Select Committee on European Communities Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140 - 143)

WEDNESDAY 16 DECEMBER 1998

PROFESSOR KEES GROENENDIJK, MR ANDREW NICOL, and MS ELSPETH GUILD

Lord Rix

  140.  Do you consider the ownership of identity cards to be of benefit eventually to both the owner of the identity card and the social security officer as well as employers etc., generally?
  (Professor Groenendijk)  I think it is not only the government but also a lot of private organisations which oblige people to produce identity cards.

  141.  Like us here (in the House of Lords).
  (Professor Groenendijk)  Like you. I was a member of the committee which advised the Dutch Government on how to deal with the issue of the identity card. One of the interesting experiences I had was that the police commissioner who was on the Committee, never laid any stress on the idea of carrying identity cards as being something which would add to the possibilities to either detect illegal people or arrest criminals. It was more the politicians who were in favour of the general obligations to carry ID cards, the representative of the police in that committee never stressed that. He doubted whether it would be an effective document in controlling undesirable activities in the country.

  142.  The question here, as you know, is down under race relations. The question is would identity cards benefit or otherwise race relations, I presume in regard to the stopping by the police?
  (Professor Groenendijk)  This has been in the Dutch parliament—if you will allow me to answer that question—a topic of repeated debate. The relevant provisions in our immigration law have been amended as to make it hard for immigration officers and police officers to check the identity cards of people being suspected of being illegal entrants or illegal stayers unless they have concrete evidence or suspicion. The courts and the national ombudsman so far have given very strict interpretation to this clause because the intention of parliament was to have the controls not on the street but to have the controls on the identity and on the legality of the stay at certain specific occasions, specifically to avoid the problems for race relations which have arisen in other continental countries where there is a long tradition of checking people in the streets like, for instance, France and Belgium.

Chairman

  143.  I promised the Committee we would not keep you too long and that we would have finished by a quarter to six. May I ask one last question, which I hope is a fairly brief one though. I think I understood from one of your earlier answers that those who potentially suffer most from the opt out on both sides of the opt out are third country nationals, is this correct? If they get a different visa for Britain than they have for Schengen then third country nationals resident in this country for a prolonged period are not able to move freely around the rest of Europe and similarly third country nationals resident in the Netherlands are not able to move freely into Britain. Is this correct?
  (Professor Groenendijk)  I would supplement it with the citizens of the Union who are of immigrant origin because they have the same problem as the third country citizens. Chairman:  Thank you. There are many other questions we would love to ask you. If you have five minutes for informal conversation before you leave I would love to know a little about the Meijers Committee. Meanwhile, thank you very much indeed for coming. We are sorry we kept you waiting at the beginning.





 
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