Here is the final part of the transcript of the first plenary session in London.
The draft transcript which follows is unedited or requires further editing. It is provided to the client strictly on the understanding that it may contain errors. In particular, it should NOT be considered a complete or correct record of proceedings.
HELENA KENNEDY: I want start start by just saying that I became involved in doing cases around civil liberties in the 70s when I was a young lawyer. And one of the things that I have learned having seen law in the courts and then having seen law being made as a member of the House of Lords, is the way in which we have seen something very different happen, I think, over the last 20 years, which is the politicalisation of criminal justice of issues Liberty, that in fact we have been seeing a vast …. between the political parties as to who can be tougher. I want to make it very clear while we may be very cross with this particular Government, if you look historically back to the period hen I was first practising in the courts was not in Government, pretty awful things were happening in relation to the …. so we have to take a view as to why this has been happening – golden age however much grand Mather might be your conscience. The reality its Liberty is never given to people. People have always had to fight for Liberty and Liberty is a battle in order for people to claim what should rightfully be there’s and so when you want to talk about Liberty you have to talk about power.
Who has power? What happens when people have power? What the common law in this country has taught us is that, actually you have to be very sceptical about power because once people have it the temptation to abuse it is very very great. I don’t know who it was who said it but someone said that power can turn even the most gentle of soul into an …. we have managed to see hum some.. In our Government. What happens, I always say there is something in the drinking water at the Home Office. You can see …. don’t seem mad in there, and suddenly, they are overwhelmed with the need reduce liberty and we saw it from the beginning of the Government in terms of the option, it began of course before, let’s not forget Michael Howard, let not forget Anne Widdecombe, let’s not for ate some of the people who were in that office prior to the ones who followed. So what has happened in recent times is that this business of sure, you can be tougher becomes one of the ways of winning the Daily Mail of populist approval for Government. The Lord’s is susceptible to it. We have to prove like the conservatives we can run the economy and be.. Liberal marketeers like the next guy and now we are paying the price. And then they too wanted to show the defence of the nation was safe in their hand and could go to war like the next guy and by God did his prove it. His too wanted to show they could be tough on crime. Unfortunately often this business of being tough on crime involves erosion of Liberty. The trade off is always sold to you, always sold to the citizen as being a trade off that will only involve the Libertys of a that the folks, almost invariably people whose skin colour is different to ours. Not always, the trade off is always to deal with criminals, immigrants, bow bogus asylum seekers that rest of us can feel safe. Writing a blank cheque for Government to look after us, we are assigning away something very precious because Liberty is indivisible, the trade off is always a trade off of something that belongs to us too.
I wanted to say that one of shocking things for me, before 9/11, this is not all about terrorism and what happened as a result of the fear created by terrorism, when I went into the has of Lord’s, one of the first things I fell out with Government over was the attempt to reduce trial by jury one of the very precious and important things in our system. If anything, I have learned anything being a lawyer in the courts, my point of entry into understanding civil liberties and why they matter or understanding human rights and why matter, is the pain of my clients, the number of times I have represented people who were wrongly convicted based on abuse of power. So be very clear that we are here trying to deal with abuse of power. Perfectly decent people of course do not realise they are actually doing it. They too are like the frogs going into the water and the heat is turned up they don’t realise they area becoming authoritarian, they think they are the good guys. So when you say to ministers and Government, do you realise what is happening they will often say no, they have not been able to look collectively at the increasing of erosions and what they are actually going to mean. If very concerned about number of things. One is there is a false die dichotomy created between civil liberties the historic thing we have built up by battling as order people and we have lost our collective memories about this, it was about having to struggle for them and people think it is all old-fashioned stuff, everybody had to be new new new and we shouldn’t have 19th century system to deal with 21st century society but in fact many off these things are as true today as they ever a were. when I started practising it was young Afro caribbeans who knew what civil libertiess meant because they were being arrested under the suss laws, remember suss laws, you could be arrested for – with your arrested as a suspected person Irish served this they felt even the Irish during the Irish troubles even to speak loud with an Irish accent would drawdown ignominy orf fear they might be arrested or suspicion would fall upon them. The people who worried about civil liberties were Jews they knew power was abused and people would be scapegoated and it had been so much part of their historic experience. That collective memory has been lost, we have stopped telling stories of why Liberty has to be protected for all of us. The false dichotomy I am concerned about is the one hand civil liberties and other human rights. Modern human rights is an evolution of civil liberties which were basically about Liberty in the hands of citizens but human rights actually developing that to say these rights actually have to be there for people because they are human and not just gifted to you because you are British. So I do want us not to be beguiled by the idea that somehow civil liberties have to be protected but the Human Rights Act not, because really we are talking about as Shami was saying, something that comes as a a piece and to be guarded by us all. I wanted to finally say that yes, Shami is right