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The Home Secretary's letter also states how the Government successfully handled the fingerprint system. He has forgotten that that also broke down only three or four months ago, so police forces throughout the country could not get fingerprints identified for about two or three weeks. Such systems are intrinsically difficult to run and his Department is not very good at running them.
I shall cite one further example to the House, which was dealt with by Mr. Bichard under the Home Secretary's predecessor. We all remember Soham. The backdrop to Soham was the Home Office's inability to get an IT system working throughout the country for all our police forces. On the basis of that fact, the Home Secretary has not made a good case that the Home Office could run the ID system.
The letter says that ID cards must be the most cost-effective way of tackling the problems that they seek to address. The central point of that short paragraph is that the cost of the scheme would be recovered from charges to card applicantsso it does not matter, sir. The cost will not be on the Home Office budget because the 83 or 160 quidwhatever the costwill be met by ordinary citizens when they pay for their passports, driving licences and other documents.
The Home Secretary makes no attempt to respond to suggestions that the scheme might cost between £10 billion and £20 billion. I would not care to guess how many border guards we could get, how many new systems to prevent welfare fraud we could introduce, or how much we could do on counter-terrorism for £10 billion or £20 billion. However, the matter certainly has not been addressed in the letter.
The letter says that ID cards must not pose a threat to civil liberties. I shall be fair to the Home Secretary, because he has at least made one attempt in that respect. We complained when it was suggested that someone outside the civil service would get a 10-year sentence for misusing the data, while someone inside the civil service would get only two years, so I think that was corrected. He has made some minor attempts to deal with the threat to civil liberties, but there is an intrinsic weakness in the proposal, which gives rise to the civil liberty problem. It came up when I was trying to reach a conclusion as to how to deal with the matter before Second Reading.
I went to see a number of senior policemen. Every one of them supported the Home Secretary's view on ID cards, so I asked them a simple question: what would
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they do to stop someone using one of the 20,000 access points to the database to put in a programme, commonly known as a virus? Let us say, for the sake of argument, that such a virus would make my biometrics, if they were interrogated, lead to the answer "yes" to any identity, so I could claim to be Charles Clarke, Michael Howard, Tony Blair or whoever, and the database would say yes every time. [Interruption.] There are already two David Davises.
Those were very intelligent menheads of police forces and so on, some of the most senior policemen in the country. None of them had an answer, and I have not yet heard an answer to the question how we will stop tampering with the IT system that will be at the centre of the scheme. That is much more important than the little bit of plastic. The database at the centre is what brings about a change in the relationship between the individual and the state. The Government have no answer as to how they will protect that database. The Home Secretary's only answer to the problem was, "Other people are doing the same thing." That is a pretty weak answer on a matter of such importance.
David Davis: I repeat what I said: those questions must be answered before we can approve the Bill. On an issue of such importance, which represents such a fundamental change in the relationship between citizen and state, the Government must make the case and conclusively prove the need for such a change. They have not done so, and until they do, I cannot recommend that my party support the proposals.
I have touched on some of the issues raised in the Queen's Speech. There are many hours of important debate and discussion to come, when the specific proposals will be analysed in full, but today we can focus only on the broad thrust of the proposals. Although our intentions are positive, our hopes are not high. For eight years the Government have been characterised by complacency, incompetence and failure, followed by gimmicks, posturing and soundbites.
We have seen cash point fines proposed and abandoned. We have seen night courts proposed and abandoned. We have seen child curfews proposed, introduced and abandoned. We have seen the Government supposedly determined to crack down on antisocial behaviour, then encouraging 24-hour drinking. Drug use is rampant on our streets; the Government's response is to slacken the cannabis laws.
When the Labour Government fail to deliver, they are drawn to one response above all othersthe gimmick. Headline-grabbing initiatives and poorly developed policy are designed to achieve media coverage and create a spurious impression that the Government are in touch with and are tackling people's concerns. We have seen those initiatives come and go. Now the Government have been given one last chance. People have made it clear what their priorities are, and they have entrusted the Government with that job. Our job is to support them where support is due, and to hold them to account when they are going wrong. In the coming
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months we shall do our job to the full. After eight years, it is about time the Government did theirs.
