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ON THE RECORD
RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC-1 DATE: 28.5.95
JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. Do we want a national
identity card? The government wants to know what we think and that's what this
programme is about. We have a live studio audience; two teams of politicians
representing both sides in the debate; and we'll find out which argument wins
the day. That's after the News read by Moira Stuart.
HUMPHRYS: Hello again. A different On The Record
this week because we're debating identity cards - and by "we" I mean a live
studio audience and two teams of MPs. One of the interesting things about this
great debate is that it's created some unlikely alliances: right-wing Tories
and left-wing opposition both fighting on the same side. We have both sides
here: Jeff Rooker, Labour, and Sir Ivan Lawrence, Tory, are for an ID card.
Mike O'Brien, Labour and Richard Shepherd, Tory, are against. They'll try to
convince you and the audience here in the studio of their case.
But first, let's be clear what we're
talking about. The Green Paper that came out on Wednesday asked the simple
question: should there be a national identity card. Mark Weston-Turner reports
MARK WESTON-TURNER: Britons last had to carry ID cards
during and after the Second World War, but in 1952 they went after a judge
ruled it was an emergency measure inappropriate for peace time. But now
the Home Secretary thinks ID cards could be helpful in the crime war.
MICHAEL HOWARD MP: The police think that it would be an
advantage in the fight against crime, and it could also have uses as a travel
document, so there are a number of ways in which an identity card could have
advantages. I want to test the arguments for those advantages, test the
arguments against, and then we shall decide how to move forward.
WESTON-TURNER: Michael Howard's Green Paper has a
number of options, the first two of which aren't really new at all. Option one
is coming anyway. Drivers will have their photograph on the new licence from
next year. Option two is a travel document which could replace the British
Visitors Passport, due to be scrapped this year, or the two could be combined
into the new voluntary government card. The third option is that the
government could do nothing, but the fourth option favoured by the police is a
compulsory national identity card.
FRED BROUGHTON: The key benefits of a identification
card would be the additional support that it would give police to identity
individuals they're dealing with, and in investigating crime from summonses
through to serious crime what's crucial is identification of the individual
they're dealing with, and that's what ID cards give the police, and no doubt
it'll help prevent crime.
WESTON-TURNER: But some criminologists say identity is
not the major issue in most crimes, and the public will have been sold a pup if
they think it'll make much difference.
PROFESSOR MICHAEL LEVI: The public are very alarmed about crime
and they want something done about it. ID cards sound as though they're
going to do something about it, but the police are not very likely to be able
to detect many more offenders as a result of any kind of ID card scheme
voluntary or compulsory.
WESTON-TURNER: So whatever happens to the Green Paper,
one scheme will definitely come in, the photo-driving licence - few have a
problem with that. The question that remains unanswered is do we need a
national identity card on top of everything else we carry. Mark Weston-Turner,
On The Record, Westminster.
HUMPHRYS: So there we are - that's the question,
should there be one, do we want one? Before we find out what the audience
here thinks let's take a look at the findings of an opinion poll. We asked
MORI to question a thousand people across the country and here's what they
found out. To the question: On balance do you support or oppose the
introduction of a national identity card scheme, most people - seventy-five per
cent were in favour. Seventeen per cent said they were opposed, and eight per
cent had no opinon. But might that change when we've been subjected to a
proper debate. Well, our studio audience will provide the answer or part of
it, so let me ask you in the audience, ladies and gentlemen where you stand in
this great debate. I take it you all have views of one sort or another and
you've also got little buttons to press, which will tell us what you think, so
would you please press your buttons now and tell us whether you are in favour
or whether you're opposed or whether you remain to be convinced one way or the
other. Would you press your buttons now please.
And there we are. So that's a rather
narrower majority in favour than the national majority we have, but still a
clear majority. We have forty-nine per cent in the studio who are in favour,
twenty-eight per cent who are opposed, and a large number, twenty-three per
cent who are undecided. So let's find out on what you base all that. Perhaps
you'd put up your hands those of you who are in favour, who voted in favour.
Yes, gentleman here - why did you vote in favour?
UNNAMED MAN: Well, in my opinion, ID cards offer a way of
preventing fraud and crime. If an individual has nothing to hide he shouldn't
mind carrying an identification card.
HUMPHRYS: Right, so it's good from the point of
view of preventing fraud, and if you've nothing to hide why worry about it.
Somebody else who was - yes sir, gentleman over there?
UNNAMED MAN: I particularly feel that the police of
course will gain some benefits from it, but secondarily I feel that the
ambulance services dealing with large accidents, railways et cetera, would be
immensely valuable if they could have blood groups et cetera on to it.
HUMPHRYS: Let's come back to that perhaps in a bit
more detail, the police view of it all, but there was a lady here I think you
put your hand up?
UNNAMED WOMAN: Yes, I married - I'm British but I
married an American and we carry the drivers licence with our picture.
HUMPHRYS: That's got a photograph on it, yeah.
UNNAMED WOMAN: Exactly. And if you don't have a
drivers licence, then you are supposed to get an ID card.
HUMPHRYS: So you're for it, and you've tried it
and that's a sort of ID card in one sense, and you think it works alright.
UNNAMED WOMAN: Yes, I do.
HUMPHYRS: But that's in the United States of
UNNAMED WOMAN: It is, yes. But you need it to cash
cheques and you know, I just think everybody should have one.
HUMPHRYS: Right. Okay, now would you put up your
hands if you were against, and then perhaps - gentleman there?
UNNNAMED MAN: Personally I don't think it'll make any
difference to organised crime. The real criminals always get away with it,
the police hardly catch anybody involved in real crime.
HUMPHYRS: Have you had any experience yourself of
UNNAMED MAN: Well, I got stopped just after the war.
I was coming back from the West End with a friend of mine and we stood talking
under a lamp-post and then these two big burly chaps in raincoats and trilby
hats at that time came along, and I didn't have my identity card on me and they
frightened the life out of me and I had to go home and get my identity card
which was ...
HUMPHRYS: And then take it to the police station
to prove you were who you said you were.
UNNAMED MAN: No, they didn't do that, but it did
worry me and it was very frightening at the time.
HUMPHRYS: Okay, and somebody else who was opposed,
there was a - yes, madam?