liberties not about something modern. I would hate the idea it is seem as the new as in New Labour but there is something about the new challenges a new society presents to us and so we do have to have careful discussions about the extent to which surveillance of any kind is …. people are prepared to trade and what level of it and I particularly am very concerning about the whole business of there being incredible database in which our souls are sold in order to tell us it is about our own protection and security. Once you start having to give information to the police, where the police say to you, ‘Where to you going? , why are you? What is is your name, what is your address? And you are required to do it and there is no reason the police need to give to you about why they are asking the questions, there is a transfer, a transfer of power is taking place. You see under the common law we have always said the state has to prove things, there is a presumption of innocence the state has to prove its case in the courts if the state turns up at there a door you say where is your warrant, why are you are you sir thinking your home once you do away with all of that you are changing the nature of that relationships paradigm of a relationship between citizen and state and I want to us remember the state is here at our behest and we are not here at the behest of the state
Now, this is one glorious day in which all of you have come here caring about his and joining with all the organisations that deal with aspects of this but there is something we can produce out of today and I see this as a window of opportunity. There is going to be an election next year. In that window of opportunity between now and then, there are a number of things I hope we can see happening. One is I would like us to actually put a brake on the erosions the Government is currently has in place and intends to proceed with, to put a brake on the things like inquests in secret the continuation of the kind of database we have heard talked about. I want to us see also commitments on manifestos of political parties that they are going to do something about returning some of that Liberty to us that has been taken away
But the other thing that will come out of today, I want us to make a decision that we’ll prepare a document that each one of us at citizens will be able to go to those who will be standing in our constituencies and to say, ‘Where do you stand on the following things: on a de NA database where even, a quarter of it is the children in this country where do you stand on ID cards? Where do you stand on jury trial? Where do you stand on habeas corpus and I want those questions asked at every single person standing in the constituency and it to be made clear to them that your vote will depend on the way they answer those questions
So, I hoped that today it won’t just be a joyous day of coming together and celebrating that which is meaningful and decrying things that have happened and learning from each other, I want something concrete out to of today and I hope you have some idea on how that can be done. Thank you
NEW SPEAKER: David, talk to us about databases and information sharing.
SIR DAVID VARNEY: I was pleased when Shami said it was a celebration of descent because this will certainly try your patience. I was asked to look at the delivery of public services, which is changing in almost all of the major countries which are looking to see whether they can modernise public services.
That often involves providing in our system services down individual stove pipes so if you think about somebody who is getting a pension, they would deal with the pension agency, they would deal with housing benefit typically, and with Council Tax benefit. That was a long process where they were required to deal with each of those bodies separately. I tried to address in my report how can we make that an easier transaction for the citizen, more enjoyable for the staff and more effective for the taxpayer? I am not a champion of the great single database. Actually, technically, I think a one sin B single database is unlikely to be used efficiently when you think about a database you think about what is on a computer, when you think about the different aspects, I think it will have all the disadvantages of corroding public liberty and to offer in terms of efficiency in managing the complex problems many services face. What the services need to do is collect information we talk about a one of the services we could think about is DV LA renewing car tax on line. How many people have renewed car tax on line this year? How many people have gone to a Post Office to renew it? You provide the same information but what is interesting with the on line service is that the MOT and insurance is now checked and it is a service which is more customer friendly. So we are seeing bits of the state needing to be modernised in terms of service delivery, partly in order to be more effective in delivering those services. Also, partly to respond to the new series of reports that there have been on public tragedies. If you look at so ham murders, Victoria Climbie baby P, the one common featureis the failure of public services to share information about the people they were dealing with.
And that is in the provision of service when I talk about trying to bring services together I am saying that the sort of information I think we as a society need to share is knowing national insurance number, date of birth and address. There needs to be big discussion about whether that its the right information to share but I believe the public have a right to know what information is being held by public services, what use it is put to and what are the safeguards for protecting the integrity of that information.
And that is a challenge which is going to come back to us, we are also here today talking about the state but I think we also need to look a bit outside the state. I mean, how do these databases come about also in the society as a whole? I chose the guardian it seemed to me as they were sponsoring the event we should at least look at what they do in terms of collecting information. So this is if you (laughter) I think it is only fair! (laughter). My civil liberties may be affected fairly quickly. This is if you want to use a public magazine it asks for your name, your address the company you work for your sector you are in, it asks about what your area of responsibility is and what you have, how much budget spend you have got and then it says at the end: do you want to receive public magazine that’s all fairly straight forward.