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): I thank my constituents for sending me back to the House for the 10th time. My obligation to them is to carry on working on their behalf, regardless of their religion or ethnic origin, and to try to ensure that a good Labour Government work well in their favour.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has dealt with a number of the issues that relate to the legislation proposed in the Queen's Speech. When it comes to the issue of immigration, my constituents are grateful for the fact that the primary purpose rule was abolished. They still remember it eight years later. They are grateful for the fact that an appeal system has been introduced for visitor visas, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will maintain that.
The problem for my constituents too often is that where the policy on paper is one that they find acceptable and attractive, in implementation it does not always work as well as it ought to do, and they have asked me, during the election campaign and since, to represent to the Government that after eight years of welcome office, which my constituents have supported throughout, the Government should get a much stronger grip on the immigration and nationality directorate of the Home Office so that the policies work in the way that my constituents wish them to do.
There are two aspects to that. First, there are aspects relating to the bureaucracy preventing my constituents from obtaining what is their right. If, as I do, I have a constituent who serves in the armed forces, who has served in Afghanistan and who later this year is to serve in Iraq, it is absurd to say that because there are problems with my constituent's wife's immigration record she should go back to, of all places, Zimbabwe, to apply for readmission to this country. Where a constituent of mine has had her husband allowed, under the Government's legislation, to join her in this country and has then given birth to twins, and the husband has then violated his permission to remain in this country by leaving her and not sustaining the marriage, that constituent, who has been on the telephone to me again today, has a right to believe that that man, with no proper basis to remain in this country, should be thrown out of this country, rather than, although illegally here, obtaining legal aid to try to gain access to those babies until they are 18-years-old. I very much hope that in this Parliament we will deal with the reality of cases and not allow bureaucracy to get in the way of cases.
Again and againI have written to my right hon. Friend about cases even during the general election campaignconstituents of mine with work permits awarded to them by the immigration and nationality directorate, who have been offered jobs by employers who wish them to take up those jobs, are being sent back
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to countries of origin such as Bangladesh in order to obtain the right to remain here even though they have work permits. I have several such cases now, and such absurdities should be stamped on by my right hon. Friend.
On the other hand, I strongly believe that where people are blatantly violating the immigration rules the Home Office should act on that and remove them from the country. At a recent surgery, a woman from Iran came to me with a letter from the Home Office that said, in bold and underlined, "You must now leave the country." She had no intention whatever of leaving the country and said that she had come to me to ask if her National Asylum Support Service payments could be resumed. My constituents, of whatever ethnic origin, think it unjust that people who live in accommodation provided by the National Asylum Support Service should insist on remaining here when they have no right to do so. They want such people to be thrown out of this country and immigration law to work firmly, but they also want people who have a good case for remaining in this country to be treated in a sympathetic and practical way.
My constituency is a dispersal constituency for asylum seekers. Some of those people have no right to be in this country because their applications and appeals have failedsuch cases may involve people who have failed to gain access to an immigration appeal tribunal, who have failed in their appeal to that decision and who have failed the human rights appeal, too. People who have exhausted every single immigration process are remaining in this country and doing their best to live on my constituents' taxes. I say to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that although good cases are treated well, it is about time that bad cases were dealt with firmly. The people of Gorton want people who will work and contribute to the economy to live in Gorton. At the same time, some people simply want to batten on to my tax-paying constituents, and I cannot see why my constituents should put up with it.
During the general election campaign, the Conservative party dealt with immigration in a disgusting waywhen I was walking along the street, a man of African origin said to me, "They talk about me as though I cannot hear what they are saying." Those politics operate on the basis that large numbers of people who are citizens of this country or who have the right to remain in this country are somehow beyond the pale. If the Leader of the Opposition had substituted "Jews" for "immigrants", when he discussed immigration during the general election, people would have said that he was conducting an anti-Semitic campaign. Anti-Semitism is bad and racism is bad, and the Conservative party conducted the nastiest, filthiest campaign of my political life on that issue. What is more, it conducted the campaign on the advice of a Commonwealth immigrant, who contributed nothing to the economy and who, having pocketed his money from the Conservative party, is returning to the country from which he emigrated.
My constituents, of whatever ethnic origin, are not raciststhey are fair and decent, and they want people to be given a chance. At the same time, when people exhaust every single process in the Government's decent legislation, are told to leave and do not do so, I expect my right hon. Friend to deal with them, including those
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who ignore deportation orders. Immigration policy must be fair and firm: in these years of Labour Government, I look to my right hon. Friend to make sure that the fairness continues, that the firmness is enforced and that all of my constituents, regardless of ethnic origin, have confidence in this Government's immigration policies.
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