Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the amendments are consistent with the Government's policy on what a regional spatial strategy should contain, although Amendment No. 30 is not broad enough in scope. I have said before that there is an issue about what we should prescribe in the Bill in terms of the content of the regional spatial strategy rather than in policy guidance and, if necessary, in regulations.

Paragraph 1.5 of the draft planning policy statement 11 makes it clear that the regional spatial strategy should set out a concise spatial strategy for achieving the desired vision for the region, and there should be a clear link between policy objectives, priorities, targets and indicators. This must include being quite clear what the policy purposes of the regional spatial strategy are.

When we debated an amendment similar to Amendment No. 30 tabled in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, I said that we would need a much more comprehensive definition of the content of a regional spatial strategy and we must not have such a selective definition that singles out only some of the principles of sustainable development and unnecessarily restricts the scope of the regional spatial strategy. I referred in Committee to the much more comprehensive definition of what the draft planning policy statement says the regional spatial strategy should cover.

A similar issue arose in the past in relation to the content of development plans set out in the principal Act, the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The definition there is similar to what is covered by Amendment No. 30.

Since the 1990 Act, we have had to make it clear in planning policy guidance notes that other equally important policy topics needed to be covered. An example is the list of topics for inclusion in structure

24 Feb 2004 : Column 186

plans and Part 1 of the unitary development plans, set out on page 19 of planning policy guidance 12, which relates to development plans.

We think it would be a mistake to fossilise on the face of the Bill references to what matters the regional spatial strategy should contain, since these may change in the future. We really believe that such matters of content are best left for policy and guidance and, if necessary, regulation so the House can be involved and we can take advantage of experience and respond more flexibly to future needs. The real bone of contention is putting too much detail on the face of the Bill in the principal legislation, because it curtails us later in reacting to events.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am not sure whether the Minister has responded to Amendment No. 29. That may be because of the movement going on around me.

I appreciate that the list of items which I have taken from the 1991 Act is additional to what is in the 1990 Act. It says that the UDP shall consist of a written statement formulating the authority's general policies in respect of the development and other use of land in their area, including measures for the improvement of the physical environment and the management of traffic. These items were substituted for the latter part.

The question that arises is whether the Government think that there has been any problem with what the Minister characterised as the rather restricted list of contents. We are concerned, as he acknowledged, to see the same sort of matters covered. I suppose the question is whether the existing legislation on UDPs and structure plans is thought to be defective.

As I said, I am not sure whether the first amendment in the group has had an answer, but I will read Hansard and see whether it amounts to an answer. The Minister says he did—I do not disbelieve him, I just did not recognise it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 32:

    Page 3, line 35, leave out "the subject matter of" and insert "subjects which shall (without limitation) be included in"

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 32 repeats an amendment tabled in Committee to enable the regional planning body to add to what the Secretary of State prescribed should be included in the regional spatial strategy.

The Minister replied that the provisions are a safeguard and that the Secretary of State probably would not have to prescribe. The amendment would not affect that either way. He said he would expect the revision to be agreed through negotiations between the regional planning body and the Government Office and that even if the Secretary of State were to prescribe the subject matter, that did not mean he would prescribe the content of the revision.

Finally, the Minister said that Clause 6(1)(a) provides that the RPB must prepare a draft revision of the RSS

    "when it appears to it necessary or expedient to do so"

24 Feb 2004 : Column 187

The Minister said that the regional planning body can have what it wants if it thinks it is expedient. It is the "what" that I am bothered about. The four criteria referred to are the extent of the revision proposed by the draft.

The debate went on for quite a long time. I am still not convinced that the clause is as wide as I would like. I am sorry to ask the Minister to go back to the debate; he may feel that it would be adequate to refer back, but if he has some new points, I would be glad to hear them. I beg to move.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Baroness was not reassured by what I said in Committee. I will make it really clear and unambiguous, without using much of my brief.

