Author Topic: Robert Buckland speaks in support of the Bill to abolish ID Cards  (Read 813 times)

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Offline Alligator

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Quote from: Robert Buckland
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I join in the warm welcome you have received this afternoon. It is hard to believe that 25 years have passed since we first fought socialism in south Wales. My congratulations to you.

I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me in a debate that is close to my heart, one that has been a long time in coming. I have been passionately opposed to identity cards and to the national identity register for a number of years. However well intentioned a Government may be towards safeguarding our identities, data and personal information, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The 2006 Act did not reach its logical conclusion and was not implemented to its full potential but it set out an alarming framework that would have led to the sort of society in which I do not think many of us would want to live.

The shadow Home Secretary taught me much today about how to defend the indefensible. The best form of defence is attack. I am a new student of the politics of the Chamber and I am grateful to him for teaching me that lesson. However impressive his presentation was, it could not get away from the sad fact for him and the Opposition that the policies that they implemented and the Act represented by them was flawed, unwelcome and an infringement of the natural rights that we as citizens should expect to have. It represented a dangerous reversal of the burden of proof between the individual and the state.

No longer were the Government there at the behest of all of us, governing with our consent. The logical conclusion of the Act was that ultimately we would have to prove our own existence. Why do I say that? Because in the Act was the presumption of accuracy-the presumption that all the information and registrable facts that could have been entered on that register were accurate. If it recorded the fact that I was Mrs. Robert Buckland, I would have had to prove that I was not. What an absurd, almost Kafkaesque situation that would have been. I can assure the House that I am Mr. Robert Buckland, and it would be ridiculous to have to prove that.

Like Dr Huppert in his excellent speech, I pay tribute to the campaigners of NO2ID. They worked assiduously, with great enthusiasm and conviction. I pay tribute to all that my local group in Swindon, a non-party political group of concerned individuals, did. They organised petitions, campaigned on the streets and sought to persuade legislators in this place and more widely of the error of that policy. They succeeded in moving public opinion considerably on from where it was only five years ago. It is a significant achievement, which was recognised by Mr Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, in a thought-provoking and intelligent contribution, as we would expect from him.

The issue gives rise to strong emotions and passions. In an intervention, I suggested earlier to the shadow Home Secretary that the national identity register was unprecedented. We will have to agree to differ on that. It is, in my view, entirely unprecedented because of the sheer number of registrable facts that would potentially have had to be entered by the individual. No other country in the world had attempted that, and the Government, in their gradual withdrawal from the rather grandiose suggestions at the beginning of the life of the 2006 Act, seemed to recognise that there was an inevitability about the danger of trying to create a super-database-one database trying to deal with all that information.

Reality dawned a little too late on the previous Government and their attitude to data retention. It is not just a matter of Kafka or George Orwell. There was an element of low farce in the implementation of the 2006 Act. The Act received Royal Assent on 30 March 2006 and immediately repealed the parts of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 that made it a criminal offence for a person to have a false passport or immigration document in their control. Sections 25 and 26 of the 2006 Act made it a criminal offence for a person to have a false identification document in their custody or control. In other words, the successor provision dealt with and covered the lacuna or loophole that would have opened up with the abolition of the relevant parts of the 1981 Act. That is all well and good, but unfortunately a mistake was made, because the commencement order that brought the new provisions into force was not passed until 7 June 2006. More than two months went by during which no criminal offence of having a false identification document existed in England and Wales. Clever lawyers-better lawyers than me, perhaps-brought that matter to the attention of certain court proceedings, and I know of at least one set of proceedings that came to an undignified halt because of that alarming loophole.

I said low farce, but the situation was more serious than that, because it meant that, potentially, people went undealt with by the criminal justice system for the serious offences-let us not forget-of possessing false identification documents, including passports, for which custodial offences would normally and quite properly follow. I am glad to see that no such danger arises from the Bill before us, because the provisions in section 25 of the 2006 Act, on the criminal offences surrounding the possession of false documents, have been retained, and the transitional provisions are carefully worded to ensure that no such loophole ever opens again. The 2006 Act was yet another sad example of legislation passed without due consideration for those who have to operate it. A number of people who work in our criminal justice system had their hearts in their mouths when they were considering prosecutions brought in that two-month-nine-week, to be accurate-period.

The arguments that were deployed in favour of the identity card scheme shifted like the sands of time. We started with an argument about benefit fraud. From my experience of dealing with benefit fraud over a number of years, it is axiomatic that most of it occurs not because of false identification documents, but because of wrongful declarations about living status. That argument went by the wayside. We heard an argument based on immigration, which also went by the wayside; and then the argument became a credit-card argument about convenience-a one-stop-shop offering people access to services. None of those weak arguments stacks up when we balance them out with fundamental freedoms and liberties, and that is why I am delighted that this Government's first act is to bring forward a Bill to repeal the 2006 Act.

The 2006 Act represented government at its worst: overweening, over-ambitious, arrogant and out of touch. We now have a chance to redress that balance. I look forward to the death rites being pronounced upon the 2006 Act, and I will play my part, however small, in making sure that that is done.

Offline Simon

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Re: Robert Buckland speaks in support of the Bill to abolish ID Cards
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2010, 10:10:59 pm »
Hear hear Mr Buckland, I'm sure many TS members would like to join me in giving you a  :clap: for that speech.

(And congratulations on becoming my new MP, even if you weren't the candidate I voted for, and you represent a party that I don't like very much)

This issue of whether the government belongs to us or whether we belong to them is your strongest suit IMHO, so I'm not surprised that one of your first speeches is on this subject. But there are many other subjects which various people of Swindon feel are important (just browse TS for a wide selection of them), and I'll be interested to see how readily you take these issues on board and use the views of your constituents to influence government policy.

From the few times we've met, I've concluded that you're a decent person with a few opinions which I disagree with and a few more that I agree with.

But now you're my MP, so my expectations are higher. I expect you to fulfill your duty by taking our views to Westminster, and getting them acted upon. And I expect the volume of Swindon to Westminster traffic to be higher than the volume of Westminster to Swindon traffic.

I hope you'll also escape from the Westminster bubble every so often to engage with the people here on TS  :)
We are all in this together, but some of us are more in it than others (with apologies to George Orwell)


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