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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Lord will never be redundant to the House. His contribution is well made. I agree with him that we should properly await the outcome of the forthcoming investigations.
22A Because the Commons consider it appropriate that a person applying for a designated document be required at the same time to apply to be entered in the Register and to have an ID Card issued to him
22B Because the Lords consider it inappropriate that a person applying for a designated document be required at the same time to apply to be entered in the Register and to have an ID Card issued to him
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on its Amendments Nos. 16 and 22, in respect of which the Commons have insisted on their disagreement; and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 22C in lieu.
Amendment No. 22C was agreed by the other place on Monday 13 March by a majority of 33 votes. At the same time, I will seek to persuade your Lordships not to accept Motion A1 of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, amending Motion A. That would have the effect of reinstating Amendments Nos. 16 and 22, which would unpick the linkage between designated documents and identity cards.
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the words "or be accompanied by" after "include". We have already enjoyed the delightful opportunity on two separate occasions to discuss Amendments Nos. 16 and 22 at length. The first was on Report on 23 January and the second was on consideration of Commons amendments on 6 March. On the latter occasion we had an extensive argument about the manifesto and the commitments that were made thereby, and for the purpose of today's debate I do not intend to refer to those issues again. I do not intend to spend very long now repeating the arguments we have had on previous occasions as to why the Government believe the Bill should not be amended in the way proposed in Amendments Nos. 16 and 22.
We believe there is a persuasive reason for the linkage that exists in the Bill as it now returns to your Lordships' House. Last week, we started to phase in the issue of e-passports, incorporating a facial image biometric. Once we have moved on to the next phase of biometric passports, including facial image and fingerprint biometrics, anyone applying for a passport will have to go through the same sort of application process as for an identity card and will have their personal details and biometrics recorded on a central passport database. Without the linkage with identity cards, this would be without the safeguards that we have introduced into this procedure by virtue of this Bill.
Our plans to link passports and identity cards have a long history. This should, therefore, not come as a surprise to anyone. I wish simply to summarise the chronology. In July 2002, the Government issued their first consultation document about a card scheme and one of the options canvassed was for a universal scheme linked to passports. In November 2003, we announced the decision in principle to introduce identity cards. It was then made clear that there would be a two-stage scheme. In the initial stage, as well as introducing a voluntary plain identity card for those who do not have a passport, we would link identity cards to more secure passports. In Identity Cards The Next Steps, the policy document published in November 2003 (Cm 6020), we stated at paragraph 16(ii):
"linking more secure passports and perhaps eventually driving licences to the scheme on a compulsory basis so that they will be acceptable forms of identity card. By linking the card scheme to widely held identity documents most people will get a card conveniently and automatically as they renew an existing document".
In April 2004, we published the draft Identity Cards Bill, and the same word, "must", was included in Clause 5(2) as we are now debating. We were again very clear that in the initial stage of the identity cards scheme there should be no possibility of obtaining a designated document, such as a passport, without an identity card. Paragraph 2.17 of the consultation paper on the draft Identity Cards Bill, published in April 2004, (Cm 6178) said:
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"Once a document such as a passport has been designated as an ID card, this will be the only form in which it will be availablei.e. there will be no 'non-ID card' variants. It would undermine confidence in the system if there were to be identity documents available, on demand, at different levels of security".
In November 2004, we introduced the first Identity Cards Bill, which was agreed by the other place and passed at Second Reading by this House in March 2005. The same provision requiring applicants for passports or other designated documents to obtain an identity card was included in that Bill.
In May 2005, this Bill was reintroduced. Yet again, we made it absolutely clear that, once designated, obtaining a passport would also mean being issued with an identity card. That is the background against which we now consider what happened in this Bill.
I believe we have been clear and consistent on this point. The Government have listened and made concessions on a number of other points in the Bill, including: the requirement to publish the six-monthly estimates of cost; the removal of Clauses 6 and 7, to bring forward compulsion by secondary legislation; as well as a large number of other technical amendments, many originally proposed in this House by noble Lords opposite to clarify and to improve the Bill.
That is the function of this House: to clarify, to improve, to amend, to ask the other place to think again and, if necessary, to think again. The simple fact is that this Bill, with the provisions in Clauses 5 and 8 linking designated documents and identity cards, was passed by the House of Commons on 18 October.
The Lords Amendments Nos. 16 and 22 were rejected by the elected House by a majority of 31 on 13 February this year and again, by a majority of 33, on 13 March. If necessary, these amendments will continue to be resisted strongly by the Government, and the other place will continue to make its voice heard.
We have the result of having asked the other place to think again. We have debated this issue and voted on it, and it has been rejected twice by the elected House. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves whether this is not the moment when this House should give way to the elected Chamber, because our role is to review and not to wreck.
I simply ask, therefore, that your Lordships consider whether it would be proper and in the tradition of this House to go further. I remember with great clarity what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, when he was pressed on this matter on Radio 4. He responded:
It has spoken. It has spoken loudly. Its voice is rising, and I do not think that we need a cacophony to tell us that the time has now arrived. Therefore, I move that your Lordships' House should not insist on
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Amendments Nos. 16 and 22 and that, having done a valiant job, we should now bow and accept in lieu Amendment No. 22C, proposed by the other place.
Moved, That this House do not insist on its Amendments Nos. 16 and 22, in respect of which the Commons have insisted on their disagreement; and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 22C in lieu.(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)
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