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22J Clause 5, page 4, line 44, leave out from "individual" to end of line 4 on page 5 and insert
"(a) if the individual is not already entered in the Register, his application for a designated document must include or be accompanied by an application by that individual to be entered in the Register unless he has stated in or with his application for a designated document that he does not wish to apply to be entered in the Register;
(b) if the individual is already entered in the Register, his application for a designated document must either state that he is already entered in the Register and confirm the contents of his entry or state that he is entered in the Register and confirm the contents of his entry subject to the changes notified in the application."
22K Clause 8, page 8, line 2, after "document" insert "in which he has not included or which is not accompanied by a statement in accordance with section 5(2) that he does not wish to be entered in the Register"
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should declare a personal interest. My existing passport expires in 2008. If the Identity Cards Bill enters the statute book with the amendments that I have proposed, and if passports have been designated for the purposes of the Act by the time I apply for a new passport, I shall have the option to state that I do not wish to apply for my name to be entered in the register. I assure your Lordships that I am not moving these amendments in order to give myself that option. I should be minded not to exercise that option if and when the opportunity arises.
I also assure your Lordships, and particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, that in proposing these amendments I am not seeking to make some kind of mischief. I have no ulterior purpose to delay the progress of the Bill on to the statute book; indeed, my purpose is to expedite that progress. I am trying to find a way of avoiding the use of the Parliament Act to force the Bill through, because I do not think that this is an issue on which it would be appropriate to have recourse to the Parliament Act. The Bill will reach the statute book more quickly if recourse to the Parliament Act can be avoided.
The Bill as drafted says that anyone applying for a passport or other designated document whose name is not entered in the national identity register "must" apply to have his name entered in the register and to receive an identity card. Previous amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, and rejected in another place said that anyone
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applying for a designated document "may", if he so wishes, also apply to have his name entered in the register. In other words, he could opt into the register and receive an identity card if he wished to do so, otherwise his name would not be entered in the register and he would not receive an identity card. With my amendment, it is not a question of opting in; it is a question of opting out. My amendments would have the effect of requiring anyone applying for a designated document to apply to have his name entered in the register unless he states that he does not wish so to apply. In other words, he could opt out if he wished to do so; otherwise he would have to applyhave to applyto have his name entered in the register.
I was glad to note that, in the debate in the other place last week, the Secretary of State welcomed my intervention in our debate of 20 March as being helpful. It seems to me that my amendments would give the Government a great deal of what they want. The presumption would be that when someone applied for a designated document, he would also apply to have his name entered in the register. That would be, if you like, the line of least resistanceone might say, the default course. It would require a positive act to opt out, not a positive act to opt in.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, I believe that most people applying for passports would be content to have their names entered in the register, as I would myself. No doubt, however, there would be some who, for whatever reasonsand not all of them discreditabledid not wish their names to be entered in the register. I believe that they would be relatively few.
The resolution of this issue by opting out rather than opting in would not be as neat and tidy as making it compulsory for someone to apply to have his name entered in the register if he is applying for a designated document. But there is an issue of personal freedom that should not be brushed aside as being of no consequence. I shall not enter into a learned discussion about what the Labour manifesto said or did not say at the previous general election, or what it meant or did not mean. If I may be forgiven for saying so, I have spent enough time in my earlier life trying to understand and interpret the subtleties of party manifestos, and I do not desire or need to revert to that occupation now.
There are a good many people out there who genuinely thought that the Government were proposing a voluntary scheme, and they were prepared to go along with it on that understanding and the prospect of later legislation to introduce compulsion. My amendments would restore an element of voluntarinessof personal freedomwhich is absent from the Government's proposals. I understand that it might complicate administration and add to costs to allow people to opt out, as I propose. There is no knowing what the extra costs would be. However, with respect to the noble Baroness, to say that it puts a coach and horses through the legislation is something of an exaggeration. Compared with the total costs of
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the identity card scheme, the extra cost would be negligible, or at any rate relatively marginal. The preservation of a measure of personal freedom is surely worth some cost and some administrative untidiness.
As the noble Baroness reminded us again just now, anyone who feels strongly enough about the linkage and does not want to be issued with an ID card in the initial phase will be free to surrender their existing passport and apply for a new passport before the designation order takes effect. Why should someone who feels strongly enough about the linkage be obliged to follow the roundabout device of giving up his passport prematurely and applying for a new one some time before his existing passport runs out, thus incurring the cost of renewing his passport before he needs to do so? Why is that preferable to the straightforward course of giving him a right to opt out of having his name entered in the register when the time comes for him to renew his passport when the old one reaches its expiry date in the usual way?
As I said, I believe that relatively few people would take up the opportunity to opt outthe force of inertia would see to that. I saw an article in a newspaper on Sunday suggesting that the Government's position in this matter is motivated less by considerations of cost and administrative tidiness than by a desire to fit in with the proposed directive by the European Commission to require the introduction of biometric passports by the Schengen countries. I understand that this directive, as presently envisaged, would not apply to the United Kingdom. But it would no doubt be convenient if this country were in step with the Schengen countries in the timing of the introduction of biometric passports. But even if that argument were accepted as valid, it is not immediately clear why the introduction of biometric passports in the Schengen countries should make it necessary to compel applicants for United Kingdom passports to apply to be entered on the national identity register.
Moreover, the timetable for the issue and coming into force of the European directive seems to be quite uncertain. At this early stage, I suggest that it would be the triumph of hope over experience if we were to assume that the directive would come into force on the date now suggested for it. This suggests to me that the sensible course would be to accept my amendments now and let the Bill proceed accordingly. If and when the European directive comes into effect, or if it proves that the number of people opting out under these amendments is in practice negligible, it would not be difficult for the government of the day to introduce further legislation to amend the Act so as to reverse these amendments and restore an automatic link between applying for the designated document and applying to have one's name entered on the register. Indeed, the Government could perhaps use for this purpose the further legislation for which it is already agreed that there will be a need. Alternatively, if these amendments seem to provide a basis for resolving the matter, I should be ready to consider incorporating a
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sunset date for return to the automatic link on the lines suggested previously by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury.
In the mean time, I believe that the Government would get and deserve credit for the retention of a degree of personal freedom in this matter. If your Lordships were to approve the Motion which I propose, that should not be seen as defeat for the Government or victory for the Opposition. That is certainly not my intention. On the contrary, I would hope that both the government and the opposition parties might see what I propose as a no doubt imperfect but none the less acceptable compromise, as going some way towards meeting genuinely held misgivings, as obviating the need to have recourse to the Parliament Act and as ensuring the early passage of the Bill. I beg to move.
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