UNNAMED WOMAN: Well, you won't get - it's a
misconception to think that crime will go away just by identity cards. You've
got to get the root of why there's crime in the first place, the social and
psychological conditions that actually bring crime anyway.
HUMPHRYS: Yes, okay. Those who haven't made up
their minds yet. We'll come back to some more arguments against, but somebody
who hasn't made up his or her mind, yes, the lady here, you haven't made up
your mind yet.
UNNAMED WOMAN: Yes, I haven't made up my mind. I was
for it, but I work in a chemist and we have a lot of people coming in and
saying they don't pay for prescriptions, and really I think they should, but
there's no proof. Well, I don't know what the arguments are or what will be on
the identity card, whether it will be shown whether they should or should not
HUMPHRYS: Right, Oh well, that's an interesting
point. We may be able to return to that, but that's it for the moment, but
we'll come back to you of course during the course of the programme. Let's
see now if we can persuade you in the audience, and indeed you at home to
change your mind one way or the other. Before we hear from our politicians we
have two films to show you. We asked Kim Catcheside and Emma Udwin, reporters
on this programme, to put aside their normal journalistic impartiality and
present the cases for and against. First Kim Catcheside who argues for the
introduction of ID cards.
KIM CATCHESIDE: Who is this man? And who's she? And
Him? Is he what he seems? Identity cards would answer your questions. For
many of us identity cards whether it be for a work place or even a health club,
are part of every day life today but here at ID Data in Northamptonshire, the
bright new world of tomorrow is already here. They're experts in so-called
smart card technology, that's a card with a computer chip on it, capable of
carrying pages of useful information, designed to take some of the hassle out
of modern life.
PETER COX: The smart card can carry your health
details, it could carry the access code to your motorcar, it could carry
information to enable you to get into the telephone network, it would enable
you if you like, to carry your social security details and even your tax
CATCHESIDE: So, instead of all this, all I need is
this. Good morning.
ACTRESS: Good morning.
CATCHESIDE: I'd like to withdraw five hundred pounds
from my current account.
ACTRESS: Alright, have you got your ID card
CATCHESIDE: Yes, of course.
ACTRESS: Thank you, that will do nicely. And
how would you like the money?
CATCHESIDE: Fifties please.
ACTRESS: There you go, thank you.
CATCHESIDE: Thank you very much.
Can I take that please.
ACTOR: Certainly, that's forty nine pounds
CATCHESIDE: ID card okay?
ACTOR: That's fine, thank you.
CATCHSIDE: Thank you.
ACTOR: Lovely, thank you.
Half a pint of ...... please.
ACTOR: May I see your ID please?
ACTOR: Thank you very much indeed.
ACTOR: Okay I've got it, she's diabetic, she's
had a history of these attacks before.
CATCHESIDE: So there are lots of ways an ID card
could make your life easier and safer. But what of the disadvantages that it
may be used by the police, well you've got nothing to hide and nothing to fear.
They've got something to hide though.
And he's got plenty to hide.
Social Security offices all over Britain
are the scene of the crime of the century, forget the great train robbery, it's
estimated that a massive five billion pounds a year is being stolen by social
security fraudsters, that's your money, the equivalent of three pence off the
basic rate of tax. Identity cards would cut social security fraud.
Credit and cash card fraud costs a
hundred million pounds each year, banking organisations believe a smart card
would cut fraud sigificantly.
And driving test fraud is now
widespread, according to the RAC, upto five thousand people every year are
getting other people to sit their driving tests for them. ID cards would help
keep unqualified drivers off our roads and save lives.
So identity cards, convenience, peace of
mind and money in the bank, that's why seventy five per cent of the people in
our On The Record poll said they wanted identity cards.
HUMPHRYS: That was Kim Catcheside reporting. Now
with the case against Emma Udwin.
ACTRESS: I'm afraid I've run out of petrol.
POLICE: Identity card please madam.
ACTRESS: But I've only run out of petrol.
POLICE: Identity card please.
ACTRESS: I must have it in here somewhere.
POLICE: I'm sorry madam, I'll have to ask you to
come down to the police station with me.
ACTRESS: This is ridiculous.
POLICE: I'm sorry.
EMMA UDWIN: All this has happened before, last time
this country had ID cards, that's why they were abolished. British citizens
wouldn't stand for them.
The right to go unchallenged about our
business is something foreigners envy us. Don't let them take that freedom
away from you.
It's not just your identity that will be
on these cards, they could give all kinds of private information about you.
The government, the police, complete strangers, all with access to your most
intimate details. But what if they get your records wrong? Human error?
Computer error? You'd be labelled with their mistakes. The State will be
watching you and it won't come cheap, even the government admits current
estimates are probably far too low.
ACTOR: This scheme could cost a billion pounds
to set up, that means higher taxes. Or cuts elsewhere.
UDWIN: They'll tell you it's worth the money,
that ID cards will help crack down on crime. Even the government knows it's
ACTOR: We know who the criminals are, it's
finding the evidence to nail them that's the problem.
UDWIN: They'll tell you ID cards will cut
Social Security fraud, but even the government knows they're not the answer.
ACTOR: We lose money usually because people lie
about their circumstances not about their names.
UDWIN: And fraud experts agree the forgers of
today will be faking ID cards tomorrow.
With ID cards you'll lose your freedom.
You'll lose your privacy. And you'll be paying dearly for something that
doesn't even work. If you value your identity, say 'no' to ID cards.
HUMPHRYS: Well that was Emma Udwin, so what do the
audience here make of those arguments. Perhaps somebody who was unconvinced
either way before we saw those films, somebody who hadn't decided in the
audience, who hadn't decided before? Yes sir, what about you, what..
UNNAMED MAN: I was concerned only about the
possibility or the certainty of forging the identity cards and even with
electronic gadgetry of today, it still can be done by the criminals and we have
no real firm indication that the police will be anymore successful.
HUMPHRYS: So having seen those films you'd come
down at, the moment anyway, against?
UNNAMED MAN: I'm inclined a little bit that way shall
we say yes.
HUMPHRYS: Alright what about somebody else, yes
the gentleman right at the very back there...what were you before?
UNNAMED MAN: Undecided.
HUMPHRYS: You were undecided, right.
