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Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his rapid introduction because I think that we went over a lot of this in earlier amendments. The noble Lord is right. We could not possibly agree to a bargaining game in your Lordships' Chamber in the way that the amendment invites us to do. I simply invite the noble Lord to consider that any major reduction in the penalties of the order suggested would hardly be said to be a deterrent. In any event, it will be for the court to consider. The amounts will be imposed on a case-by-case basis having regard to the circumstances, and those will obviously be some of the matters that were raised in our earlier debate.
My noble friend Lady Scotland referred to paragraph 16, and the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, raised the issue of the degree of compliance. He is right that at the first instance one would not expect the upper end of the penalty to be imposed, but if there were a failure to conform on subsequent occasions of course one would expect the penalties to increase, and that is exactly what the draft code of practice says at paragraph 6.15. The end of that paragraph states:
That is how we intend it to work. We would not initially expect the penalty to be imposed at the top end. We cannot see that reducing the penalties would in any way be a form of deterrent. We rely on the deterrent because it is an important part of the package. People need to understand that contravention is serious. I understand why the noble Lord has moved the amendment, but we cannot agree to it. He understands that and we think that we have the maximum penalties about right.
The code of practice is important in terms of interpretation and I would expect it to work well in those circumstances. Given the code of practice, the noble Lord should feel able to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I am grateful to the noble Lord, but I am disappointed that he did not at least
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refer to the idea that one might have a first offence/subsequent offence arrangement. That would take some of the steam out of this debate. I do not see what would be lost. Will the Minister comment on that?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: That was why I quoted the code. The code is a draft so in a sense this is a consultation, but perhaps the noble Lord thinks that other words could usefully be put into paragraph 6.15 that make the point better. The paragraph states:
"As a general guideline, where it appears that an individual is liable to a penalty and that it is reasonable in the circumstances to impose one, the Secretary of State would regard a figure of one quarter of the maximum penalty as appropriate. That figure may be further reduced if appropriate e.g. if there are mitigating circumstances".
So we have a gradation in mind. Perhaps we can reflect on the wording of the code as it is in draft form, but that is its intention.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I was doing my best not to intervene on this group of amendments, but it would be helpful if the Minister would reflect further on the drafting. Will he take into account the very helpful moves that the Government made in respect of a code of practice in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill, which we debated last week at Second Reading, regarding penalties upon employers who employ those who should not be employed? I am sure that his noble friend Lady Ashton would acquaint him with the elucidation that the Government have carried out on that. I appreciate that the code of practice in this Bill is in draft form and perhaps there may be ways of accommodating the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, and by my noble friends without being counterproductive to the Government's intentions.
Lord Lucas: Yes, but £750 for not turning up to an interview compared with £100 for being eight months late in filling in your tax return is a swingeing fine that is totally out of proportion. It is unreasonable to impose that sort of penalty for that sort of offence. According to the Government, an identity card is supposed to be something that we all want and would find great use for. Why should we impose such an enormous penalty for not doing something that we should be doing for our own benefit anyway? It should not require that kind of incentive to shift people into compliance.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for her comments. Although I am not familiar with the detail, I am aware of the discussions on the code relating to the IAN Bill. This Bill does not have to be in place until 2008, so there is plenty of time to reflect on the points that have been made.
Regarding the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, it simply will not do to set up a system that does not encourage compliance. We must accept that there will be people who play the role of refuseniks and a penalty scheme is in process to ensure that we get maximum compliance. We would be foolish to have a
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system that worked in any other way. As to the level of penalty that the court ultimately imposes, we need guidance that makes it clear that the position gets more serious as breaches accumulate. That is a good principle, but I am sure that we can think a little more about how we make it clear to people that non-compliance will not be acceptable.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury : I am grateful for those exchanges and I shall think on it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 125 not moved.]
[Amendment No. 126 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
[Amendment No. 127 not moved.]
[Amendment No. 128 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
[Amendment No. 129 not moved.]
[Amendment No. 130 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
[Amendments Nos. 131 and 132 not moved.]
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 [Procedure for orders under s. 6]:
[Amendment No. 133 not moved.]
The Earl of Northesk moved Amendment No. 134:
( ) an appropriate review of the operation of the voluntary ID card scheme has been conducted under the auspices of the National Identity Scheme Commissioner and reported to Parliament."
The noble Earl said: I hope this amendment is relatively straightforward. While emphasising the intention to move ultimately to a compulsory scheme, the Government make much of their claims that enrolment onto the national identity register is to be voluntary in the first instance. Indeed, as I have already suggested, this has been the primary mechanism for engendering public acceptance of the proposition. However, once the Bill is enacted, there is very little on its face to constrain the Secretary of State from making immediate application for it to become compulsory. At the very least, any move towards compulsion needs to be informed by independent analysis of the experience of the voluntary scheme, something that the national identity scheme commissioner would be ideally placed to provide. The Minister, at least in part, agrees with the point. As she said at Second Reading,
That is a sensible and proportionate way forward. Moreover, given that our debates on the Bill have revealed manifest concerns about costs, technology and a host of other matters, the argument in favour of
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a thorough review of the scheme before moving to compulsion is that much more persuasive. That is what the amendment provides. I beg to move.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I welcome my noble friend's amendment. Of course, he will be aware that I would rather an order did not have to be made and that this change should be made by primary legislation, but if the Committee eventually agrees to the super-affirmative procedure, then the discipline introduced by my noble friend's Amendment No. 134 would be welcome.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I would like to identify myself with this extremely sensible suggestion. It would be a good prelude to a more effective compulsory stage.
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