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Mr Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con):
No, the person was found guilty; the law was the law. In the judgment, however, the reason why the law was intolerable was given: its maintenance for a security or
emergency situation such as war should not prevail in peacetime. It was the Churchill Government, elected in 1951, who then did away with that law.
Mr Winnick: The hon. Gentleman, who is my constituency neighbour, and I never agree on economic issues, but we tend to share certain views on civil liberties. He is right in what he says about the Churchill Government, and I am sure that the Attlee Government would have done the same, had they been re-elected in 1951. We are going back a long time, but I am not aware that the Conservative Opposition in the 1945 Parliament argued for the abolition of identity cards. I am glad that those cards were abolished; I did not want to see them come back after half a century.
Mr Winnick: If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I want to move on to function creep, which is another factor. In evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, the point was made that when identity cards were introduced in 1939-and rightly so in the circumstances of those days-there were three reasons for doing so: conscription, national security and food rationing. By 1950, there were no fewer than 35 stated purposes as to why an identity card was necessary, one of which, incidentally, was the prevention of bigamous marriages. We have not heard an argument in the recent debate that ID cards are necessary for that purpose.
Dr Huppert: I am sorry to intrude on an Attlee versus Churchill argument, but the hon. Gentleman should perhaps remember that Clarence Willcock was a Liberal candidate, and when asked to explain what he did, he said:
"I am a Liberal and I am against this sort of thing."
It has sometimes been argued that biometrics provide an additional important difference from previous identity cards in Europe, but when evidence was given by experts-their expertise was not in doubt-before the Home Affairs Committee, considerable technical doubt was thrown over the extent to which biometrics would necessarily always be reliable. As for the national identity register, I have listened over the years to the arguments as to why it is necessary and all I can say is that, again, I have not been persuaded. It is suggested that such information is necessary for national insurance and passports and therefore why should we worry about it for identity cards, but surely the difference is that, although the other documents are not the subject of any controversy, identity cards are, because in the main they are one step too far, which remains the view held by many people in this country.
I am not arguing-it would be a foolish argument-that if identity cards had been introduced into Britain, we would have become a sort of semi-police state. That is absolute nonsense, but I do believe that they would have
been an infringement of civil liberties. When we look at other European countries and fellow members of the European Union that do have identity cards, we find that they are certainly not police states. Some have a very dubious past, but we are very pleased that they are now no less democratic than we are. They have a different history, and our history-one that I want to see maintained-suggests that in peacetime we should not have identity cards, as they do not do what they are supposed to do. I wish that the whole issue had not been raised either by the Conservatives or by Labour over the past 22 years.
I have many differences with the Conservative Government. Only yesterday I gave an indication of my feelings about the cuts: along with my Labour colleagues, I will defend the position of those who are least able to bear the burden. There will be many battles with the Conservative Government, and, as I have said, we will not hesitate to defend the people who sent us here. However, I am pleased that identity cards are to be abolished.
Who knows what may happen in four or five years, but I think it most unlikely that we in the Labour party will employ identity cards as one of the features of the next general election campaign. I want to see the issue buried for good. There is no necessity for identity cards, and I hope that, at long last, both sides in the House of Commons will reach the view held by me and by a number of other Labour Members that we should not have them in peacetime.
Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty) (Con): I congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your magnificent election victory and elevation to the Chair. I am delighted to be able to give my maiden speech today, and pleased to be able to speak in a debate on the Identity Documents Bill, but given that this is my maiden speech, I hope you will forgive me if I drift into one or two other subject areas.
I have enjoyed the excellent contributions made by many maiden speakers today, particularly those of my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke) and my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Kris Hopkins), who has just disappeared from the Chamber.
There is no greater honour, privilege or responsibility than being elected to Parliament to represent the constituency in which I grew up, was educated and have lived for most of my life. Selby and Ainsty is a new seat, which the Boundary Commission had the very good sense to create and, hopefully, will have the very good sense to keep. It is a largely rural seat with more than 100 villages and hamlets covering the area between York, Harrogate and Pontefract in the south. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell that the residents of Sherburn-in-Elmet are more than happy with the current boundary arrangements.