UNNAMED MAN: Yeah. Nobody knows the extent that this
thing is going to go to, at the moment it's just an ID card and it seems it
could be quite practical in certain instances but how far is it going to go,
what records are going to be on it, I mean, they mentioned twenty two records
there, you can keep a lot more than that on a data base.
HUMPHRYS: So at the moment you are tending towards
UNNAMED MAN: Probably against.
HUMPHRYS: Okay, somebody who was for it before we
saw those films yeah, okay, a lady there, you were for them yeah.
UNNAMED WOMAN: Yes I definitely think they are a good
idea for crime in shops and things, when children come in and they say they are
sixteen and they are not and in the war they were obviously a good thing, I
think they are very good, I think they should be....
HUMPHRYS: So you've not been persuaded by that
film against about the sort of development of the police state and all that
sort of thing.
UNNAMED WOMAN: No, they are a good idea.
HUMPHRYS: I think we actually have a couple of
policemen in the audience don't we, yes, you are presumably being a policeman,
I don't know why I should make this assumption but presumably you are for it?
UNNAMED MAN: Well it's an assumption but I am for it.
HUMPHRYS: You are for it.
UNNAMED MAN: This is my personal view but that's em,
of course that's like something off Star Trek than the reality, police officers
don't deal with people like that.
HUMPHRYS: Well forgetting the caricature of the
policemen, we know you're all a nice lot.
UNNAMED MAN: I think the actual crime aspect where it
will be most valuable is tracing criminals we are looking for and there are
thousands and thousands of people who have committed offences who are still at
large we can't detect.
HUMPHRYS: But I understood the argument here was
that you know who the villains are, it's a question of actually catching them
doing the evil deed, that was your problem. ID cards aren't going to help with
that are they?
UNNAMED MAN: Well often we know who the criminals are
but they change identity with various bits of correspondence which are easy to
get and we find it very difficult to catch them.
HUMPHRYS: Alright, somebody who was against cards
and having seen ..yeah the lady there.
UNNAMED WOMAN: I don't fancy being stopped in the
streets I think it's going to..
HUMPHRYS: Sorry you don't want them...
UNNAMED WOMAN: I am against identity cards, I think it
will make little Hitlers of the police, I think they'll just come up to any
group and say can you show us your identity cards.
HUMPHRYS: But that film we saw...
UNNAMED WOMAN: Authority will go to their heads I
am sure of it.
HUMPHRYS: Yeah, what about what that policeman
said though, that it's going to help them catch the villains, I mean that's
persuasive isn't it?
UNNAMED WOMAN: No, you still need evidence, you need
hard evidence to nail them.
HUMPHRYS: But if they don't know, if at the moment
they can't catch them, they physically can't get a handle on them because
they change their identity all the time then it makes it a problem for them
UNNAMED WOMAN: They still need to prove they've done
the crime whatever name....
HUMPHRYS: Alright a lady here, just a very quick
one and then I want to go to the politicians yeah.
UNNAMED WOMAN: It's a lot to do with your movements,
it's nothing to do with the photograph, it's to do with the movements, there's
a very sinister background to it. Where were you on a certain date is what
HUMPHRYS: Right so you were persuaded by that
second film then to be worried about it.
UNNAMED WOMAN: I always was against this and I am even
more against it after seeing that film.
HUMPHRYS: Yeah, okay, well thanks very much I'll
come back to you again because now we are going to hear from our politicians
and this basically is where they do my job for me, because they are going to
cross-examine each other for a certain period of time so let me give the first
hit as it were to Richard Shepherd and Mike O'Brien. Now you've got a bit of
persuading to do here at the moment gentlemen because at the moment you're on
the losing side, you're going to have seven minutes, and it's a strictly
limited seven minutes to cross-examine the other two, so you have your seven
minutes beginning now Richard Shepherd and Mike O'Brien.
RICHARD SHEPHERD MP: I wanted to ask Ivan if it were
appropriate, bearing in mind that with the voluntary card in France you can be
held up in a police station up to six hours, and in a compulsory system such as
Germany up to twenty-four hours if you cannot produce your identity card or a
satisfactory form of identity. What compulsion do you envisage under our
compulsory identity card scheme?
SIR IVAN LAWRENCE MP: Well, it's a question whether we're
going to have compulsion or voluntary. The question mark that I think is in
everybody's mind is whether we ought to have it at all, and I think that
voluntary would be more acceptable to most people, although obviously we would
be able to deal with more crime if it was compulsory. I've been in France and
I've been in Germany, and I've asked the people there whether they don't like
the idea of them having identity cards, and they both - both countries can't
understand what our objection is. They have them, they are useful for life,
they're useful for taking care of some elements of crime, and they think we're
nuts to be arguing about it.
SHEPHERD: But if they're voluntary I don't
understand the point. If we don't have to carry them then it doesn't meet
many of the concerns of this audience, and therefore we understood that this
was compulsion that you were looking for. I mean the criminals just won't
LAWRENCE: No, it's not necessarily compulsion
we're looking at. The Green Paper says look at it all, to see whether in
principle it would be a good idea. Obviously if it's voluntary, then people
who need to have benefits, people who need to genuinely show that they are
proper claimants, that they've got a right to ask for videos, tobacco and
drinks, and that they're not under age, people that have got a proper, genuine
right to claim social security benefit will have great facility having them.
People who are knocked down in the street and have got an allergy or who have
got diabetes or something like that, it will be useful for them to have them
voluntarily. Later on, I mean it may well be if ninety-nine per cent of the
public have them voluntarily then it will look like compulsion, but it doesn't
necessarily have to be compulsion.
SHEPHERD: But, no-one suggests that. I'm just not
clear in my mind. Do you believe in it - compulsion for identity cards?
LAWRENCE: I think it will be very useful for
society, for the reduction of crime which people think to be terribly
important, if they were compulsory.
SHEPHERD: And therefore what are the punishments
that you would seek for those not carrying them?
