|Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill
Angela Eagle: They are going to Disney.
Simon Hughes: Yes, or going skiing. In any event, we have a two-week holiday. I hope that Ministers can tell us before the Committee reports on Tuesday when they expect to publish the draft regulations. I understand that they will not be ready then, although was an earlier indication that they would be available as soon as possible. We should not go to Report stage without having seen the regulations. I hope that the Ministers and their civil servants will do their utmost to ensure that we have enough time to read them, so that we can table amendments. I may ask my colleagues in the Whips Office to take the matter up with the business managers.
Ms Winterton: It is important to emphasise that work on this area is at an early stage. It is not likely that any scheme will be proposed until next year. That is part of the difficulty in trying to work to the timetable set by the hon. Gentleman. When we know more about the scheme we will be able to proceed as he suggests.
Simon Hughes: When we come to the end of Committee stage, perhaps Ministers could drop us a line to tell us which regulations they can let us have in draft before Report, so that we can express our happiness or unhappiness, and which will be available in draft form before the Bill leaves the Commons. I understand what the Parliamentary Secretary just said. Of course, some regulations are a long way down the track, but it would be helpful to know which are imminent. As the hon. Member for Woking said, we need to see some of them before we can form a
Column Number: 305judgment about what is proposed. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Simon Hughes: I beg to move amendment No. 317, in page 49, line 16, leave out 'includes, in particular' and insert 'are'.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 319, in clause 99, page 49, line 42, leave out 'includes in particular,' and insert 'are'.
Simon Hughes: These are amendments to clauses 97 and 99 and pick up the point that the Minister has just made about the clause as a whole. The new technology of eye identification gives more accurate personal recognition than fingerprinting. That is fine and goodóall credit to the scientist and others who devised itóbut our amendments seek to ensure that we are specific rather than general. The clause states that
In a straight reading of English, that could mean any external physical characteristics. We know about identification using the features of the iris or any other part of the eye; the amendment is a probing one to discover whether the Government have any other plan up their sleeve.
One could contemplate the amusing as well as the serious side to the issue: not everyone would readily assent to immigration officers and others taking an interest in external physical characteristics in general. We need to be specific about what we are talking about. We are used to fingerprints, and we are willing to sign up to iris identification, which seems based on good scientific analysis. The Government should tell us if they have other means of identification in mind, but if they have nothing more in mind than fingerprints or eye characteristics, we suggest that the provision is limited to those specific examples and a portmanteau phrase is not slipped through.
Ms Winterton: I think that I can be a bit helpful. As I have stressed, the development of the proposals is at an early stage; I am sure that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that technology is constantly and rapidly changing. We have not, therefore, taken firm decisions about whether the data should take the form of an iris scan, a facial image or fingerprints. New developments may appear that indicate that one form is more accurate than another, so I cannot accept the amendment. However, I reassure the hon. Gentleman that when the regulations are issued, they will specify the type of data that will be collected. It would be inappropriate to define that in primary legislation.
Simon Hughes: I am happy that the Government are committed to ensuring that specific information is included in legislation, even if it is secondary legislation. I will take advice on whether people outside the House who have an interest think that that is sufficient, but I understand the argument. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Column Number: 306Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Simon Hughes: I wish to make two brief points. First, the clause is important, for the reasons that I stated earlier. It allows for information to be compulsorily obtained. It would be helpful if the Minister circulated to hon. MembersóI do not ask her to read out the information nowódetails about the current protections under all the data protection legislation against information collected here being passed on without authority.
I welcome subsection (5), which specifies that regulations must provide for the destruction of information obtained or recorded and
That is, one can ask for the record of one's fingerprints or eyes to be destroyed 10 years later so that there is not a permanent Big Brother file. My question is, if I ask for the file containing my fingerprints or the image of my iris, and someone refuses to provide that data, what can I, the citizen, do? What is my remedy, and what are my guarantees? If someone refuses, what offence do they commit and can they be punished? I am keen to know whether the citizen can enforce the rights given in legislation.
Ms Winterton: I do not have the specific answer. The protection under existing legislation on access to information would apply, at the same time as the balance against data protection. The hon. Gentleman may be talking about someone residing elsewhere, so I will need to check the details. I am happy to write to him.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 97 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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