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Session 2004 - 05
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Standing Committee Debates
Identity Cards Bill

Identity Cards Bill

Standing Committee B

Thursday 27 January 2005

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairmen: Mr. Jimmy Hood, †Derek Conway, Janet Anderson

†Allan, Mr. Richard (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD)

†Browne, Mr. Desmond (Minister for Citizenship

and Immigration)

†Casale, Roger (Wimbledon) (Lab)

†Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey (Cotswold) (Con)

†Curry, Mr. David (Skipton and Ripon) (Con)

Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall) (Lab)

Jones, Mr. Jon Owen (Cardiff, Central) (Lab/Co-op)

†McCabe, Mr. Stephen (Birmingham, Hall Green) (Lab)

†Malins, Mr. Humfrey (Woking) (Con)

†Mercer, Patrick (Newark) (Con)

†Mole, Mr. Chris (Ipswich) (Lab)

†Mountford, Kali (Colne Valley) (Lab)

Oaten, Mr. Mark (Winchester) (LD)

†Prosser, Mr. Gwyn (Dover) (Lab)

†Robertson, John (Glasgow, Anniesland) (Lab)

†Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester) (Lab)

†Ryan, Joan (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

†Salter, Mr. Martin (Reading, West) (Lab)

†Taylor, Mr. John (Solihull) (Con)

†Tynan, Mr. Bill (Hamilton, South) (Lab)

Colin Lee, Committee Clerk

†attended the Committee


[Janet Anderson in the Chair]

Identity Cards Bill

2.35 pm

Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking) (Con): On a point of order, Ms Anderson. I want to draw attention to the appalling situation in which we find ourselves. This morning we were unable to discuss critical clauses in relation to the commissioner. I wonder whether there is anything that you can do from the Chair.

The Leader of the House accused us on the Floor of the House of a filibuster. Given that when the knives were introduced on this Bill some time ago there was no question of a filibuster, that was most unkind, unwise and wrong of him. The hon. Member for Reading, West (Mr. Salter) accused us of one and was promptly put right by all of us. The Chairman had made no reference to filibustering. It is an appalling state of affairs when we simply cannot debate vital clauses. Is there anything that you can do about this, Ms Anderson?

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): Further to that point of order, Ms Anderson. My hon. Friend makes a good point. Not only have two important clauses not been debated this morning, but we have almost half the Bill to debate in one sitting this afternoon. There will be more than one Division in the House, which will take out time. What is more, the Leader of the House told us on the Floor just now that the Third Reading of the Bill is to be on a Thursday, when we will get only three and a half hours at most to consider it. The Bill has in no way been adequately scrutinised by Parliament. Can you do anything to make representations to alleviate this situation, Ms Anderson?

Mr. Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Ms Anderson. While I was happy to withdraw the term ''filibuster'' under your excellent guidance, I left on the record the fact that the Conservative party had been time-wasting. The fact that the Chairman called Conservative Members to order no fewer than nine times in the course of one morning's sitting was evidence of that.

The Chairman: Hon. Members will appreciate that this is not a matter for the Chairman and that it lies in their hands to keep their contributions as brief and to the point as possible, to ensure that we can get through the business in hand.

Clause 26

Jurisdiction of Intelligence Services

Commissioner and Tribunal

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): Clause 26 expands the role of the commissioner who was set up in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
Column Number: 362
to oversee and deal with problems that individual citizens have when they believe that the data collected under that Act has been misused. We seek to ensure in the clause that any complaints about the intelligence or secret services can be dealt with by the tribunal. In clause 24, which we did not debate, we explicitly excluded those services from consideration by the commissioner that was set up in this Bill. It would be helpful to understand a little more about how this measure would work.

An individual citizen might believe that information that has come into the public domain must have come from law enforcement agencies and from their entry on the register or that they are being harassed by law enforcement agencies because of something in the register. Those are the kinds of circumstances in which the citizen might think that there is a problem.

The citizen will not know whether he is dealing with the law enforcement agencies that will be covered by the commissioner that is set up under this Bill—the national identity scheme commissioner—or with the secret service intelligence agencies that will be responsible to the intelligence services commissioner under clause 26. It is important that we get clarity about how the provisions will work in practice, so that the individual understands the situation when he comes forward with a complaint. Perhaps he will go to the national identity scheme commissioner and then be told, ''Oh no, this must go to the intelligence services commissioner.'' I am not sure how the provisions will work in practice.

