HC Deb 27 April 1988 vol 132 cc335-6
4. Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if people registering their names and addresses for the purposes of the poll tax will still be required by the registration officers to add further details about their dates of birth.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Ian Lang)

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Wray

Does the Minister agree that this is a scandalous infringement of people's privacy? What guarantees can he give regarding the confidentiality of this peeping-Tom system?

Mr. Lang

There is nothing extraordinary or sinister about registering one's date of birth. It happens to us all soon after birth. Under section 20 of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987, access is clearly restricted.

Sir Hector Monro

Does my hon. Friend agree that local income tax, as advocated by the Social and Liberal Democratic party, the Scottish National party and a large number of Socialists, would require far more individual detail than is presently required by the community charge register?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That might not require the registration of dates of birth, but it would certainly require reference numbers of another kind, which would be far more complex and detailed.

Sir Russell-Johnston

Is the Minister aware that these poll tax forms provide an opportunity for an appeal against definition as a "responsible person"? Will he avail himself of that opportunity?

Mr. Lang

There is certainly an opportunity for appeal against a definition of "responsible person". It is a new concept which is introduced by this legislation. That seems to be a strange concept to the Labour Benches, which are peopled by irresponsible persons.

Mr. Harris

In agreeing with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) about the amount of information required by a local income tax, does my hon. Friend also agree that the so-called Mates amendment would have involved a great deal of confidential information being made available to local councils?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He will know that registration officers in England and Wales will be empowered generally to seek information that they require, which could include dates of birth.

Mr. Dewar

Does the inquiry form that is now being distributed by registration officers amount to designation under the statute as a responsible person? If so, does the right of appeal arise at this stage? Will the Minister address seriously the important question: is it necessary, when it has been specifically rejected by those drafting the English Bill, to have the date of birth included? Is that not the basis for tagging every adult with an algorithm—an obtrusive and threatening further invasion of privacy? Is it not time that Scottish Office Ministers followed the example of many of their Back-Bench colleagues and re-thought their position? Is it not clear that on a free vote, if such were allowed, the poll tax would be dead and buried? Has it not reached the point where public consent has clearly been withheld, and should not the whole offensive, unjust scheme be abandoned?

Mr. Lang

Designation does not begin with the issue of the canvass form. The canvass form is to enable the registration officer to designate a responsible person. The inclusion of dates of birth as a requirement on the registration form was at the request of local authority practitioners in Scotland.