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Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): It is clear from what the Home Secretary says that, for everything to work, the technology will have to be superb. Is he confident that we can deliver that? Will he give an assurance that Capita, which destroyed lives in my constituency when it tried to operate the housing benefit system, will not be allowed anywhere near the system that we are discussing, should the Bill, which I oppose, be passed?
Mr. Clarke: There is a Luddite tendency in the House that opposes technology and information and communications technology on the basis that a variety of mistakes has been made in the past. That is a legitimate position but I do not support it. The use of technology can be a major asset in terms of many aspects of my current responsibilities. If I am asked whether we should be more effective in our management, the way in which we carry through the provisions, the conduct of our tender processes and so on, I reply that we can and should be. However, if I am asked to exclude any possibility of using modern technology to advance our ability to deal with such matters, I shall not. I shall not exclude any bidder from any process. The requirement is to have a proper process that is properly tendered and carried through.
Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) (Lab): Given that schedule 1 provides for the possibility of holding 27 or more pieces of information about an individual on the register, what guarantees can my right hon. Friend give that the system will be hacker-proof?
Mr. Clarke: Again, the position is as I have just stated. I think we are in a position to say that we can create a secure system. If we could not do so in the way that has been suggested, I would agree that the Government were behaving wrongly in coming forward with that proposal. I do not deny the point made by my hon. Friend and by my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey)issues arise in relation to these questions and they need to be properly dealt withbut I am not prepared to take the view that we should simply stop any progress in those areas because of those issues.
Martin Linton (Battersea) (Lab):
Is not the point about the answer to the question asked by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) that an identity card will not help the police to decide whether to arrest somebody, but once somebody is arrested it will be possible quickly to establish beyond doubt that person's identity because of the biometric information the police will have from the
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fingerprint? That will also act as a deterrent, as people will know that the police have access to an instant means of verifying their identity.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): Will the Home Secretary help me on one point? Clause 1(6)(c) provides that the individual is apparently required, if he has died, to state the date of his death.
Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion) (PC): I am grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way. As I understand it, the main point of his argument today is that this measure does not represent a significant erosion of civil liberties in this country. He knows that many Members, on both sides of the House, disagree fundamentally with him. Will he at least address the fact that all 11 western European countries with compulsory ID card systems, which he has admitted that this proposal is, have a written constitution and a Bill of Rights? In the context of the development of the constitution in this countrychecks and balances that are not written down, but enshrined in case lawwhat comfort can he offer to people who believe that this measure represents a significant shift away from the rights of the individual in favour of those of the state?
The comfort I can offer is to study carefully the content of the Bill. Going through it as I have sought to do in my general introduction thus far, the fact is that we are not extending the rights of the state vis-à-vis the individual through these measures. We are producing a significant change, which will allow a state of affairs whereby people's identity can be more clearly known. The effect of that approach will be to improve services, improve security and improve the public conduct of life in a variety of different ways. I argue that this Bill is an enhancement, not an inhibition, of civil liberties.
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If the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) wants to invite me to go down the path of a written constitution, I will not follow him. I do not think that that is the right way to proceed. On the other aspects, I believe that we are in the right place.
I want to conclude by going through the central clauses very rapidly. First, on the national identity register and its statutory purposes, the key is set out in clauses 1 to 3 and schedule 1. It is the secure record of identity that is important, not the card itself. That is a vital aspect to understand in the overall proposals. The statutory purposes cited in clause 1(3) show that ID cards are, first, to provide people with a convenient method of proving their own identify and, secondly, to help to verify people's identity when that is in the wider public interest. National security will be improved, illegal working attacked more effectively, immigration controls enforced more directly, and crime prevented and detected more effectively. It is also important that the register is accurate and remains so. Those points have been raised in the debate and clause 11 requires that to be the case.
Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): I support the Billmy right hon. Friend will want to know thatbut under clause 5 it will fall to an individual to give details of his or her address, previous addresses, time spent at previous addresses, tenancies and so on. What sanction will be applied to an individual who does not inform the national register of all those changes? The Law Society reminds us that about 40 per cent. of the population in London change address every year.
Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab): On that same point, will my right hon. Friend give serious consideration to the recommendation of the Home Affairs Committee that if addresses are to be included, there should be a responsibility on landlords, as well as individuals, to contribute to the registration of addresses? That is standard practice in Germany, it is one of the things that makes the German system work efficiently, and it does not cause difficulties.
Mr. Clarke: I reassure my right hon. Friend that we will consider that. The system that we have at the moment, and that we are suggesting in terms of addresses, is similar to the system that currently operates for driving licences, and enables[Interruption.]
The Bill is important for the future economy and security of our society. It is important to get it right. I am delighted that the shadow Home Secretary and the leader of the Conservative party have decided to
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support it, which is the right thing to do. I say to every Conservative Member, as I do to Liberal Democrat Members, that they, like all of us, must face up to our responsibilities in the modern world to take forward the system in the right way.
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