LAWRENCE: Well, we would have to consider whether
or not there should be punishments, whether or not you say, present it next day
in a police station, whether you say, if you haven't got it you should be fined
on the spot. These are things that have got to be worked out, but they are
further down the line than deciding on principle whether they would be a good
MIKE O'BRIEN MP: Can I ask Jeff a question now. Public
concern Jeff, is obviously about things like burglary, street crime
particularly mugging, theft. Looking at the international comparisons in
other countries, the House of Commons library tells me that there's no
evidence, no statistical evidence, not reports which show that having an ID
card actually deals with these issues. It doesn't even deal with issues like
fraud. Have you come across any reports or statistical evidence from countries
that do have ID cards which shows that it actually cuts crime?
JEFF ROOKER MP: No, and I don't actually claim that it
does. I wouldn't got for compulsion, I wouldn't go for a rule that you had to
carry it with you. I believe the citizen should have a right to be able to
assert their identity when they wish, and under our present system there is no
right of assertion of your own identity. All kinds of cards we carry are only
any good for that particular purpose. I mean last week for example one of our
parliamentary colleagues was denied access to his own building society account
because he couldn't produce his passport. I've mean Terry Davis has gone
ballistic with the chairman of Abbey National. That was the kind of situation
when he didn't have the right to assert his identity, so I come from a
different course, and I don't accept that crime - the solution of crime of
course would be in all our interests, when people might see it as a panacea,
there is so much crime related to identity now, the falsification, what was
wrong in the film, it's actually a thousand driving test imposters a week
succeed, it's fifty thousand a year, people sitting examinations for other
O'BRIEN: But this is being dealt with next year
isn't it Jeff, with the introduction of the photograph on the driving licence,
from the first of July 1996 and providing it's taken at the time - the
photograph is taken at the time the test is taken, then that - there should be
no problem with that, so we don't need a national identity card.
ROOKER: No, but the remarkable thing about it is
of course, parliament has not actually debated or approved that. That is a
result of a European directive, and likewise of the Social Security switchcard,
that is a ministerial decision. Parliament has not decided that. Pensioners
lose their order books, will be given a magnetic card to protect security and
enhance them (sic) but we've not debated that.
SHEPHERD:: No, absolutely, but I just wanted to
come back again if I may to Ivan. It looks as if we're doing a bi-partisan
thing here, but I'm worried about..from the smart cards that we saw in
your film and all the tasks that it can gather together, and the identities
that it can give us. One of the problems we have as members of parliament is
the question of error. Now what happens - how do you correct an error on this,
because we don't necessarily know what's on the card, and we find the
difficulties that we have, the poll tax, court judgements in fact on poll tax
things was sometimes wrong for a variety of reasons. Is this all recorded on
our card, can action be taken as a consequence. How do we correct error?
LAWRENCE: Well, you're making an assumption to
begin with that you're going to have a hundred things on a card. There's no
reason to make that assumption since all of the countries in Europe that have
identity cards whether they're voluntary or compulsory in those countries, and
they're not complaining about them, only have a limited number of items on
them. One need only have one's name, one's address, one's date of birth, one's
blood group if it's going to help you, one's allegeries if they're going to
help you, one's illnesses if they're going to help you in case of a terrible
accident, you don't have to have one's tax details. One doesn't have to have
all those things on it, so I think that to go on the assumption that if we're
going to have identity cards we're necessarily going to have ten thousand
items on it is nonsense.
SHEPHERD: I didn't. You reminded me that we were
looking at the Green Paper which raises the possibility that we can have these
on it. Your own film raised the possibility that we can have these on it.
I'm only asking about where there are errors in the recording of this, and this
is a factor of bureaucratic society and bureaucratic life, they make mistakes
and to get those corrected is extremely difficult in our normal lives now.
Now on something that is an internal passport if there is an error on that
internal passport, my good..... and we don't necessarily know about it. This
could bedevil us for the rest of our lives.
LAWRENCE: Well, all of the computerised
information now is subject to the citizen being able to ask what's on it and to
check, but I don't think you need make the assumption that identity cards
require all that kind of detail, they don't. To be useful both in the
detection of crime and to be useful for making life simpler you don't need a
thousand details, and you don't need the sort of detail which will need
HUMPHRYS: I'm going to have to stop you there
Richard, you've had your seven minutes. It's down to the audience now to ask
some questions of their own. There was a lady in the front who looked really
disgusted at something that was said, and I'm not quite sure what it was.
UNNAMED WOMAN: This ID card, even though it has a
minimum of information on it, that can obviously lead to more information being
tapped on you. Just because you have this smart card it doesn't stop there does
it? It wouldn't stop there, there's lots of things, I know - I've been into a
shop and I've been told no, - someone rang me up and they told them exactly
everything about me, even down to how many children I have, which....
HUMPHRYS: And it worries you that you don't
actually know what is on this card, because there's no way you can tell.
UNNAMED WOMAN: No..
HUMPHRYS: Yes, alright, who wants to deal with
ROOKER: Well, there ought to be obviously, if
ever such a card voluntarily was ever introduced there's got to be an
independent means of the individual citizen having an independent check on
what's on that card.
HUMPHRYS: We can't even see our own medical
records can we?
ROOKER: That's the problem in our society at the
moment. We haven't got access to a lot of information about us. If we had
even a voluntary system we'd have to give the citizen the right not only to
assert their identity, but to know what's on that identity card so they can
control the information. There's an enormous amount of information held about
us that we're not allowed to know. I totally diagree with this state of
HUMPHRYS: Gentleman at the back there. Yes, no
you, sorry in the second row, yes you look concerned.
UNNAMED MAN We live in a democratic society or at
least fairly democratic. There's no saying what will happen in the future, and
when are these cards going to start from, from the day you're born? And they're
going to carry everything on it? It will do eventually, there's nothing to
stop it happening.
HUMPHRYS: And what's to stop a future government,
this government might behave entirely responsibly, the next government might,
but what about the one after that, what about the possibility that governments
change, policies change and the next government or the next but one might want
actually to abuse the system in some way.
LAWRENCE: Well, parliament will protect the
individual against too many terrible things. As it absolutely does now.
The matters can be raised all the time, but I don't know why you make
the assumption that all of these details that you don't like are going to be
put on, or that you can't check them if they are put on. The only items that
are going to be put on are the....that need to be put on are the fundamental
matters that say that you are who you are and that somebody doesn't use your
name, your identity in order to cheat the rest of society out of its money.
