Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Gerrard: I think that the hon. Gentleman is wrong. The compulsory element in relation to public services in clause 15 relates not to designated documents but to individuals subject to compulsory registration. If the amendment were to have the effect that the hon. Gentleman suggests, there would be a problem, but the Home Secretary has made it clear that it will not.

Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that, if it becomes compulsory to have an ID card to use the national health service, we shall be undermining the principle that the NHS is free at the point of use? People would have to pay to use it; without the card they would be unable to access services that we have always understood are free at the point of use.

Mr. Gerrard: I wish that the hon. Lady had listened to my starting point on the issue. I am not defending the ID card scheme. I have never said that it was a great idea. I am making the simple point that this narrow amendment is an improvement. I do not want to be churlish and say that it does not matter; it is a step in the right direction. Given a choice, I would scrap the whole thing, but the amendment is a positive step.

Mr. Winnick: I share my hon. Friend's complete opposition to ID cards, but should not those of us on the Labour Benches who have urged the Government to listen and respond to criticism of this and other issues welcome the fact that they have done so? Like my hon. Friend, I would rather that they scrapped the whole business, but as they will not, the fact that primary legislation will be required for compulsion is undoubtedly a shift in the right direction.

Mr. Gerrard: That is the simple point that I wanted to make, so I shall give another Member the opportunity to speak.

Chris Mole (Ipswich) (Lab): This is an important opportunity to look once again at the Government's proposals and to consider the changes incorporated by the Lords. I welcome the steps that the Government have taken recently to secure the substance of their programme.
13 Feb 2006 : Column 1169

Inevitably, questions about personal privacy, civil liberties, system security, cross-predictability and function creep must be taken into account in the development of an identity verification system, but by removing compulsion in relation to entry on the national identity register and in dealing with designated documents—the substance of the amendments—the Lords would make the system less secure and its use in public services less effective. In fact, the measures address none of the substantive issues with which Parliament might properly be concerned, and can be considered only as spoiling tactics designed to make the implementation of ID cards impossible in practice. If those are the Opposition's tactics—that is by no means clear from what the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) has said today—they are not in the interests of the British people, do not reflect the world in which we live and, frankly, constitute opposition for opposition's sake. The churlish contribution from the hon. and learned Member for Harborough—

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings, Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Order [this day], put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Mr. Speaker then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.

Lords amendment No. 21 disagreed to.

Government amendment (a) in lieu of Lords amendment No. 21 agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 20 and 23 agreed to

Clause 5

Applications relating to entries in Register

Lords amendment: No 16, in page 4, line 44 leave out "must" and insert

Mr. Charles Clarke: I beg to move, That the House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Speaker: With this we may discuss Lords amendment No. 22 and Government motion to disagree.

Mr. Clarke: The House debated the essence of this issue on Report on 18 October. It rejected proposals similar to the Lords amendments, and I hope that it will reject them now. Although Lords amendments Nos. 16 and 22 rest on changing a "must" to a "may", which seems a very small change, they risk undermining the basis of the current identity cards proposal, and for those reasons they must be resisted strongly by the Government and by the House.

We have always been clear that the identity cards scheme is being designed and is intended, eventually, to become a compulsory scheme for all UK residents, and that in the second phase of the scheme it will be a requirement to register, with a civil financial penalty regime for failure to do so. Throughout, we have also
13 Feb 2006 : Column 1170
been equally clear that linking identity cards to the issue of designated documents is a central part of the scheme in the first phase. That will enable a sensible, phased introduction of identity cards.

Once passports and residence permits are designated, when British nationals resident in the United Kingdom, renew or apply for their residence permits they will be entered on the national identity register and issued with cards that will serve as ID cards. That approach is well known and will not come as a surprise to the House. When the Government issued our first consultation document about a card scheme in 2002, one of the options canvassed was a universal scheme linked to passports.

When we announced the decision in principle in November 2003, it was made clear that there would be a two-stage scheme and that the second stage would be compulsory. However, on the first stage, we stated in "Identity Cards: the Next Steps":

That announcement in principle in 2003 was put into effect when we published the draft Bill, as long ago as April 2004, when we included the word "must" in clause 5(2). Yet again, we made it absolutely clear that, once designated, obtaining a passport would also involve being issued with an identity card.

It is also clear that, other than the biometrics—an important development in the whole security of card systems—no information will be required from an individual as part of that process that the state does not already hold in one form or another. To put the compulsory element of the designation of documents another way, it will be compulsory for information already held by the state to be placed on the national identity register. No new information will be required as part of that process.

Lynne Jones : As I understand it, a fully biometric passport that complies with European Union requirements should have a facial biometric and two fingerprints. However, as my right hon. Friend said at Question Time, he proposes to have up to 13 biometric elements stored on the national register. It is not correct to say that that information is required for the passport and that the Government would therefore necessarily have that information and the full biometrics.

5.30 pm

Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is correct in that the information is not required as part of the current EU passport regime—the fantasies of the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) are relevant in that respect. However, for a variety of reasons, all Governments are determined—it was set out in no less a source than the United Nations Security Council resolution last September—to move to a fully biometric scheme for passports. That is part of the overall world approach, which this Government strongly support, to the most secure system of biometrics to protect us most effectively in a wide variety of ways.

My hon. Friend's point is about biometrics for the passport scheme and not about the ID card scheme, although they are related. We believe, as a Government,
13 Feb 2006 : Column 1171
that getting properly secure biometrics for the passport scheme is not only in our interests in this country but is part of our international obligations.

Lynne Jones: The biometric passport is fully biometric because it has biometrics on it; it just has not got all the biometrics. Which other countries propose to have 13 sets of biometric data on a centrally held database?

Mr. Clarke: A number of countries, including the United States of America, is the answer to my hon. Friend's question.

Next Section IndexHome Page