|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: As probably the oldest person in the Chamber at the present time, I believe we should think very carefully about this. I feel sure that people over 70 would feel excluded if the system was compulsory. They would say, "Why are we incapable of going out and blowing ourselves up? Some of us, even when we reach 80, can still get up in your Lordships' House to make a speech. We are equally capable of handling a gun, if necessary. Many of us are active enough to get around the country very often. Indeed, because of our age and, perhaps, 'fogeyite' appearance, we might get into places that younger people could not. We would be less suspicious figures".
I am not sure that the arguments being used are good arguments. Before long the population of this country aged over 65 will reach very high proportions. Older people are much more active and are often much richer than young people. They can get about and no one takes a blind bit of notice of them. People think, "There's an old fogey. Why do we bother about him?". Although I am absolutely opposed to the identity card system, if identity cards are made compulsory, they should be compulsory for everyone between the age of 18 and whenever the person pops off. On this occasion, I cannot support the amendment.
The Earl of Onslow: If the age were to be 70, it would have the effect of an awful lot of people not having to go and report when they are dead because most people live to more than 70 years oldwhich might be of some assistance. I could even argue the opposite to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. The only people who should be forced to have this wretched identity card should be aged between 59 and 60with no one either side of that.
To be slightly more serious, there is a problem of people's irises changing very rapidly in old age. As my noble friend on the Front Bench said, biometric details change and can change frequently. That will impose a considerable and unnecessary cost, especially as the Government do not have the faintest idea of how much the scheme will cost. Rather, they think that they have, but everyone else thinks that they have got it wrong.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Having described 90 year-olds as old fogeys, the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, runs the risk of incurring the wrath of the noble Lord, Lord Renton. Were he here, I have got a feeling that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, would not be feeling too comfortable at this moment. Perhaps we should not dwell on that for too long. The noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, made a case, but the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, devastatingly savaged it. I am almost inclined to think that I should not bother to go through my points because they are not half as effective as those made by the noble Lord,
23 Nov 2005 : Column 1687
Lord Stoddart. I am a bit like the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, here: I cannot recall another occasion when I so felt moved to agree with him.
I see no good reason for exempting people over 70 years old from entitlement to be entered into the register. In the Government's view, it would unfairly prevent elderly people from taking advantage of the increased security against identity fraud that ID cards will bring, as well as other benefits. It must be remembered that elderly people are increasingly economically active. They take their place at the Dispatch Box. There is a persistent trend of that sort which no doubt will continue. The over-70s age group is likely to use those services which will probably introduce the ID card schemethe National Health Service being a good example. If elderly people are excluded from the scheme, they may worry that they would be unable to prove their entitlement to a whole range of services.
It is planned that mobile enrolment units will be used in order to facilitate the registration of elderly people and those who may have mobility problems. We will also consider concessions and discounts for those on low incomes. We feel that we can deal with the point on the adverse effect on elderly people. The Bill allows for exceptions to be made in terms of compulsion and we could, for example, choose to exempt more elderly people from compulsory registration altogether or provide elderly people with a lifelong card that would not need to be renewed.
We have already considered not requiring older citizens to register in paragraph 44 of the Explanatory Notes. It is possible to exclude people over a certain age from the registration requirement under Clauses 6(1) and 41(4), which give the power to apply compulsion to different groups and to make exceptions. We are quite happy to give a commitment that we will continue to develop those ideas because we do not want unfairly to burden elderly people. However, we do not want unfairly to penalise them by not bringing them within the scope of the system and the benefits that the system will bring. I have probably covered most of the points that the noble Baroness raised. For the reasons that I have given, I hope that she will withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Seccombe: I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. I accept that my amendment did not find favour with many Members of the Committee, but I was glad to hear of the possible concessions and exemptions that the Minister referred to. Sadly, they will not be in the Bill, but we can always follow that up with pressure to make sure that they occur. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 50, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 65. The amendments concern Clause 2, which is an important
23 Nov 2005 : Column 1688
part of the whole framework of the national register. It sets out who can or must be registered in the register. In the framework nature of the Bill, many powers are given to the Secretary of State under, for example, Clause 2 (2), (3) and (4) to prescribe or regulate who is entitled to be registered, what description of citizen or resident is to be registered, and so on. The end of Clause 2and, indeed, the end of Clause 3makes clear that, except as regards modification of the age of the citizenwe have just talked about whether it will be 16 or 18 years of agethe discretions of the Secretary of State shall be exercisable by negative resolution. This is a central part of the framework of the legislation and all the discretions in this clause should be exercisable by the affirmative process. I beg to move.
Baroness Seccombe: I support these amendments, which provide a simple change that will ensure that all orders under Clause 2, which sets out who may be entered on the register, are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, explained, the clause as it currently stands provides only for the Secretary of State to modify the age of entry on the register by order subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. It does not however include the regulation-giving powers in subsection (3). By amending "subsection (6)" to "this section" in line 24, subsection (7) will encompass subsection (3) and subsection (6) powers.
In Amendments Nos. 23 and 52, we have already debated the questions that we had about options that have not been included in this clause regarding exclusion from the proposed identity card scheme. Can the Minister please take this opportunity to explain to the Committee in detail the situations that she envisages falling under paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (3)? It would be better to have the affirmative scrutiny of Parliament rather than a negative power that has the potential to be quite wide ranging.
The Earl of Onslow: This Bill goes so far against the grain of our historical traditions, the fact that the Government have the power to make it compulsory and the fact that compulsion will inevitably result in prosecution and conviction, any changes of something of this standard of seriousness should not just be allowed to be made by regulation which has to be prayed against.
Surely, they should be made by statutory instrument and affirmative orders. We are dealing here with new territory and the loss of old liberties. I have not been persuaded of the necessity for changes to be made in this way, and the further this Committee stage has proceeded the thinner the persuasion has becomethe benefit of this or that, of which I am completely unconvinced. However, if the Government are determined to have them, they must justify every single piece of the nibbling away of our old liberties. They
23 Nov 2005 : Column 1689
must justify to Parliament again and again every change that they make, which means affirmative orders as a very minimum.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|