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Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): We have animals that are locked up at night and kept in with barbed wire during the day. Does the Home Secretary realise that the British cattle passport scheme has lost 100,000 cattle and that the National Audit Office says that it has cost £15 million a year?
What I notice about the passport service[Hon. Members: "Answer."] I will answer the question. Since I was first a junior Minister in the Home Office, we have established the most efficient passport service across the world. I do not hide the fact for a
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second that there were major issues with the passport service. The point is that they have been solved and sorted out.
Steve McCabe: I am glad that the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) is so in touch. Is it remotely possible that a potential party leader and future Prime Minister cannot make up his mind on such an issue? Is not that the question that must be answered?
Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is right. There is no possibility that the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden would not be able to make up his mind. He is a swashbuckling leader, so I am sure that he will be able to make up his mind and carry all his colleagues with him on the measure.
The right hon. Gentleman asked two other questions: whether ID cards would be cost-effective and whether they would pose a threat to civil liberties. My point, which I make in seriousness, is that we face a serious issue in relation to identity cards and the country must decide how it will deal with it. Fig leaves of the type that he suggested simply will not work and the questions that he posed do not provide an answer. He needs to answer the question.
Mr. Keith Simpson (Mid-Norfolk) (Con): I know that the Home Secretary likes a bit of party political banter. The questions that my right hon. Friend and others have raised are not fig leaves, however. To return to the cost of IT, can he give an example of a major IT project in the Home Office that has come in on time and under budget?
Kali Mountford (Colne Valley) (Lab): Is it not pointless to go through the five tests presented by the Conservative party? It became clear when the Bill was in Committeevia the contribution of the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry)that in the Conservative party there are those who are opposed in principle and say so, those who are opposed in principle and say the opposite for reasons of expediency, and those who are opposed in principle and say nothing.
Mr. Oaten: In the letter that he sent just a couple of hours ago to the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis), in response to the five tests, the Home Secretary said that the ID card scheme would be cost-effective, but did not say how much it would cost. Will he tell the House how much it will cost?
That will be published when the Bill is published. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but that is entirely the right way to do it. We will publish the figures so that they can be analysed.
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Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): I am enormously grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way on a point of such importance. I hope that he accepts that some of us are deeply uneasy about the ID card scheme. We believe that this is a question of civil rights, and it disturbs us greatly. The history of the holding of every element of information about people's lives by police forces or Governments suggests not that such information is always used responsibly, but that, in some instances, it is used by Governments for the worst possible reasons.
Mr. Clarke: I appreciate that my hon. Friend and others have such concerns. When the Bill is published, I should like her to look in detail at the range of information on certain individuals that we are discussing, which is not in fact substantial, and at how it operates. I should also like her to look at the safeguards. An enormous range of information is already held in both the public sectoron police information databases, on the police national computer and in fingerprint recordsand in the private sector, in relation to such matters as financial dealings. I respect her point of view, but I ask her to read the Bill carefully and balance those considerations against the benefits to society that would arise from it.
As I said at the outset, I am not prepared to embark on an election campaign in the future while deep concerns throughout society about antisocial behaviour, criminal justice and sentencing, and immigration and asylum can provide fuel for irresponsible political parties. The purpose of the whole of this Parliament, and the Queen's Speech in particular, is to lay the foundations for the elimination of the problems that exist and that are perceived to exist. That is our commitment and I hope it will be supported by Members in all parts of the House.
During the campaign that we have been discussing, the Home Secretary engaged in three debates with me before, during and after the publication of the documents to which he referred. Not once did he suggest that any of the documents were dishonourable or ill meant in any way. As he said, he wrote to me earlier today, and not once in his letter was this outrage mentioned. I shall therefore treat his opening comments in the way that they deserveas theatrical rather than real.
Let me say this to the Home Secretary: any party that publishes posters such as the two published by the Labour party before the election campaign should be very careful indeed when referring to dishonourable conduct. I will talk later about honesty of argument when we discuss the counter-terrorist legislation that the Government forced through the House in the last weeks before the election. We will talk about the honesty of the arguments advanced by the Prime Minister at that time. I will hear then what the Home Secretary has to say.
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The Opposition welcome at least three proposals in what is a massive Queen's Speech. First, we agree with some of the powers to deal with terrorism. We have been calling for an offence of acts preparatory to terrorism for some time. It will fill a loophole in the country's security and may prevent the Government from creating any more of the unnecessary, ineffective and illiberal legislation that they have proposed in recent months.
Secondly, we welcome the measures that the Home Secretary mentioned to strengthen the charitable sector. That area needs serious reform, and the only reason that it was not dealt with before the election is that it needs very serious scrutiny. It is a complex matter.
Thirdly, violent crime is out of control. Its growth is clearly related to drugs and alcohol. The Home Secretary made a number of sensible suggestions, which we welcome, but they will not tackle the roots of the problem.
The Queen's Speech is heavily focused on home affairs. It is no secret why: the Government know that the British people are deeply worried about law and order. Ministers have failed and they have been found out. From immigration to street crime, from guns to drug crime, from violence to basic disorder, the Government have lost control.
In the past, the Government have adopted a Newton's law approach to law making. For every hostile headline, there has been an equal and opposite piece of gimmicky legislation. Not every social ill demands an equal and opposite law. Some need a fundamentally different approach. What matters is passing good and effective laws and taking proper and concerted action to tackle some of the deep-seated problems that we face. When the Government set out on a course to do that and stick to it, they will receive our support. It is with that principle in mind that I will look at the specific proposals and issues raised in the Queen's Speech.
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