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Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, I very much agree with the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, about the need to scrutinise the statutory instruments that this Bill will spawn. However, it should be remembered that the Government contend that we are not entitled constitutionally to amend, let alone reverse, statutory instruments. There is much to be said by way of criticism of this Bill for its provisions in that regard.
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I had intended to begin and will go on to say something that I am afraid some of your Lordships may regard as vulgar. If, after some catastrophic further outrage, which heaven forfend, it were to be shown that a reliable scheme for an identity card could have helped the police prevent the outrage, the blow to public confidence would surely be very heavy. Surely, in those awful circumstances, the maintenance of public confidence would be very important indeed. Many of the highly principled, eloquently delivered and totally sincere criticisms expressed today about the scheme would not in those circumstances attract much sympathy; nor would they be much solace. How much weight should your Lordships attach to that consideration?
This has been a deeply troubling debate to me, for the best of reasons. It has got to the heart of some difficult questions. Not surprisingly, it has concentrated on a recognition of the deeply demanding conflictwith which the purpose of this Bill confronts usbetween our opposing duties as legislators: on the one hand, our duty to help the Government secure the safety of the realm, and on the other the duty to stand in the trench and defend those freedoms and safeguards against undue restraint by the executive, for which our predecessors have fought and not infrequently died.
That conflict is not new. In 1939, for example, we faced it when we brought into law the defence regulations within, I think, the space of an afternoon. Let it not be forgotten that they provided, among other delicacies, for internment without trial. At a lesser level, as has already been mentioned, legislation provided for identity cards, but they were puny forerunners of the sophisticated instruments of surveillance that this Bill now poses.
How should we resolve this conflict? In doing so, it is right that we bear in mind the history and spirit of the common law, and indeed of our whole history. We must keep that in the forefront of our minds. It is right that it should be invoked and held before us today. It must always exert a powerful magnetism upon any English lawyer. No less powerfuland I am glad I can say this in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, who made so powerful a speech earlier todayis our common experience that when the powers of the law enforcement agencies of the executive are called into question, they always ask for more.
Today, however, our country and all who live here face a threat that is quite unprecedented in character. True, at the end of the war against Japan in 1945, we were experiencing the kamikaze pilot, but our homeland has never been subjected to attacks by suicide bombers who, unlike the kamikaze, do not show up on the radar as they approach from some enemy base. We are faced today with such a bomber who typically lies deep within our communities. He gives no forewarning of his approach or of his terrorist intent. We all know how devastating such an attack can be. We know that it can strike at the very heart of the state.
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It is the absence of early-warning radar, if I can put it like that, of someone who is himself determined to die that should determine our resolution of that conflict. This deprivation of early warning must be mitigated somehow. We cannot simply sit back and say that the present state of our law, safeguards and protective measures is sufficient. That is where the case for the Identity Cards Bill comes in, at least in part.
Providedand this is the most crucial provisothat this scheme's features can be shown to be effective and workable and will help to fill a dangerous gap, my position is that enough of the severe intrusions that this Bill will permit must be tolerated for the greater good. These are unprecedentedly dangerous times, and they warrant and demand such measures as will satisfy that demand, provided that they are proportionate and fair, notwithstanding that they are hard.
Enormously powerful speeches have been made today criticising this Bill, and I am deeply impressed by them. If it is not invidious to say so, I call to mind the speeches of my noble friend Lord Waddington, my noble and learned friend Lord Lyell of Markyate and the noble Lords, Lord Phillips of Sudbury and Lord Thomas of Gresford; there have been many others. I have found them deeply troubling. In the light of the speeches made by, for example, the noble Lords, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington and Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, and of what we know about the demands by the police for these powers and a scheme of this character, I consider that on balance this Bill merits a Second Reading, although I have to add the word "just".
Within its provisions, however, the devil does not inhabit merely the detail; he resides in many mansions, and from these he must be evicted by the processes at which this House excels. If he cannot be, the Bill deserves to fail. For example, there is the extraordinary feature that in no fewer than 60 instances the Secretary of State is given power to effect substantial legislative changes. This is virtually a skeletal enabling Bill, and I look forward with interest to see what the Select Committee has to say about it. These instances must be drastically reduced.
Then there is the question of the estimates of cost, and the extraordinary disparity between respectable estimatesthose of the Government and the LSE, for examplehas to be resolved, as my noble and learned friend Lord Lyell has said. Chapter and verse need to be given by the police and the security authorities of the way in which the Bill will help. Much too wide access is given to the register. These are just a few of the many matters with which I trust the House will closely concern itself as we give this properly intentioned but, I am afraid, deeply flawed Bill the scrutiny it demands.
Lord Gould of Brookwood: My Lords, with the forbearance of the House, I will take you on a short journey of changing public attitudes. Twenty years ago we lived in an almost entirely different world.
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When people were asked in 1985 by Gallupa polling organisation that no longer really exists in Britainwhat was the most urgent problem facing Britain, 75 per cent said unemployment, 10 per cent said strikes, only two per cent said crime and none said immigration.
