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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I understand the purport of the amendment. Of course, we shall want to listen to the views of the national identity scheme commissioner. I would expect that she or he will wish to comment on plans for compulsion. We do not believe that it would be right to provide a requirement in primary legislation that Ministers should have to await a review by the commissioner before being able to make a compulsion order using the super-affirmative resolution procedure in Clause 7. We believe that that would add unnecessary delay and, while we have no intention of rushing plans for compulsion, the process of the super-affirmative order itself will be bound to take some time to complete.
Of course, I am not saying that we would not benefit from the views of the national identity scheme commissioner. As I have indicated, we would wish to know the commissioner's views and any report that the national identity scheme commissioner produced would be laid before Parliament for its consideration. However, for the reasons that I have given, we do not think that we should be bound to wait for such a report from the commissioner before the Secretary of State could make a compulsion order using the super-affirmative resolution procedure under Clause 7. Therefore, I ask the noble Earl to withdraw his amendment.
The Earl of Northesk: As ever, I am grateful to the Minister for her reply, although I am a little confused by it. She talks about delay being imposed on the Government. One of the features of our debates is that the whole Bill has built-in delays. I singularly fail to understand that argument. I fail to understand, bluntly, why the national identity scheme commissioner should not inform the process of the move to compulsion and be required so to do in statute. It seems to me a perfectly logical and acceptable proposition. I regret to say that I am unconvinced by the Minister's arguments in response to the amendment and I feel the obligation to test the opinion of the Committee.
On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 134) shall be agreed to?
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Their Lordships divided: Contents, 26; Not-Contents, 50
[Amendments Nos. 135 and 136 not moved.]
Lord Lea of Crondall moved Amendment No. 137:
"( ) The Secretary of State, before making an order containing any provision for compulsory registration, must consult on whether, and the extent to which, this requires him to regularise the status of foreign nationals residing in the United Kingdom without entitlement to remain."
The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 137 I shall seek to demonstrate why the Secretary of State will need to develop a procedure and, in turn, to consult on such a procedure for regularising the position of foreign nationals residing in the United Kingdom without entitlement to remainin other words, illegal immigrants.
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The Bill, along with the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill, radically changes the context in which this question has to be considered. The Home Office produced an invaluable study in June called Sizing the unauthorised (illegal) migrant population in the United Kingdom in 2001. In estimating the number for 2001, the methodology was to subtract from the central estimate of 3.6 millionthat is the total foreign-born populationthe total legal foreign-born population of 3.2 million. The result was a central estimate of 430,000. Given developments since then, the usual figure bandied about is 500,000; that is, 0.5 million.
The Minister, Tony McNulty, said at that time that this is only an estimate and should not be seen as a definitive figure. It is a useful contribution to the debate and underlines the need for a robust ID card system which will, among other benefits, help to tackle illegal working and immigration. Let us assume, for argument's sake that about half of the 0.5 million250,000will ultimately have their position regularised. I note that the Explanatory Notes, in dealing with Clause 5(3), say:
Amendment No. 137 reflects the fact that the enactment of this Bill will catalyse a substantial programme of regularising the position of thousands of illegal immigrants.
At Second Reading last week on the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill the noble Lord, Lord Chan, took the example of the numberprobably more than 100,000of people working in Chinese restaurants whose status may not so far have been inquired into too closely, under the traditional social contract in Britain, which will now have to be changed, that people's status is not of much concern to the authorities.
Similarly, we have the regularisation taking place in conjunction with the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act. Some trade union officials whom I know, along with the National Farmers' Union, as well as employers in the food processing industry have worked hard to make credible the rules governing the regularisation of the position of people employed by gangmasters. I am talking about regularisation from the point of view of employment law and taxation et cetera. There is a connection. There is a benefit to society of the regularisation of many of the people involved. We have only to look at the case of Morecambe Bay to know that many of those people were in a position that has parallels with that described by the noble Lord, Lord Chan.
The amendment facilitates an active rather than a passive strategy of regularisation. The issue is not so much whether to have a process of regularising the status of some hundreds of thousands of people, but how thought-through, coherent and transparent the strategy will be. We do not want them all to stay underground in the black economy, where their situation and that of the economy and the security of the nation would be worse.
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I do not doubt that there are procedures under the immigration Acts for regularising the position of people who have been in the country for 15 years or so. However, the Bill and the parallel Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill will catalyse a whole new range of questions and there will be a timetable within which those questions will need to be answered. We need to consider how the immigration Bill will affect people's wish to come forward to try to regularise their position. I do not expect my noble friend to guesstimate this evening how many of the 500,000 will, at the end of this exercise, have their position regularised. It is not prima facie likely that the Bill and the immigration Bill will prove to be the last word on the subject.
In conclusion, I ask my noble friend to take on board that we need an iterative process updating the rules governing the right to remain in the light of the huge changes in the architecture brought about by those two Bills. I beg to move.
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