The French parliament has passed a law, although I believe it has yet to make it fully onto the statute book, banning women wearing the burka in public. The possibility of similar laws is being discussed in other European countries such as Spain, the Netherlands and Germany. There have also been calls here in the UK for just such a law, but over the weekend one of the ministers in the Home Office declared that such a law would not be introduced in this country. It would, he said, be anti-British to start telling people what they may or may not wear to walk down the street. We are, he went on, a tolerant society which should be able to accept that different people have different points of view.
That, I thought, was one of the most sensible statements I have heard from a politician in a long time. I fully accept that a terrorist might wear a burka to conceal a bomb but that terrorist could just as easily carry a bomb in the boot of his car. In my opinion it is when we start passing laws like this "in the interests of national security" that the terrorists have won.
The same goes for the plan to introduce ID cards for the entire population. When this was first proposed it was intended to make the possession of an ID card compulsory (I'm not sure if it was also going to be compulsory to carry one) but that was watered down and the possession of an ID card was going to be completely voluntary, although people applying for a new passport or renewing an old one would have to apply for an ID card at the same time. How was that voluntary? The then Government spent millions (or was it billions?) of pounds on a scheme which faced widespread disapproval and which would cost many billions more if and when it was brought into being. I am pleased to say that the ‘new' Government scrapped the scheme almost within hours of taking office. I hope they continue to show common sense.