THE CHAIR: We can’t look you up if you decide not to answer it.
DAVID: It does raise the issue without being defensive how the databases come about because they exist outside the state. In much smaller print is a statement that says if you specifically do not wish your details to be passed on please tick here. So this is the opt out model of sharing data.
I am arguing that for most data I think it should be an opt in. What is interesting is that we need, that process of information management, I think is a challenge which we will face not just in the public sector, but in the private sector too. I decided about 2 years ago that one of the things I would do is I would get one of the internet agencies that monitors your credit standing to monitor my credit standing. The thing that amazed me at the end of the first month they reported back to me and the first thing they got to me was the credit card debit balance not the details but what the balance was the details thank God it kept to itself. The thing that amazed we is how much information is around in the internet. We need a consistency policy line both in the public and private sector. It would be mad if we imposed constraints on the public sector in the private sector we turned a blind eye. So I think that’s is part of the challenge (applause).
THE CHAIR: Ken.
KEN MACDONALD: Well, Helena has raised the question about what is in the water in the Home Office. Let me tell you something which is probably very obvious to all of you.
When your every day begins with security briefings and threat assessments and believe me I have been there, when you feel responsible for people’s safety it is very easy to fall into a way of thinking that places security above absolutely everything else. It is a simple psychology to slip into. You start to develop a form of protective zeal, it is reenforcing and very comforting when you are doing those jobs. You begin to believe that you have to do your specific to abolish risk altogether. And that you can legislate it away.
That you can create a society where people are always safe. But as Dominic has said, the idea of total security is really nothing more than a paranoid fantasy that would destroy everything that makes living much while. It is for citizens to make plain to their government that they understand this. We as citizens have to make it clear that we are prepared consciously as adults to accept some element of risk in order to be free.
Now, Jack straw writing in the guardian this week has declared that Britain is not a police state and there is nothing like a statement of the bleeding obvious to lubricate an article in a newspaper and I may have been guilty of that myself in recent days, but I want to concentrate on one particular threat, which I perceive.
There was another story in the guardian last week, a front page story but paper written by sir David Omond, who was curety and intelligence caught nater in the Cabinet Office for some year and I know and admire him. He produced a very thoughtful paper for IP PR on amongst other things community occasions data surveillance and Alan travice wrote extensively on this last week. This is a thoughtful paper which I think gives a glimpse of the scale of ambition in some parts of Whitehall and he maps out a future that we would do very well to examine and consider with very great care. Actually, I don’t believe there is unanimity about any of this in government and not even in security services. I think there are arguments and disputes going on I am not sure the position of the main opposition party is entirely clear yet.
But essentially what is proposed I see that we might move away from a system that only those suspected or of involvement of crime can be subject to intrusive inspection and examination too world which people suspected of nothing the wholly innocent may be dealt with by the state of precisely the same way.
So that everybody’s communications data, everybody’s phone records, everybody’s text messages, everybody’s internet use, airline bookings’s biometric data all of it may be intergrated by the state.
As David says and I quote such sources have always been accessible to traditional law enforcement seeking evidence already just fight by reasonable suspicion of having committed a crime. However he goes on, the application of modern data mining and processing techniques does involve examination of the innocent as well as the suspect to identify patterns of interest for further investigation”.
The realm of intelligence operations he says is of course a zone to which normal ethical rules we might hope to govern private conduct can’t plie. Finding out other people’s secret is going to mean breaking everyday moral rules and he concludes so public trust in the essential reasonableness of UK police security and intelligence agency activity will continue to be essential if we are to move into that world.
Now what the paper completely fails to address is how that precondition, that essential public trust could possibly survive a system under which the security services were empowered by law routinely to trawl through the private communications data of vast numbers of citizens suspected of no crime, simply in order as sir David puts it to identify patterns of interest for further investigation.
How would the public regard their security services in that world? Of course, such a world would change the relationship between the state and its citizens in the most fundamental and I believe dangerous ways. In all probability it would tend to recast all of us as subservient and unworthy of autonomy. It would destroy accountability and destroy trust.
This is for one very simple reason and it is because to abolish the distinction between suspects and those suspected of nothing to place them entirely the same category in the eyes of the state is a clear hallmark of authoritarianism. Nothing this is to argue against the rights of suspects. These are absolutely sacrosanct but it is to stand against any government that might understand no distinction at also that everyoned each one of us becomes suspect.
NEW SPEAKER: Here here.
KEN MACDONALD: Now the threat that all of this could represent is only exacerbated, only underlined and highlighted by any idea that all this private personal material might in future be held on a giant central database accessible by the government and its agencies and it is for these reasons that I have said before that we should take very great care indeed to imagine the world we are creating before we build it.
