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On those three key points, Lord Armstrong's amendment preserves the integrity of the national identity register, deals with the question of residence permits and documents other than passports, and proposes a time limit of 1 January 2010. These are
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important changes, and I repeat my appreciation for the approach that he has taken in seeking to secure agreement.
Mr. Clarke: Before I give way to my hon. Friendwhich I will because I am a generous, non-partisan type of chapI need to point out that, in the other place, Lady Anelay suggested that these proposals meant that the audit log would not apply to those registered when applying for a passport in this initial phase. For the avoidance of doubt, I need to make it clear that that is not strictly correct. Once registered, any provision of information from the register will be logged, which provides a safeguard to the individual.
Lynne Jones: I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. Will he tell the House something about the charges for the passport and the identity document? In particular, will those people who decline to receive an identity card be exempt from paying the charge of £30 or thereabouts?
Mr. Clarke: No, they will not[Interruption.] Let me make two points. The overall pricing strategy for these documents will be determined after the Bill has received Royal Assent, as we have made clear all the way through. We have given a variety of indications about unit costs, and we have made various commitments in the House that will be honoured, but the actual pricing strategy will be determined on that basis. Secondly, concern was expressed in the other placeI cannot speak for this placeabout the principle of whether a person should be required to have an ID card, as opposed to being on the national identity register. We are accepting the proposal from the other place for an opt-out on the principle of accepting an ID card, though not on the issue of the national identity register. In respect to the other place, its Members were very clear that the cost issues were not a matter of concern for them.
The date of 1 January 2010 adds a little bit of uncertainty to the Government's plans for implementing the scheme, but we believe that that uncertainty will be manageable. That is a judgment that we have made in discussions with Members of the other place on these matters. Lord Armstrong's proposal has the support of the Government as one which, in our opinion, strikes a sensible and acceptable compromise. It is important that that is the case, and I again pay tribute to his work.
In drawing the ping-pong of this Bill to a close, I would like to express my appreciation to the people who have worked so hard on this piece of legislation: first, to my ministerial colleagues, and even to the Opposition spokespeopleand, indeed, Back Benchersof all parties in both Houses who have worked so hard in this process. I know that it has been a difficult Bill, but people have sought to address it in a constructive and positive way, even when we have disagreedexcept the Lib Dems.
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Secondly, I want to pay tribute to the staff of Parliament. They have dealt with what has been one of the longest ping-pongs with integrity and professionalism. On behalf of the whole House, I express appreciation for their work.
Thirdly, I want to express appreciation for the officials in the Home Office and elsewhere who have worked on the Bill. They are dedicated and they sought to give professional advice, without any partisanship, to everybody involved in the debate. I pay tribute to their work in developing and taking forward this scheme.
David Davis: Let me start by associating my party with the Home Secretary's final comments about the staff involvedhis civil servants, the staff of the House and the support staff for all the parties. I include the Liberal Democrats in that, even though, despite the generous and non-partisan nature of which he made so much in his speech, he does not.
The Home Secretary started by attempting to tease me about my view on this amendment. The amendment reminds me of an old story told to me by a regimental sergeant-major some 25 years ago, which I shall repeat solely for the purpose of amusing the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound), who is in his place. The officers' mess had given the sergeants' mess a barrel of beer and the commanding officer asked the sergeant-major what they made of it and whether they liked it. He said, "It was just right, sir." The CO said, "Just right?" He said, "Yes, sir. If it had been any worse we couldn't have drunk it, and if it had been any better, you wouldn't have given it to us." That about sums up this amendmentjust acceptable.
The amendment is a major concession by the Government in one respectnobody who does not want an ID card need have one before the next election. That, of itself, is worth having. If the election comes at its latest possible date, there will be a small gap from January 2010 until May 2010, but people can avoid that, I guess, by buying their passport a few months early.
The Home Secretary referred to two unpalatable aspects of the compromise that he struck with Lord Armstrong, in which the Government drove Lord Armstrong away from his original intent. First, there is the maintenance of the requirement for entry on the identity register. Despite what he says, that is mitigated without the ID cards, because the information that goes with the ID card is limitedmost perniciously, the so-called audit trail. The Home Secretary said what is legally correctthe audit trail will still exist. But, of course, the origin of the data for the audit trail is the ID card, so that will not be there.
Secondly, and more interestingly, the Government desperately resisted having the sunset date, on which full compulsion takes effect, after July 2010. They insisted that it should move forward to January 2010. Why was there such agony over those six months? The answer is obviousthey are desperate to avoid compulsion becoming an issue in the next general election. In that, they will fail.
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The Government have not met any of the tests that we set at the beginning of the ID cards process: on cost, there is a massive £19 billion bill; on effectiveness, it will fail to stop terrorism, immigration fraud, crime, fraud and ID theft; on privacy, all our fears have been confirmed.
Simon Hughes: The Liberal Democrats are not surprised about the position of the right hon. Gentleman's party now, as it has changed so often, but we are confused in one respect. If he shared, as he said in the House previously, the view that the iniquity was not just the card but the information being held on the national register, how is it now acceptable to his party that one need not have the card until 2010, but one has no opt-out from the blessed national register?
David Davis: The hon. Gentleman cannot have listened to the last paragraph of my speech, that paragraph being my reason for not giving way to him immediately. The simple truth is that this is not a perfect amendment. It is the best that we are going to get out of this Government. We have a poor scheme. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has debated the issue with me throughout the Bill's passage so far, and he should treat it seriously, as he well understands.
In my view, the mitigation will defer some of the worst aspects of the scheme, but it will not solve the problems. I should have liked to have no national identity register even after the next election, but we had no prospect of delivering that, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. His party's spokesman had a part in it.
I will accept the Government's limited stay of execution, but I do not accept the Bill as a whole. It is still an unwarranted intrusion on the privacy of the individual. It is still ineffective, costly and potentially dangerous. It is still a massive reversal of the relationship between the citizen and the state. While I recommend that my party support the amendment, let there be no doubt that my first act when I take over as Home Secretary after the next election will be to do away with the Bill.
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