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Lord Turnbull: My Lords, I, too, recognise the good faith of my noble friend Lord Armstrong in moving this amendment. Since he is a predecessor but two of mine, I could not do anything else. Opt-outs have a long and honourable pedigree. The whole of our economic policy is currently based on one. Equally, I am not happy with a position in which, for an unnamed period, we have two kinds of passport in circulation: let us call them "registered" and "unregistered".
My noble friend Lord Armstrong hinted at a possible solution. The amendment was presented as though one change was being made from the previous proposal offered by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips; a change from opting in to opting out. In fact, two changes were made; the other being the removal of a
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time limit. The obvious question is whether there is a solution which combines the two effectsan opt-out and a time limit.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I hesitate to intervene, but I want to on this occasion. In my time, I have constructed a fair few amendments, some of which had completely honourable intentions and some of which were, quite frankly, wrecking amendments. With due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, it does not matter whether his intentions are honourable or dishonourableI assume that they are honourablebut it is the effect of the amendment that matters. As the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, rightly said, the effect of the amendment is that of a wrecking amendment. It drives a coach and horses through the Bill, which is why it is being so eagerly embraced by the Opposition. To say that the Government have been unhelpful, while recognising that 40 ameliorating amendments have been accepted, seems to be a contradiction in terms.
One noble Lord has said that it is a weak amendment, but noble Lords will notice that he seized it with alacrity. But is that surprising? What is the noble Lord's standpoint? He is opposed to identity cards. I have listened, along with many others, not to all the debate. I have listened to comments about the loss of personal freedom and civil liberties. In any civil society there is a balance between the collective good and individual freedoms. Otherwise, we would have none of these controls. We would not have national insurance numbers, passports or driving licences. There is always a balance to be struck.
I am absolutely bemused. In the current climate, we know that identity fraud is rife and that passports are forged with gay abandon and lead, often, to terrible circumstances. Yet we seem to think that this is a matter of small import and can laugh over it: recent events give us no worry or cause for concern whatever. No one deludes themselves by imagining that an identity card will solve all those problems; but it will, sure enough, make it a damn sight harder to commit these frauds.
I was interested when the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, said that most people would be content with an opt-out but some would not. Not all those people will be discreditable, but some of them will be discreditable. We have to guard against that, unfortunately, in today's society. If I thought that this was a helpful amendment which would safeguard the civil liberties of the people of this country, I would be minded to support it. But I am afraid that I do not. The intentions matter not a jot: it is the effect of the amendment that matters. I hope that we will recognise the primacy of the other place and oppose this amendment.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree with what has just been said by my noble friend Lord Young and say to the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, that I absolutely understand the import of his amendment. His desire is to achieve what some would say is almost an impossibility: to find a
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compromise between "may" and "must". How do we do that? The House must now deal with the fact that it is impossible.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, that when I made my comments I was not talking about the Parliament Act; I was talking about something far more precious and important. Over the years, this House has rightly grown in stature. It has grown in stature because of its acuity in looking at some of the issues; its good sense; its proportionality; and its balance. This House hascertainly since I have been privileged to be in itshown sound judgment. We know when to push. We know when to test. We know when to challenge. But we also know when to desist. This is the first time in a very long time when I genuinely believe that this House may be in danger of losing that balance. It is important not just for this Billthis Bill will come and it will gobut for all the other Bills.
The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and I have had the privilege of dealing with Bill after Bill. We know the consequence of lack of judgment. We know the consequence of lack of moderation. We know that in the years to come we will pay for those issues on which we have failed to demonstrate judgment. That is why I say from this Dispatch Box, not simply as the Minister, the spokesman for this Bill, but as a Member of this House that I fear for us. I fear for us because people will look at what we do today. They will look at the fact that all of us are unelected, whether we be hereditary Peers or noand the 92 hereditary Peers who remain in this transitional House are still hereditary for all that. There are those who say that this House should not be because we do not have the right to hold up legislation in a way that is improper. There will be those who will use this opportunity against this House.
I do not hesitate to tell your Lordships that over the years I have grown to have enormous respect for this House and for its work. When we trespass in such a way that we challenge the high regard in which we are held, I tremble for us. I say to this House, not because of the content of this Bill, but because of the enormity of what we do, we have to understand it.
Members opposite aspire one day to govern this country. This is about governance; we have to govern in the interests of the people of this country. I look to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, who commented on the manifesto and the general election. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, that I believe we made it clear. Let me help him as to why. During the general election campaign, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister stated that the Identity Cards Bill would be reintroduced. A clear reference was made to the fact that the Bill which fell at the election would be brought back, including the provisions on designation.
For these reasons, I believe that there never was any doubt about our plans. Indeed, our plans were so clearly understood by the Liberal Democrats that on page 12 of their election manifesto, the manifesto
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which they took to the people of this country, they made the following claim. The Liberal Democrats said that "they"meaning the Government
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. Mr Blair's comment made no reference to "compulsory" or "voluntary". To pretend that the public, when listening to the Prime Minister, understood that a Bill had been introduced in which Clause 5 referred to a compulsory arrangementit did not then refer to "compulsory" in wordsseems far-fetched in the extreme. On the Liberal Democrat manifesto point, it is very simple: manifestos are written ahead of an election. The Liberal Democrat manifesto was written on the basis that the Tory manifestoI am sorry, the Labour manifestowould mirror and parallel what was in the Bill. It did not. Instead of talking, as it should have done if it had followed the previous Bill, about a compulsory card, it referred only to something "voluntary".
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his intervention because he has thereby demonstrated that this issue was put before the people of this country. The people of this country then voted. I know that it is a disappointment to the noble Lord, but they did not vote for a Liberal Democrat government.
I turn to the other issue. We still do not know the position of the Conservative Party. When on the previous occasion I pressed this matter with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, he responded basically by saying that, "We'll make our minds up later, when the case arises".
It has been suggested that this issue should be terminated until the next general election. I say that because the date proposed on the previous occasion
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was 2011. In this debate it has been suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, and other noble Lords that we should postpone the date as this may provide a way forward. The date that was last suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, was 2011. He made it clear in his intervention that that was so as to enable another election to intervene. So it is very important for us to understand the principal position of the Tory Party on this matter, but we have not heard it. We do not know whether we are looking at bringing in provisions with which Her Majesty's loyal Opposition would agree or disagree.
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