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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Under the Order of the House of 13 February, any message from the Lords relating to the Identity Cards Bill must be considered forthwith, without any Question being put. A message has been received and the relevant paper is in the Vote Office.
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Identity Cards Bill

Further consideration of Lords messages

Lords amendment: No. 22M.

9.36 pm

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): With this we may discuss Lords amendments Nos. 22N and 22O.

These amendments were tabled in the other place by Lord Armstrong of Ilminster. They were accepted by my right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Scotland on behalf of the Government and passed by an overwhelming majority of 227. They were also supported by Conservative Front Benchers, although I am not sure that the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) agreed with their decision. In fact, there are many rumours about his chagrin, which are no doubt exaggerated, but I am sure that with his characteristic statesmanship he will be able to put the House straight on any of his personal concerns.

I note that Lord Armstrong's proposals were not supported by the Liberal Democrats in the other place, who sought to take yet another opportunity to do whatever they could to destroy them. I sometimes think that it is a little sad that the greatest achievement in the Liberal Democrats' history—the Parliament Act 1911—is being so betrayed by the Liberal Democrats who are currently in Parliament.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): Will the Home Secretary give way?

Mr. Clarke: No, I shall not

Earlier today, the Commons re-affirmed its view, for the fifth time, that those who apply for a designated document should have their details entered on the national identity register and be issued with an identity card. As hon. Members know, that was fundamental to the Government's approach in implementing the ID cards scheme, from our first consultation exercise in 2002. That was followed by a policy announcement in 2003, the draft Bill that the Home Affairs Committee scrutinised in 2004, the Bill that was debated before the 2005 election and the Government's manifesto commitment.

We have now agreed, as a concession-seeking compromise, that anyone who applies for a British passport could say that they did not want an ID card to be issued. However, that applies only to applications made up to 1 January 2010. As I have said during our debates, we have been constructive in seeking compromise on many points and I am grateful that Lord Armstrong, to whom hon. Members should give credit, has persevered in his honourable attempts to secure an agreement.

There are three critical points of difference between the amendment that he tabled in the other place, which was overwhelmingly agreed to, and his resolution, which we considered earlier. First, Lord Armstrong's amendment preserves the integrity of the national identity register. It ensures that the details of all
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applicants for designated documents will still be entered on it. That will mean that they will be afforded the protection that that will provide from identity theft. It will also provide the wider benefits to society by ensuring that attempts by people to establish multiple identities are more easily detected.

Lord Armstrong's acceptance of the importance and integrity of the national identity register was an essential point of his amendment in the other place at this stage. It was not covered in previous amendments and it is the key point that has enabled us to accept it. I observed the debate in the other place and Lord Armstrong made it clear that that first point was essential.

Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend knows, I introduced the original identity cards measure. Earlier today, I proposed the way forward that the Lords have now taken. Does he share my pleasure that the Lords have agreed that all applicants for a passport will go on the identity register so that we can make genuine progress, as our manifesto commitment outlines? In a non-partisan spirit, will he congratulate the Conservative party on reversing its position again?

Mr. Clarke: To be candid, I find non-partisanship on the issue difficult. However, in its spirit, I pay genuine tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer), who has campaigned for identity cards for many years since his election in 1997. It has not been an easy pitch on which to bat but he has done it exceptionally well and made his case powerfully. I am glad that, today, Parliament has paid tribute to his work. Earlier, he drew attention to the critical importance of the national identity register. Lord Armstrong's acknowledgement of that has enabled us to support the amendment from the other place. The integrity of the national identity register has been the central point that enables us to accept Lord Armstrong's amendment.

Secondly, the amendment removes from the scope of any opt-out, designated documents other than the passport. The new amendment removes any opt-out from the residence permit, which specifies the right of third country nationals to reside in this country and the terms and conditions that they must honour. I noted from the earlier response of the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) that he accepted the logic of that change

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): The Home Secretary is right. That is why I asked him to clarify the point earlier. The change improves and reinforces the relevant aspect of the Bill.

Mr. Clarke: I detected from the right hon. Gentleman's earlier response that he understood that point and I am grateful—in a non-partisan way—that he has.

Simon Hughes: In a non-partisan way, will the Home Secretary accept two points? First, Liberal Democrats, with whom he may disagree, have at least been consistent in opposing identity cards on principle and in practice. Secondly, for those of us who continue to resist
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the ridiculous incursion of the state on the individual, if we all renew our passports now, we will not be subject to the ludicrous new system for probably 10 years.

Mr. Clarke: The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) dealt with the second point earlier. Consistency and idiocy are characteristics of the Liberal Democrats and I look forward to the response of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg).

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer), I have never been enthusiastic about identity cards and I have not changed my mind. However, I believe that, ultimately, the will of the elected Chamber must prevail. Among the critics, I am pleased—perhaps others are not—that the Home Secretary was willing to make some movement towards a compromise. I congratulate him on not being as dogmatic as he could have been. The compromise is acceptable, however much I dislike the scheme.

Mr. Clarke: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. As I said earlier today, his position has always been clear. It is true to say that we have been flexible, but so too have Lord Armstrong and those in the other place in making important and significant changes. The first relates to preserving the integrity of the national identity register; the second to removing from the scope of any opt-out designated documents other than the passport—

9.45 pm

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Clarke: No, I will not give way.

The third concession that Lord Armstrong has made is that, once the passport becomes a designated document, his amendment will provide for a time-limited opt-out for people applying for passports also to be issued with an ID card. I share Lord Armstrong's view, which he expressed again in the debate, that it will be a small number of people who choose to opt out. However, while those who opt out will not be able to prove their identity securely in a range of transactions with public and private sector organisations—that is the choice that they would make in opting out—they would also not be required to inform the authorities of changes in prescribed details such as their address. That obligation applies only to those to whom an ID card has been issued. If we agree to the amendments from the other place, as I hope we will, the opt-out will extend until 1 January 2010.

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