That we might end up otherwise living with something that we can’t bear. (applause).
THE CHAIR: Thanks very much. There is lots there to chew over. We are now going to move to questions from the floor. Because we are filming this and recording this for everybody else round the country, got now when you say that it sounds so suspicious doesn’t it! Can you please stand and identify yourself and or not if you don’t want to but it is we are all friends here. Anyway, but if I can also point, because it takes a bit of the camera and microphones to get you if I could see a couple of hands go up and give you orders. (laughter the control orders. Right so we’ll take the first question here from the lady in red. Next from the gentleman in the middle 3 rows back in the middle. Cameras are you following me? And then a third one down here. We’ll take, we’ll take one to get the Panel going and then that will be the order and then we’ll come back for some more.
NEW SPEAKER: I work for an organisation (inaudible) Shami’s wonderful presentation shall we say. I found it very interesting. Thing about her assessment of (inaudible) also thinking about and the current obsession if I can put it with security. We all want security but I think the design of this? Domestically? Take to other parts of the world. How would we define security what is cure tee what does it mean us to. Is it check points, is it I D cards, is it guns or is it things like housing, jobs, food, clean water, and the things that we really need. If people have jobs, if people have education, then they don’t have time to be so-called terrorists.
THE CHAIR: Thank you and the next one.
NEW SPEAKER: Now I am audible. My name is (inaudible), Chief of Liberty magazine I came here from Poland and to see how the country that Liberty was born is doing right now and yes, because there is always a kind of, you invented Liberty industrialisation and how is it looking right now. My question relates to I came from the country that was very secluded for many years. All the people that had different opinions were very secure without accommodation and food — applause). so country of great security and well my question is actually the thing is that we are the very wrong podiums for this conference I because you think about it that you are against the government who is trying to impose some regulations and that is what was mine country as well but we are also tackling with public the majority of the public that might have different opinion. So my question will be related to how are you going to convince all the not guardians readers who are actually here, how are you going to convince The Sun readers and the Daily Mail readers that you actually they ought to be on your side?. And just to finish with a short quote of Benjamin Franklyn could be a motto of this conference. Those who give up their very personal and very basic liberties for the sake of a little bit of a curety and safety they deserve neither the Liberty nor safety thank you.
THE CHAIR: I will ask Dominic Grieve. Are you comfortable your party is just talking to guardian readers. How are you going to reach the sun readers.
DOMINIC: I think the 2 questions are linked. I think the answer to the first is not security but what is quality of life and well being and those two things are not necessarily the same. I can enjoy a tremendous quality of life in the sense of well-being if go mountaineering which I occasionally do and expose myself to risks as doing I don’t it. It makes me feel alive and I am right to take the risk, quality of life and security go together but I think one has to keep in mind, quality of life and security are not necessarily one and the same thing. Turning to the second question, has the way you argue with your Sun reader, because he is a person of strong views, but he is also, I have to say, a person of common sense and he wants a life which is rich, and beneficial to him, he is fed up with rules which appear to obstruct him and he is fed up with what he sees at a lot of canned times which is reached to him. That doesn’t mean he is not concerned about freedom. One of the great challenges for us, particularly in the context of the European Convention on Human Rights is making it relevant to him so that he or she sees that it is something which is defining and important to them and not something which is being handed out to some other because that is how you get a cohesive society, when people start saying that the rights which are given to people who we may actually dislike quite a lot are very important to them because it defines their status and their standing.
CHAIR: Know follow that up Chris greyling the new Home Secretary gave a speech this week, he said conservative party policy would be about fewer rights more wrongs, I ethe emphasis need to shift back to crime and away from civil liberties. Isn’t that going away from what you said.
NEW SPEAKER: I don’t think it is at all. I have to say I was not completely clear about what fewer rights, more wrongs meant. I think carrying out an analysis of this, I think what he was talking about was the language of common sense that until we get that language clear, then my view is that selling civil liberties and particularly structured civil liberties to people would be very much harder. If we want to win this battle, the relevance to the Sun reader or any other person you wish to identify in that category, has to be made, otherwise all be will be doing is talking amongst ourselves.
NEW SPEAKER: Ken want C to come in on this.
