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Lord Phillips of Sudbury rose to move, as an amendment to Motion A, leave out from "disagreement" to end and insert "and do disagree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 22E and 22F in lieu, but do propose Amendments Nos. 22G and 22H in lieu—


22G Page 4, line 44, after "individual" insert "and is made on or before 31st December 2011, that application may, if the individual so chooses, include an application by that individual to be entered in the Register.
(2A) Where an application to be issued with a designated document is made by an individual and is made after 31st December 2011,"
22H Page 7, line 42, leave out from "card" to end of line 2 on page 8 and insert "may, if the individual so chooses, in the prescribed manner, include an application to be issued with such a card in any application made by him to be issued with a designated document, where that application is made on or before 31st December 2011.
(7A) An individual who is not already the holder of an ID card must, in the prescribed manner, include an application to be issued with such a card in any application made by him to be issued with a designated document, where that application is made after 31st December 2011.""

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we know full well that last Wednesday we debated all this and that the Commons threw us over on Thursday. The Minister may agree with me when she talks about the long consideration given by the other place to this Bill, but they were allowed one hour precisely last Thursday and one hour on the previous occasion when they threw us over. Given the importance of this Bill I do not think that that is a satisfactory amount of time for the other place to consider the very deliberate views of this place.
 
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On Thursday the Home Secretary said:

That is our point. It is not necessary to be a slave to manifestos to accord them considerable weight, especially where they concern such a basic civic issue as root-and-branch change in the law of privacy as it will be implemented in this Bill.

Recommendation 7 of the Wakeham commission report, also quoted by Mr Clarke, states that the Government's,

That too is why we persist; not to wreck or undermine but to get the Government to respect their plain commitment to voluntary ID cards at the stage when passports are renewed.

On Thursday Mr Clarke raised the issue of the extra cost attending our compromise amendment, which the Minister referred to today. The Home Secretary, apparently without irony, berated us for denying the public,

Yet here is a Government who, against a barrage of criticism from all quarters—in the House and outside it—refused point blank to give us any reasonable estimates. Estimates for setting up costs and integration came there none. The excuse of commercial sensitivity was unsupported inside or, as far as I am aware, outside the House. I believe that that sensitivity was political.

Constitutional proprieties cut both ways. It is fruitless to pretend that the post-1998 conventions are entirely clear. I reiterate that we, on this side of the House, do not accept the premise that if we stick to our guns on this issue we are behaving improperly or in a manner destined to damage the unwritten constitution, let alone in a wrecking spirit. Rather, we say, these are exceptional circumstances and not just because we are holding the Government to their plain commitment.

I am unaware of any non-governmental, non-industry body of opinion in this country that is in favour of compulsion. Liberty, NO2ID cards, and Justice are among the numerous respected bodies implacably opposed to compulsory ID cards. It is also the case that effective compulsion vis-à-vis designated passports represents a volte-face less than a year after the election—a volte-face the Government deny is happening.

Furthermore, I repeat: I believe that we are striking a blow for public trust in politics. If this Government can railroad this Bill through Parliament in the manner in which they are now trying to do, replete with double-speak and denial, it will be a bad day for this House and this Parliament. But we are not just sticking to our guns; having felt a zephyr of change—if I can call it that—on the Cross Benches last time, and in a genuine spirit of compromise, we have tabled this amending Motion today to allow the political parties,
 
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particularly Labour, to go to the country at the next general election, making it absolutely clear where they stand.

The delay to the end of 2011 is scarcely catastrophic, given that in any event ID cards will not be issued until 2009. Furthermore, it should enable clarification of some of the many uncertainties—the universal uncertainty, one could say—attending this grandiose project, which would be of great benefit. Not least, it would enable the public to get up to speed with this Bill and its ramifications. If the Home Secretary himself does not understand his own Bill—and he demonstrated that again last week by continuing to pretend that the database for passports is the same as the database for ID cards—delay can do nothing but good.

This is a citizens' amendment. There will be extra costs from it—but not unacceptable ones, I suggest, as was confirmed to me over the weekend by a very senior industry expert and by the LSE Identity Project, whose members did a short ancillary report on the potential cost implications, which I will place in the Library. To give noble Lords a flavour, I shall quote from that document:

And there is a lot more where that came from.

Finally, the key issues here are the sort of society and state that we want. I suggest that we heed the warnings, not only from our own Constitution Committee, but also from the Information Commissioner, our national watchdog on issues precisely such as these. This is a tipping point, and I urge noble Lords once again to stand firm behind the principle of voluntarism, albeit for a limited period of five years. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to Motion A, leave out from "disagreement" to end and insert "and do disagree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 22E and 22F in lieu, but do propose Amendments Nos. 22G and 22H in lieu.—(Lord Phillips of Sudbury.)