HUMPHRYS: Gentleman in the second row there, yes
UNNAMED MAN: In a way I think this debate's probably
come about twenty, thirty years too late. I come from an information
technology background. If you look at the situation there is ID around at the
moment, and my point is this. Why not have it properly controlled, debated by
the government for the benefit of the people, because anybody can pay
twenty-five to thirty pounds and go to some unscrupulous organisation, it's
happened in parliament, people will present exactly what your credit rating is,
they will use fraud - I think if it can be sold by the government as a benefit
to the people properly monitored, properly controlled, surely it's better than
the technology that exists today.
HUMPHRYS: Right, the man at the back there, just
second row from the back.
UNNAMED MAN: With the amount of computer hackers
we've got in this country now, how secure is that data going to be on the
HUMPHRYS: Right. And let me let this lady in the
front just make her quick point, lady in the front row here.
UNNAMED WOMAN: Well, I've actually personally, I've
lived in France for six years and I had a card identity and to be quite honest
I found it very very practical. For going to a library for example I have to
produce a gas bill. You have a card identity or some form and you have it on
HUMPHRYS; Yes, Okay. Deal with a couple of those
points, the one about the gentleman with the IT background said there's no way
- the gentleman at the back there rather said, how do we know it's not going
to be fiddled basically?
LAWRENCE: Well, I agree with the gentleman who
spoke last on this side, that there is more protection in having a properly
regulated system than there is in the multi-systems that we have at the moment.
Do you know my driving licence has my driving convictions on it, which is an
infringement of my civil liberties, but if we had one of these cards we could
require that it didn't have driving...speeding convictions on it, so I would
be safer than I am even now.
HUMPHRYS: We'll ask you to show us your licence
later, but that for the moment, that's it from these two. Now they get the
chance to cross-examine the other side, to cross-examine Richard Shepherd and
Mike O'Brien. Seven minutes from now gentlemen.
LAWRENCE: Can I just ask you this firstly, that
the overwhelming body of people in the country, seventy-five per cent on the
public opinion poll, who must of course be assuming that there is a downside to
identity cards, that it will an infringement of some of their liberty,
nevertheless think it's a jolly good idea because it will make life simpler for
them and reduce the amount of crime. The police want it. If you're really
serious about the need to reduce crime why don't you support it?
O'BRIEN: Well can I take that one Richard? In
Australia in 1986 there was a debate about having the introduction of ID cards.
At the start of that debate, seventy per cent of Australians wanted ID cards,
three months later, after that debate had concluded, only thirty per cent of
them wanted it because they knew that it ran counter to the traditions of
individual liberty, because it was unclear what benefits it would bring. It
wouldn't really fight crime because there was the danger of function creep, as
they called it in Australia, where the government would start wanting it for
one purpose and then move on and more government departments, eventually twenty
government..Australian government departments wanted access to that information
and in terms of the police wanting it. The police, I suspect, would say if you
asked them and public as well, what's the priority - putting more officers on
thye beat, ensuring that we have proper crime prevention policies, putting
locks on every householders' windows so that we could reduce burglaries by
fifty per cent, putting CCTV, closed circuit television cameras in town centres
so we could roam freely there without dangers of muggers. If we asked what the
priorities were for expenditure, I suspect the police would say let's get some
more officers on the beat, I mean I'm losing fifty officers in Warwickshire
this year. If there's six hundrd million pounds from the Home Office floating
about, I want six million pounds of that please, to save the fifty officers'
jobs in Warwickshire.
LAWRENCE: But if we were to be able to reduce a
proportion of the five billion pounds of Social Security fraud, where people do
impersonate other people, not just mistake their circumstances but a proportion
of it is misrepresenting other people, if we can make sure that people who get
driving licences and take take driving tests are the real people who are
qualified to do so, if we can make sure that those who apply for education
grants are the people who ought to have them, then the amount of saving to the
state in the reduction in crime and the reduction of waste of money should
liberate millions of pounds which we could very well use for also having more
policemen on the beat and more of the things that you and most of the public
think are necessary so why do you brush that to one side and say that that is
SHEPHERD: It's the generalisation of the claim.
This is a panacea that no one's ever seen the light of before, it will take
limescale out of your toilet bowel on this basis. In truth when you examine
just some of the facts there, five billion on Social Security fraud. Now I
know Ivan follows these very closely for the Secretary of State, who is not
lenient on these matters, said that this was of an order of about, probably
about a hundred and fifty million in terms of mispersonation, pretending you
are somebody else. In fact most of the fraud in this country is in the details
claiming circumstances that aren't true. That's where it lies so when you throw
in a figure like five thousand million, gosh, we are all differential.
As you unpick this argument, just as the
Australians did. When they saw what it meant and the powers of the State
against the individual, very surreptitiously the cross being able to relate
what this piece of information means to that piece of information there, they
rejected it out of hand and the tradition of the English speaking, our sort of
democracies, that's Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, the
lady permitting, is not to have a compulsory identity card. It is convenient
to have an identity, there's no question about that in life and you see how it
trades on our instinct to say, I've nothing to nothing to fear, nothing at all
but I want an identity. The Royal Bank of Scotland has put it on their cards
and it's eliminated ninety per cent of fraud they've said, it's a civil
transaction, nothing to do with the relationship of the citizen to the State
and to the officials of the State.
ROOKER: But do you not think Parliament should
actually encourage some legislation to stop the private contracters, the Banks
who are going to put fingerprints and bio-metrics of individuals on cards, as
you say, a private arrangement. The travel bosses will do it, the colleges and
the libraries and the video clubs will do, where there is no Parliamentary
legislation or control, where this could be abused by the con-man and the con
artists on individual citizens. Don't you think we should have a view on that
from a Parliamentary point?
SHEPHERD: Absolutely but after all it's the
customers' choice. I don't have to go to the Royal Bank of Scotland, I don't
have to use that video shop and I don't have to take ...
ROOKER: One last one then. Were you aware of
the comments a few weeks ago of a spokesman for the Electrol Registration
Officers in this country, to the view that the result of the next election
could depend on the amount of fraud on the electoral register, now how do we
overcome that if we don't do something about identity?
