|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I probably made a mistakeperhaps I was unduly influenced by the fact that it was the noble Baroness on the Front Bench. I find it very difficult to take an unfavourable view of her intentions. I have no doubt about her colleagues' intentionsthey were well aware of what they were doing.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I understand perfectly what the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, said and I have to agree with him. The Minister is a lovely person who comes to this House and gives us as much information and explanation as she possibly can. But during the discussions about the restriction around Parliament, Ministers were warned that the sort of thing that has happened could happen and they chose to ignore what this House and people in the other place said, which is most unfortunate.
The amendment would delete paragraph 9(c). Paragraph 9 states that:
I do not know what "may" means. Does it mean "must" as we are often told? On other occasions we are told that "may" does not mean "must" but exactly what it says"may". We should clarify that to see under what circumstances such information "must" or "may" be recorded. That is an important distinction, so perhaps the Minister can tell us whether "may"
12 Dec 2005 : Column 998
means "must" in this case. If "may" does not mean "must", under what circumstances will information be recorded?
Also, I do not understand what sub-paragraph (c) means. It states,
That does not make sense and I am afraid that it must be explained, because it could be so wide in its application. The authorities could be gaining the sort of information that we would not even countenance at the moment. I therefore hope that the Minister will be able to explain exactly what is intended by paragraph 9(c).
The Earl of Onslow: I
Lord Thomas of Gresford: I wonder whether I may attempt to answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. To hazard a guesswhich the Minister may confirm or deny as she chooses"may" simply gives a power to the person who keeps the register to make entries in the register to this effect. But you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be his job to do so. He will be instructed to enter these matters. The power will exist in the Bill.
The second question is, what does "other particulars" mean? It must mean the reasons for the person seeking the information. I should like your Lordships to ponder the significance of that for a moment. When a policeman wishes to look at the register to check certain things about an individual, no doubt he will fill in a form. Everybody will fill in a form under this schedule. People will fill a form in every three months to give some new numbers on their driving licence, because they have changed their name, or for some such reason. A mass of information must be given. I am sure that someone seeking information from the register will have to identify himself, state the date on which he makes the application, and give a reason for that. As I have suggested, it may be because someone wants to look into a criminal record, or the tax authorities might want to see who you are and whether you have paid your taxes in the past, and so on. All that personal information will be entered on the register by the person whose job it is to do that, and it will be there for people to read for the rest of that person's life.
At Second Reading, I spoke against the entire principle of the Bill, but it is when you look at the schedule that you see all the problems emerging. As I said, there will be forms to be filled in and detailed information to be given and private information will remain on that register for the rest of timeunaltered, no doubt, if circumstances have changed. The whole system is a nightmare, and I am amazed that the Government want to go ahead with it.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: Perhaps the noble Lord could enlighten me whether "may", which is used so frequently here, ought to be read, or will come to be read, as "must".
Lord Thomas of Gresford: According to the Bill, we will volunteer to have our names on the register; it is all
12 Dec 2005 : Column 999
voluntary until the Government make it compulsory. They will make it compulsory within the foreseeable future, so that by the end of the decade we shall all have to fill in those forms, give those details and get our identity card. That will mean, no doubt, that we shall have to give it up on demand by a person who will be authorised to do so. It is just a step in a process to ensure that the state has complete control over our lives.
The Earl of Onslow: I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, stopped me from speaking so that he could speak, because I should like to back up what he has said with every fibre of my being. This is a general catch-all phrase. There used to be a phrase in the Army which went, "conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline", which meant that you would give someone 10 days' CB for whatever slight misdemeanour you thought they had committed. The more one hears of this Bill, the more tyrannical it seems.
Everyone has been immensely polite about the Minister, and justifiably so, but I draw her attention to that wonderful line in the Aeneid, when, seeing the Trojan Horse, he says:
When we are all being polite to the Ministerjustifiablyshe should be warned.
That does not stop me from being as rude as I possibly can about this aspect of the Bill. The more you see, the more it grabs, and the more it has to be put down. The Minister will not be in office when finally there is a build-up of people who are fed up of filling form after form every three days and are fed up of being stopped by the Plod and asked for their identity card, which they have left behind at home, and so on. She will not be there to accept the blame for itnor will the present Home Secretarybut someone eventually will have to untangle the ghastly mess that we are in the process of happily legislating.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I wonder whether my noble friend Lord Onslow has understood the situation. I regard the Minister not as a Greek bearing a gift but as the gift by the Greeks. It is her colleagues who are the Greeks. While we are talking about her colleagues, where is the noble and learned father of this Bill, the Lord Chancellor? I deeply regret that he is not here. I should very much like his guidance on this point and I am sure that my noble friend will feel the same.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: We disassociate ourselves with any comparison between the noble Baroness and a Trojan horse.
The Countess of Mar: Perhaps I can move to cows. The more speeches I hear on this amendment, the more I wonder how on earth all the data will be handled. I mention cows because I think immediately of the
12 Dec 2005 : Column 1000
cattle passport scheme and recording cattle movements. We have only two cows but we had a bull last spring for our two cows, and such an amount of paperwork was involved in moving that bull from his own herd to ours and then back again! We did it all on the computer, as instructed by Defra. Then, 12 pieces of paper came to us to be filled in about the "purported" movement of this bull between his own premises and our premises and back again. If Defra cannot handle cattle passports deftly, how will we manage with these ones?
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I am most obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for enlightening me about the implications of this clause. Like him, I am completely and utterly opposed to the Bill per se and have been right from the beginning. I was extremely worried about this provision before I spoke but I am even more worried after the noble Lord's speech. The Committee should be obliged to him for going through in detail many of the adverse consequences that could flow from this provision.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I stand before you, Trojan horse and alland gift, as I understand it. I am told by my noble friend Lord Carter that Ernie Bevin used to say that if you open the Pandora's Box, you will find it full of Trojan horses. I really do not think that this clause need cause as much anxiety as it clearly has and I shall try to explain why. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and all those who have been so complimentary about me. It may be a matter of trying to see how much embarrassment one can cause on the Front Bench and whether I do in fact turn red. Just so that we know it is true, I confess that I do turn red. So, your Lordships do not have to continue to prove that this is true.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|