Politics.co.uk are reporting that
Monday, 28 Jul 2008 13:42
Britain's trade unions have accepted the government's proposals for ID cards, opening the way for the plans to feature in Labour's next election manifesto.
The decision came towards the end of the party's National Policy Forum meeting in Warwick. Negotiations continued into the night, with delegates finally heading to bed around 05:00 BST.
It seems that the Trades Unions have come to some sneaky political deal with the Labour Government, over the National Identity Register and ID Cards scheme.
We wonder if any of the Trades Union leaders realise that by accepting " the government's proposals for ID cards", they have effectively agreed to a "no strike" and "no work to rule" arrangement, for any of their members who happen to work with, or to simply use, the forthcoming National Identity Register systems ?
Have they bothered to read and understand the briefings which they have had on the Identity Cards Act 2006 section 29 Tampering with the Register etc. ?
The 3 day strike which closed Passport Offices this July 2008, called by the Public and Commercial Services Union, the main Trades Union in the Civil Service, would have been illegal, once the National Identity Scheme makes Passports into Designated Documents under the Identity Cards Act 2006.
Why should anyone remain a member of a Trades Union which colludes with the Labour Government to suppress their right to withdraw their labour, under penalty of up to 10 years in prison ?
When the first Identity Cards Bill reached its Second Reading in the House of Lords in March 2005, before being lost due the calling of the General Election in May 2005, concerns were raised by former Trades Unions officials:
Lord Lea of Crondall:
My second point relates to Clause 31. The TUC is concerned that Clause 31 could raise the possibility of criminal sanctions being applied against people who lawfully took part in industrial action. Clause 31 creates criminal offences relating to tampering with the national identity register that are punishable with imprisonment for up to 10 years. I would like the position to be put on the record.
The clause suggests that anyone whose job involves maintenance of the register, accessing or retrieving information, or facilitating access to or retrieval of information from the register could be committing an offence by participating in otherwise lawful industrial action. Clause 31(3) makes it clear that the offence covers conduct which,"makes it more difficult or impossible for such information to be retrieved in a legible form from a computer on which it is stored . . . or contributes to making that more difficult or impossible".
Clearly, industrial action by civil servants and others with responsibility for administering the register, on the face of it, could be covered by that provision. I have given notice to the Minister of that point, and I seek clarification, on the record, that that interpretation, which is causing concern, is not reasonable, and that civil servants and others who are involved with the administration of the scheme would not be made liable, should their industrial action make it difficult or impossible for information to be retrieved, as described in Clause 31(3).
The then Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland of Asthal, who is now the Attorney General, agreed with this criticism:
Baroness Scotland of Asthal:
"Conscious of the five points of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, that I have to deal with - which I shall do incredibly swiftly - I say to my noble friend Lord Lea of Crondall and my noble friend Lady Gibson of Market Rasen that they are absolutely right in their analysis of Clause 31. I give them the assurance that they seek- I shall do so telegraphically because of time, and shall be quite happy to outline it more fully later."
The words of a Minister in Parliament have no meaning in a court of law, so unless they lead to actual Amendments, they are worthless.
However, presumably because the Bill was lost due to the General Election being called, there were no Government amendments which rectified this crushing of the right to strike or to work to rule, by Trades Unionists or any other workers forced to have anything to do with either the National Identity Register computers themselves, or to any other public or private sector systems which "retrieve information" from the NIR. i.e. the Home Office, other Government Departments, the Finance and Travel industries etc.
Clause 31 in the 2005 Bill, was passed into law, word for word, in the Identity Cards Act 2006 section 29 Tampering with the Register etc.
This Clause was not even debated in the Commons, due to the Government's guillotine / programming motions.
There is no sanity or proportionality check under Section 29. The jobsworth Police, will be forced to arrest Trades Union members, and, since the potential penalty is Serious, this wll involve fingerprints, DNA samples, photographs and the retention of all of these for the rest of your life, even if you are never charged or convicted.
Perhaps, even Trades Union leaders involved in industrial pay or conditions disputes, will also be arrested, when they call for a strike or other industrial action, in the furtherance of a pay or conditions dispute, which results in "conduct"
(3) (b) where it makes it more difficult or impossible for such information to be retrieved in a legible form from a computer on which it is stored by the Secretary of State, or contributes to making that more difficult or impossible.
(9) In this section--
"conduct" includes acts and omissions; and
"modification" includes a temporary modification.
The stupid wording of Section 29 has other knock on effects, such as forbidding any form of third party or public access via Virtual Private Network or Mobile Phone encryption, which is not already built into the core National Identity Register system. since encryption, by definition, makes it "more difficult or impossible for such information to be retrieved in a legible form".