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Patrick Mercer: We have been here so many times previously, and I am sure that the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), is sharpening his knife to prepare many of the arguments that I have heard twice in Committee and on which his knife has been blunted at least once.
I hope that the group of amendments, which simply questions the purpose of the register and logically extends that questioning to the card, is reasonably straightforward. I hope that the amendments are self-explanatory but I shall speak briefly about them.
"The statutory purposes are to facilitate, by the maintenance of a record of registrable facts about individuals in the United Kingdom . . . the provision of a convenient method for such individuals to prove registrable facts about themselves to others",
Amendment No. 9 makes a considerable addition to the provisions, and is logically followed by amendment No. 16, which would amend part of the register and the card referred to later in the Bill. Amendment No. 9 would delete paragraphs (a) to (e) of clause 1(4), and would add a new paragraph (a) that something is necessary in the public interest if it is:
Except for the last line, that provision is almost the same as amendment No. 16, which relates to identity cards rather than to the register of facts. I hope that
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amendment No. 6 is also fairly clear. It simply proposes to delete the reference to national security in clause 1(4)(a).
The purpose of the amendments is to question in detail precisely why we are setting about this extremely difficult, demanding and intrusive piece of legislation. We have already heard the contradictory explanations for the purpose of the register and the card. For instance, on 3 July 2002, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), who was then Home Secretary, said:
I hope that the Minister will explain how those statements now stack up, after the relatively short space of three years. In the light of the events of 7 and 21 July, can the former Home Secretary's opinions be reconciled with the Minister's adapted view of the register and the card?
In December 2004, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside told Parliament that the security services had advised him that 35 per cent. of terrorists used false identification. The general secretary of Interpol, Ron Noble, told the House of Lords Home Affairs Committee that all terrorist incidents involved the use of a false passport. However, when he was challenged about that claim, he was unable to present evidence to support it. In 2004, Privacy International published the findings of the only research ever conducted into the relationship between identity cards and terrorism. It found that there was no evidence to support the claim that the cards could combat terrorist threats. Its report stated:
The events of 7 and 21 July obviously brought this issue into much closer focus. I thought it instructive that the current Home Secretary pointed out at the time that even if identity cards had been used, they would have made absolutely no difference to the events of those two days, which the Minister and I both remember clearly, as we were in Committee on at least one of those days.
If this card is designed to combat terrorism, how can it do so against the sort of terrorist that we saw operating in this country in July? This country has tried identity cards previously in the shape of specialist driving licences, as issued in Northern Ireland. They were never broadcast as such, but they were a distinct attempt to try to contain terrorism using a form of identity card. They failedI can vouch for that, as I was there at the time. The great benefit to us 10, 20 or 30 years ago was that those terrorists with whom we were dealing were identifiable, as many of the families involved had been engaged in terrorism for years, so it was a fair bet that a son or daughter born to a particular family might have subversive views. That is not so with the new brand of terrorist.
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