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Lord Crickhowell: It is a pity that Amendment No. 53 is not grouped with Amendment No. 55 as they are closely connected. As my noble friend Lord Northesk said, if a person is to have an entry made, he at least should be entitled to the information that that entry is being made, which is the matter we shall debate on Amendment No. 55. Presumably the Minister will say that the entry will be made because under the statutory purposes it is necessary in the public interest to tackle national security, the prevention of crime, illegal working and so on. I imagine that we shall be given that justification for the measure. I understand that. I also understand that for those purposes entries may be made in the register. But surely if such entries are made, the individuals concerned should at least have the right to know that they are being made, which is why it is such a pity that we are not discussing this amendment with Amendment No. 55.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I shall not be tempted to respond to my noble friend's remarks on Amendment No. 55 just as the dinner break is about to commence as to do so might take some time. However, I fully support everything that my noble friend Lord Northesk said. It is important that we do not allow compulsory registration through the back door, which apparently could happen under the Bill as it is currently drafted. I inform the Committee that in an attempt to speed up discussion I shall group Amendments Nos. 67 and 68.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I hope that I shall be able to assist the Committee. Clause 2(4) is intended to provide the flexibility needed to allow details already available to be recorded of a person where it would be useful to have those details on the registerthe noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, foreshadowed some of these reasonsdespite the fact that they are currently not entitled to be registered. We believe that flexibility is necessary in that regard. An entry can be made only where it is consistent with the statutory purposes and can contain only registrable facts. Amendment No. 53 would remove that flexibility but we believe that there are good reasons to keep it.
One example of how this could be used is to record failed applicants or those who are about to be removed. This would ensure that any further attempts to register would be flagged. Another example of how this could be used would be where a person applies for, and is issued with, a biometric visa in anticipation of coming to the United Kingdom. In this case it might be useful to have this information recorded in the register so that if they did exercise their right to stay longer than three months, the process of getting a residence permit/ID card would be made easier.
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There are also cases where it would be useful for national security reasons to have information recorded on the register about an individual who would not be entitled to register or who had not yet applied for a card.
Amendment No. 144 would prevent, by removing Clause 8(5), the issue of cards to anyone who was not required to have one, but whose registrable facts were on the register. Some may consider that this is an undesirable proposition. However, there are circumstances which can be envisaged where this power is necessaryfor example, a foreign national who has been resident in the United Kingdom for less than three months and is therefore not entitled or, indeed, required to register. While it is not common, it is not impossible that a foreign national in this position could commit a criminal offence and have his passport withdrawn as part of his bail conditions. Without his passport he may have no way to prove his identity, but his registrable facts can be recorded under Clause 2(4), and an ID card issued under the provision which we are discussing here.
A more common example could be a young person who has not quite attained the age of 16 but is applying for a passport. If he were a few months older, he could also apply for an ID card. It appears logical to us that in these instances both should be issued at the same time.
It makes sense that where a person is entered on the register at their own request under Clause 2(4), despite not being entitled to be registered, the Secretary of State has power to issue him with a card in appropriate circumstances. That might be appropriate where, for example, someone visits the United Kingdom very regularly without actually being resident here or returns from abroad to take up residence again. We envisage that those circumstances could easily arise. I hope that I have given examples to demonstrate why we need flexibility and why it should be provided. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Crickhowell: I anticipated that some quite good reasons might be advanced, and I understand the reasons why they have been. They are of a specific type, and on closer examination, they may be utterly reasonable. My concern is that it is possible for the clause to go much wider. For example, it would be possible to put many of the entries on the record in the police or some other criminal register in a way that has not been envisaged or would be desirable.
My noble friend's amendment is so useful because it raises the question of whether there is a limitation on the amount of material that might be considered in the national interest, which is widely defined, and which the Secretary of State could suddenly decide should go in the register. There would be large quantities of information in the register, which, from the noble
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Baroness's speech, is not the intention, but it is within the scope of the Bill. Uncertainty remains and we must consider the issue carefully.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I tried to give an example of when someone could not claim entitlement under the provisions but it would make good sense to allow him to do so to meet the needs. For example, someone who is 15 years and 364 days old may apply for a new passport, but because he is not yet 16 he is not entitled to have an ID card. It would be appropriate to enable him to have both.
Subsection (4) enables us to have the flexibility to deal with the sort of situation that I have described. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and I am grateful to him for seeing the utility and sense of having that flexibility. But the information that we provide would only be available to the Secretary of State. It does not enable information to be obtained from other sources.
I gave examples, too, of those who we may not want to be included. It is important for information to be held to disable them from taking advantage of an opportunity to obtain something that we would not wish them to have.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Perhaps I can explore the example given by the noble Baroness about the person aged 15 and three-quarters or whatever. That implies that the clause gives the Secretary of State the power to override the age limit. Although the limit is 16, the Secretary of State can say, "Well, he is nearly 16 so I am going to exercise discretion to overrule that provision". Is that what the clause implies?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: No. If your Lordships consider the practicality of when those data are given, the information could be held to use later to make it convenient for the individual. The Bill is trying to do what is convenient, easy and proportionate.
We have real issues with this. The amendment proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, would remove all flexibility from the provision, and we could not do any of the things that I am sure your Lordships agree are sensible and proportionate. That is why we want to retain Clause 2(4).
To clarify the issue of data from other sources to the register, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, understand that information added to the register will generally be provided by the applicant under Clause 5. He can be asked to provide fingerprints and other biometric information. Entry in the register may also be made
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under Clause 2(4) in relation to someone who has not applied if information is otherwise available to be recorded. An example of that is when the Secretary of State already holds fingerprints as a result of a biometric visa application, as I described, or an application for asylum. The Secretary of State may be able to use the fingerprints already available to add the individual's entry in the register instead of requiring him to provide another set. We want to be able to do those practical things.
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