UK:Big brother police to get power to stop you in the street to demand ID
Big Brother police to get 'war-time' power to demand ID in the street - on pain of sending you to jail
By James Slack
03rd December 2008
State officials are to be given powers previously reserved for times of war to demand a person's proof of identity at any time.
Checks: Police will be able to demand ID from people at any time
Anybody who refuses the Big Brother demand could face arrest and a possible prison sentence.
The new rules come in legislation unveiled in today's Queen's Speech.
They are presented as a crackdown on illegal immigration, but lawyers say they could be applied to anybody who has ever been outside the UK, even on holiday.
The civil rights group Liberty, which analysed clauses from the new Immigration and Citizenship Bill, called them an attempt to introduce compulsory ID cards by the back door.
The move would effectively take Britain back to the Second World War, when people were stopped and asked to 'show their papers'.
Liberty said: 'Powers to examine identity documents, previously thought to apply only at ports of entry, will be extended to criminalise anyone in Britain who has ever left the country and fails to produce identity papers upon demand.
'We believe that the catch-all remit of this power is disproportionate and that its enactment would not only damage community relations but represent a fundamental shift in the relationship between the State and those present in the UK.'
One broadly-drafted clause would permit checks on anyone who has ever entered the
UK - whether recently or years earlier.
Officials, who could be police or immigration officers, will be able to stop anyone to establish if they need permission to be here, if they have it, and whether it should be cancelled.
The law would apply to British citizens and foreign nationals, according to Liberty's lawyers. The only people who would be exempt are the tiny minority who have never been abroad on holiday or business.
A second clause says that people who are stopped 'must produce a valid identity document if required to do so by the Secretary of State'. Failure to do so would be a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of 51 weeks in jail or a £5,000 fine.
Opposed: Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti (left) and Tory MP Damian Green (right) both spoke out about the new powers
Currently, police are allowed to ask for identity documents only if there is a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed an offence.
During the Second World War, ID cards were seen as a way of protecting the nation from Nazi spies, but in 1952 Winston Churchill's government decided they were not needed in peacetime.
They were thought to be hindering the police because so many people resented being asked to produce them.
Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said last night: ' Sneaking in compulsory identity cards via the back door of immigration law is a cynical escalation of this expensive and intrusive scheme.'
Tory spokesman Damian Green said: 'This scheme will do nothing to improve our security, may make it worse, and will certainly land the taxpayer with a multi-million bill.
'Labour should concentrate on things that will improve our security, like a dedicated border police force.'
LibDem spokesman Chris Huhne said: 'Ministers seem to be breaking their promise that no one would ever have to carry an ID card. This is a sly and underhand way of extending the ID card scheme by stealth.'
There was also concern last night that the Government is seeking to revive controversial plans for secret inquests.
The measure - which would have let the authorities hold a hearing like the Jean Charles de Menezes inquest behind closed doors - was removed from counter-terrorism legislation earlier this year.
But it could be re-introduced as part of a Coroners and Death Certification Bill.
Other Bills set to be unveiled include plans to extend flexible working and new laws giving every employee the right to request time off to train.
These have been widely criticised by business leaders who warn that extending employees rights will damage small firms.
Under a new welfare crackdown, benefit cheats will lose their handouts for one month and council staff will be given powers to use 'lie detector' technology to root out fraudsters.
Dole claimants who refuse to seek work could be made to dig gardens as punishment or they may be ordered to spend an entire nine-to-five day in an office looking through vacant jobs.
Plans for a crackdown on cigarette sales are being reviewed, and a new statutory code of conduct to govern the banks has been added to the list of forthcoming Bills.
The Speech is reported to have undergone last-minute changes, driven by Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, to reflect the economic crisis.
But he is said to have failed in a bid to block health measures on tobacco sales.
Of the Bills dropped altogether, the most high-profile is the Communications Data Bill, which would have created a giant 'Big Brother' database of phone calls, emails and internet visits.
The Home Office said last night it had no intention of making people carry ID cards.
A spokesman said: 'It is simply wrong to claim there are any plans whatsoever to make identity cards compulsory for British citizens or to require British citizens to have an ID card at all times and present it when asked.
'To maintain effective immigration control it is only right that we ask everyone attempting to enter the UK to produce a valid identity document.'
Every worker wins right to training
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has lost a battle against plans to give parents the right to flexible working
Ministers are to press ahead with a raft of new workplace rights in the Queen's Speech, despite fears about the impact on businesses battling the recession.
Government sources said plans to extend flexible working have been revived and the country's 22 million workers will get a new right to ask for time off to train.
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has lost a battle against plans to give millions of parents the right to flexible working.
The flexible working scheme is now expected to be extended in April to 4.5million parents of children up to the age of 16. Plans to extend paid maternity leave from 39 weeks to 52 weeks are also likely to go ahead.
The move will anger business leaders, who say extending employees' rights will hit small firms.
The 'right to train', to be implemented in 2010, will be less contentious as many businesses accept the need to improve employees' skills, especially in difficult economic times.
A tighter rein on the banks
Banks will have to sign up to a compulsory code of practice under plans to be revealed in the Queen's Speech.
It will tear up the voluntary 'Banking Code' which has been in place since 1997.
Key commitments will include ensuring charges are 'open and transparent' and treating customers in financial difficulties in a 'sympathetic and positive' way.
The move comes amid growing fury at the way banks are failing to keep their side of the bargain over the £37billion Government bailout.
In a pre-emptive move, Lloyds TSB - one of the three banks being part-nationalised - will today launch a new charter for small businesses.
The six-point plan will only help businesses with an annual turnover of up to £1million. About 600,000 customers will benefit.
Lloyds said it will agree 'any reasonable request for short-term finance' and promised to pass on the full benefit of any further cuts in Bank of England base rate.
It also promised not to change the interest rate or availability of an overdraft as long as the business does not exceed the agreed limit.