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Terrorism Bill

8.38 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clauses 42 and 43 agreed to.

Clause 44 [Authorisations]:

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 114:

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 114, which is a minor amendment to Clause 44. Its purpose is to ensure that the stop and search powers are exercisable in relation to an item carried on a vehicle.

Clause 44(1)(d) already allows the police to search an item in a vehicle, and I am sure noble Lords would not want the police to be barred from searching for items carried, for example, on a car roof-rack. I hope that this amendment is uncontroversial, even if amusing to some noble Lords. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Marlesford moved Amendment No. 115:

    Page 20, line 29, at end insert--

("(2A) An authorisation under this subsection authorises any constable in uniform to stop a person for so long as is necessary to question him to ascertain his identity and movements.
(2B) For the purposes of subsection (2A), a person required to give details of his identity to a constable in uniform must--
(a) if he is a United Kingdom citizen, provide the constable in uniform with his National Health Service number; or
(b) if he is not a United Kingdom citizen, provide the constable in uniform with--
(i) his passport details, or
(ii) details of other documentation used to gain entry to the United Kingdom,
and must also provide such other particulars as the constable may reasonably require.").

The noble Lord said: I move this amendment and speak to Amendments Nos. 118, 120, 121, 122 and 161, which follow on quite neatly but rather more substantially from the amendment which the Minister has just moved. The substantial amendments are Amendments Nos. 115 and 161, the latter reproducing for England what Amendment No. 115 does for Northern Ireland. I seek to help the Government by making the provisions of the Bill more effective. However, I hope that I shall have the support of those who perhaps feel that the Bill is already too effective by assuring them that nothing that I propose in these amendments in any way infringes on civil liberties or human rights.

I start with what I hope is a common position for all of us: that if terrorism is to be combatted, the identification of those who might be terrorists should be achieved as simply, effectively and certainly as possible. It is only by doing so that the risks of inconvenience or worse to the innocent can be minimised.

At present, the only preliminary general identification available to the police who wish to question someone is the name and address. Both of

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those are always difficult to verify rapidly and some prove impossible. Indeed, the use of false names and addresses is often the tactic of first resort for wrongdoers. Names are not enough in fighting serious crime, of which, of course, terrorism is a great example.

And yet in its dealings with citizens, every state has long used a multitude of numbering systems as a supplement and, indeed, often an alternative to names and addresses. In this country, every citizen receives a national health number at birth. Birth certificates have long been used and, indeed, required as evidence of identity for a number of purposes, both official and private. Later, everyone has a national insurance number. However, some people have numerous national insurance numbers. It has long been widely known and admitted by successive governments that there are far more current national insurance numbers than there are people entitled to them.

All taxpayers have a tax number and I believe that multiple tax numbers are rather less popular than multiple national insurance numbers.

All those who travel abroad will have passports which have a number which changes every time a new passport is issued to the same person, which is a strange system. All those authorised to drive road vehicles have a driving licence number which, itself, is a crude cryptogram of name and age. Members of Her Majesty's forces have military numbers. Civil servants will usually have passes with numbers. Members of Parliament and those who work in the Palace of Westminster will have passes of varying colour and design, each with a unique reference number. Those who go to prison have a prison number which, incidentally, varies with every prison to which a person is admitted. Those convicted of serious crimes receive a criminal record number, and so it goes on.

Ten members of the European Union--Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal--have national identity cards. A valid identity card of any EU or economic area country may be accepted as a travel document for entry into the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, a system of identity cards was introduced during the war and was scrapped in 1952.

Following the government's 1995 Green Paper, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee made an extensive study of identity cards in 1996. It concluded that a case for introducing a voluntary identity card had been made but it was opposed to the use of a unique identity number for each cardholder.

The then government, in their August 1996 reply, accepted the committee's proposal that there should be a voluntary identity card based on the new photo driving licence. They envisaged that a single national identity number might be required in the future.

I do not propose that there should be identity cards. I do not even propose that there should be any fresh, new national identity number. However, in order to make this important legislation effective, I believe that the existing National Health Service number should be

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used as an identity reference for British citizens and, for non-British citizens, passports or other entry documents would enable the police to exercise their powers under the Bill.

Of course, that would mean that National Health Service numbers would gradually have to be made available for use by the police national computer, as driving licences already are. But I hope that I do not need to reassure the Committee that to use the same number for different purposes no more means unauthorised persons having access to information held for those different purposes than if the same information is held under different numbers.

Therefore, my amendments spell out, under the power of the stop and search provisions in Clause 44 and Clause 89 for Ireland, the power of the police to ask for National Health Service numbers which would have to be developed in the way I have described for British citizens. For others, the police would require the production of identity material which has been used for entry into the United Kingdom.

With the serious threat of the development of terrorism and the need to introduce this Bill, I believe that that will become an essential weapon to make it more effective. I beg to move.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Dubs: I am not very happy about the arguments being put. It seems to me that this is a way of establishing an identity card system without overtly doing so. It is better to have a proper debate about the merits or demerits of ID cards rather than dealing with that issue in this particular round-about way.

Not everybody from abroad necessarily has a passport. People may come from a repressive regime which does not permit them to have passports. So it does not follow that that particular form of documentation would be available.

I am not wholly clear about how one would demonstrate that one's National Health Service number was accurate. No doubt the noble Lord knows what his number is. I know what mine is but I have no piece of paper to prove that. So it is a complicated approach. I believe that the noble Lord would do better to argue the case for ID cards, if that is what he believes.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: I find myself in agreement with both noble Lords in that I agree that a national identity card would probably be the most sensible system. But I wonder whether there is not quite a lot to be said for the national insurance number. It seems to me that that is one thing which everybody in Northern Ireland--and it is Northern Ireland that I am thinking about--undoubtedly has which is probably not regarded, even by the most virulent Republican, as an admission of British citizenship or anything else. It is simply that you are part of the national health system in Northern Ireland. Therefore, it would be extraordinarily difficult not to have such a number and not to be prepared to give it. On those grounds, I suggest that there is merit in the proposal.

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I quite see the difficulty in relation to the non-British citizen. For that reason, I agree that the best answer would be a national identity card. But that is for another debate, and quite a long one. I hope that we might consider this as a half-way house.

Lord Dubs: I should make it clear that I am not advocating identity cards. I prefaced my remarks by saying that, if that is what the noble Lord wants, then that should be debated. But I was not arguing the case for ID cards.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: First, I congratulate my noble friend on his ingenuity in raising this matter on the Bill. However, as he said, it is relevant because of the necessity properly to identify people in terrorist cases.

I find attractive the idea of a single number for all purposes rather than having a multiplicity of numbers for all the different purposes which my noble friend set out. But I cannot agree to the acceptance of the amendment.

It is difficult to justify the different personal reference numbers from different government departments. I was going to say that the NHS number, deriving, for those of us who are old enough, directly from the identity card number, as it does, seemed to have some primacy in the matter and might take preference over the others. But in response to what was said earlier, I was going to produce my NHS medical card, which I happened to have with me, to demonstrate that one could exhibit one's NHS number. But, to my astonishment, I discovered that my NHS number is not what I thought it was and it is certainly not the identity card number that I have held since my youth, dating back to the war. Perhaps that is not such a good point after all.

As far as the Bill is concerned, I believe that the present position should remain, both in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain. However, it is important that we consider the matter of voluntary identity cards on another occasion. My noble friend has found an ingenious way of reminding us of the issue.

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