Lord Lucas: We are limiting our ambitions to masturbating maths.We all listen to this repeatedly. Is he saying something about “debating”? Is he, for the love of God, saying anything at all other than “masturbating”? It’s not that rude words aren’t allowed in the Chamber, but this one doesn’t make a scrap of sense in context and makes him sound like he has Tourette’s.
So I go and see him. I show him the quote with the problematic part blanked out. “What’s the missing word here?” I ask him. “Because on our speakers it sounds an awful lot like ‘masturbating maths’.”
“Ah,” he says hurriedly. “I know what’s happened. The phrase ‘to master basic maths’ was in the Statement, and as soon as I heard it I could only think of what it sounded like. So when I stood up to talk about mastering basic maths, I must have accidentally said ‘masturbating’ instead.”
“I think you did,” I agree.
“Do you think this might be one of the occasions when Hansard has to edit?” he says hopefully.
I reassure him that it might.
(You’ll be hard pressed not to notice that what he actually says is, “To limit our ambitions to masturbating maths is so limited.” Well, coming up with this rhetorical gold is his job; melting it down into usable ingots is ours.)
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Let us say that Steve sends an encrypted message to Willie and he decrypts it. He reads it and notes its contents. He does not keep it perhaps because it contains information which is too sensitive to keep. Two days later a legally entitled entity who has intercepted the message comes to Willie with a Section 47 notice and requests to be provided with the plain text. Willie cannot comply, however willing. He says, “Supply me with a copy of the protected information and I shall be happy to oblige”. If, for whatever reason, the legally entitled authority does not then supply the protected information, poor Willie is in a serious situation, which we would not want. This innocent amendment is designed to put Willie in the clear in these unhappy circumstances.Why should you care? Because the next day, here comes Lord Lucas!
Lord Lucas: My Lords, the truth of it is that the Government’s present position leaves Willie exposed.
Lord Lucas: ... every single one of us in the course of our lives, at some time or another, has glorified terrorism. I cannot believe that when the noble Baroness and her colleague on the Front Bench were young they did not support some of the then terrorist movements which were fashionable. For myself, I supported Robin Hood and Hereward the Wake.
Lord Lucas: Surely we are seeking the production of a record here? That is the crucial element. An authorisation should be recorded so that later it can be audited, as the Minister pointed out. If I scribble an authorisation enabling someone to do something on a piece of tissue paper and that person then proceeds to eat it, a record will not have been produced. (...)
Lord Bach: The noble Lord's amendments would allow notices to be given in writing or by electronic means since the Bill already requires that authorisations or notices must be given in a manner which produces a record of their having been granted. We cannot think of any other way presently available by which notices or authorisations could be produced. (...)
Lord Lucas: What we are asking for here is that a record is made... As I said a moment ago, I could write down the authorisation on rice paper only to have it eaten or lost in a file. No requirement is in place to produce a record if the authorisation is granted in writing. (...)
Lord Bach: Obviously, the fact that an authorisation is written ensures that a record is made. What is done with the record is properly a matter for the code of practice. I think that is the best I can do on this point at this hour of night.
Lord Lucas: What provisions do the Government propose to make for people who choose not to reveal their face in public for religious or other reasons? Are they going to find that their full-face image is none the less flashed up on computer screens at every bank that they visit? Or will specific arrangements be made to exempt them from that requirement? ...
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Perhaps we are struggling to get the point over. Perhaps the noble Lord has not heard or read all the previous debates and questions on this issue. His question is based on an assumption; that is, that banks up and down the country will have access to the ID cards database so that they will be in a position to read that card and then bring up that individual’s picture on their screens. That will not be the case. That is not how the system is intended to operate. It does not work in that way.
Lord Lucas: If I find myself coming back from holiday with my young daughter and I fail my checks at the airport because something has happened with one of my fingers, or the machine is on the blink, or I am developing some disease that means I am full of water and everything is out of size, what happens to me? Will I then be made to wait in the airport for two weeks while they identify me, or will I get sent back to Tenerife?He is the king of “what if?”. This is the man who, while debating the Civil Contingencies Bill, stretched the definition of “contingency” to its limit with this slice of future history:
Lord Lucas: What concerns me in Part 2 of the Bill is what happens in an extreme case. Are we opening up our system to the equivalent of what happened in Germany in 1933, where it became possible for an extreme party to legitimately hijack a democracy and turn it into something totalitarian?So Kilroy becomes prime minister via some nuclear Reichstag coup perpetrated by the BNP. It's fair to say that whoever had prepared the Minister's brief hadn’t second-guessed that.
It is not that difficult to imagine what happens. Perhaps next election we will have a hung Parliament. The Liberals will join Labour, and their price will be proportional representation. In the Parliament after that, a chance for PR: you vote for who you want to make a difference. UKIP and the BNP get significant representation in Parliament. Then the Conservative party, pretty desperate for power, allies itself with UKIP and has a stand-off pact with the British National Party. The consequence of that, perhaps, is that we have an ex-Labour MP—a demagogue, shall we say? [Robert Kilroy-Silk’s name had been bandied about earlier]—who becomes a senior member of the Government, perhaps Home Secretary, and that is the price for co-operation.
This scenario does not last for very long. There are too many tensions in it, and they can never really agree on what to do about Europe. Six months later, the Labour party, sensing a real division, organises a vote of no confidence in the Commons. UKIP and the BNP are very unsure about what they will do. They disappear into a conclave of their own, which continues to last as the debate goes on. Just as the Prime Minister rises to speak, a small tactical nuclear weapon explodes on a barge outside the Houses of Parliament. The only surviving Secretary of State is the member of UKIP, and it rapidly becomes clear that the BNP are in with him. [Hansard]
The Minister responded that this blue-sky thinking was “interesting”.