Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Northbourne: Will the noble Baroness allow me to make a short intervention, which may come better from the Cross Benches than from any other side of the Chamber? Is it not true that the very powerful assurance that she gave about the change of age and the fact that there would be extensive consultation and debate apply only while her party is in government, or can assurances be given in respect of other parties as well? If not, it seems to me that we want rather more assurance than that—not, of course, that I would suggest that it is not probable.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Of course I cannot bind my successors in title. It is for the noble Baroness opposite and the noble Lords sitting on the Liberal Democrat Benches to say whether they adhere to the view that the Government have taken an appropriate stance. If the day ever came in the long distant future when this Government were no longer able to keep the safety and security of this country properly in their hands, then they would similarly make those undertakings. I cannot speak for the other Benches, but I can say that the structure that we have put in place through the Bill—the order-making power, the limits that have been put on it and the fact that we have the affirmative resolution—would and should constrain any government to act within that framework and give us all an opportunity to have a say, whichever Bench we happen to be sitting on.

The Countess of Mar: At the moment, this is an entitlement and not a requirement. Can the Minister confirm that the situation will remain the same when ID cards become a requirement?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: At present, this is not a compulsory process. Once it becomes compulsory, all those who fall within the framework for compulsion will have to comply equally.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: But does that not undermine—I shall not say "give the lie" as that is too strong a phrase—the whole of the noble Baroness's case, although she was, indeed, her usual eloquent self? It seems to me that basically she was saying that certain young people of the ages of 16 and 17 are dying for an identity card. Well, that is fine; let them have an identity card, but we are talking about compulsion. Why on earth should there be compulsion for 16 and 17 year-olds?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I have set out the issue in relation to passports. Noble Lords will know that there have been a number of changes to passports. First, all individuals must now have a separate passport, irrespective of age. Passports will carry biometric data for adults and those entitled to an adult passport. Under our current framework, 16 year-olds are entitled to a 10-year passport, and so the process will apply to all those who are 16 years old and over. I understand entirely that the noble Lord and those who sit on the Liberal Democrat Benches object in
23 Nov 2005 : Column 1684
principle to the application of identity cards; that, of course, will influence the way they respond to the issue of compulsion. We will have an opportunity in Committee to debate whether compulsion is right. We say it is; others may disagree. The appropriate age, we maintain, is from 16.

Baroness Walmsley: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, for her reply, and those noble Lords who spoke in this debate. I think the answer indicates how very ambivalent we are about children in this country. I accept that people will not have to carry the ID card under this Bill; I hope I did not indicate that I thought otherwise. However, as I said, I am quite sure that they will, because governments are never satisfied. The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, said that the age of 16 is linked to the passport. Why not link it to almost any other element of bureaucracy relating to young people, be they 16, 17, 18, 21 or any other age? It seems that bureaucracy is the moving factor, rather than the rights of the child.

The noble Baroness also said that the Government have no immediate plans to change the age. I wish I had a pound for every time I have heard governments say that. It was also suggested that it was rather premature to talk about the link between the NIR and the children's register, because the latter is not yet set up and the legislation for the former is currently going through your Lordships' House. I think it is perfectly proper; we already have the legislation for the children's register and the Government have expressed their determination to set up the NIR. Therefore, I think it is perfectly proper to address the relationship between the two.

The noble Baroness has not answered my question about the fact that there will undoubtedly be a unique identifying number attached to each person's entry on the NIR. Surely, that number will be used on any other database. Although there may even be a firewall between the two it makes it very easy to cross-reference and obtain information about children, which people are not entitled to.

I will read with interest in Hansard what the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, has said as I consider what to do at the next stage of the Bill, and consult with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Seccombe moved Amendment No. 49:

The noble Baroness said: In Amendment No. 49 we come to the other end of the spectrum. Perhaps I should declare a vested interest, because this amendment addresses the specific condition of people over 70. It is widely accepted that people of this age pose little or no threat to this country, whether or not they are UK citizens. It is also accepted—and sadly becoming ever more true as the Government's long-term pension policies begin to bite—that older pensioners are, on average, one of the poorest groups in our community. Why should these people, who have
23 Nov 2005 : Column 1685
given a lifetime of service to our country, and who face a longer period in retirement than former generations, be subjected to the cost of registration and ID cards? What consideration have the Government given to exempting this group from this procedure?

It is clear that among older pensioners will be found a large number of those who neither drive nor travel abroad, and many who cannot do so, by reason of their infirmity or lack of means. I hope therefore that the Minister will be able to accept this amendment and lift the threat of compulsion from this age group. However, if the noble Baroness cannot agree, will she think very carefully about the implications of including them? At this age a person's facial characteristics change very fast. Can the noble Baroness give an assurance that under no circumstances will people over 70 be required to purchase a new ID card under Clause 13(1)(b) or Clause 13(1)(c), or any other provision of the Bill, as their faces change?

Will the noble Baroness give an undertaking that the card for pensioners will have the same period of life as for any other group? Specifically, in this regard, is the noble Baroness aware that driving licences, which the Government intend to be used as designated documents and could force otherwise non-compliant citizens into the register and the ID card scheme, have to be renewed more frequently by people over 70? Will a pensioner have to buy an ID card afresh, or a full biometric-compatible driving licence every time they renew their licence? Will this be every three years, every five years or when? Do the Government have any intention of reducing the term of validity of driving licences for people under 70? If so, for how long will they last? What are the implications for the ID card system and the cost to the hard-pressed pockets of our pensioners? I ask the Minister to set out all the ways in which their treatment will differ under the scheme. One assumes, for example, that an 85 year-old will not have to list where he was living the day World War 2 broke out, under Clause 1(5)(d). What will be the cut-off date for pensioners having to record their past movements? I am very concerned that pensioners may be subjected to unnecessary harassment, inconvenience and cost, as well as foolish and wholly avoidable worry under this scheme and believe that the Government should consider urgently, and make clear before Report, whether they will be exempt. I beg to move.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: This amendment seems to be a bit of a curate's egg. As long as the Bill retains the voluntary system, it seems to me to be unnecessary. I can see the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, and the noble Lord, Lord Gould, that there are particular groups of people who particularly want identity cards for particular reasons. I am absolutely happy with that and do not begin to deny it. I do not see why, if some old fogey of 90—I shall withdraw "old fogey"—wants an identity card, he
23 Nov 2005 : Column 1686
should not have it. If this system becomes compulsory by primary legislation, I would see the force of the noble Baroness's amendment.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page