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13 Feb 2006 : Column 1144

Identity Cards Bill (Programme) (No. 4)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 83A(6) (Programme motions),


Lords AmendmentsTime for conclusion of proceedings
Nos. 19 to 21 and 23One and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments.
Nos. 16 and 22One and a half hours after the commencement of the proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments Nos. 16 and 22 or at the moment of interruption, whichever is the earlier.
Nos. 1, 68 to 70, 4, 47, 48, 50, 51, 3, 2, 5 to 15, 17, 18, 24 to 46, 49, 52 to 67, 71 and 72The moment of interruption.

Question agreed to.

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Orders of the Day

Identity Cards Bill

Lords amendments considered.

Clause 6

Power of the Secretary of State to require registration

Lords amendment: No. 19, leave out clause 6.

3.55 pm

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Tony McNulty): I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Speaker: With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendment No. 20, Lords amendment No. 21, Government motion to disagree thereto, Government amendment (a) in lieu thereof and Lords amendment No. 23.

Mr. McNulty: The Government have decided not to seek to reverse Lords amendments Nos. 19 and 20, which removed clauses 6 and 7 on the procedure for introducing compulsory registration. The clauses dealt with the requirement to register and be issued with an identity card in the second stage of the identity card scheme and for compulsion to be brought into effect by way of secondary legislation made under this Bill and subject to the super-affirmative procedure. We agree that those provisions should be dropped.

It is worth dwelling on the background to the issues. The Home Affairs Committee, in its fourth report of 2003–04, said:

We decided from the beginning that there is substance to the Committee's point: it is a sufficiently important step from the first stage to the second stage and compulsion to require a vote in both Houses. In the early stages, we decided that the super-affirmative procedure should apply, but many—not least the House of Lords—disagreed, and that is the territory covered by the amendments.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): The Minister knows that my colleagues and I oppose compulsory identity cards. Is it now the Government's view that a voluntary scheme would be acceptable and justified if there was no later agreement for a compulsory scheme? Is it still the Government's view that a scheme with a card that people do not have to carry will ever work?

Mr. McNulty: On the first point, no. We have made it clear from the beginning that the ultimate aim for the programme was compulsory registration. The answer to his second question is also no. We have always said that the most important element of the programme was the database that stands behind the card. In that context,
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the scheme that we have devised, which does not involve compulsory carrying of the card, is entirely right and proper.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): My intervention might be a little premature, because the Minister has hardly had the chance to get to the end of the first paragraph of his remarks. I am grateful to the Government for not seeking to reverse the Lords amendments on the deletion of clauses 6 and 7, but I need to be sure of the limit to their agreement. The Government accept that primary legislation will be required to introduce compulsion, but there will be compulsion through the back door under clauses 4 and 5 and designated documents. Can the Minister state explicitly that it will still be a compulsory requirement to provide information to the national identity register in relation to designated documents—a concept that has so far been undefined, save in relation to passports and immigration or travel documents?

4 pm

Mr. McNulty: I can certainly give the hon. and learned Gentleman that explicit assurance, but it would tempt the House's patience if I travelled too far down the road he suggests, as it forms the substance of the next group of amendments. In a moment, I shall clarify what we have done to agree with their lordships.

David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): Does the phrase in the Government's amendment,

include an order made under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, should it become law? It will be enacted after the Identity Cards Bill, so if that phrase is included the Minister's assurance will be worthless.

Mr. McNulty: I shall return to that point when I get to the second and third paragraphs of my comments.

Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): I have two questions. First, we are saying at this stage that the scheme will not be compulsory, but as people are being asked for some form of identification at airports, could airport authorities insist on the production of an ID card? Secondly, will my hon. Friend comment on suggestions in the press at the weekend that motorists will need an ID card when they reapply for their driving licence?

Mr. McNulty: The Sunday press always affects Ministers' blood pressure, but I have never read such an absurd and inaccurate story as the one about driving licences. When I was part of the Department for Transport, we made it clear long before, and during, proceedings on the Road Safety Bill—which I thoroughly enjoyed—that all paper licences, which are the most inappropriate and insecure form of such an important document, would need to be replaced by small plastic photocard licences. I can say without fear of contradiction that that is entirely separate from—indeed, nothing to do with—what we want to do in the ID cards programme.

When we implement the ID card scheme on a voluntary basis, it will in the first instance—except for provisions made in the Bill—be for individual private
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operators to determine what they need for the fulfilment of a transaction involving their services. It is not for the Government to set parameters at each and every turn for private transactions.

Stewart Hosie (Dundee, East) (SNP): If the Minister is correct and an ID card will not be required to obtain a driving licence, why does the Government's figure of £1.7 billion of identity fraud include the costs of such crime for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency? If ID cards are meant to solve such fraud, surely the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Cunningham) is right and an ID card would be required to obtain a driving licence.

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