NEW SPEAKER: I want to make a comment, one of the interesting things that has happened in recently years, the things happening today have cut across traditional lines. Personal observation I would make on couple of occasions when I have made interventions in the area of liberties, I have had approving responses in particular from two newspapers, The Guardian and the Daily Mail often on the same day the reality is some organs that might have been distrusted by a group like this in previous years, thinking particularly of the Daily Mail and daily telegraph have taken in interesting line on these issues, they were highly sceptical about 42 days, opposed it and highly sceptical about the war on terror and are concerned to a large extent on the issue of torture. The situation to a large extent where opinion is falling in these issues is far more complex that in would have been 15 or 20 years ago and that is of course an extremely encouraging sign. I think the position of the conservative party although we might have issues here and there around the edges, is very different from where it would have been 15 or went years ago. I heard Roger Smith the Director of justice recently saying we shouldn’t be too pessimistic about where we are at the moment, there are interesting alliances developing, interesting opinions forming in places we might not have expected in the past to have found them interesting resistances developing. So I am not too gloomy about where we are, not to say we should be complacent.
CHAIR: Can I take a third question a where is the mic? Who has it?
NEW SPEAKER: My name is Elizabeth Forbes, I wonder why there has been no mention of the police in the erosion of our liberties to Tate. I am a local councillor, I work with the police locally with the safe neighbourhood team, I wanted to ask to be specific what this role of the police in the prohibition of photographing the police is it their idea of the Government’s idea, it stopped the press photographing demonstrations from now on?
CHAIR: We’ll take a question, we are having questions sent is from various places sent in on line on at various conventions and they will be given us by the Mayor. Do you want to give another couple? Can we hear you?
NEW SPEAKER: I will direct two questions of on the procedure one is from Anna and that is this question: internment in Northern Ireland was said to be the best recruiting sergeant the IRA ever had so why are the Government using this method of detention without charge and no access to jury trial, haven’t they learned any lessons from the past? From Hanna. The second question, is anonymous: drawing public attention to the assault on liberties critical but what is to be done and how do we do it.
CHAIR: Thank you. Which of those do you want to answer Helen? Do you want to answer the internment.
HELENA KENNEDY: I want to come in on a number of things. On internment thing in Northern Ireland, there is a real fantasy that laws in relation to terrorism can be vacuum sealed and somehow they will only relate to terrorism and they can be for as long as the terrorist threat exists. The reality is as we concerned doing Irish trials , as I did, and watching carefully what has happened over the last 30 years, you can’t vacuum seal law likes that. It seeps into the culture of policing, for example and when one analysed it one saw the same police forces responsible for the miscarriages of justice on the Irish cases were also at the same time responsible for miscarriages of justice in other areas of crime because there had been an erosion of standards around interrogation and so on and so you got false confessions and so forth. So you can’t vacuum seal terrorism law and it effects the culture of policing. The second thing is we also saw standards lowered on the right to silence and jury trial in the Diplock courts which in turn have fed into attitudes to those things in the system as a whole. Now the right to silence has been eroded in relation to all crime and that followed within five years of that change taking place, first of all in Northern Ireland, only in relation to terrorism. The other thing that is very interesting, these attacks on jury trial have very much been Motored by people involved in the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland who said we did away with jury trial to do with terrorism in the Diplock courts, it worked perfectly well for us, why are you guys still in stings on it in terrorism trials now. There is an argument amongst judges that we shouldn’t have jury trials for terrorism here. I see this is being pernicious and I think it is one of the things people just do not appreciate in terms of erosion. The other thing about cross currents, I think something is happening in the Zeitgeist, I don’t think it is just about guardian readers concerned about Liberty. I actually, as I travel up and down the country and speak to people in all sorts of public meetings, there is a general feeling that the state is taking too much power to itself and interfering in people’s lives in a way that they don’t like
One last thing: if you were to say to the Sun reader, I am convinced of this, what is an ID card going to mean to you? To me an idea card means an internal passport. Do we really want an internal passport where at every check out it becomes almost like the border police? I don’t have any objection to an improvement on the information in my passport for when I travel between countries. What I have an objection to is the idea of being asked on the street to prove who I am and I think we should all object to that
CHAIR: I would like some specific questions on data would be interesting while we have sir David Varney on the Panel a but in the meantime, who has a very specific question about – here in the front? And here.
CHAIR: You have ignored this lady’s question.
CHAIR: I am just trying to get people to the next person, I was going to ask Ken MacDonald in the meantime to answer the police question. Do you know the answer to that.
KEN MacDONALD: It is after my time, I don’t know where it came from.
HELENA KENNEDY: We do not condition the answer to the question of was it the police who refused to have police officers photographed, where the energy came from I do not know I strongly suspect senior policing people, ACPO or whoever made the argument to the Home Office and the Home Office is very very much susceptible to taking the views of the police. How it happened, I don’t know. You would have to ask somebody involved at the Home Office.
