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Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, I have sympathy with the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, has just moved. As he explained, it would limit the current drafting of the Bill. For the purpose of the national identity system, Clause 1(4)(b) would be:

The amendment leads on from detailed debates that we had in Committee regarding both the Government's priority of the issues that they list as being in the public interest and both parties' probing attempts to limit the Government's broad definition of crime to that of serious crime. Indeed, my noble friend Lady Anelay noted in Committee that the Minister referred specifically on Second Reading to "serious crime", and not just to "crime", despite the drafting of the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, and I are agreed that government drafting is too broad. However, on these Benches we are not convinced of what the final solution should be, as we are still in discussions with our colleagues in another place. As such, we cannot support the amendment, but I very much hope that the Minister will take the opportunity to outline exactly how they see this provision working. What definition of crime will it cover—will it involve fraud, theft or assault? I am sure that the House will be pleased to have further detailed clarification on this matter following debates in Committee.

The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, I support the amendment. As I said at a previous stage, to limit the clause to serious, soccer-style offences would be silly because some useful information would be available. A lot of people would expect some smaller crimes to be cleared up. I know that everyone says that the register will be leakage-proof, but we have to assume that that possibility always exists. To raise the threshold of crime at which the register can be accessed to an offence which might attract imprisonment will allay worries that people would obtain data from it for a frivolous purpose, which would lead to a leakage of data. I heartily support the amendment. It sets the threshold at the right level.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the current provisions are needed. Noble Lords will know that false identities underpin much of the crime that takes place in this country, from volume crime to serious organised crimes. Criminals, especially those who are engaged in organised crime, are extremely adept at circumventing measures that have been put in place to limit their activities. I shall give noble Lords an example. Our research shows that about 60 per cent of drivers who are stopped provide false details. So it is very difficult when one is dealing just with serious crime to confine the provision in the way that the noble Lord suggests.

Amendment No. 5 provides that the register could be used only,

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This would be an arbitrary limit and it should be rejected for the same reasons as those for which we rejected the suggestion in Committee to add the limit of serious crime. Crime of whatever nature needs to be addressed. It would not be appropriate to limit access to the register by preventing information being available where a police investigation relates to a non-imprisonable criminal offence. Such offences could include those in Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986—that is, causing harassment, alarm or distress—which carry a maximum penalty of a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale, which is £1,000. Under that Act, a person is guilty of an offence if he uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby. That offence can affect a number of people in a very disadvantageous way.

Another example is Section 24 of the Firearms Act. The offence of giving a shotgun to a person under 15 or supplying an air weapon to a person under 17 would not warrant imprisonment, but we could wish the police to have access to that information. I am sure that your Lordships could think of other examples. In addition, we recognise that it may not always be possible for the police to predict what the final charge would be and whether it would lead to an offence punishable by imprisonment. Indeed, in looking to prevent crime, they may end up bringing no charges at all because identity might exclude somebody from the scene.

There have been many cases where it has transpired that individuals who were suspected of what appeared to be very trivial offences such as traffic offences—I have alluded to the fact that many people do not tell the truth about their identity—were involved in much more serious crime or were wanted on other grounds; for example, immigration offences. Indeed, there have been cases of individuals subsequently being charged with very serious offences, involving terrorism or murder, where the initial police involvement was in relation to a minor offence. If the amendment were passed, it would preclude any check in respect of such offences against the national identity register. I am sure that no noble Lord would like to see that happen.

We do not accept that anyone would want that, and we do not accept that it would be right to tie the hands of the police in the way proposed in this amendment. The restriction that is suggested by Amendment No. 5 is both unworkable and unnecessary. I therefore invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

6.15 pm

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I am grateful to the Minister for her full defence of the status quo. Some of the examples that she gave would fall into my category of being inappropriate as entrées to the register, but I accept that others would be sensibly within the
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purview of the clause. I shall consider carefully what she said and have discussions with the Conservative Bench. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 6:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the objective of the amendment is to focus on the Government's failure to meet one of the five reasonable tests which we set out at the beginning of our debates on the Bill. We pointed out that the Government must make clear not only the detail of the specific purposes for which an ID card would be required, but which of those purposes are priorities; otherwise it will be difficult for us to assess them. The Government failed to do that adequately in Committee.

Clause 1(4) proposes that the definition of what is necessary in the public interest should encompass anything that is,

I would have thought that the efficient and effective provision of public services embraces the totality of government's duty in the area of public services. This paragraph is framed so widely that it would enable identity cards to be required in accessing literally any public service, so long as the Government claimed that it was in the interests of efficiency. It is the ultimate catch-all paragraph and, as such, it is entirely unsuitable to governing a Bill whose provisions have such a fundamental effect on the relations between the state and the citizen. Under it, everything from a registration of a birth to a registration of a death, from the arrival at the gates of a nursery to collecting a pension, could be made dependent on being registered. As the Minister made clear in the careful letter which she kindly sent to noble Lords last week, the paragraph covers everything under full compulsion, including being able to access a vast array of free health services.

In that way, within 10 years or so on the Government's current planning, an audit trail of the daily lives of every citizen could be built up. That is a giant step indeed. It should be one of the last steps that we take, when all the legitimate doubts about the costs, efficacy, security and scope of the scheme have been set to rest—if, as I doubt from hearing earlier debates, they can ever be set to rest. It should certainly not be one of the first steps. We should not permit the Government to do everything they wish in the name of efficiency. We should not simply leave the matter to regulations; it would be far better to set out limits in the Bill.

Amendment No. 6 tries to offer a solution. It creates the active purpose of policing crime and fraud in Clause 1(4)(e); that is, something much more limited and definable than a general purpose of being "efficient". We agree with the Government that
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citizens of this country would see any attack on the fraudulent access to services as being a useful step. There are more efficient ways of doing that than this Bill, but that is an argument for Second Reading and Committee, not for today. Surely, if the Government's method has any justification at all, it cannot be the creation and maintenance of a vast audit trail, but the specific purpose of preventing illegal and fraudulent access to services, which is, after all, what the Government originally told us this Bill would be all about when we started this process some considerable time ago.

If the purpose of the scheme were not the general management provision in subsection (4)(a), but were the more targeted, and frankly more necessary, purpose that I propose, we would end up designing an entirely different system. I suspect that it would be cheaper, more effective and more efficient than the one before us today. The register and ID cards risk becoming an end in themselves and not a solution. It is important to put this more careful definition in the Bill. I beg to move.

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