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Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, this has been an outstanding debate, where strongly held views have been expressed with conviction, highlighting the important issues which need to be thrashed out in Committee. Like many noble Lords, I agree with your Lordships' Select Committee on the Constitution that the Bill adjusts the fundamental relationship between the individual and the state. Like my noble friend Lord Waddington, I am mindful of the words of the Lord Chief Justice Goddardno liberal hein 1951, in the case of Wilcock v. Muckle when he directed magistrates to give an absolute discharge to anyone refusing to show an ID card. He said:
"To demand production of the card from all and sundry . . . is wholly unreasonable. To use Acts of Parliament passed for particular purposes in wartime when the war is a thing of the past tends to turn law-abiding subjects into lawbreakers, which is a most undesirable state of affairs".
I have seen many things in my time in politics, but I never thought that I would see the day when a Labour Government were made to look illiberal by Lord Goddard. Doubtless, the noble Baroness, when she next dines with her legal chums and remembers happier days when she had justice and liberty blowing wind in her sails rather than battling against her on Bill after Bill, will reflect on that.
Party and principle are sometimes difficult bedfellows and I feel for some of those noble Lords opposite whose loyalty to their great party I instinctively understand and admire, but who cannot truly believe that the Government have even begun to make a case for what will be the most costly electronic procurement of state power over the individual yet seen in the free world. They will have to wrestle with their consciences over the weeks ahead for, yet again, if freedom is not carelessly to be curtailed, it will fall to this House to be a safeguard of liberty.
I was brought up to believe that the great thing about English liberty was that there was no restriction on your freedom to go where you please or do what you wished so long as you broke no law and did no harm to others. In fact, I thought that that was what the Second World War was all about. However, with this Bill, in five years, we could be in a society where production of an ID card is required before you are let
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into a hospital. What a chilling prospect that is. No doubt it is one way to dragoon in all those vulnerable elderly people who will not be caught in the rollout of the so-called voluntary scheme.
It is an odd feature of the Government's strategy that those who will be left needing compulsion will very largely be made up of older pensioners and the poorest teenagers, who either cannot or cannot afford to, travel or drive. How many council tax martyrs will this strategy create? As the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, said, the plastic poll tax, it would be indeed. The more I think of the many disturbing issues raised by noble Lords today, the more uneasy I become.
Five major threads have run through this debate. The first is that pointed out by the constitution committeeand when she replies, will the Minister therefore say whether she will alter the Bill in any of the ways that the committee asked? This Bill does change the fundamental relationship between citizen and state becauselet us not be under any illusionits aim is to enable a compulsory identity card scheme and to do it by stealth. There is not a single person who believes that a government who have spent billions and billions of the nation's treasure on making a compulsory ID card possible will not also want to make it happen. If they have no such aim, will the Minister be laying amendments in Committee to remove Section 6 and all related parts? I do not think so.
I agree with the noble Lords who say that compulsion should come in separate primary legislation. Labour Members in another place have pointed out that there was no mention in Labour's manifesto of a compulsory scheme. Why did the manifesto not tell the British people that? Why should this fundamental stepand so many other significant steps in this Billbe taken by secondary legislation? Will this House be able to block compulsion under the super-affirmative procedure? This House may agree to a Bill making ID cards compulsory one day, but we would surely be very unwise to give up our powers over that decision in this Bill.
The second thread in the debate is the fear expressed by the Information Commissioner that the Government, without ever explaining what they are doing, are building a surveillance society. The Bill is about spreading ID cards by compulsion while pretending to be cuddly and voluntary and ever so helpful. Noble Lords have commented on the need to probe this aspect, so will the Minister list for the House in her reply exactly what are planned to be the designated documents under Clause 4? I know she will have thought about that carefully. If she cannot answer today, will she, before Committee, lay in the Library a paper saying when designation will be made for each designated document, what the cost of the document will be, and the full cost of preparing and administering it?
If it is compulsory to have a passport to travel abroad, and if it is to be a condition of having a passport to provide ID information and biometrics, how is the ID card scheme voluntary for any Briton
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wanting to leave our country? Can the Minister confirm that the Passport Agency is currently building 70 interrogation centres, to which people will have to go from 2006 if they wish to have a new passport?
The head of the Passport Agency says that, by the end of 2006, 600,000 people a year will pass through interrogation centres. Will she confirm that, as he said, from late 2008, more than 4.5 million British citizens"all and sundry", Lord Goddard might have saidwill be interrogated and fingerprinted each year? When did Parliament agree this? When were the British people told? Mr Herdan went on to say that this will lead on "pretty seamlessly" into the ID card regime using face fingerprints and iris biometrics. How many people know that when their passport runs out they will be summoned to an interrogation centre before being allowed to buy a few cans of beer in Calais?
Will the powers being taken under Section 28 of the Road Safety Bill, which will make it a criminal offence to refuse to hand in a driving licence and buy a new one specified by the Secretary of State, be used in connection with the rollout of the ID card scheme? Does not the enforced recall of perfectly good licences, and the creation of a criminal offence of refusal to hand them in, smack a bit more of compulsion than of voluntarism? How much will that nationwide product recall cost? Again, when were the British people told about that? Probing the details of this rollout of what amounts to compulsory volunteering will be the more laborious because of the deplorably skeletal nature of this Bill, but probe it we must.
The third main concern in the debate has been over costs. We need to know far more about the cost of this plan. There is too much creative accounting; too much laying off of expenses that would not otherwise have been incurred as if they had nothing in the world to do with the ID card scheme. Why otherwise are we going far beyond the level of biometrics in passports required by other nations? Parliament needs to build in tripwires, giving far tighter control over what is being done and spent. That too we will have to pursue in Committee.
Outside Whitehall, the recent LSE report rings true and Home Office costings sound hollow. If someone was told that he could have between £1,000 and £3,000 a head to spend for every person in Britain to improve our lives, does anyone think he would choose ID cards while schools, hospitals and pensions went lacking? Probably no-one except the Prime Minister thinks that. Socialism used to be the language of priorities. How sad that its voice has been so strangely stilled.
The fourth concern is the concern over workability. My noble friend Lady Anelay dealt with that brilliantly as did my noble friend Lord Northesk and many other noble Lords. The Government plan to build one of the biggest databases ever known on a system of biometrics that even the Minister now admits is imperfect. The Government plan to make travel and access to health and benefits conditional on participating in a system that could go wrong tens of
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thousands of times a year. What a recipe for waste and injustice is that, even if it is not the hackers' and forgers' charter a number of noble Lords reasonably fear? Is it not amazing that only now, long after the stealth strategy was cobbled up, the Chief Scientist is being asked to consider whether it will all actually work? We hear that he is holding his first meeting next month. Should not Parliament ask why this scheme is being launched in such a scaring hurry? Should not Parliament ask, as the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, asked, whether it is wise to pass so far-reaching a Bill in haste when so many basic questions remain unanswered?
That leads to the final concern in this debate. What actually is the purpose of it all? Why this? Why now? The Home Secretary accepts that terrorists who court martyrdom and eternal memory are not going to be put off by ID cards. The perpetrators of 7/7 actually wanted to be identified. The purpose of all this, as so many noble Lords have said, should be the first thing we get to probe in Committee. It will help us all to know that there is more reason for the freest country in the world building the world's most elaborate system of state registration of identity than a personal passion of one politician whose political life is ebbing away. Can the noble Baroness say in two crisp sentences what it is all about? For one thing unites us allwe do rather want to know.
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