KEN MacDONALD: It doesn’t really matter where it came from, all sorts of organisations and individuals put ideas up to Government, it is for Government to surpress and get rid of rubbish so it is the Government’s responsibility if it enacts legislation of this kind. If a policeman comes up with that idea, the Government should say, ‘It is a silly idea’.
CHAIR: Next question? Yes?
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you. My name is John Morrison I am a journalist, one or the things that distinguishes me possibly from other people in this room give actually lived in a police state, I worked in the Soviet Union for several years. One of the things about a police state, its citizens do not have the free right to travel abroad and A that is one of the things I noticed while I was there, I could travel, the people around me couldn’t. What is going to happen in this country in a few years time if the Labour Government continues, is that you will face a because I – everybody in this room will face a choice between signing up to the supposedly non-compulsory ID database, or you will lose your right to travel abroad. My passport runs out in 20, 17, after that date if I refuse to sign and give my details to the home office, I will not be allowed to travel beyond Dover. If you don’t believe me, look at the secondary legislation which is out for consultation which finished earlier this month. It is there in black and white, a passport will be a designated document, you won’t get one without signing up to the ID database. So I just wanted to make sure that everyone in this room was aware of that
And it is very relevant—-
I am not a lawyer but I would like to know if the right to travel abroad is generally considered a common law right?
NEW SPEAKER: It is a right en in the Magna Carta , oddly enough, all sorts of rights are not en enshrined in the Magna Carta but that is one of them.
NEW SPEAKER: I am looking for more questions. Where haven’t I been? A lady rows up there. Then two further rows back there is somebody else with his hand up. Shall we take two more questions from this side.
NEW SPEAKER: my name is Penny Faust I would like to ask sir David Varney, if he believes only four items of information are necessary for the database, why are we being asked for 53?
NEW SPEAKER: Just one second. take the next question a gentleman further up. Where is the microphone? On the same side.
NEW SPEAKER: John Stratford. Isn’t it time that this country has a written constitution to enshrine our rights and liberties and prevent them being destroyed by transitory politicians, particularly when our political system creates a government which us majority of 65 in Parliament when only 22% of the electorate have voted for it?
THE CHAIR: Could you answer the question about 4 items versus 53 to travel.
NEW SPEAKER: I was talking about information which I think is required for service delivery. If more information than the 4 items I have identified is required, then I believe we need the service organisation seeking that information needs to get the consent of the citizen to provide it.
But can I just add I think the 52 comes out of the security side of the house, of, and you will have to ask them because I certainly don’t know why they need that amount of information. But I do think we need, was asked how do we take it further forward. One of the things is to face the issues that are involved in daily life the gentleman down there was talking about what do you need to travel. Will happen to be of an age where I have a freedom pass that is a convenient way of me travelling round the city. I have to show this whenever I want to take advantage of the particular entitlement. In my report, I worked out that on average a citizen has to reveal their identity and prove their identity to the state 11 times a year. Actually, if you look, that is the average number, but of course if you are a vulnerable party of society, economically not very successful, maybe in with housing difficulties, number of dependencies, maybe health problems euprobably do that many many times more whereas if you hardly don’t touch the state then you don’t have a problem of proving your identity.
And most of us will be packing in our pockets forms of identity which other people, not the state, but other people use. Whether a credit card, whether it is a mobile phone and in many, even countries with written constitutions have increasing arms of arms of electronic information which is available. One of the things that strikes me if you look at Facebook and twiter those I sites people will say the most amazing things about what they are prepared to share with other people. Some of which I might not have a choice but they have made that choice and there is a growing sector of information which is publicly becoming available from those sorts of sites. I think we need a big debate about what is, what is, what are the issues of in terms of liberties which are these sites pose and then what is our response to it. I was struck by Helena’s point which was that so far the only recommendation for taking something further forward which is to create a list of questions to use the democratic process to get this sue on the table the other thing is if you say how do we get to the sun readers is the internet is one of the great advance of it is and the owe, bamahas shown that in the way you can communicate and raise collective pressure in unorthodox and force well ways.
THE CHAIR: We will come back to that question in a moment. Pick up on the data point.
KEN MACDONALD: That is all find we live in a world where we give all sorts of information about ourselves to all sorts of people and we may choose to carry a fee bus pass, we may choose to carry a library, cart. We may choose to carry an oyster card I have got most those myself apart from the free bus pass, but (laughter) we have to be very careful that this common garden observation that we live in a world where lots of data is stored somehow axe as a counter balance to the threat that is represented by the government using by compulsion means behind our backs to find out information about us and then potentially to use it against us. Now these are 2 different categories and I would say that David is guilty of a serious category error here. We are concerned with what the government potentially planning to acquire for itself in terms of power to access all of that material against each one of you whether any of you are suspected of crime or not and even if you are not. Now that is the threat we are here considering I think not whether people are carrying bus passes or library cards.
