|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton, South-East) (Lab): The Secretary of State mentioned costs. Has his Department conducted any studies of the cost implications of the amendment? What extra costs would there be to the taxpayer if the idea of combining ID cards with passports were abandoned?
Mr. Clarke: The Department has not made a systematic, rigorous assessment of the costs that my hon. Friend describes, but we have considered the issue in principle, to see what the overall situation would be. As he implies, if the amendment were passed, the costs would be greater because they would be shared among fewer people and the implementation of the whole ID cards system would be far less assured. If the amendment proposed by the Lords were passed, the effect on both the cost and the roll-out of the scheme would be serious, but detailed costings would take some months to clarify.
Sir Robert Smith: Is not the logic of the Home Secretary's argument that, because the cost would be shared by fewer people, there is therefore less desire for ID cards in the country than he suspects? Would it not make more sense to accept the Lords amendments and respect the rights of individuals to choose how quickly the scheme is rolled out and whether they will take part in it, and thereby make it truly voluntary?
Mr. Clarke: I think that I addressed that argument earlier. We have set out from the beginning our intention to move to a compulsory scheme in two phasesI said earlier what compulsion means in this case.
Let me now deal with the designated documents. First, I confirm again that the Government's intention is to designate British passports issued to UK residents aged 16 or over, so that an ID card must be issued alongside a passport, as a package. Secondly, it is intended to designate residence permits and other immigration documents issued to foreign nationals resident in the UK for more than three months. Thirdly,
13 Feb 2006 : Column 1175
we intend to issue stand-alone ID cards, but they would be issued on a voluntary basis under clause 8 and would not require the use of the designation power in clause 4.
Mr. Clarke: We believe that there is no problem of that type at all. The immigration documents that we are describing relate to people coming here on the basis of having to indicate their identity to gain residence permits. That is not only reasonable, as would be clear to anybody, but entirely works with the European convention on human rights and is compliant with it.
We do intend to designate the passport. We do intend to designate residence permits and other immigration documents. We do intend to issue stand-alone identity cards, but on a voluntary basis, not a compulsory basis. As we have always made clear, however, we believe that the legislation should be flexible enough to allow for the possibility of designation of other official documents in the future. I have said that I would want to look at the possibility of designation of Criminal Records Bureau certificates in England and Wales. There may be a good case for designating those documents, but we would need to consider issues such as the impact on volunteers, and that would be for future consideration.
In the light of some of the recent publicity, I should make it clear that, along with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, I have looked actively at designating driving licences, but we have decided not to do so. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency already uses the passport database to check, with consent, the identity of people applying for photocard licences. That is more secure for the DVLA and more convenient for individuals, who do not have to send their passport to the DVLA. In the same way, issuing driving licences to people with ID cards will be more secure and convenient, but we have no plans to require people to get an ID card before applying for a driving licence.
I should emphasis that, as my hon. Friend the Minister of State said, mandatory recall of paper driving licences is a measure to improve the security of driving licences and has nothing to do with ID cards. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is considering the Government's position on the defeat in the House of Lords on the provision in the Road Safety Bill and will announce his intentions in due course.
I need to make it clear that there will be no possibility of designating any document until the identity card scheme is introduced. The designation order will need to set out the exact details of the proposed class of document, with any exceptions, and will also need to specify the timetable for designation. Each designation order under clause 4 will need to be approved by both Houses of Parliament under the affirmative resolution procedure. It could not be done for any particular document, including all those that I have mentioned, without a very full opportunity for proper debate and scrutiny.
A number of my colleagues, in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard), have been concerned about the process of designating documents, and I hope that the procedure that I have set out makes clear the approach that we are following.
Mr. Wallace: The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard) made the point about residence permits and human rights. What the Home Secretary has not answeredit was not answered in Committee eitheris how the proposal affects the 380,000 Irish citizens currently resident in this country who enjoy a protection as a result of a separate Irish-Anglo treaty that dates back some years.
Mr. Clarke: The proposals relate to UK citizens. We are debating fully with the Irish Government and my colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office the detailed operation of the scheme in the joint travel area, which covers both islandsour island and Ireland.
David Davis: On this specific issue, I have heard from senior members of the Irish Government that if we introduce ID cards they will have to introduce them. It will have to be on a compatible basis and there will have to be information exchange between the countries. Is that true?
Mr. Clarke: I am not going to comment on what the right hon. Gentleman may or may not have been told by Ministers in the Irish Government. I will say, as I have said before, that we have had a very full discussion of those issues precisely to be able to clarify those points.
No document can be designated under clause 4 unless a designation order has been debated and approved by both Houses of Parliament. I should also make it clear at this juncture that there will be the opportunity for Parliament to debate the level of fees to be charged as the identity cards fee regime is also to be set in regulations, subject to the affirmative order procedure. All subsequent changes to the level of fees, apart from increases due to inflation, will be subject to the affirmative procedure, and will thus need the approval of both Houses. I hope that I have shown that it is essential that we have a clear and definite link between an application for a designated document such as a passport and an entry on the national identity register. That has always been our clearly stated policy.
There is bound to be concern among opponents of ID cards that if someone receives a passport or reapplies for one their details will be entered on the register. My right hon. Friend rightly saidsome people may have overlooked thisthat an affirmative
13 Feb 2006 : Column 1177
order is necessary. However, given that there would be a limited debate if such an order were made, does he not accept that there is a need for a wider debate when the measure returns to the Lords, bearing in mind the principle of the matter and its crucial importance for many of us? He has accepted the need for primary legislation on compulsion, but could he go a little further than the Bill's existing provisions?
Mr. Clarke: I am glad that my hon. Friend accepts that an affirmative order is needed if any document is to be designated. There will be an opportunity for debate in the House on those questions. It will take considerable time to designate any document, so the Government would wish to announce such a proposal in advance with the aim of ensuring full debate in both Houses. I am ready to facilitate such a debate, and it is a perfectly reasonable request for the hon. Gentleman to make. I can assure him that we would seek to facilitate debate on all those matters. While it is important that Parliament has the opportunity to address them, people must accept that the key point in relation to passports, residence permits, immigration documents and the Criminal Records Bureau check is that the amount of information given by the individual to the state would be the same as it is now. It is not a question of new information coming online for the stateit is a question of putting that new information, with its biometric assurance, on to a national identity register so that it can work more effectively. Individuals will therefore not give more information to the state than they do at present. That is an important point to grasp.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|