Selby is the largest settlement in the constituency. It is a market town, and although it was originally a shipbuilding town on the River Ouse, its economy is now largely based on agriculture, tourism to our stunning abbey, and its status as a commuter town for Leeds and York.
We have significant historical connections with America, as can be seen in the 14th-century Washington window of Selby abbey, which bears the Washington family arms and is believed to have been used as the basis for the American flag, the Stars and Stripes. I urge all hon. Members to visit the abbey to see that wonderful spectacle.
The bulk of the new constituency consists of the old Selby seat. I pay tribute to John Grogan, the former Member of Parliament for Selby, who was the first and last Labour Member to represent the constituency. I have always found him extremely courteous, and he has been an excellent local MP and advocate for Selby both in Yorkshire and in the House. Despite our obvious political differences, he and I share a number of interests. Given that the brewing town of Tadcaster is in the constituency, it is difficult not to be a fan of beer. In fact, you do not get to be my size without being a significant fan of beer. We are both also passionate supporters of Yorkshire county cricket club. He and many other hon. Members-perhaps even including you, Mr Deputy Speaker, although you represent a Lancastrian seat-will be thrilled that the world's greatest cricket club is riding high again in the county championship. Mr Grogan has expressed an interest in returning to the House and I wish him well in that endeavour, although not too well if he is considering a return to Selby.
I pay tribute to John Grogan's predecessor, the late Michael Alison, who represented Selby and its predecessor Barkston Ash in the House. The fact that I took an interest in politics is down to him. I saw at first hand, as a child in the 1970s, the help that he gave my parents in attaining a grant to install central heating in our home. Some years later, I had the opportunity to repay that good deed. It was during the 1992 election. I received his campaign leaflet through my door with a hand-written note. I was very impressed, so I called his agent and asked whether there was anything that I could do to help Mr Alison's campaign in the election, however small. That offer of help was my first political mistake, as the following day around 1,000 leaflets arrived on my doorstep with a note that read,
"Please call the office if you need any more."
In addition to the Selby district, the remainder of the new seat is referred to as Ainsty. There is not an actual place called Ainsty but, like Elmet, it is an ancient wapentake. The area is made up of four wards from the Harrogate borough and takes in villages west of York, skirting around Wetherby and Harrogate. The area was previously served in the House partly by David Curry, who diligently served as MP for Skipton and Ripon for 23 years, and partly by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh), who was the only ever Member for Vale of York. I welcome her, albeit belatedly, back to the House.
Sadly, over recent years, we have seen an increase in unemployment and our area has lost many businesses, including chemical factories, the paper mill and the short-lived Selby coalfield. I have personal experience of redundancy and the despair that it can cause, so trying to get people back into work will be a personal priority for me.
Coal mining has now disappeared from the constituency. As the grandson of a coal miner, I was thrilled to receive help from former coal miners canvassing and delivering leaflets in my election campaign, although not all the people from former mining communities
have supported my endeavours and candidacy. May I share with Members a quick story that involves a recent family funeral in a village called Grimethorpe. Some Members may know that that is not yet a Conservative stronghold in South Yorkshire, but my cousin approached me to say that it was the first time that he had ever shaken hands with a Tory and that it would be the last. He went on to say:
"thee grandfather would be turning in his grave if he knew tha' wants to be a Tory MP".
The Selby and Ainsty seat does its bit for energy production with two large coal-fired power stations: Drax and Eggborough. Drax alone provides 7% of the UK's electricity needs. It has plans to build three new large-scale dedicated biomass plants alongside the co-firing facility at its existing coal-fired station, which could result in Drax becoming responsible for supplying at least 15% of the UK's renewable power and up to 10% of total UK electricity. The total renewable capacity could be enough to power 2 million homes, which is the equivalent output of 2,000 wind turbines.