NEW SPEAKER: David: My point, Ken, is I agree with what we are considering. The fact that information exists and is available means that all sorts of people can get access to it. The people who have got access to my credit card debit balance were not an organ of the state. They were using devices on the internet presumably which control data and collect it.
HELENA KENNEDY: David I really you are here whether you like it or not representing the prime ministers office so we can’t minismiss this opportunity he might not see is that way, you have direct access to him in the way that most people hear and listening haven’t. So what we want you to tell us is this. David Omond — (laughter) David Omond has pointed out in his report that we are moving into a situation where we are all suspects now and that idea that it is not just those who are suspected of crime but the ordinary citizen who will be trawled for information, is about changing the paradigm, changing the relationship between the citizen and the state, is that a source of concern to you?
NEW SPEAKER: David) yes, in the same way as though you addressed me that I had access to the Prime Minister. Of course. I think what I said about the service delivery. I think it is important to modernise service delivery but not in a way that under mines Liberty.
HELENA KENNEDY: Are you assure us what are you going to do to stop us all becoming suspects.
NEW SPEAKER: David:
NEW SPEAKER: I same way you have expressed your dissent from David’s point of view I will tell him exactly the same thing. In the end we’ve got to come together and create a voice which has strength and persuasion and agresses the arguments that and the protects the things we value and want to protect I have the highest possible regard for David but I think you can take the security position to a point where it ceases to be effective, ceases to attract public support the under and the under mines the very things we are seeking to protect.
KEN MACDONALD: You only have to imagine, just my gin where the security services are positioning themselves. If they go down this road what is going to be the view to the average citizens to the security services and their remit. David Omond talks but generally good attitude, despite current controversies and we don’t know where that will end but general feeling on the part of people that they do what has to be done a that may be shared in this room or not but it is probably a broad view in the country what happened is the view of them going to be if they become the kind of mega snooper into everybody’s private life. What are people going to think about the security service and secret intelligence service in that world. What is their relationship with the state that controls those organs going to be in that world. This is you know to put it in marketing terms if in no other, extraordinarily bad positioning for these people.
THE CHAIR: Dominic very quickly wind to take more questions.
NEW SPEAKER: Dominic) ken put down the position of the Conservative party on these proposals the clear distinction is providing a system where the security services or the police may be able to take information on individuals who may be under suspicion or investigation and providing a system which allows data mining on the perfectly innocent individuals in order to try to establish patterns which might lead to further investigation. I do actually think it is possible to have an ethical debate which identifies where the dividing line is and then must be the task of politicians to ensure that that dividing line is not crossed.
HELENA KENNEDY: Can I just tell you on the DNA I asked that every, if they were putting through law that said people’s DNA should be kept even if not convicted or even just volunteered their DNA, I said why have not all the cabinet volunteered their DNA and there was no takers! (applause).
THE CHAIR: Just to remind everyone this is the start day there is masses of time to develop this in all the sessions a I am going to take 4 quick questions. By that I mean quick not statements. They can come back in their final remark S that is not forgotten I promise you this man yes. 2 the man in the grey. 3 who I asked you before and oh sorry I am going all the wrong. Okay. Right. This man here 2 rows back I am going to take 5 questions then we’ve got a question from wherever. Where is it? From today? From one of the regions looking at this. Yes. Okay so starting over here. Very quick please.
NEW SPEAKER: My name is Peter Wilson I am student. I was very interested about all the crime points and suspicion and things like that with regard to the liberties.
However I am also ficoncerning about climate change and issues like that. So I was wondering does the Panel recognise there is a fundamental tension or at least a potential tension between civil liberties, individual, and climate change and combating envirion mantal issues.
THE CHAIR: Oh my God that is a huge question. Thank you very much. Next.
NEW SPEAKER: My name is Simon I am a concerned citizen. This is perhaps a question particularly for Dominic Grieve. Given that one of the things that we want to achieve from this is for this legislation that has occurred over the last few years to be repealed, what chance is there if they for example the conservative party got into power at the next election. My experience is that most governments tends to find the power their in at the writ is useful to hang on to.
THE CHAIR: Thank you very much. (applause). the lady up, right, with her hand up there. Behind you. Yes. That’s right.
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you very much. My name isling si cook here for myself although I worked for charter 8 for 5 years in the 1990s.
Thanks for asking me because I think I am going to spontaneously combust if somebody you uses the word citizen one more time. (applause). we are not citizens. We are subjects. And that is the root of the problem the state does not belong to me. It belongs to the this curious concept called the crown in parliament and it is that curious concept which allows governments of any political persuasion basically to do pretty much what the hell they like. We need a new constitutional settlement in this country.
