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Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, could he elucidate on where we are? He mentioned Amendment No. 46. Are we at the same time debating that amendment to leave out Clause 6? He made a general speech against compulsion. Are we dealing with all the amendments together or will we deal with Amendment No. 46 separately?
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, because it is expected that there will be a vote on both amendmentsboth clauses are important in the voluntary/compulsory debateAmendment No. 46 will be moved separately. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, will later move the amendment to leave out Clause 6, which will be voted on separately.
Lord Marsh: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may mention an issue arising out of that interesting debate, part of it on the old question of ID cards. I have no problem in producing a case in which I believe for having compulsory ID cards. I have no difficulty in producing a case for having no ID cards. However, I cannot for the life of me understand the case for ID cards which are totally voluntary.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I shall briefly respond to that intervention. The answer is that 10 European countries have voluntary cards. In Holland, the take-up is 30 per cent. It is extremely useful for those anxious about identity theft or fraud, on which the Prime Minister concentrated last week, because if you believe that the card stops such theft or fraud it is one way of protecting your identity.
For certain citizens and others mentioned by noble Lords in previous debates who want identity cards for convenience and so forth, there is a case for having voluntary cards. Many countries have them. I beg to move.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, I consider the amendment of great importance. It raises fundamental issues of liberty. Noble Lords will recall that in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith saw written on the walls of the Ministry of Truth "War is peace. Freedom is slavery". I was reminded of those
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words the other day when some noble Lords on the government Benches said that requiring a person to register, requiring a person to buy an identity card, was to grant him "a new kind of freedom". Those were the very words used by the noble Lord, Lord Gould, on 15 November last year, at col. 1012, when talking about these matters.
I believe that most people will agree that while identity cards might bring some benefits to the individual, compulsory registration means an inroad into liberty and privacy and that when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said at the weekend that identity cards would make it easier for the citizen to deal with the state, what he really meant was that they would make it easier for the state to deal with the citizen.
I can see that creeping compulsion is, from the point of view of the Home Office, a convenient way of proceeding. But is it really right that it should be a lottery as to when any particular person is, as it were, caught in the spider's web; that it should depend on a circumstance entirely outside the individual's control and for which he is in no way to blame, such as when his driving licence happens to come up for renewal? It will be a complete lottery. The Government's scheme means that the state will be saying to the individual: "You are entitled to a driving licence. You have done nothing wrong to disentitle you from having a driving licence. But we will not give you one unless you take a step which has nothing whatever to do with the requirements of the Road Traffic Acts and your ability to drive. We will not give you one unless you buy an identity card and submit to registration". How on earth can that be right?
Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, in moving the amendment, made a comprehensive and persuasive speech. Therefore, I can be brief. He started, I think rightly, and as I was going to, by quoting from the Labour Party manifesto. There is a considerable contrast between the words quoted from the manifesto and the words used by the Minister on the fourth day of our proceedings, when she said:
"However, in a system that has been designed from the outset to be compulsoryit has been said that we will introduce it in stages, but always within the context of a compulsory schemeit is difficult to see what is stealth-like about that. It has been very open".
"In order to phase in the introduction of ID cards and avoid any big-bang move to compulsion, it has always been our intention that certain documents would be designated under Clause 4".[Official Report, 12/12/05; col. 1008.]
My noble friend was absolutely right when he talked about creeping compulsion. The noble Baroness said that she could see nothing stealth-like about this. But, clearly, the Government believeand I do not
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challenge themthat many people find the idea of having an identity card for some purposes quite attractive and will therefore go along with it, particularly if it is doled out relatively painlessly when, in any case, you have to apply for the renewal of a passport, or whatever else may be created as a designated document later.
However, the issue is not just about identity cards. It is certainly understandable that if you have a passport you may feel that an identity card, for example, is a useful tool for getting rather more simply around Europe. I do not challenge that. But the point of this amendment is that it is attached to a clause that deals with the register. The register is at the heart of the criticisms made about this Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, quoted from the Information Commissioner and the extent of the information that is to be held on the register. It seems to me that while it may be useful and convenient to have an identity card, you should notcertainly not until the Government have made it plain that they can manage this whole scheme and deal with the criticisms made in our debatesbe forced to go on the register. One thing people are entitled to know is that the register will work in a manageable way and will not have the potential weaknesses identified during our debates.
I did not take part in the debate last Thursday in this House initiated by my noble friend Lord Marlesford about the firearms register and the failure of the Home Office to meet the statutory requirements imposed on it by Parliament in 1997. It is an appalling story of incompetenceand worseby the Home Office in introducing a scheme that Parliament believed was necessary.
One feature that struck me about that debate, when I read it, was the extraordinary generosity of those noble Lords taking part. They somehow forgave Ministersindeed, were nice to themas they defended the government position. The Ministers said it was all absolutely appalling; they said, "Of course, it is shocking that we have been unable to introduce a workable scheme". They kept saying, "We are as disappointed as anyone in this Chamber". Yet those Ministers are responsible for their department. If they are incapable of setting up a firearms register in eight years, why should we imagine that they are capable of setting up the register required under this Bill in an acceptable and workable way? Until they have proved their capacity to do that job, I do not believe that we should accept people being compelled to have their names on the register. I warmly support the amendment.
The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, I want to make a quick comment. The Bill will go through Parliament whether we like it or not. However, before the entire thing becomes final and properly compulsory, we should go only into a voluntary phase to test the idea. That is why I approve of this amendment, for it means that the first people to volunteer to try that outwhich will be several million people, since many people approve of itcan at least self-select who will be doing that.
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Your Lordships must remember that the Bill currently provides that when you are next issued with a passport or driving licence, Clause 12 applies to you. It is worth looking quickly at what that clause insists you do. It applies to you, remember, and not to refugees, who have their own thing, or to people who are already here illegally because they will be in hiding anyway. I was reminded of how people such as escaped prisoners hid from the Germans during the warnot easily, but it was done. If it is really thought that all the illegal immigrants are going to be rounded up just because some people are carrying ID cards, then you have another think coming.
"An individual . . . must notify the Secretary of State about . . . every prescribed change of circumstances . . . within the prescribed period . . . the Secretary of State may require him to . . . otherwise . . . provide such information as may be required",
So, if noble Lords do not vote for the amendment, they are accepting that they will fulfil all those details the next time they renew their passport or driving licence. Personally, until we have decided that Parliament will proceed to compulsion, I believe that the scheme should be entirely voluntary.
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