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Mr. Clarke: I am very sympathetic to that point; indeed, we have discussed it at great lengthwhen I was the Minister with responsibility for the police I raised precisely that question. I hope that my hon. Friend will find that the Bill goes a long way towards what she is seeking.
Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that many of the problems that he has raised in this part of his speech, such as antisocial behaviour and various types of violent crime, are most closely associated with what one might call dysfunctional communities? After a general election in which one in three people did not votethat figure must have been higher in those dysfunctional communitiesdoes he agree that the secret to tackling many of the problems in the longer term is to get those communities to function better? That, while not necessarily requiring legislation, could be a means to an end for many of the aims that he has described.
Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is right, and that is one reason why, at an organisational level, we have brought together the active communities area of the Home Office with the section dealing with policing and community safety to promote the positive side of being a community leader in a variety of different ways.
The second tranche of legislation to which I want to refer is that dealing with offender management and reform of the criminal justice system. Three measures will be laid before the House dealing respectively with fraud, corporate manslaughter and management of offenders and sentencing.
The purpose of the fraud Bill is to create a general offence of fraud that can be committed in three ways: by false representation, by failing to disclose information and by abuse of position. The Bill will make new offences of obtaining services dishonestly and
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possessing equipment to commit fraud. The aim is to encompass all forms of fraudulent conduct with a law flexible enough to deal with developing technology. The Bill will extend the existing offence of fraudulent trading to non-corporate traders, and I hope that it will tighten our defences against the criminal. The second measure in this tranche is the corporate manslaughter Bill. We published it in draft form at the end of the fourth Session of the previous Parliament, and its intention is to create a new offence of corporate manslaughter. The offence would enable courts to consider a wider range of management conduct than is currently possible when prosecuting a company for manslaughter and would therefore make it easier to bring prosecutions. The House will be aware of how controversial that measure has been, but also of how important it has rightly been seen in the light of serious issues that have arisen in relation to certain tragedies, particularly in the transport system. It is very much time for the Bill to be taken through the House and for responsibility for actions to be fully laid where due in any corporation or organisation. I am aware that it is difficult legislation, but I hope that all parties will give it a fair wind and be ready to support it and carry it through.
The third piece of legislation is the management of offenders and sentencing Bill. This was first introduced in the fourth Session of the previous Parliament and there will be some changes to that legislation to ensure that we can decide how best to take forward the reforms proposed in the Carter review of correctional services. The Bill will underpin the development of the National Offender Management Service, which brings together the Prison Service and the probation service. It will introduce a new day-fine system and restore confidence in the use of the fine as a credible and effective punishment.
The Bill will extend the remit of the Sentencing Guidelines Council to include consideration of the capacity of the correctional services. It will extend the use of electronic monitoring of offenders who are serving community sentences or are on bail, and it will fulfil a long-standing Government commitment to place the ombudsman for NOMS on a statutory footing. We see the establishment of a National Offender Management Service that really will achieve fair and transparent sentencing as a very important part of restoring confidence in the operation of the criminal justice system as a whole.
A further aspect of our legislation will cover immigration, asylum and identity cards and comprises two Bills. Before the election, we set out in our five-year strategy the approach that we intended to follow to reform the immigration and asylum system. Much of that does not require legislation, but the parts that do include the need to facilitate the global roll-out of fingerprinting visa applicants; the need to allow full use of biometrically enabled travel documents; the need to allow data sharing by border agents as part of the e-borders programme; the need to provide for civil penalties of £2,000 per person for employers of illegal workers; and the need to limit appeal rights for students, workers and family visits.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab):
The Home Secretary will recall that, before the election, he met a
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delegation of Members who were concerned about his proposals to restrict the right of appeal in regard to visitors' visas. Has he looked again at that issue? If he has not reached a definitive view on it, will he again meet Members who have a constituency interest in this matter, so that we can explain to him the serious consequences of restricting those rights?
Mr. Clarke: I recall that meeting, and it was a valuable one. We have thought about the situation carefully, and I think that the best way to proceed would be for the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality to meet that same delegation to discuss the details. I should also be happy to meet its members, if necessary, beyond that point. The fact is that some colleagues were genuinely worried about some genuine knock-on effects of our legislation on particular families in particular communities, and it is important that that should be properly taken into account.
The Bill was published in draft in the third Session of the previous Parliament and introduced in full in the fourth Session, when it completed its passage through the Commons and had its Second Reading in the Lords before Parliament dissolved, so it has had very full consideration over two Sessions of Parliament, including a full Committee stage in this House.
The purpose of the Bill is clear. It is to establish the legal framework for the introduction of identity cards and a national identity register. It will also provide a power, at a future date, for it to be compulsory to register and to be issued with a card. It will include enabling powers so that, in future, access to specified public services could be linked to production of a valid ID card. It will establish safeguards in regard to the data that would be held and shared. I am aware of the genuine concerns across the House on the nature of those safeguards and we will, of course, be very happy to discuss them in detail to meet the concerns that anyone might have.
The Bill will create a national identity scheme commissioner, who will have oversight of the scheme, including the provision of information from the national identity register. It will create new criminal offences relating to false identity documents, including the possession of genuine documents that have been improperly obtained, or that relate to someone else. It will also provide for better identity checks to be made on passport applicants and to allow for the cross-subsidy of passport fees.
I am aware that this is a controversial piece of legislation. Genuine worries have been expressed, as well as some not-so-genuine worries. However, for the sake of this discussion, let us accept that genuine worries have been expressed about aspects of the way in which the scheme would operate. As I said on the Bill's Second
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Reading in the last Session, it is critical that we tackle the issues of identity fraud. They are serious issues that need to be dealt with effectively.
What I hopeperhaps it is a vain hope, but I do not think sois that we can have a rational discussion of the various issues involved and come to a decision in Committee and elsewhere about how we proceed. I know that some of my hon. Friends have doubts, and I say to them that we will be happy to discuss those issues with them in whatever is the most effective way. I know that the Liberal Democrats are opposed in all circumstances, and will be opposed under all circumstances, and I suspect that there is not much point in talking to themthere we go, that is life, so there is nothing new as far as the Lib Dems are concerned.
As far as the Conservatives are concerned, the state of affairs is more interesting. On Second Reading, they voted for the legislation. On Third Reading, they abstained, after a shadow Cabinet rebellion led by the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden against the Leader of the Opposition. In the House of Lords, in the final stages of the wash-up, they opposed the legislation. They have therefore been through the whole sequence. Throughout the election campaign, there was no clarity about what their position would be and I have seen the newspaper reports about what the leadership candidate, the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden, is saying on these matters. I say to him as seriously as I can that, as a potential statesman, as of course he isa statesman is a failed politician, as I recallI hope that he will seriously consider giving his party's support to the Bill.
The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden raised five questions, which I will go through, as I have written to him on them. The tests that he put forward were a fig leaf to cover the retreats and shifts of the Conservative party on the question. The first was that legislation must clearly define the purpose of the cards, and I can tell him that the legislation does so. His second was whether the technology was sufficiently well developed and robust, and the answer is yes. His third question was whether the Home Office is capable of delivering this major IT project, and the answer is yes. By the way, if the Opposition conclude that there is no conceivable IT scheme that the Home Office could carry through, he needs to examine some of the successful projects that the Government have carried through. If the entire basis of his proposition is that the Home Office, or any Department, is not capable of running any IT programme, he must disband just about every aspect of what Government do in all circumstances. The Home Office runs very successful IT schemes, as do other parts of Government.
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