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Lord Hylton: I am glad that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, has raised the point of exceptional leave to remain. For years, there have been problems. People in that category, of perfectly good standing in Britain, have been unable to travel or impeded from travelling for a holiday or to visit a relative in another country simply for lack of documentation.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I find myself in a quandary, because I am able to answer each and every question save for that raised about a particular case by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. It would probably be wrong, if not improper, to answer him from the Dispatch Box. However, I see that it is a quarter past 10. I am likely to take 15 to 20 minutes in answering all those questions. I am entirely in your Lordships' hands. If it would suit your Lordships, I propose to give a rather staccato answer and then to undertake to write in depth. I would anticipate my reply being seven pages' long. I am entirely within your Lordships' hands. If noble Lords would not like me to take that course, I shall not do so.
I shall answer noble Lords in brief. The 1971 Act does not cover caseworkers, but only immigration officers. The provision would widen the scope of documents that can be retained to include those that may help the redocumentation process. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, asked which documents we expect to be able to hold and what the time limits would be. We expect to hold any document that facilitates removal, but primarily passports and identity cards. We must be working towards removal, so the power would be limited. Such documents will be returned unless they are forged or counterfeit. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and therefore all other noble Lords, asked about "come into possession". They come into possession if they can be supplied with applications and they can be obtained during enforcement visits. Those are the two main ways.
Those are the basic reasons for the amendments. I absolutely understand that there has been little opportunity to discuss the issue and to interrogate the Government. That is why I would be more than happy to put what I would have said to the House into writing and to send it to each noble Lord who has participated in the debate. If further comments arise from that, I would be most happy to deal with them on Report. Unless any noble Lord wants me to take a different courseI am quite happy to devote 15 or 20 minutes to my full answerthat is the course that I am minded to take.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I may be the class swot, but I think that I would have swatted such a voice out of court as well at this late hour. I shall simply thank the Minister for her staccato response and say that we look forward to a greater response. The difficulty is always that the lack of time and consideration that may be paid to measures in another place have to be put right here. However, at this time of night, all we can do is put down a marker and, as the noble Baroness says, have the opportunity of considering her response to see whether we need to return to the issue on Report.
I simply signify that I accept what she says as regards the return of passports and ID. Those are not the personal property of the holder as such, and it would not be right for them to be returned if they were forged, counterfeit or stolen in any respect. I will look carefully at other matters that could be personally owned and ensure that those could be properly returned at the right time. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My right honourable friend the Home Secretary (David Blunkett) today published a draft Identity Cards Bill for consultation as part of a document explaining the need for legislation, entitled Legislation on Identity Cards: A Consultation (CM 6178).
The draft Bill establishes the legislative framework that would be necessary for the incremental introduction of the national identity cards scheme as set out in Identity Cards: the next steps (CM 6020) published in November 2003.
create powers to ensure that the details provided by an applicant can be checked against information already held on other databases to guard against fraud. Each use of these powers will require parliamentary approval;
provide reassurance that disclosure of information from the national identity register without the individual's consent will not be allowed, apart from for prescribed purposes such as on grounds of national security or for the prevention or investigation of crime, and to ensure there is independent oversight of these arrangements;
establish new criminal offences for the possession of false identity documents. These will cover offences relating to the new identity card as well as existing identity documents that are false or have been improperly obtained;
allow a date to be set when it would become compulsory to register and be issued with a card (but not compulsory to carry a card, which is specifically prohibited in the draft Bill). This provision, together with the mandatory requirement to make ID cards the required proof of identity could be brought in only following a vote in both Houses of Parliament, on a detailed report which sets out all the reasons for the proposed move to compulsion and how the Government propose to implement compulsion. Both Houses would be able to amend the proposition before being asked to take a final decision;
enable regulations to be made, once it was compulsory to register and be issued with an identity card, to make it a requirement to provide proof of identity by the production of an identity card to access public services.
Copies of the consultation document, Legislation on Identity Cards: A Consultation are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office and have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and can also be viewed on the identity cards website (www.identitycards.gov.uk). Interested parties are invited to submit their comments and views on the content of the draft Bill by 20 July 2004.
The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill contains provisions to reduce the default period for the commencement of development under a planning permission, listed building consent or conservation area consent from five to three years. This provision is a crucial part of our agenda for speeding up the operation of the planning system.
Local planning authorities have flexibility under existing legislation to vary the length of a permission or consent. This flexibility will remain. The time limit for the commencement of development will normally be three years from the date of permission or consent, but a local planning authority may direct a longer or shorter period as it considers appropriate. Local planning authorities should look favourably upon requests for longer periods of duration where there are valid planning grounds for such a request. There will be cases where three years is unlikely to be long enough to allow developers to complete all the preparation needed before starting work. Longer periods are likely to be appropriate, for example, for complex regeneration projects.
After the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill has completed its parliamentary passage the Government will issue guidance to local planning authorities on the new provisions. In this guidance we will make clear the need for flexibility on the part of local authorities in their dealings with applicants on the duration of permissions and consents.
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