Regular readers of the Selby Times and The Press in York-I am sure that there are many of those in the House this afternoon-will be aware that in the seat there are several controversial applications, including for onshore wind farms and incinerators, which are causing great concern to local residents. A total of 30 turbines are in planning, each over 400 feet high and taller than power station cooling towers. More are being scoped by developers. If all the applications go ahead, the landscape of our district will be blighted by a forest of windmills that will do little to meet our desire to reduce carbon emissions. I agree that wind power should play a part in a mix of renewable sources, but it would be a better idea to install them where the wind blows fairly regularly: offshore.
Residents elsewhere in the constituency face many different challenges, including several unauthorised Traveller encampments, where land has been bought and camps set up without permission. One of them is even masquerading as a caravan sales site, and just below that sales sign there is another sign saying, "Enter at your own risk." That is not the most welcoming marketing slogan for a supposed caravan retailer. Local authorities must be given more powers to prevent such law-flouting, and I am encouraged by this Government's proposals to curtail the ability to apply for retrospective planning permission and to create a new criminal offence of intentional trespass. Law-abiding citizens are expected to jump through hoops if they want to build anything in rural areas, and it is plain wrong that certain groups get special treatment to bypass the rules.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of the community in my constituency, and they are the engine room for any local economy. Like everyone, they have been hit hard by the recent downturn. They have been overtaxed and burdened with red tape. There is no better illustration of this than my county council's decision to ban on health and safety grounds Selby traders from placing an A-board on the pavement outside their premises. In the midst of a recession, I can think of no more ridiculous piece of over-zealous bureaucracy than to threaten small firms with large fines for daring to advertise their wares to potential customers.
There are in my constituency the sites of two of the bloodiest battles ever fought in England: the battle of Towton in 1461 in the war of the roses, which resulted-quite rightly-in a decisive victory for the Yorkists, and the battle of Marston Moor in 1644, where Cromwell's parliamentarians prevailed. I am not an advocate of a return to civil war, but I am an advocate of civil liberties. Under the previous Government, there was an unprecedented attack on Britain's historic freedoms, and I am convinced that an ID card would be a further infringement of those freedoms. I promise that for as long as I sit in this House I will fight hard for the interests of my constituents, although my methods may be slightly less bloody than those adopted at Towton and Marston Moor.
I am grateful to have had this opportunity to address the House for the first time, and I thank the good people of Selby and Ainsty for putting their trust in me. I intend to repay that trust with all I have.
Gloria De Piero (Ashfield) (Lab): I am very grateful to have been given an opportunity to make my maiden speech in this debate. Whatever disagreements different Members and political parties may have about how to tackle crime, terrorism and identity theft, we can all agree that they are issues of great concern to our constituents, and it is for all of us to address them. I congratulate every Member who has made their maiden speech today. They were truly excellent speeches, which I must now follow.
Let me begin by paying tribute to my predecessor, Geoff Hoon, who represented Ashfield for 18 years. Geoff was a barrister by trade but was born and bred into a long line of railwaymen, and I know that the values he learned from his family shaped his political outlook. Above all, he was determined to put those values into practice as a Minister. He spent six years as Secretary of State for Defence, making him the second longest-serving Defence Secretary to date. Much of that is known about Geoff, but less well known is his passion for pop music and his encyclopaedic knowledge of bands of the 1960s and '70s. Geoff Hoon was very serious about his music, and, to be honest, he would probably cringe if he looked at the music on my iPod.
Ashfield is a constituency shaped by industry, and proud of it-and those industrial roots have shaped those privileged enough to represent it. Everywhere I went during the election campaign, I was reminded just how large the shoes are that I have to fill-including those of Frank Haynes, who, after years below ground as a miner, represented Ashfield in this House from 1979 to 1992. In doing my research, I learned that Frank was famous for having one of the loudest voices in the House of Commons. When I promised the voters of Ashfield that, if they sent me to Parliament, I would shout up for them, I was speaking metaphorically. Frank clearly promised the same thing, but meant it quite literally. He was loved by many in Ashfield and by many in this House. Everyone tells me how popular he was. His key quality, which I shall always try to emulate, was that he was always himself. I love the image of him asking Margaret Thatcher a tough question at Prime Minister's questions and calling her "duckie", which is the legendary term of endearment that Nottinghamshire folk use every day. I am assured that the Iron Lady smiled.
