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Lord Dubs: My Lords, I wish I had enough time to deal with the points that the noble Earl has made. I do not see that we are on the verge of Armageddon, nor that the Bill will take away our traditional civil liberties. I support the principles of the Bill; I shall mention some areas of concern and also say a little about Northern Ireland.
I wonder whether any of your Lordships have tried to open a building society account recently. I did so not long ago; I had to produce a passport, a council tax bill and a utility bill so that I could put a very small sum of money into a branch of, I think, the Abbey National. While I am about it, if two people are going to live together or get married, I advise them to share the utility bills between themnot the payment, necessarily, but the billsotherwise one of them will have difficulties opening a building society account in the future, unless and until we have identity cards.
We can all remember a time when no checks were needed to enter the Palace of Westminster; we could walk straight on to aircraft; there were no CCTV cameras, money laundering or people trafficking. But the world changed long before the Government decided that we needed a Bill of this sort.
Some of your Lordships have talked about the relationship of the individual to the state. That altered significantly many years ago. It will not change very much because of the Bill; it changed a long time ago
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when we had bombings in London. Security checks were made when boarding aircraft, and so on. In practice, the Bill will not change the relationship of the individual to the state, except possibly at the margins.
We now live in a world where there is terrorism, international crime and identity fraud. I shall go carefully with this example because I am not a lawyer and there are lawyers present. I was told by a legal aid solicitor that sometimes when the police stopped a motorist, for example, and summonsed that person to appear in court, on the day of the hearing a totally different person turned up, because the original individual had given someone else's name and address. It takes the police quite a long time to disentangle that.
There are more important examples. Let me mention one. I believe that a national identity register, plus ID cards, will make it harder for people who wish to hide their criminal past to avoid restrictions on, say, working with children. That is one safeguard which is difficult to deny, and there are others.
Even boarding an internal flight with some airlines requires photo-identity. Our passports will have to have lots of additional data if we are to be able to travel to other countries, particularly the United States. There is nothing new in the principle the Government are putting forward in the Bill. But, of course, passports must be secure, and today's passports are not, as noble Lords have mentioned.
I serve on a sub-committee of the European Union Committee. When we had a meeting with Interpol, its head said that in every major case of terrorism a forged passport had been involved. They are easy to forge these days, but the Government's proposals will at least make them harder to forgeperhaps not impossible, but harder. If we look at the link between passport information, as will be necessary, and ID cards, there is no great breach of our civil liberties or of the principles underlying our relationship to the state, when we have the same information on an ID card as on a passport. The key is how that information will be used and to whom it will be made available.
People have talked about the effect on race relations. For the life of me, I cannot understand why ID cards will make race relations worse or will prejudice the position of ethnic minorities in this country. Stop and search goes on anyway. I am not sure that a police officer who wants to use stop-and-search powers on a black person will be inhibited or encouraged by an ID card. It seems to me that it will make no difference. If anything, the person stopped will, as my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours said about his times in Paris, have the safeguard of saying, "Here is my identity card", which I think will stop most police officers in their tracks. I believe that in that sense ID cards will be a safeguard to individuals rather than a threat.
I have three areas of concern; perhaps my noble friend can deal with them in her reply. We already exchange a great deal of information with other countries about suspected terrorists or suspected international criminals. What will happen when we have this national register? Some information it is
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necessary to exchange because it may help to catch terrorists. The question is how much information will be exchanged and what safeguards there will be against exchanging the sort of extra information that will be held on the register.
Secondly, I am concerned about the costless about the difference between the cost of a passport and an ID card, and more about the suggested £30 charge for individuals who will not have a passport. That seems rather high, and I would like to feel that people who are not well off will not have to pay. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmlsley, talked about children. Young persons or their parents would find it pretty onerous if children had to pay the same amount for a passport and therefore an ID card if they were to travel.
My third concern has been referred to by other noble Lords: whether large IT schemes work. We have moved a long way since some of the dramatic failures of the past, but I trust that the Government will not move in this direction unless they are certain that the IT system is sufficiently robust. I query the difficulty we have had over the years in trying to record all passport details of people entering and leaving the country. My understanding is that the computer system did not deal with that. I should like to feel it could, because that is another important check, but perhaps my noble friend can say a little about the robustness of the IT system or the safeguards that will ensure that it will be robust enough.
I turn to Northern Ireland, where there are particular issues concerning identity cards. The Good Friday agreement says under the heading of "Constitutional Issues" under paragraph 1(vi), that the British and Irish Governments will:
"recognise the birthright of all people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments and would not be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland".