SHEPHERD: Well it's always been a problem on it, I
don't see why fraudulent identity...it's always been a problem personation as
you know and I don't see why it is that an identity card, which can be forged,
and this is our great fear on this thing, that we're mis-now-recorded with
forged cards answers that question. Of those that are determined to destroy the
system, to beat it, to cheat, to lie, they'll go to the forged card.
ROOKER: What do I say to the elderly couple in
my constituency who gave birth thirty years ago to two girl twins and presently
there is a citizen in this country, a person, who's using the identity of one
of those twins, the name, the date of birth, the place of birth, the same names
of both parents and yet those twins, both of them, only lived for twenty four
hours. Now surely the abuse that we've got at the present time, at the ease of
access of birth certificates, national insurance numbers are given away like
confetti within the DHS at the present time, allowing a massive amount of abuse
to go on. What do I say to those elderly couple in my constituency who have
had this tragedy brought back to them after thirty years because someone is
using the identity of one of their dead children.
O'BRIEN: What you can't say is that ID cards will
deal with that issue because it simply won't.
ROOKER: The present system has failed.
O'BRIEN: Yes but ID Cards won't deal with it.
HUMPHRYS: You've had your seven minutes, thank you
very much. It's your turn in the audience. Obviously passions running a
little higher now. Yes sir, gentleman in the front row here.
UNNAMED MAN: I think, as Richard Shepherd was saying,
that it's a question of civil liberties. I don't see what business it is of
the government what my bank details are, what my credit rating is, what my
sexual orientation is. I don't see what business it is of the police to stop
me in the street, when I'm walking my dog late at night and haul me down to the
police station if I haven't got my card.
HUMPHRYS: Ivan Lawrence.
LAWRENCE: Well they won't do that. No, no there
will be right for the police to stop you and for no reason at all to ask
whether....what you're identity is.
UNNAMED MAN: What is the point of having an identity
card if the police can't ask you for it?
HUMPHRYS: But you're saying specifically a
LAWRENCE: The law at the moment is that if you are
behaving suspiciously and the police have reasonable grounds for doing so, they
think you're burglaring, you're pickpocketing or you're doing something
dishonest, they can stop you and they can seize you and they can search you.
Now if you have an identity card to show that you are a legitimate citizen,
then you are protected against precisely the risks that we have now of the
intrusion into your liberty.
HUMPHRYS: Everybody wants to ask a question.
Gentleman in the third row with your hand up, with the stripy tie and then
perhaps next to you. Yes, go ahead.
UNNAMED MAN: Can I just follow on with regard to
portecting citizens' rights, lots of people are arrested because they have
poor identification and.....identification. They commit a minor offence,
police officers can't summon them to court because they don't know who
they are, so they have to be arrested and taken to a police station. Now
that's an infringement of people's rights, where if they had an ID card they
wouldn't be arrested in the first place.
HUMPHRYS: So you're agreeing with them. Right,
okay, next to you. Yes, no, no, next to you. There we are.
UNNAMED MAN: So you've got your ID cards and it
becomes a smart card and all your transactions used via this card and it'll all
be logged on so everywhere you go, they becan traced if somebody can get into
the system, to find out where you've been at what particular time, what
transactions you've made.
HUMPHRYS: So you're worried about it being abused.
Now I'll come back to you later, gentlemen but we've got to give them a chance
to answer first. Yes.
ROOKER: Well I wouldn't support that because
that would be taking it far too far. Nobody's advocating that kind of
information on a smart card, a blood group, yes, a DNA profile, no. I mean
there is the distinction that I would draw and I belong to one of the minority
blood groups so I would be quite pleased to have my own blood group on my card
but I wouldn't have the DNA profile on the card.
HUMPHRYS: The gentleman with a beard towards the
back on right hand side.
UNNAMED MAN: You don't actually have to produce the
card because I believe that you can read the cards from ten metres away so you
won't actually have to produce the card, they can be read from ten metres
away. So it means that I could just be walking along, it would be in my wallet
and it would just be read by some...
HUMPHRYS: You'll have to explain that I think, how
do you read a card from ten metres?
UNNAMED MAN: The cards are of the ability of the
technology nowadays means that you can read the cards from ten metres
HUMPHRYS; Good lord, I didn't know that. Right,
yes, sir what do you say to that? If it can be read from ten metres away?
ROOKER: I mean it would be useful if a lady was
trapped in a car, alone, dark at night and a police officer on patrol drove
past her, then I'd have some questions to ask. I'd want to know why he didn't
stop and ask her if she needed help, rather than wait for some rapist or some
mugger to come along. I mean that film there was an absolute travesty of
the arguments put across in terms of safety.
HUMPHRYS: Gentleman in the second row with the
specs on. Yes.
UNNAMED MAN: The technology today is that you can
have a bar coded silicon chip, you can actually see these positions of these
people if they carry these cards from satellite. Now what worries me is that
the Secret Service in this country, there's six thousand people standing around
twiddling their thumbs, they could be used by the government to spy on our own
people and using this type of..
LAWRENCE: You don't have to go that far down the
line. Nobody is suggesting that you've got.....
HUMPHRYS: Sorry, sorry. There's an awful lot that
everybody wants to say but we're going to have to run strictly to time
otherwise the thing doesn't work. Thank for that for the moment, we'll have
more from both..all of you later. But, that's the cross-examination over for
the moment but obviously in any debate like this what the papers say is going
to sway opinion one way or another, so let's have a look at what they have been
saying and Matthew Parris of The Times has been reading them.
MATTHEW PARRIS: We are, it seems, in our guts either for
ID cards or against them and passionately, so passionately that we snatch at
any convenient argument. For Oberone Waugh who asks in the Sunday Telegraph;
VOICE OVER: Will Mr. Howard now "Snoop to conquer?".
PARRIS: One reason to be against ID cards is that
some readers will be for them.
VOICE OVER: Most of us will be able to identify
ourselves as law abiding, credit worthy, disease free subjects of the Queen,
while others whose cards tell a different story, can be locked up or deported
or injected with largactil as appropriate. This beautiful simplicity of view
would be harmless enough if it could be confinded to the leader columns of the
PARRIS: On cue in comes the leader column of the
VOICE OVER: Why the fuss over identity cards? We're
asked to prove who we are all the time, hiring a car, writing a cheque, even
taking out a video, there's even a ready made slogan for the identity card,
don't leave home without it.
