Clause 81 - Restriction on use and destruction of fingerprints and samples

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 8th March 2001.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:45 pm, 8th March 2001

Because the authorities' holding of information on them is not the norm in a society in which we concede information only in exceptional circumstances. I take the view that all information about me, the Minister and other Committee members should be private unless there is agreement and justification for its being made public. Information should be held on us by others only if we consent, or if there is a good case.

We have the same argument about private selling agencies, banks, cash cards and so on. We are at present fighting a battle in which private sector companies seek all the time, before they give us any service, to know our name, our address, our postcode, our mother's maiden name, our wife's date of birth—a whole list of things that appear to me to be gross intrusions into our liberty. We do not have to submit to that, because we do not have to have cashpoint cards from bank X or a loyalty card from multiple retailer Y, but in this case there ain't no choice.

Surprisingly for a Labour Government, the Government propose that someone who goes through the hands of the police should have information taken from them and retained without their consent. It will be entirely an accident whether their information remains in the hands of the police; it will depend on the police investigation, which may or may not have been well organised, accurate or justified by intelligence-led policing.

My hon. Friend the Member for Taunton put it to the Minister that there is no fundamental difference between arguing for the clause and arguing that everyone should have their DNA sample made available to the state when birth is registered, or when the baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut—that when the nurse comes in someone should come in on behalf of big brother and take all the samples that the authorities may need for the rest of the baby's life. I am sorry, but I am not signed up to that society. I do not know all the details, but I saw some programmes about whether that would be appropriate to deal with crime in Iceland. I gather that there was a great debate, and it was extremely controversial. We should not go down that road.

It is entirely justifiable to argue that where someone has a record of criminality, there is a greater propensity to further criminality, but not that where someone has no record of criminality, information should be held that gives the police an advantage that they do not have over anyone else. One might argue—though I would not—that that case was difficult to make if DNA sample matching were perfect. I am not a scientist, but I understand that it is very good but does not always give the right results. If there may be a scientific and technical failing, that is another reason for resisting the proposal that authorities should hold such important information on innocent people against their will.