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Mr. McNulty: No, with respect to the hon. Gentleman, my hon. Friend's comments related to a fatuous piece in one of the Sunday papers, which referred to a clause in the Road Safety Bill about the recall of paper licences and the issue of more secure and substantial licences. We have made it clear that we shall look only at passports and immigration documents in the implementation of the first phase of ID cards. We have never excluded from subsequent consideration documents such as driving licences, but the hon. Gentleman's point relates neither to the story to which my hon. Friend referred nor to reality.

Simon Hughes: My question is germane to both this and the next group of amendments. International obligations for biometric tests in the reading of passports will be imposed on Britain, but does the Minister accept that it would be entirely possible for us to comply with those obligations without requiring additional information to be held on a passport or other document? Our international obligations are thus not a reason for the Government's policy on identity cards.

Mr. McNulty: I accept that, but I would qualify it in part by saying that that is the initial position and the start of a trend in international obligations. In strict terms, on whether we are going beyond the minimum standards that are required at this stage and that are likely to be needed in the very near future, the hon. Gentleman is entirely right, but why should we go for something substandard or second rate, or that is likely to be second rate within five or 10 years? In essence, he is, of course, entirely right.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Will the Minister enlighten the House about whether he has discussed these clauses and amendments with the Information Commissioner, who pretty well condemned the procedures that were outlined on Second Reading, as I stated at the time? Will he explain why the reference to "compulsory registration" has not been removed from clause 9?

Mr. McNulty: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for those questions, which lead me neatly into the second paragraph of my opening speech, in which I want to go into the substance of the choreography or jigsaw, which also refers to the point made by the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth). It is very
 
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clear from the debate in the other place that their lordships would prefer us to go down the primary legislation route, rather than the super-affirmative route. That is what they seek to achieve in the amendments that they have offered to the House. The removal of clauses 6 and 7 goes part way to achieving that, but to go all the way to achieving that we need to   include our proposal in lieu of Lords amendment No. 21.

The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) is entirely right: what their lordships chose not to do and what we are not doing in response to them is to eradicate every element or reference to compulsion in the Bill. In essence, all the building blocks for compulsion in the Bill remain. He will know from the debate on Second Reading and the other Commons stages that a number of elements in the Bill refer to the compulsion stage, rather than to the run up to that stage. Given the wording of our proposal in lieu of the Lords amendment, none of the buildings blocks for compulsion that remain can be enacted until the subsequent primary legislation has been passed. That more neatly achieves precisely what their lordships required in respect of the balance between super-affirmative and primary legislation, as is shown in the reports of their debates.

An order under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, however, will not be an Act of Parliament, so the hon. Gentleman is wrong to suggest that anything other than primary legislation could be used as the vehicle, given the wording that we offer. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Cambridge keeps chuntering. I shall, of course, give way to him, but in my own time and on my own terms.

Mr. Cash: The Minister refers to building blocks in respect of the inner parts of the Bill. He might recall that, in addressing my remarks to the Home Secretary on Second Reading, I demonstrated the relationship between the Bill, what the Information Commissioner had to say and what I thought George Orwell would have made of the provisions on the building blocks of compulsion. I do not see any change in substance or principle. Does the Minister accept that the building blocks are those of George Orwell's Ministry of Truth?

Mr. McNulty: I certainly do not accept the latter point, although George Orwell—also known as Mr. Blair—is one of my favourite authors, so I am with the hon. Gentleman at that level. [Interruption.] Eric Blair, I think hon. Members will find. However, the hon. Gentleman's general point that the key elements of the   secondary phase—that is, compulsion—remain in the Bill is entirely fair. The point that he makes within the confines of the debate and these Lords amendments is entirely right: none of them goes to the substance or principle of voluntary, compulsory or any other form of ID card scheme. The debate is only on the narrow ground of whether there should be a super-affirmative procedure in both Houses or primary legislation. I think that everyone at both ends of this place accepts the premise that the step-up to compulsion is of sufficient seriousness to demand a vote in both Houses. We are discussing the technique and process rather than the substance.
 
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David Howarth: I hear what the Minister says but the problem is that amendment (a) in lieu of amendment No. 21 refers to

The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill will be such an Act of Parliament and it will be passed after this Act. The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill will give Ministers the power to amend any Act by order, so I cannot see any way in which an order under that Act can be excluded under this drafting of the amendment.

Mr. McNulty: I assure the hon. Gentleman that his interpretation is not accurate. If I need to discuss that with him in greater detail over a cup of tea, I will be happy to do so, albeit probably not today—let us say about Thursday.

I emphasise that the substance of the debate is on the narrow terms of whether super-affirmative is the appropriate procedure for there to be, as we all agree, a vote in both Houses as a prelude to compulsion or whether we should go back to primary legislation. I referred to the Home Affairs Committee and its report that said that it would prefer primary legislation and that the super-affirmative procedure was not adequate. The House of Lords Constitution Committee, in paragraph 9 of its third report in 2005–06, equally concluded that

We have said on a number of occasions that this is not just about flicking the switch. There has to be a substantive view prior to flicking that switch.

Mr. Ben Wallace (Lancaster and Wyre) (Con): The Minister has clearly attached a new-found importance to an Act of Parliament to make compulsory the requirement for registration. Why did he not consider extending that importance to designated documents, which he currently proposes to do through an order? Perhaps that could also be done through the new Act of Parliament.

Mr. McNulty: I am tempted to go to our next debate,   but I shall resist that temptation before you, Mr. Speaker, exhort me to shut up, move on and stay with the specifics.

The hon. Gentleman, who was on the Standing Committee considering the Bill, is aware of two points. First, as we shall see when we come to the next debate, it is inconceivable that people who have concerns about cost-effectiveness should say to the House that we should ignore the data needed for biometric passports and instead separately introduce additional but identical paraphernalia for ID cards.

The hon. Gentleman will also know that I am not a recent convert. I referred to the super-affirmative procedure in Standing Committee—I am sure he was there; he attended assiduously—and said:

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In response to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael), I added:

We end up in a lock from which there is no escape route.

I was feeling in a generous mood even then. I continued:

that is, passed by the Committee—

We decided, in our wisdom, that we were reasonably comfortable with the super-affirmative procedure. Many hon. Members and, indeed, Members of the other place, advanced substantive arguments for the alternative of primary legislation, and we have now succumbed to that will.

4.15 pm


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