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Counter-Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:45 pm on 9th October 2008.

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Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 2:45 pm, 9th October 2008

I am grateful to everyone who has taken part in the debate. It is interesting that we say we should have a debate on this issue on some occasion when it is very seldom—or, perhaps, more often than not—that we have a debate within legislation which would enable us to change a situation. We can sit in the Chamber and discuss DNA for three or four hours on a day when we have a debate on the subject, but nothing will result from it because it is not legislation and it is not amending legislation. So the opportunity presented by the proposed new clauses has been helpful because it has underscored the fact that most noble Lords who have spoken have considerable concerns about who is on a DNA/fingerprint database and how you get off it.

I am more worried by the Minister's replies than I was at the outset of the amendments. Both the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, who intervened, have a general assumption that this collection of DNA—whether it is from those who are criminally involved or have had a case proved against them, or from those who are totally innocent but have come across a situation where there is a need for a DNA sample to be taken and filed—is completely inchoate. It is impossible for people to know or challenge what is there. It is all very well to say that a chief constable can be asked to provide information, but that will take a big effort—it is probably worse than trying to chase down your bank card and finding out whether or not there is a black list.

We cannot be light hearted about the collection and holding of information on people. There are perfectly reasonable grounds for taking samples and keeping them for a certain length of time while inquiries take place and, indeed, when they are to be used in evidence, but the whole question of more and more people finding themselves on a database—which, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said, can be scrutinised and interrogated to see whether they may or may not have been involved in a criminal offence—is extremely alarming.

I hear what the Minister has said and what other noble Lords have said. I am not prepared to not return to this; we will almost certainly return to it on Report. As I said, it has raised almost more anxiety in me than I had when I tabled the amendments. The fact that these provisions are splattered throughout legislation is one of the reasons why there should be a pulling-together of where all that information is. It is not a matter that only the security forces and the police should know where the information is; people should not have to scurry around trying to find out what legislation refers to which bit of something that belongs to them. My DNA is mine—it is me; it is what characterises me; it is what makes me. My fingerprints are unique, as far as I know, and my DNA is unique to within 14 million to one, or something similar, and so it is immediately identifiable. We cannot have the security services saying that they want to hold on to this information because it is so obvious to whom the DNA and fingerprints belong. We have to strike a balance between security and liberty. I believe that we are far outside the area of liberty. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.