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Lord Renton: My noble friend has made an important point. The purpose of this Bill, although it is not well stated, is to ensure that we do not have a number of people who are not British able to come here and wander about and pretend to be British. If we were to make the provisions of Clause 2 more specific, that purpose could be achieved. I think it is much too vague in Clause 2(1) merely to refer to,:

That could cover a very wide field of people. In the interests of the people of the United Kingdom, and of those who genuinely have a reason to be here, and are acceptable here, we must make the provisions of Clause 2 much more specific. As a start, "individual" in the first line of subsection (1) should be replaced with "UK citizen".

I am not going to comment on Amendment No. 47—although I must say I was impressed with what my noble friend had to say—because it covers a very wide field and needs to be carefully considered. It would be interesting to know what the Government have to say about it. Amendment No. 46, however, seems to me to be vital.

Lord Lyell of Markyate: These two amendments together are really helpful in probing this Bill. Against that background, I shall try to take a thoroughly constructive approach to the Government's objectives in the Bill in order to seek to test whether those objectives are likely to be achieved.

The primary purposes of the Bill—national security, the detection and prevention of serious crime, immigration controls, unlawful working and so on—are perfectly proper objectives. The objective is to have a widespread and complete register of all the residents of this country—and, in a sense, of everyone in this country. Whether one likes it or not, I can see that there is a case to be made for having a detailed register of everyone who is in the country, whether as a citizen or a visitor; for maintaining their biometric details; and for tracking where they are going, as it is intended to do, through the identity card they will receive and have to produce every time they leave the country or make an application for some designated document.

To take a simple example, if a citizen of this country applies comparatively early because they want a passport and then you find they are going regularly to Pakistan, you might begin to take rather more interest in them than you might in people who do not seem to go regularly anywhere interesting at all.

I can see how that would be of some value in relation to the 80 per cent of the population who, whether you call it voluntary or compulsory, are likely to want driving licences and passports, and within a year or two are pretty likely to apply for an identity card.
 
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Then, however, as Amendment No. 47 sensibly points out, you are still left with an enormous gap, of which the first ingredient is the 20 per cent of the population who are not likely to apply voluntarily for a card. As my noble friend Lady Seccombe has said, a huge number of people come and go from this country, and from all the free societies of western Europe and elsewhere in the world, with very little record.

I went to the United States in April. One now needs a visa—or a visa waiver, as they nicely call it—and one provides one's biometric details. It is all done quite quickly. The noble Baroness gave us the figures: that system produces biometric details and identity for some millions of people. However, we are not going to do that, so we have a gap of about 20 per cent of our own population—which, if one just takes the adults, is probably 10 million people—and also of all the other people who come and go. It seems to me that this will undercut for years, until the scheme is modified, a great deal of the utility of this very expensive scheme.

If we are to have the scheme, let it work; that is one approach. But if we are to have it with enormous gaps, is it right to spend so much money? I come back to what will be regarded as a less constructive approach to the Bill. None the less, I think that these are reasonable questions.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I hope that I will be able to assist the noble Baroness. We need to make it clear that the scheme is aimed at UK residents. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, talked about British citizens, but noble Lords will know that there are a large number of UK residents who are not, in fact, British.

Lord Renton: Too many!

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I fundamentally disagree with the noble Lord's view. The scheme is aimed at UK residents irrespective of their nationality. We should not exclude foreign nationals who may have lived here lawfully for many years. They may have businesses or employment. They will have paid taxes and be entitled to public services, and many make huge and valuable contributions to the well-being and richness of this country. By richness I do not mean simply financial richness, but also the cultural depth, breadth and excitement that we now have in our country. It is the envy of many other countries and has given us great stability.

The identity card overview published in June this year, which is available in the Library, outlines the level of take-up required to gain maximum benefit from the scheme. In its early years, the main areas of benefit are more efficient administration in both the private and public sector and immigration control. I say that in response to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell of Markyate. These two benefit areas build gradually in proportion to the take-up. Fraud reduction and crime benefits would increase considerably when a high proportion of the resident population is enrolled. Once the move to compulsion
 
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came, and organisations were empowered to use the ID card or NIR as the only means of identification, fraudsters and criminals would find it increasingly difficult to commit crime where identity was an issue.

If the noble Baroness were to proceed with her amendment—and I know that she raises it so that we can discuss these issues—it would severely impact on the effectiveness of the scheme. The benefits that would be achieved in relation to immigration, illegal working and access to public services under the ID card scheme would, quite frankly, be lost. We cannot see why, if I may respectfully say so, we would want to introduce an ID card scheme and then limit ourselves to being able to register only a number of the resident population.

Before I leave Amendment No. 46, it may be appropriate to seek to correct an answer that I gave to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, who I see in his place. On the first day in Committee, 15 November, I made a response to the noble Earl which indicated that an EU national would not have nationality recorded on an ID card. At that stage we were talking of British nationality. I want to clarify so that I have not conflated the two. Only British citizens will have an identity card showing their British nationality, which would then be valid as a travel document for use in Europe. That identity card will either be issued as a standalone card on its own, or as a package with the identity card and British passport. A plain ID card, showing no nationality and not being valid for travel, would also be available for British and Irish nationals.

The intention is that ID cards for foreign nationals will be based on designating residence permits for non-EU foreign nationals and for EU nationals on registration certificates. These would confirm the holder's own nationality and, in the case of a non-EU national, the terms and conditions on their stay in the United Kingdom. However, because these documents would not show British nationality they would not be valid for travel in Europe. That is the distinction; British nationality is a travel document—it is on the face—while foreign nationality will be there but will not be capable of being used as a travel document. I thought it right to correct any misunderstanding now, just in case; maybe I was clearer than I think I was.

6.15 pm

Amendment No. 47 would require an entry to be made on the register for those who enter the United Kingdom, legally or otherwise, from countries which could be deemed to be some sort of terrorist risk as defined in the amendment. I want to make it absolutely clear that the ID card scheme is not a border control project. It is an identity verification system which will allow those legitimately here to prove their identity, which will then confirm their leave to remain.

It has been suggested that we are leaving the ID card scheme open to abuse by allowing people to come here for up to three months without the formality of registering and being issued with an ID card. That seemed to be implicit in some of the comments being
 
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made. I fail to see it as any kind of loophole. If people are determined to try to stay here illegally, I am afraid that they are likely to do so whether we admit them for one, three or six months as short-term visitors.

The point is that everyone coming to the United Kingdom for a short visit will have the passport or identity document on which they entered the country as proof of identity. While they are here, they would be expected to use that document to prove their identity. Once the ID card scheme is in place it will be much easier for employers to know that they are employing people entitled to work—and for public services to know that the people they are dealing with are entitled to access their particular service.

The ID card will be the key and those short-term visitors with no card will simply not have that key. That will prove a major deterrent to anyone contemplating working or staying here illegally. Foreign nationals here for less than three months will not have an ID card, and so will be unable to pretend that they are permanently resident here and access services to which they are not entitled. We think that is a sensible and practical accommodation of those issues. I hope that has been of some little assistance to the noble Baroness, and that she will not only better understand why we have taken this course but also feel more content with it.


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