PARRIS: But don't worry, if you do forget says
former Home Secretary Kenneth Baker in the Daily Express;
VOICE OVER: Just as with a driving licence, you could
show it at a later date.
PARRIS: But even if you're forced to carry them,
well, according to the Daily Star, so what.
VOICE OVER: If you aren't a legal alien, terrorist,
burgler or dope dealer on the run, what's the harm in the plan? So don't be
afraid to tell these civil rights people that we've had enough of the clap
trap, it's thanks to them and their spineless political pot washers that
Britain is going to hell in a basket.
PARRIS: They'll only be voluntary, but even if
they aren't you won't have to carry them but even if you do, well stop
whingeing, any argument will do. As it will for the anti ID-brigade, for whom
it is claimed firstly that these cards wouldn't actually do much.
VOICE OVER: It is very doubtful whether identity
cards would actually have such strong practical use.
PARRIS: Says the Sunday Telegraph. Richard
Littlejohn in the Sun was not so sure.
VOICE OVER: If we ever get identity cards they will
be used to bully, nanny and harass us by the police, government officials and
assorted golliwog inspectors and museli merchants.
PARRIS: To the fury of Essex, the Times adds the
fury of Sussex.
VOICE OVER: The ID card should never have been
PARRIS: Says its leading article.
VOICE OVER: This government has surely caused enough
fury in middle England already not to risk provoking anymore.
PARRIS: And the Times shows us three happy
Germans, anything that makes Germans happy must be sinister. In the Telegraph
John Casey (phon) a Cambridge don, warns that Aristotle would not have approved.
Citizens are related to their rulers, said Aristotle by;
VOICE OVER: A kind of friendship. It is no part of
this relationship that we have to produce proof of who we are or even to
declare who we are.
PARRIS: Id cards don't work and won't be useful
to the government, and if they are useful they oughten to be used and whether
they are useful or not, the whole idea is philosophically offensive, Aristotle
thinks so. And what does Denis Cashman (phon) think. Dr. Cashman has written
to The Times.
VOICE OVER: Sir, I should like to assure readers
that there was no intention upon my part to deceive when I said it was not me
driving the car but Sebastian Coe.
PARRIS: Otherwise known as Jerry Wiggin. So
here's a solution, don't let MPs impose ID cards on us, why don't we impose ID
cards on MPs.
HUMPHRYS: So that's what the papers have to say,
let's now give both sides a chance to sum up each of their arguments, they will
get one minute each, one minute only, that's a strict minute, I'll chop them
off if they go over. First the argument for identity cards, Sir Ivan Lawrence.
LAWRENCE: Members of Parliament have identity
cards and the world has not collapsed. We do not need to go down the line of
having identity cards that do anymore than identify people, we've got driving
licence, cash cards, all kinds of old people's cards and student cards which
identify us and if they could be made more rational and simple, our lives would
be simpler, we would have less crime, we would have the support and the
encouragement given to the police, the overwhelming majority of people in this
country want identification cards, most of the countries in Europe have them
and see no complaint and, after all, at the end of the day, if you have nothing
to hide, you have nothing to fear.
HUMPHRYS: Sir Ivan Lawrence, thank you. And now a
minute to Mike O'Brien to sum up for the opposition, opposed to identity cards
your minute begins now.
O'BRIEN: Let me just leave you with a few points
to consider. There are much more effective ways of fighting crime than ID
cards, putting more policemen on the beat, put locks on windows, making sure
we have CC TV in town centres, those are the effective ways and we have a
tradition in this country you know of privacy and individual freedom, that
should not be undermined unless there is proof that it will effectively combat
crime, but international comparisons show that in countries with ID cards it
doesn't actually combat crime and, you know, do you really want a bureaucrat to
be able to access personal details about you from his computer, I don't, I
suspect you won't, I suspect you want to fight crime like me, so let's put some
more policemen on the beat and forget about these ID cards.
HUMPHRYS: Mike O'Brien thank you very much
indeed. Well now let's see whether or if or how you've been swayed by the
arguments for and against. Let me remind you that how you voted the first time
I asked you to press your buttons, forty nine per cent of you were in favour of
ID cards, twenty eight per cent were against, twenty three per cent had not
decided. So let me now ask you to press your buttons again if you would on the
basis of what we've been hearing in the last forty five minutes or so, would
you press your buttons now please. Well, isn't that interesting, some broad
smiles over on my right here, the MPs who argued against and thirty seven per
cent of you now are approving of the idea, fifty per cent, half of you are
against it and thirteen per cent still undecided. Well, let's ask those, some
of you who said 'no' I am sorry who said 'yes' originally, and have said no
now, what caused you to change your mind? Yes there's..it's the other way
about let me do that first and then I'll come back to you, the lady in the back
there, you want..
UNNAMED WOMAN: No I haven't changed my mind.
HUMPHRYS: You haven't changed your mind.
UNNAMED WOMAN: No because I do market research and it's
exactly proved the point that when you go out in the street and you ask someone
for a yes or no answer they'll often give you yes or no and then when they go
home and think about it they change and that's exactly what's happened today.
HUMPHRYS: Yeah well exactly, but we gave people
here the chance to hear the arguments, precisely...
UNNAMED WOMAN: You haven't asked the Mori poll again,
you'd need to go back to those hundred people again.
HUMPHRYS: Well unfortunately we can't get a
thousand people in the studio on a Sunday lunchtime, not even with...somebody
who did change their mind who began by saying 'yes' they were in favour and are
now opposed, somebody who took that view. Yes, the gentleman there, you
started saying that you were broadly in favour, you're now opposed why?
UNNAMED MAN: I think after seeing the amount of
confusion that's going on, I am wondering about the security aspect and the
hacking in but I totally agree with the 'no' side now that if we put more money
into police officers on the beat and also security and that's why I've gone
back the other way now.
HUMPHRYS: Ah right so Mike O'Brien's argument
about putting more Bobbies on the beat was what really persuaded you.
UNNAMED MAN: Absolutely yeah.
HUMPHRYS: Okay. Somebody else who, yes, were you
originally in favour now you're against?
UNNAMED WOMAN: I was, well I'm undecided now.