Some nationalists in Northern Ireland might not want to be identified as British on their identity cards. They might choose not to do so and it would be their right under the Good Friday agreement to make that decision. I wonder how the Government will handle that. I understand that discussions are going on with the Irish Government, but I am concerned that we might cause difficulties in Northern Ireland as a byproduct of this particular identity card scheme.
My other concern is not so much about Northern Ireland but about Irish people resident in Britain. Some might be happy to have a British identity card, but others who have Irish nationality and not British nationality might not wish to have that sort of identity card. There might be difficulties for them. Some might be quite happy. How do we handle that? This is a sensitive issue, but my main concern is with nationalists in Northern Ireland.
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Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I rise to support this Bill. I want to speak briefly not of the logical issues, which have been well covered by many speakers, but the emotional ones. I find the logic of the benefits of the Bill in a society with proliferating fragile databases overwhelming. I believe that the costs will be managed and that problems with the technology will be overcome. The Government's recent track record in technological projects is ever improving. However, deep down, alongside that logic there is emotional opposition to this Bill. I have spent some time probing it to try to understand it better. I started the classic way by looking at civil liberties, human rights and so forth. I started by reading Magna Cartaat least a translationthe Bill of Rights and John Stuart Mill, and eventually got to the European Convention on Human Rights. Only in that last document are there any references that really relate to central concerns about the Bill.
I decided that it was inevitable that I would not find any universal truths and I had better do my own research, because an emotional reaction is all about what something means to individual citizens and why they are concerned. I decided to do extensive research. It was not quite as onerous as I suggest since it was mostly done over dinner or in the pub. However, I was able to consult a wide variety of people. Although they may not have been statistically representative, the sheer variety of their reactions was a good cross-section of the emotional reactions that people have. At one end were a number of people who said, "I see no problem, it's as simple as that". Indeed, people who remembered wartime said, "It was not a problem then so what is the problem now?".
Of those people who had problems with the Bill, there were three streams of concern. First, there was a sense of loss of privacy, that one has a right to be anonymous and go through society without people seeing you. It was interesting to probe the reasons for that concern, but it is nevertheless clearly a widely felt value that one should be able to merge into society and not stand out.
Secondly, there was a sense of loss of freedom of movement. I was told very passionately that the individual did not want to have to show the card or carry it. When it was pointed out that the Bill did not envisage the card being carried I was told, "I do not even want it to exist because someone will ask to see it". There was a sense that one has a right to move freely in one's own country.
Thirdly, perhaps not surprisingly, there was a passionate concern about the possibility of a police state. There was genuine concern, particularly among younger people who said, "I don't trust this Government and I didn't trust the last one. The last thing I want to do is to give them any mechanisms to give the state more control over me".
I believe that most of those issues can be addressed and most are, at least in part, already dealt with in the Bill. However, I invite the Government to be particularly
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sensitive to those emotional strands, because in my experience in public life and management, how people feel is every bit as important as how they are persuaded.
How can we meet some of these concerns? First, I hope that Ministers will be sensitive to how they build the suite of safeguards. There are a fair number of safeguards in the Bill against the concerns that I have expressed, but in some cases they may need to be more obvious and accessible. I told a friend that the Data Protection Act 1998 allowed him to see what is held on the database. He asked, very reasonably, "How?", and I could not tell him. The underlying protections that give one access to one's own data should be easy to use and well publicised. Citizens should easily be able to discover what the register contains about them and to see the audit trail.
Secondly, the sensible technological solution to introduction would be a measured introduction. We should turn that into a virtue. One person I asked about the Bill said that they had no problem with it, but would not have said that five years ago. The passage of time, the watching of events and the unwinding of the Bill and its introduction will ease these emotional strains and allow society to become more comfortable with it.
Thirdly, we must have powerful oversight. I hope that Ministers will listen very carefully to representations to increase the power of the commissioner, guarantee independence, allow direct access to Parliament and, perhaps, have very high profile board members. They should be household namespeople whose integrity is evident from their very high-profile public position. Parliament must do its work in that scrutiny process as we go through the various statutory instruments. As a generality, we do not give nearly enough effort to statutory instruments. The statutory instruments connected with this Bill must be considered with great care. We must do our work together with our friends in the other place to make sure that we discharge that duty.
Finally, the key move in the Bill will be the move to compulsion. The Government have invented the idea of super-affirmative instruments. They may prove more trouble than they are worth. They are so unprecedented that they are likely to become messy in application. The simple use of primary legislation at that stage may be better and more straightforward and give confidence to society in general that we are doing our duty. I want the Bill to succeed and I want it to meet all the concerns that society has about it. I believe that, if we in Parliament and Government together do a good job, we will be seen as farsighted, creating a secure basis for an increasingly unstable technological world.
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