I assure the noble Baroness that if the regional planning body wants to, it has complete freedom to prepare a draft revision that goes wider than any subjects prescribed in regulations under this clause. There is a reason for that: any regulations in no way detract from the duty in Clause 6(1)(a), which provides that the regional planning body must prepare a draft revision of the regional spatial strategy,

    "when it appears to it necessary or expedient to do so".

That is wide and catch-all. Therefore, none of the other regulations can detract from that duty. I hope that that spells everything out.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, Clause 6 (1)(a) states that the RPB must prepare a draft revision "when" it appears necessary. Is the Minister saying that because the clause does not state what must be dealt with, that the "what" is an open matter? That is what my question boils down to.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the "when" means when it appears necessary. Do not forget that when the regional planning body thinks it necessary, and it appears that it is necessary or expedient to prepare that revision, the RPB will do so—it must do it when it appears necessary. Because the matter is subject to examination in public, the RPB can make minor revisions or major revisions, as I made clear when we discussed the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. It can tear everything up and start again. However, in the mean time, we have regional policies because of the transition from the old to the new scheme. The RPB can make minor adjustments if it thinks that they are necessary.

All such matters are subject to public examination, so they cannot be tinkered with in any rational way by the Secretary State—which is what underlines most of the amendments put before the House. Nobody seems to trust my right honourable friend to do the right thing, yet he has made wonderful, brilliant planning decisions since he has had the responsibility to do so.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister trusts his right honourable friend's successors in the fourth or fifth government to follow this one.

24 Feb 2004 : Column 188

That is the problem. We have made it clear throughout the debate that the Minister's integrity is not impugned and neither is that of his right honourable friend, but future governments remain to be tested. That lies at the heart of so much of what we are saying about the Secretary of State's role and why we are so concerned to spell out the "what". The subject matter is not restricted to what the Secretary of State says in the regulations it must contain—it is merely the starting point and the RPB can add its own assessment.

The Minister has reassured me. I am reassured about what he and his colleagues in the Government intend. However, none of us is able to give a reassurance about how future governments will carry on. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to move that consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving the Motion I suggest that the Report stage begin again not before 8.33 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Immigration (Provision of Physical Data) (Amendment) Regulations 2004

7.33 p.m.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 21 January be approved [7th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: In moving these draft regulations, I will also speak to the Immigration (Leave to Enter and Remain) (Amendment) Order 2004.

There are two statutory instruments to be considered. The first is the draft Immigration (Provision of Physical Data) (Amendment) Regulations 2004 which are made in exercise of the powers conferred on the Secretary of State by Section 126 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. Section 126 enables the Secretary of State, by the making of regulations, to require that an immigration application be accompanied by physical data of an external characteristic or to enable an authorised person to require an entrant to provide information of this sort. One set of regulations has already been made under this power—the Immigration (Provision of Physical Data) Regulations 2003. The 2003 regulations required the provision of a record of fingerprints by entry clearance applicants in Colombo.

The second statutory instrument is the draft Immigration (Leave to Enter and Remain) (Amendment) Order 2004, which is made in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3A of the Immigration Act 1971, as inserted by Section 1 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Section 3A (3) enables the Secretary of State by order to prescribe the circumstances in which an entry clearance is to have effect as leave to enter the United Kingdom.

The purpose of these statutory instruments is to expand the current fingerprinting power in the 2003 regulations to encompass new categories of

24 Feb 2004 : Column 189

immigration application. The new provision will require those applying for entry clearance in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tanzania and Uganda to provide fingerprint data. Holders of 1951 convention travel documents issued outside the UK will also be required to provide fingerprints on making an application for leave to enter the UK. We are amending the Immigration (Leave to Enter and Remain) Order so that this application has to be made on arrival in the UK. This ensures that any 1951 convention document holders who refuse to provide their fingerprints can be refused leave to enter.

