of the questions that I pose are addressed. But the proposal is not an alternative to policemen and women; it is just a tool, which could, if well designed, be of great use to the state and the citizen, and to the private sector.
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Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): Eighteen years ago, 5,600 people a year died on our roads. Of those, 1,200 died because the driver or motorcycle rider had consumed more than the legal alcohol limit. The figures are now much lower; 2,000 fewer die on the roads, and about 800 fewer die because of drink driving. Little of that was changed by the law; most of it was changed by culture and people's expectations.
I look forward to the day when we no longer have 2,400 new serious criminals each week, and when a third of young men have not collected by age 30 a conviction for which they could have been sent to jail for six months or more. In the short term, I look forward to the Home Office having and publishing cohort studies showing what is the experience of, say, each six-month cohort of young people, each year, so that we get regular figures, which, I hope, will show improvements. Once we learn what begins to make an improvement, we can reinforce what works, and stop doing what does not work.
Too often, when there is a problem, Ministers, as well as Back Benchers, propose to the House one of three solutions: a law to make something a crime, in the expectation that that stops it, although I have illustrated that with 2,400 new serious criminals each week, that does not work; tax and spending, which the present Government have shown does not work well; or exhortation, and there is no real evidence that that works either. What is needed is to try to get into people's minds and habits, and, occasionally, to use low technology.
Unlike the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), who thinks that constituency casework is in some way a bore, I find it rather useful in terms of illustrating national issues with local experience. To deal with drugs dealing in my constituency, I should like the police and local authority to use low-tech camera surveillance, some open and some covert. Wherever there is a suspected drug dealing place, especially if it is someone's home in a residential area, I should like the police openly to put a camera outside and to film the people who go in for a couple of minutes' business and then come out. I suspect that most of the amateurs, most of whom probably fund their illegal drugs habit by dealing, will find it awkward. The more we make things awkward, the less likely it is that that will happen.
I am not an expert on drugs. I was just too young for national service, and just too old to be invited to join the permissive society. I thought I might wait until I was 60 to try some of these things; now that I am 60, I think I shall wait until I am 70 or 80. I believe, though, that it is possible to deal with some of the young people who go in for experimentation, first by making it more awkward for people to offer them drugs free, and then by helping them to understand that trading in drugseven at the lowest pricesleads to the kind of life that they would not choose to live. We must give them that choice, as well as bringing about the culture change that worked with drink-driving.
I wish that the Government were as interested in justice as they are in law. Every Member of Parliament will see a report from the Criminal Cases Review Commission stating that a problem involving pension costs for its own staff is leading to a significant delay in cutting the waiting time for people with well-founded
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cases for a review of their own position. In those instances people have been convicted, the appeal system is not working, and the CCRC thinks that it is worth investigating their cases in detail. There is a reasonable suspicion of injustice, and in some casesincluding one or two cases that affect constituents of minethere has definitely been an injustice.
I should like the Government to spend a little less time on their rhetoric and on the treadmill of law that they produce in the House, and a bit more time on ensuring thatat least for the next two yearsthe CCRC is given a budget that will allow my former constituent Mr. Derek Jack Tully not to wait until he is dead to have his case reviewed. I cannot argue to the CCRC or even to Ministers that his case is as urgent as that of those who are still in jail, because he is out of jail now; but I do believe that he needs a chance to exonerate himself, given that he should not have suffered his conviction.
Mr. Tully's case, however, is not the main point that I am making. My main point is that the Government should spend money on what actually aids justice. I should also like the Minister to tell us which Minister is responsible for the people locked up in Belmarsh jail who will not face a trial, and which Minister is responsible for the British nationals and British residents in Guantanamo Bay whowhether or not they will face a military commissionhave not been given representation. Indeed, we cannot be sure that those in Guantanamo Bay have not experienced things that, in plain English, would be called torture; unacceptable behaviour.
Who will stand up on behalf of the Government and say "I will take responsibility for answering questions"? Who will say "I will say what we, the Government, have done with the American authorities while trying to protect people here, there and around the world"? Who will say that the Government recognise that people are not protected by being put in a legal limbo where they cannot, in fact, be protected from the kind of behaviour that I thought our free countries were dedicated to stamping out throughout the world?
I hope that we can also deal, through law, with some of the Government's changes involving the fast-tracking of people whose presence in this country is suspected of being unauthorised; failed asylum seekers or illegal migrants. On Saturday I took up the case of Crispen Kulinji, a Zimbabwean who, I understand, had spent four days in Malawi in his life. He had clearly been tortured, and clearly had to escape. He came here, and because the only way in which someone in his circumstances can come here is by obtaining a Malawi passport or something similar, he has been fast-tracked back to Malawi via Harare, where it is very likely that the authorities will have taken hold of him. I hope that the Government will take account of such cases. I hope that they will consider whether they have gone too far in cutting off legal aid that would enable people to secure competent lawyers to put their cases. In Mr. Kulinji's case, I suspect that the expulsion order would have been overturned.
We have some business remaining from last year. I support the Government on the Mental Capacity Bill. I will not vote for euthanasia, and I hope that those who condemn the Bill on the grounds that it supports
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euthanasia will read the Bill and understand the 15-year campaign behind it. I support the Law Society's doubts over the Mental Health Bill, and I hope that the Government will try to explain why the Law Society and I should feel more relaxed about it.
I think that the Government have scored less than 50 per cent. on law and order. That is not good enough, and I hope we can soon unite those who want a Tory Government with those who think that the Tories will act in the national interest rather more effectively than the present Government. As I suspect everyone knows, there are too many Labour Members of Parliament, and voting Liberal is not the answer to any serious national problem. My party has the national interest at heart, and I hope that we are as successful in the next election as we were in the referendum in the north-east.
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