Lord Richard: My Lords—

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, for giving way. It is very rare that I seek to speak at the beginning of such debates on Bills, but I thought that it might be helpful during this interchange between the Houses if I made clear our position. That is the only reason why I have pressed ahead in this regard.

I support Motion A1, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, and oppose government Motion A. Motion A1 offers the Government an honourable and reasonable compromise. In essence, it provides the opportunity for the Government to proceed immediately with a voluntary ID card and a national register regime related to passports.
 
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Significantly, it would also enable the Government to operate that on a compulsory basis, as they wish, from the end of the first Session of the next Parliament. That would enable preparations to proceed immediately, but it would require an explicit mandate before compulsion began. It would also enable any government who did not wish to impose a compulsory register and ID card scheme to repeal the Act in the first Session of the next Parliament.

The amendments would mean that the Government got their Bill immediately, including potentially the power of compulsion, while upholding the constitutional position, which so many noble Lords have expressed, that something so far-reaching as making the freedom to travel conditional on being compulsorily enrolled on the national identity register, with all the implications that that has for the audit trail of our lives, and compulsorily having an identity card, should be put to the British people clearly and openly at a general election.

The Opposition do not think, and have never thought, that the suggestion that a government should be held to their manifesto commitment on the Identity Cards Bill is in breach of the Salisbury convention. I set out our views on this matter, clearly and at some length, on 6 March, and I do not propose to test the patience of the House today by repeating those arguments. They stand for themselves, at col. 555 of Hansard, for those keen enough to look at them.

As to the wider issue raised by the recommendation of the Wakeham commission—that this House should be cautious about challenging the clearly expressed views of another place on issues of policy—I set out our agreement with that point on Wednesday of last week. I explained why such agreement does not preclude us from pressing the Government to reach a better solution to the problem of their own creation. Again, I shall not test the patience of the House by repeating what I said at col. 1232.

Any normal person reading the manifesto commitment on this matter would interpret that commitment as, "When I renew my passport, I can choose whether I go on the register and have an ID card. And if I don't want to, I can choose not to". That is what "voluntary" would initially mean to anyone who read it.

The Minister rejected our compromise proposal in her opening speech. She says that it would require the setting up of two databases, and queries the costs involved. But the Government have consistently refused to reveal the full costs of their scheme. Their amendment in lieu, which was accepted by this House on a previous occasion, still leaves the most significant parts of their assessment of costs hidden from public scrutiny. The Government's own system of compulsion by stealth surely also has complexity in its arrangements. It must enable those who do not need a passport to sign up for an ID card if they want one. There will have to be a record of those true volunteers, in addition to those who are compelled to have an ID card if they need to travel—for work, to visit their relatives, or to take a holiday.
 
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There is also still some confusion about whether the Government intend to adapt the passport system into the proposed national identity register—whether a separate NIR would ultimately replace the passport system or whether the two would co-exist. Whatever the decision, it is clear that the ID scheme would involve multiple systems, developed over time, to achieve multiple functions. The Minister said today that in accepting an amendment such as this, the Government would have to rewrite their business plan. But government policy on how they will run the scheme is still evolving. If I wanted to be difficult, I could say that they are making it up day by day. But I don't want to be difficult.

Last week, Mr Burnham, the Minister in charge of the ID card scheme, revealed to the Social Market Foundation conference that the plans for the initial stage of the verification process have been significantly changed. Instead of a system whereby the verification of identity would be by electronic readers—which is what we have debated in this House, at all stages of the Bill—the Government have now announced that they plan to use the chip and PIN system first. Mr Burnham said that a PIN would be an intermediate way of checking the card. The Government now accept what many have been saying for some time: the cost of buying in biometric readers could be a significant burden on businesses, public service providers and government departments.

It is clear that the Government have not yet determined the initial architecture of the IT system, and that may be no bad thing. If they are prepared to take time to consider more carefully an effective and reliable system of verification, I, for one, will not complain. It therefore means that there is still time to discuss just how the initial period of the scheme should operate.

I was brought up to believe that one should stand up for what one believes is right and speak out against what one believes is wrong. That is simply what I have been trying to do in the debates on the Government's plans for compulsion by stealth. For all my faults, I am always an optimist. I believe that there are reasonable and honourable solutions to problems. It is right to take the time and the patience, and to act in good faith, to find those solutions. If the Minister continues to believe that she is unable to accept the amending Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, I shall strongly support him in the Division Lobbies, because I think it is important for another place to have the opportunity to consider this new proposal. It is a sensible and honourable compromise, with something for both sides of the argument, and I hope that people on all sides will support it. I support Motion A1.

4 pm


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