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NORTHERN IRELAND (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) BILL (PROGRAMME)

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

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Question agreed to.

NORTHERN IRELAND (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) BILL [MONEY]

Queen's recommendation having been signified—

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with Bills),

Question agreed to.

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business),

Question agreed to.


 
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Identity Cards Bill

Lords Reasons for insisting on certain of their amendments to which the Commons have disagreed, considered.

Clause 5


Applications relating to entries in Register

Lords amendment: No. 16.

10 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): I beg to move, That this House insists on its disagreement with the Lords in the said amendment.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendment No. 22, the Government motion to insist on disagreements thereto and amendment (a) in lieu.

Mr. Clarke: Amendment (a) is largely technical and clarifies clause 5 by adding the words "or be accompanied by" after the requirement for an application for a designated document to include an application to be entered on the register. This is the second time in four weeks that these amendments have returned to the House for consideration, so I hope that I do not need to spend long making the case to reject them yet again. The issue has already been debated, voted on and approved twice by the House. A similar amendment was defeated on Report on 18 October last year by a majority of 32. In our consideration of Lords amendments on 13 February, it was rejected by a majority of 31.

We have always made it clear that the identity cards scheme has been designed as a compulsory scheme for all United Kingdom residents and is eventually intended to become such a scheme. In the second phase of the scheme, it will be a requirement to register and there will be a civil financial penalty regime to tackle failure to do so. We have made it clear, too, that linking identity cards to designated documents is a central part of the first phase of the scheme, allowing a sensible phased introduction of identity cards. Once passports and residence permits are designated, as British nationals resident in the United Kingdom renew or apply for passports, and as foreign nationals renew or apply for residence permits, those individuals will be entered on the national identity register and issued with ID cards.

Each designation order under clause 4 will need to be approved by both Houses of Parliament under the affirmative resolution procedure. The amendments proposed by the other place would make registration and an identity card optional extras for anyone applying for a designated document. Last week, we began to phase in the issue of e-passports incorporating a facial image biometric—the first generation biometric passport. Once we move to the next phase—biometric passports including a facial image and fingerprint biometrics—anyone applying for a passport must go through exactly the same application process as they would for an identity card, and their personal details and biometrics will be recorded on a central passport database. The data is being collected in any case when
 
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people renew their passport. Merging the two processes will add the statutory safeguards provided by the Bill, such as the creation of a national identity scheme commissioner, to the passport data. The Bill will therefore provide more safeguards for people who renew their passports, but the Lords amendment would remove those safeguards.

Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow) (Lab): I would be grateful if my right hon. Friend clarified an issue relating to the renewal of passports. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) said that there was an element of choice, however small, about whether to have a passport. He said, too, that all passport holders could choose when they renewed their passport and could do so at any time. The UK Passport Service website, however, suggests that it is only possible to do so if a passport is full, has expired, or will do so in the next nine months. Which statement is correct? If the website is at fault, can it be corrected?


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