Compare that picture to today. When MORI asked in September what were the most important issues facing Britain today, it found defence, international terrorism and security were top with 46 per cent. Race relations, immigration and asylum were second with 32 per cent. Crime was fourth, with 25 per cent. This is a transformed landscape, a wholly new world, and one I have seen slowly emerge over the years that I have been doing this kind of work. Inch by inch the terrain has altered, so that now the whole map is vastly different.
The emergence of immigration, crime, security and terror do not mean that the electorate has become more racist or more authoritarian; in fact quite the reverse, as I will show. It does mean, however, that the prism through which the citizen views the world has changed, just as surely as the world has changed around the citizen. New challenges have emerged, and a new agenda has been built. Politics is never still.
The enduring concerns of the economy and public services remain but they have been joined by a new politics; I call this the politics of identity and of security. This new politics has emerged as a reaction to a constellation of new forces. People are part of a world in which they experience constant change and see and feel global forces touch their very lives. Globalisation may be universal in its influence but it is local in its impact. In a sense, every individual and every community is at the epicentre of their own constellation of change. Nothing is immune from thatnot employment, not skills, not migration, not terror, not religion, not crime, and, now, not disease. In the face of that people have mixed feelingsnot confused feelings so much as mixed feelings. Often, and increasingly, they cope with confidence, and that is the good news in all of this. But they also feel insecure, threatened and unsure.
Communities, values and patterns of life appear to be changing in unpredictable and disturbing ways. The public's response to that is balanced. For of the most part they are tolerant and open to change. But the public also feel that the long-established relationship between responsibility and rights is being eroded. They sense that the glue that held communities together is weakening. They support immigration but deplore abuse of immigration procedures. They want increased investment in public services and will pay the taxes necessary to finance them but resent those who abuse public services without contributing fairly to the costs. They do not break laws themselves but feel that sometimes law breakers escape too easily and too lightly. But they do not, except on the extreme and contemptible fringe, retreat into retribution or racism or reaction. If they do so, I believe that they do so less. The British at their core are tolerant and fair, but they
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know that the world is changing and old solutions will not work any more. They want new responses that recognise the changed reality of their lives.
At its heart, this velocity of change threatens not just jobs or way of life but identitywho we are, where we are, where we belong, what is our basic sense of self. In the past the answers were easy. We lived in communities affirmed by longstanding relations, patterns of life and clear and fixed symbols of identity; but no longer. We now inhabit a complex, fast-moving and cosmopolitan world where who we are is multi-faceted and fluid. Now even personal identitywho you arecan be stolen. Although traditional ties of community are fragmenting, the impulse to belong is not weakened. In fact the opposite is true: the greater the flux, the more the importance of identity. People want to be citizens. They want to contribute. They want to belong to the community and the nation and they want this contribution to be recognised and they want it to be respected.
The opposite is true. Identity cards represent for most people not the control of identity but its affirmation. Identity cards in this new world are a symbol of identitya badge of good citizenship, a sign of belonging. They can help form the core of a new social contract in which rights and responsibilities are seen to balance and which in turn helps to glue our communities together once more.
Each of the specific benefits of identity cards is individually important and each has been discussed endlessly today. I will repeat them quickly. They will help to reduce identity theft, which is now a very serious and rising concern at every level. People are very concerned about that. Identity cards will help to curtail illegal immigration and start to facilitate a more balanced and less-heated argument about the intrinsic benefits of immigration itself. They will help to ensure that those holding a position or employed in a position of trust are who they say they are. They will help stop fraud and waste in the public services and they will play their part in combating crime and terror. But in their essence identity cards go further: they affirm identity in a world of flux. They are the opposite of identity theft. However, the protection of identity, important though it is, is just one part of the complex response we must all make to the challenge of the new politics.
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I noticed that one of the forthcoming Hamlyn lecturesI think that there will be one at the LSE soonwill argue that this new age of uncertainty and anxiety puts huge pressure on human rights, which is why the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into British law has been so important. I believe that that is true. One of the very many things I have learnt from this House is how the European Convention on Human Rights has become part of the usual currency of political debate. The convention has become the benchmark by which legislation must be tested and the test by which it must pass. In its way, the European Convention on Human Rights and its incorporation into British law was a necessary response to a new world of global uncertainty and pressure. Human rights were affirmed, codified and fixed. In a related way, the introduction of identity cards will affirm identity and give fixed concrete expression to people's desire to belong and to be recognised as good citizens.
My point is plain. This new world demands new approaches. Identity cards and the codification of human rights do not herald from different parts of the political spectrum but form a connected response to the same challenge: how to protect and enhance the individual in the face of anxiety, insecurity and global change. I certainly do not believe that the protection of human rights and the protection of identity are in some way in inevitable conflict. I absolutely do not believe that. Instead, they are part of a shared and mutually reinforcing attempt to respond appropriately to the new political world that we inhabit.
I know that there are many in this House, and I have heard it today, who have serious doubts about the Bill. Those reservations are honourable and deep-rooted, and of course those views must be respected and those arguments made. But I say to the House this evening that, in the end, the House has a choice: to stay entangled in the fault lines of the past or to move forward and meet new challenges with new approaches. The public want identity cards. They have supported them at a general election and they support them still. On this occasion the public are right. They have voted for identity cards and should have the right to have them, to use them and to have their identity affirmed. I believe that the House should support the Bill.
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