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Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood) (Lab): I was not a member of the Committee, so I ask this question for genuine clarification. What is wrong with the scheme is the register, because if we had biometrics and voluntary identity cards, it would be acceptable. If we accept the Government amendment, will some people still be compelled to be on the register because they have applied for a passport?
Mr. McNulty: I say in all candour that the answer is yes. Nothing in the provisions would change the way in which the first part of the process would unfold regarding its implementation for passports.
Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow) (Lab): Will the Minister clarify a matterwe need to get this absolutely straightabout clause 15, which will allow public services to be conditional on identity checks? The measure would apply if an individual was subject to compulsory registration. If the Government amendment is accepted, will that measure not come into effect until after the subsequent primary legislation has been passed?
Mr. McNulty: I can give my hon. Friend an absolute assurance about that. The measure is one of the building blocks in the Bill to which the hon. Member for Stone referred. I assure my hon. Friend that it will not be switched on or enacted until the second piece of primary legislation has been passed to bring in compulsion.
We said several times that although the super-affirmative procedure applies to the new procedure, before a move to compulsion takes place we and the House will want to be satisfied that implementation of the initial phase of the identity card scheme has achieved significant coverage of the population so that
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compulsion would have an impact on only the relatively small number of people who had yet to register for and obtain an identity card. We would also want to be satisfied that there continued to be clear support for identity cards, that no vulnerable group would be disadvantaged, that the scheme had contributed to meeting the aims outlined in clause 1, and that the technology supporting the identity card scheme was working and trusted. All those matters will be reviewed before the introduction of primary legislation to flick on the switch for compulsion. If we go down the road suggested on costs, which we will address later, the six-monthly report to the House that accompanies the review will take us to a point at which we will have all the information that we require when we consider primary legislation on compulsion.
Simon Hughes : The Minister clearly gave us a list to indicate how the conditions for moving to compulsion would be met. What is his estimate of the approximate percentage of the adult public with identity cards that would be sufficient to justify moving towards compulsion?
Mr. McNulty: The hon. Gentleman makes an entirely fair point that we will have to consider seriously as we move towards flicking the switch for compulsion through primary legislation. I suggest that there will be plenty of time to discuss that, but I said quite deliberately that compulsion would have an impact on only the relatively small number of people who had not registered for and obtained a card. I suggest that the proportion would be considerably more than half the eligible population, but the House will have plenty of time to discuss such detailed matters as we get closer to that time.
Mr. Jim Cunningham : There has been a lot of speculation about charges for ID cards. Can my hon. Friend give us any idea of the likely cost of a card to an ordinary member of the public who wants one?
Mr. McNulty: I repeat the assurances that we have already given on several occasions. The stand-alone ID card will cost about £30 and the joint package with the biometric passport will cost about £93. My hon. Friend will know, too, that specific secondary legislation will remain in the Bill relating to the fees regime and any concessionary regime, which the House will have an opportunity to discuss.
We accept in spirit the direction in which the Lords want us to travel, but we cannot in substance and detail accept exactly the form of words proposed, for the reasons that I have outlined. I therefore commend the amendment in lieu to the House.
Mr. Michael Mates (East Hampshire) (Con): On costs, if identity cards are eventually to become compulsory, what is the argument for making them so for a citizen who does not need to travel abroad and does not want a passport? Why should he have to pay for what the Government are going to make him do?
First, we are not making the cards themselves compulsoryit is the registration that will
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be compulsory. Secondly, we are not developing ID cards in lieu of passports, as a separate travel document. We think that the benefits of ID cards go far beyond simply travel and that, in the terms that we have outlined, £30 for a 10-year document is not terribly unreasonable.
Mr. Speaker: I must draw the House's attention to the fact that privilege is involved in Lords amendments Nos. 1, 68, 69 and 70. If the House agrees to those amendments, I shall ensure that the appropriate entry is made in the Journal.
Mr. Garnier: May I draw the House's attention to the fact that humble pie is also evident in this group of amendments? I was delighted to see the Minister eating it, although it is pity that he did not eat it in the summer, when we had our interesting discussions during the Committee stage.
We had a lengthy debate about this very issue and at that stage the Government decided that they were prepared to introduce compulsion through secondary legislation. I see my hon. Friends the Members for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) and for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Wallace), who were on the Committee with me, in their places today. We drew the issue to the Committee's attention but the Government, in their wisdom, decided that they knew best and that if they wanted to bring in compulsionwhich was clearly their end intentionthey would do it through secondary legislation.
The problem facing the Government is that they have, as usual, misused the English language. When they say "voluntary", they mean "compulsory", and that is why they have got stuck. When they say "may", they mean "must" and when they say "possibly", they mean "definitely". That is why they were given a thorough ticking-off in the other place, where Members of the House of Lordsnot only from the Opposition parties, but from the Government partyturned up in numbers to persuade them that their original thinking was wrong.
I am delighted that the Minister and the Home Secretary have changed their mind. They were sensible to do so and here we are, dealing with something of a concession. However, before we get overexcited, we need to be clear about the value of the concessionhow limited or extensive it is. We shall come on to designated documents in the next group of amendments, but we have already discovered from my intervention that a compulsory procedure will still be required when they are applied for. That is to say that when people apply for their passport, a residential status document or an immigration document they will still be compelled, whether they like it or not, under this Christmas tree of a Billwhich allows the Secretary of State to take unto himself 61 powers to make further lawto do things
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that he requires them to do. It is only in the discrete area of clauses 6 and 7 that the requirement for primary legislation bites. We are grateful for thatlet me not give the Home Secretary and the Minister of State any other impressionbut the problem remains that compulsion is still a big part of the Bill, which is still no more than a Christmas tree, providing various little places for this Secretary of State or his successors to add on secondary legislation giving them powers to tell us what to do.
Mr. Wallace: Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the number of people in the United Kingdom who do not have a passport, driver's licence, pension book, national insurance number, work permit or any need to access public provision is tiny? It would be compulsion by the back door.
Mr. Garnier: It is my view and that of the official Opposition that it is compulsion by stealth. Only about 20 per cent. of the population do not have a passport. If the measure is implemented in 2008, only 20 per cent. of a population of broadly 60 million will be relieved of compulsion except by primary legislation. We have not seen the legislationfor goodness' sake, we have not even seen the secondary legislation that the Home Secretary wishes to apply.
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