I am the first Member of Parliament to begin serving Ashfield with no local men underground mining for coal. Our most famous sons were from mining backgrounds. They include Harold Larwood, a Nottinghamshire and England fast bowler who left school at 14, before the war, to work in the mines. His statue still stands today in Kirkby-in-Ashfield. D. H. Lawrence was born in the town of Eastwood and was the son of a miner who could barely read. He called Eastwood "the country of my heart". It is not only the decline of mining that has hit Ashfield hard. I am delighted to be here as the first woman to represent the constituency, because women played a full part in building Ashfield's prosperity by working in the textile industry, but one by one the textile factories have gone the way of the pits. Yes, new jobs have been created, but too often they do not pay as well or offer the job security of those they replaced, and there are not enough of them.
Ashfield could be forgiven for thinking that its best days were behind it, but my mission in representing the people of my constituency in this House is to prove that that fear is misplaced, because the thing that has seen Ashfield through good times and bad is its sense of community. Indeed, I could say that the big society is alive and well there. For us, that is not a smart phrase invented by those from the leafy lanes of Notting Hill: one can smell it in the novels of Lawrence and see it there today. Every village has its community hub: the Stanton Hill community shop, the Huthwaite community action group, the Eastwood volunteer bureau, the Kirkby volunteer bureau, the Acacia avenue community centre and the Friends of Colliers Wood-I could go on and on. We do not just look out for each other in Ashfield; we stand up for ourselves, too, as those involved in the Kirkby and Sutton area residents associations prove every day by trying to keep the green fields in Ashfield green. D. H. Lawrence might be our historical hero, but it is the local heroes who are alive and well today who I want to support and pay tribute to. We can read about them each week in the Ashfield Chad and the Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser.
I came from a pretty poor background, and I believe that it is thanks to my party speaking up for people from backgrounds such as my own that I was able to go to university, have a successful media career and today speak from these green Benches. I believe that Governments can and should help to transform people's lives for the better. Of course it takes individual effort and the support of the family, but there is something else that transforms people's lives, and that is community.
I know that it is fashionable for some on the Government Front Bench to talk about community, and I am delighted that they have rediscovered the word-along with "society"-but I am not convinced that they really understand it. They have presented a false divide between the big society and big government. I am arguing for an enabling Government who help people to come together and look after their interests. It is not a matter of choosing between society and the state; it is about binding the two together, for then, truly, the whole is worth more than the sum of the parts. The result is an empowered community and a flexible, responsive, enabling state, working together, rather than one replacing the other.
It is ironic that the so-called new politics, which suggests that state and society are somehow opposed and that one can flourish only if the other withdraws, should so precisely mirror the mistakes made by the worst of old Labour, which sometimes gave the impression that the state knew best and should dictate what happened. Underneath its rhetoric, the new politics represents the flip side of the same coin. Its adherents seek to trumpet society at the expense of the state, which the Conservative party says should be smaller as a matter of principle. I do not know whether its supposed partners agree with that, but I guess that we will find out eventually.
It is dogma to suggest that, if we roll back the state, the big society will flourish in its wake. Places like Ashfield need strong communities and strong government. If that means big government, then that is fine if that is what is needed. We do not need big government for its own sake, of course, but we do need strong and active government, for a purpose. After all, were Sure Start or community support officers examples of big government? Is a Government-initiated apprenticeship one?
Today, Ashfield needs a new economic backbone to enable local people to develop their talents and become the D.H. Lawrences and Larwoods of the future. We need it to promote the talents of people who come from Ashfield and ensure that those talents stay in the area to develop its future economic strength.
We know that tough economic times lie ahead. Ashfield can cope with a lot, but it is up to Government to help us. Ashfield is a place with a tremendous sense of community, but we need the Government to help us on the way. Ashfield has a big heart and lies at the heart of England. We will be as strong, vibrant and successful as we were in our heyday, but such a renaissance will happen only with a strong state and a strong society working hand in hand. If hon. Members on the Government Benches cannot see that and make it happen, when we get our chance, we will.
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