Perhaps the other area of inconsistency—of interest—that needs to be examined is the tribunal system for complaints. We need to understand how it will operate from the citizen's perspective if he has a complaint. As I understand it, clause 26 says that the complaint will be dealt with through the normal tribunal process that has been established in respect of the regulation of investigatory powers. That is concerned with bugging and the collection of personal data that an individual might put across communications networks.

Again, we need to understand to what extent there will be a difference in treatment and the way in which their complaint will be resolved if the leakage of their national identity register data about which they complained happened at the hands of the intelligence and security services, not the police. If the intelligence and security services had created the alleged leak, a tribunal would deal with the discrepancy under clause 26. However, if it were alleged that the police had created the leak, there would be an entirely different procedure. Given the potential for citizens to become confused, I want to know how the two regimes will work. Will they operate in step or differ significantly from each other?

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Mr. Desmond Browne): The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) is right in his understanding of the clause. The nature of the work of the intelligence service is fundamentally different from that in other Departments or the police and it requires special handling. The infrastructure for that special handling exists already with the intelligence service
Column Number: 363
commissioner and it is entirely appropriate that individuals should have access to the infrastructure if they are of the state of mind to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Alternatively, if individuals have a complaint, but are unsure where to place it, a complaint made to either commissioner will be passed to the other if it seems appropriate that the other commissioner should be the rightful recipient. It is understood that it might not be possible for the individual to know where to lodge the complaint. The usual oversight provisions will allow the intelligence service commissioner to be proactive in his investigations and supervision as set out under section 65 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which deals with the powers of the investigatory powers tribunal. The intelligence service commissioner reports annually to the Prime Minister and that report is set out similarly to the report for the commissioner under the Bill and presented to Parliament by the Prime Minister.

I am not so sure about the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question. It is just so obscure. The provisions under the 2000 Act envisage communication from the intelligence services commissioner to a complainant or an individual and that communication should appropriately make the individual aware of the processes for further appeal or review by the tribunal. There will be no communication difficulties with individuals who are engaged in such a process and I do not understand the concern about the way in which that provision will operate.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 27

Possession of false identity documents etc.

Mr. Malins: Amendment No. 195 would insert in clause 27, page 23, line 17, at end the words

    'unless he has reasonable cause to be in possession of that document'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 222, in clause 27, page 23, line 17, at end insert

    'unless he has that person's permission and has good reason to have that document in his possession.'.

Mr. Malins: My amendment was poorly drafted by me when I had not taken on board requisite intention under the Bill. If the Minister agrees with me that the amendment is entirely unnecessary, perhaps he will nod.

Mr. Browne indicated assent.

Mr. Malins: I conclude by apologising to the Committee for having wasted 30 seconds. I shall not move the amendment.

2.45 pm

Mr. Malins: I beg to move amendment No. 233, in clause 27, page 24, line 2, leave out 'ten' and insert 'twelve'.
Column Number: 364

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 234, in clause 27, page 24, line 6, leave out 'two' and insert 'four'.

No. 196, in clause 27, page 24, line 8, leave out 'twelve' and insert 'six'.

Mr. Malins: These probing amendments deal with the sentencing provisions. This clause creates some very serious offences. Amendment No. 233 would increase the potential term of imprisonment from 10 to 12 years for an offence under subsections (1) or (3). I will make no point on that, save that I plucked a figure out of the air to illustrate that these are grave matters. I would be interested to know the Minister's reasons for reaching a figure of 10 years for those offences.

We will debate what is covered by the term ''identity document'' when we come to clause 28. This point might be better made in a clause stand part debate, but those who deal in the apparatus designed to invent such a card are guilty of an extremely serious offence. It is not a bad parallel to consider on the one hand the drug dealer, and on the other hand the person behind the drug dealer with the necessary paraphernalia—that is the legal word—to enable the person further down the line to commit the offence.

I would like the Minister to talk a little about sentencing policy. How does he rate the seriousness of these offences, compared with many other offences that come before the courts? However, I assure him that it is the view of Conservative Committee members that certainly some of the offences under clause 27 are very serious and that they ought to be visited with very strong penalties.

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Prepared 27 January 2005