HUMPHRYS: Oh you're undecided now right, so you're
sort of half way there perhaps. Why what's caused you to have second thoughts?
UNNAMED MAN: We'll get you next time.
UNNAMED WOMAN: Well it's the hacking into the computers
and the muddle ups that you can get from it.
HUMPHRYS: It's interesting isn't it that most of
you are not saying we're afraid of policemen having the access or anything, but
it's the wretched computer that's causing you concerns, yeah, somebody, the
gentleman at the back we've not heard from before, yes, you're worried about
the computer as well are you?
UNNAMED MAN: Not so much I just think that the
criminal fraternity will see this as a pay rise to them.
UNNAMED MAN: Because there's no doubt that fraud will
HUMPHRYS: Right so in other words there's going to
be an awful lot of forging cards going around if it happens yes. Well they've
got lots of things they can forge at the moment I suppose haven't they?
UNNAMED MAN: They have but they'll have some more as
HUMPHRYS: Alright, somebody, the gentleman in the
very front row here.
UNNAMED MAN: Well my views are still what was I was
HUMPHRYS: Oh you haven't changed then?
UNNAMED MAN: No I haven't changed my views because I
still feel it's going to be a help for people ...but I am looking on it more
for the safety factor of people if they had the accidents, that was brought up
earlier, if they got fingerprint on it or anything like it, blood groups,
allergies, that's the side of it I ....
HUMPHRYS: You could carry a card with you now
couldn't you saying this is my blood group, these are my allergies, couldn't
you do that at the moment?
UNNAMED MAN: Yes but I still feel that it ....when
you go into shops to if you want to buy commodities.
HUMPHRYS: Right yeah okay, take that point. The
gentleman over here....what was your original position and what's your position
UNNAMED MAN: I'm more entrenched in being against it
to be honest.
UNNAMED MAN: We've been persuaded that perhaps it's
just identity now I don't know the figures but I assume that the majority of
people in this country have got a passport which is a means of identity. If
it's just for identity why do we have to spend a billion pounds on something
else that will do....
HUMPHRYS: If no money were involved would you feel
happy about it?
UNNAMED MAN: No.
HUMPHRYS: If it could happen for free you
still wouldn't like the idea, okay. Somebody, yeah, the lady there.
UNNAMED WOMAN: I was undecided beforehand, I am still
undecided. I can see the views for and against and I can understand both of
them, the gentleman that was saying it should be..we should have the system, it
should not be compulsory, it should be upto the individual because it would
help people that are ill and need to know if they have got a rare blood group
yes, the gentlemen there saying no, yes, they are correct too because the
criminal fraternity are not going to use this system and it's open like all
systems to abuse.
HUMPHRYS: I take your point. The lady at the very
back row there, yeah. What was your view originally?
UNNAMED WOMAN: I was against and I still very much am,
especially on the evidence we've seen. What if your card was stolen, somebody
could steel your complete identity.
HUMPHRYS: Okay, what about somebody who changed
his or her mind during the course of the programme that's really whom I'd like
to hear from now, somebody who changed their mind, undecided and have now
decided one way or the other.
UNNAMED WOMAN: I changed my mind.
HUMPHRYS: You did change your mind.
UNNAMED WOMAN: Yes.
HUMPHRYS: Ah yes that's right because you were...
UNNAMED WOMAN: Yes I was for it but I think now there
are too many personal details on it.
HUMPHRYS: So you've gone the whole way over you've
gone from being for to being against.
UNNAMED WOMAN: Yes I have.
HUMPHRYS: So you have obviously done a very good
job on the.....
UNNAMED WOMAN: Yes they've done a good job on that one.
HUMPHRYS: Which one, you pointed at them.
UNNAMED WOMAN: Yes yes, more policemen on the beat and
that sort of thing.
HUMPHRYS: Okay, a quick, very quick thought,
literally a sentence from you sir, we've not heard from you.
UNNAMED MAN: I changed from undecided to no as well,
but we must....there is the wider issue at stake, you talk about putting more
Bobbies on the beat and so forth but we've got to make sure that does happen,
perhaps community policing as well, it's all very well saying no to an ID card
but we've got to address the problems of law and order as well.
HUMPHRYS: And a very quick word from you sir and
then we've got to go back to the MPs.
UNNAMED MAN: I think tightly controlled for
identification and medical purposes, the identity card is absolutely a hundred
per cent for me.
HUMPHRYS: Right so you remain convinced by it, but
you lost the argument gentlemen.
ROOKER: I think the audience showed a very
healthy scepticism towards computers and the use of technology where individual
citizens are concerned, absolutely right.
HUMPHRYS: So how are you going to win the debate
when it does comes...
ROOKER: No because I could almost argue I almost
convinced myself that..no no because my starting point, my starting point, I've
no moral or philosophical argument against identity cards, the fact is the
citizens should have the legal right, the right to assert their identity.
HUMPHRYS: Right you've made that point.
ROOKER: What I would want to do is have very
tightly controlled, not have the fear that obviously these people have got of
technology and abuse and data protection frankly is abused in this country
HUMPHRYS: Right so gentlemen on this side, the
victors, if they manage to solve that problem it rather sounds as if this
audience might swing back the other way.
O'BRIEN: There are more effective ways of
fighting crime, ID cards in other countries don't deal with the problems like
fraud and certainly don't deal..I mean, a burglar does not leave his ID card
behind him, a mugger doesn't run up to you in the street and show your ID card,
those issues aren't solved by ID cards, we've got to have more officers on the
beat, we've got to have the sort of things ....
HUMPHRYS: As you said, well the debate will go to
parliament obviously, you will then, I'm sorry we've got to end it there Sir
Ivan, you will eventually decide for us no doubt. That's it for the moment.
It'll be a while yet obviously before we know what the government decides to do
but your views in this clearly are going to matter one way or the other, it's
been a fascinating debate the way it's swung today.
There'll be no On The Record next week,
instead I'll be chairing a discussion on Europe, part of a day of programmes on
BBC1 and BBC2 twenty years to the day since we voted in the referendum to keep
Britain in Europe. On The Record will be back in two weeks and then I'll be
interviewing Gordon Brown on Labour's plans for the economy. Until then, good