THE CHAIR: This one.
NEW SPEAKER: I have lived in this country 42 and half years. My first question when we called about the terrorist who are the terrorist than the empires those that have been created havoc all over the world. Second question.
THE CHAIR: One question only I think.
NEW SPEAKER: Just one more.
THE CHAIR: Some chair I am. I am only the chair don’t worry about me.
NEW SPEAKER: My identity I have been in this country 42 and half years. And citizen of British UK for 50 years. My identity was used by Labour Party conference in 2008 and I was (inaudible) — because I had 2 (inaudible) one is (inaudible) and one is inversety politics.
THE CHAIR: Thank you very much. Last question.
NEW SPEAKER: Have you got a microphone at the front here. Just final question here then we’ll have a very quick wrap up. No no no no here. Sorry.
NEW SPEAKER: I have received a question relating to data sharing and I would like to put it into context and to ask Dominic and David directly whether they approve of taking all the data currently about to be collected by the government under the identity register and under the EU border scheme and sharing it with every government department across the government if they don’t agree with that are they going to tell the current government and parliament to go against section 152 of the coroners and justice bill present currently going through Parliament.
THE CHAIR: Good question. Pan panel you have one minute to answer any one of those questions.
NEW SPEAKER: It is entirely question the parties in opposition say they are going to do things and get into government and wonderful permanent officials come along and say that is very brave minister just to make the position quite clear we are going to get rid of identity cards! Clearly. Clearly finished. Done. And on top of that, we will also I want to, we were going to review the DNA database. Its got to be a database of those who have been convicted of criminal offences. There are other expect perfectly good O details elsewhere that we can look on that. Scotland. Finally we are going to look at repealing lots of legislation I would like to have a bill in the first year of conservative government and there is always sorts of things I want to chuck into it including so much of the legislation I spent hours looking at in committee have introduced never been used and is complete redundant.
THE CHAIR: Helena.
HELENA KENNEDY: Some of you might not have heard what Rahman was saying which was that he was barred from the Labour Party conference because his dadate of birth is registered as being, the date he was born but he was also born in Calcutta so therefore his date of birth is the date when he was rejoystered. Because of that difference he was and the computer had the 2 different dates, he was not, he was chucked out of the conference. That is going to happen up and down the country day in, day out. (applause).
THE CHAIR: David.
NEW SPEAKER: I don’t believe in a generalised freedom to share all information. I think the information that is to be shared should be subject to definition by the bit of government that wants to do it. It should be cleared understood by people providing that information and there should be management scheme to protect the integritive of the information while it is held.
THE CHAIR: Finally, citizens or written constitutions or climate change.
NEW SPEAKER: I think we should have a written constitution we should have I find it an offensive term. As empowered sti sions we should be controlling our own government.
THE CHAIR: Thanks very much to very good Panel very good discussion you can carry on discussing it either on Liberty central or the convention website for the next month. Phil Booth from No to I D will give a very short statement I think.
PHIL BOOTH: Thank you very much indeed, could morning I had a call from Cardiff, they were not mentioned earlier on, hello Cardiff and hello Manchester who didn’t get on line straight away but you are with us now obviously. In the minute I have got I am going to ask you to do something. Not only that I am going to ask you to get others to do it as well, it is important, it is urgent, and it is something that only you can do.
We have been warning for years about the state of the tension of Government to over gum barriers to information sharing within the public sector and now they are poised to slip something under the statute books that is absolutely extraordinary and the reverse of the data protection act a power that will allow any ministers by order to alter any Act to cancel confidentiality, to ignore consent and to use any information gathered for one purpose for any other.
This single clause is a grave threat or as grave a threat to privacy as the entire ID scheme, in NO2ID’s estimation, compared to the threat to life presented by the register and anything recorded about you anywhere could be accessible to any official body. That is your information, your family’s information, taken for one purpose, arbitrarily used without your consent or may be even knowledge for any other purpose.
Clause 152 of the coroner’s and justice Bill must be stopped. We can do it together but only if we act now. Please. When you go home tonight, or tomorrow, or Monday at the latest, but keep on going, write and tell your MP if you haven’t done this before, you can do it very easily over the Internet by going to a website called’ write to them.com and tell them just simply that you refuse your consent to remit anyone the arbitrary power to share your information under any information sharing order.
It is imperative that your MP understands that you have refused consent.
Please also ask that he or she vote to have clause 152 removed completely from the justice Bill and make sure you tell your representtive that you refuse your consent to this. Thank you for your attention you will hear lots of stuff today but please, do remember: clause 152.