Fingerprinting in Colombo will continue. The initial six-month pilot has been concluded and the results were reported to the House in the letter from my right honourable friend Beverley Hughes of 5 February to the chair of the Seventh Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation, a copy of which was placed in the Library of the House. The results of the pilot are encouraging and the Government remain convinced that greater use of biometric technology will support efforts to prevent document and identity fraud. It will enable those who have an entitlement to enter the UK to do so without hindrance while preventing those who seek to circumvent our controls from doing so.

There will be no change to the procedural safeguards already provided as part of the existing fingerprint requirement. Applicants who are under 16 years of age will have their fingerprints taken only in the presence of a responsible adult who is over 18 years of age and not employed by the Government. Those safeguards also apply to the new categories of applicant who will be subject to the fingerprint requirement. Fingerprints collected in Colombo and east Africa will be added to the immigration and asylum fingerprint system database. That will allow for the identification of any visa applicant who subsequently makes either an asylum or immigration application in a different identity. That will, in turn, help establish the nationality of those who no longer have a basis on which to remain in the UK, and so assist with securing their removal.

In common with other data collected in respect of immigration and asylum applications, fingerprints will be shared with the police and other law enforcement agencies for the purposes of the prevention or investigation of crime. All such exchanges will be carried out in compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998. That means that data may only be disclosed when it is necessary for one of the specified purposes set out in the data protection legislation, such as the exercise of statutory, departmental or police functions, and that the disclosure must be conducted in accordance with the data protection principles. An additional safeguard is that, under the regulations, any fingerprints stored on the database are required to be destroyed no more than 10 years from the day on which they were provided.

Any entry clearance application that is not accompanied by the necessary fingerprint data may be treated as invalid. There may be exceptions, including applicants who, because of physical disability or

24 Feb 2004 : Column 190

injury, cannot provide fingerprints. The system will be operated in a reasonable way to limit the impact on applicants.

We also propose to fingerprint holders of all 1951 convention travel documents issued outside the UK at the time those people make an application for leave to enter this country. There is some evidence to suggest that, in addition to more conventional document fraud, individuals who have been granted refugee status elsewhere are making asylum applications after arriving in the UK. They do this by travelling to the UK on a convention travel document issued by another country which they destroy on arrival in the UK and subsequently claim asylum. Fingerprinting such people on arrival will allow us to identify the basis on which they entered the UK if they subsequently claim asylum. Again, the safeguards in relation to age and use and storage of fingerprints will apply.

The Immigration (Leave to Enter and Remain) Order 2000 is being amended because, at present, an entry clearance will act as leave to enter. Without this amendment any convention travel document holder with an entry clearance would enjoy a right of entry to the UK. To require such a person to provide fingerprints at the entry clearance stage would require the installation of fingerprinting equipment at every entry clearance post world-wide, as we do not want the fingerprint requirement imposed on convention travel document holders to be limited to those applying in certain countries. To do that would involve vastly disproportionate expense. The order needs to be amended to make clear that the holder of a convention travel document must apply for leave to enter on arrival in the UK even when he or she is in possession of a valid entry clearance. If a convention document holder refuses to provide fingerprint data when seeking entry to the UK, that application for leave can be refused and the individual can, if appropriate, be removed.

We are working with the authorities in relevant east African countries to effect a smooth introduction to the fingerprinting operation. The support and co-operation received is much appreciated by this Government. The UNHCR is also being consulted about these proposals.

As I have said, we believe that the use of biometric technology in the immigration field is an important development that will provide greater certainty over people's identity than has been possible in the past. We are not alone in that view. We are working with our EU partners on proposals for the inclusion of biometric identifiers in visas and residence permits, and noble Lords will be aware that the US authorities are already making greater use of fingerprint data. Those measures will of course provide benefits for us and our controls, but they also provide reassurance to legitimate travellers. By reducing the scope for identity fraud, we reduce the risk that legitimate travellers will have their identity stolen or, because of similar details, will be mistaken for someone else. It is for those reasons we believe that it is essential that we make appropriate use of biometrics. I commend the regulations and the order to the House.

24 Feb 2004 : Column 191

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 21 January be approved [7th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page