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Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister. If having an identity card imposes no obligation to use it, it would surely impose an obligation to notify the authorities at any time if one moved house. Is that not so?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, who has been on the journey with us, knows that there are a number of stages. When the card becomes compulsory for all, there will then be a provision obliging people to notify changes of address. We have already decided that the legislative vehicle to consider when that universal implementation of compulsory registration takes place should not be this vehicle but should be in the new Bill. At the moment, we are looking at one remaining issuethe linkage between the two documents. So that is a debate that I know the noble Lord is anxious to have. I am sure that he will be in his place when the date for it arrives and we will enjoy ourselves fully, but not now.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am terribly sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness again, but will she be so kind as to check her answer to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit? My understanding is that Clause 12 is not delayed until full compulsion for the
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whole population. Clause 12 relates to notification of changes affecting the accuracy of the register for any individual having an ID card.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, as I understand itand I look towards the Boxit is in relation to the sanctions. One of the issues here is that we are going back to debates that we had in Committee and on Report; and trying to truncate those conversations makes things incredibly difficult. We spent hours and hours trying to clarify this. Your Lordships will also remember that notification of changes of address is already in the legislation for driving licences. All of us who drive must notify the authorities of a change of address; that is not new. That is perhaps what I can best say on the issue. It is not new. We have had many debates on whether it should be in the Bill, but that is the position.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, once you register you will have to tell the authorities about your new addresses. You will not have to register compulsorily; and we can go through that long debate that we had as to what is compulsion and what is not. Once you register, thereafter you will have to notify the authorities of your change of address. Only when everyone has to do that will it be compulsory within the Government's definition. I accept that we have had hours of debate, which I do not intend to go back over today, about whether, because the linkage is with the passport, that is compulsion. We say that it is not; others say that it is.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, that shortens it. We can telegraphically impose all the
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debates that we have had about those issues into that one answer. With the leave of your Lordships, if I can be allowed, I will move on.
The Government, in making the connection of issuing an identity card together with a passport, do not require the use of the identity card unless someone wishes to do so. That remains the same, and that is something on which we can all agree.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I do not intend to give way. I have given way so many times. It is only right that I should make the comments that I have to make. Then I will be more than happy to sit quietly and listen with the utmost care to every pearl of wisdom that drops from the noble Lord's mouth.
In fact, the Identity Cards Bill has a specific prohibition in Clause 18 on any requirement to produce an identity card as the only proof of identity unless specific provision is made in future legislation that an identity card must be produced or it is later made compulsory to hold an identity card. Furthermore, it has been confirmed by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary that anyone who feels strongly enough about the linkage not to want to be issued with an identity card in the initial phase will be free to surrender their existing passport and apply for a new passport before the designating order takes effect.
So although, as I indicated last time, we doubt whether many people would want to go to such lengths simply to avoid the opportunity of obtaining an identity card when renewing their passport, that facility is of course available to them. While the attention is on the designation power, I hope your Lordships will concede that the Government have already conceded to the Opposition's wish for regular reports to be published of the estimated costs of introducing identity cards. We have also conceded that fresh primary legislation must be required before it could be made compulsory to register. We have also accepted the removal from the Bill of provisions in Clauses 6 and 7, which would have enabled compulsory registration to be introduced by secondary legislation using a super-affirmative resolution order procedure with a civil financial penalty for failure to do so.
We have already made all those concessions to your Lordships and to the other place and we have never made a secret of the fact that ultimately this is designed to be a universal scheme. A scheme in which anyone could opt out would of course satisfy those who believe that the current provisions are a threat to ancient liberties, but it would also play into the hands of those who want to keep their identity secret for far murkier purposes; perhaps because they are engaged in identity fraud or illegal immigration. Even many of those opposed to identity cards in principle admit that a scheme that is wholly voluntary cannot be effective.
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I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, for trying to help us resolve this impasse by tabling Motion A1. However, I am afraid that I do not think that Amendments Nos. 22J and 22K will assist us in finding a resolution between the Commons and the Lords on the final shape of the Identity Cards Bill. I know that as a former accounting officer at the Home Office the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, will understand that we have to avoid introducing uncertainty into the plans for rolling out identity cards linked to passports and any risk that that would increase costs and delay benefits to the taxpayer. Those are important issues. For those reasons the Government cannot accept the amendments.
The removal of the automatic link between identity cards and designated documents would mean that it would be much harder to predict the volume of applications for identity cards during the first few years of the scheme. That could lead to less reliable demand during the initial period and so bidders would be likely to introduce a risk premium in their price, which would then mean less value for money for the taxpayer and higher unit costs. It could also mean that the final rollout of the scheme and the move to compulsion would be delayed. That would itself delay the realisation of benefits, including all the wider public interest benefits of identity cards, such as assisting in the prevention and detection of crime and the enforcement of immigration controls.
I accept that for some the purpose of the amendments would be simply to cause that delay. We have to question whether that is a proper thing for this House to seek to do. Parliament has spent many hours debating the Bill. Leaving aside the discussions of the draft Bill and the debates on the earlier Bill introduced before the election, the other place spent 39 hours discussing the Bill before passing it on to us in October. The Committee stage there involved 11 sittings over seven days. It has been suggested by some, particularly by Members opposite, that the mandatory link between designated documents and ID cards was not sufficiently debated in the other place. But I can assure your Lordships that amendments almost identical to those tabled in our earlier proceedings by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, were debated and rejected in Divisions in Commons Committee twiceonce on the Bill that fell before the election and once on this Billand at Commons Report.
We in this House scrutinised the Bill in all its stages for a total of 61 hours, including, as noble Lords will remember with pleasure, six days in Committee and three days on Report. Since then, a further 16 hours of parliamentary time have been taken up as each House considers the other's amendments and reasons. The principle of a mandatory link between designated documents and ID cards has been debated, voted on and amendments from this House rejected four times by the elected House. I must ask again that your Lordships' House should accept the will of the elected House.
I have to tell your Lordships that I am personally deeply troubled by what we are now doing in this House. Whether we like the contents of a
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government's Bill or not, the other placenot wehas the mandate of the people of this country. We are entitled to ask it to think again, as we have done four times. It has given us its answer with very great clarity. We need to think long and hard about the constitutional nature of what we now do. This House has a high and well deserved reputation. I would like to see us keep it.
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