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We are grateful to the Minister for promising to look further into these matters for us. I do not think that it would be sensible for us to pursue these questions any further at this stage. In conclusion, it would be a very good idea if those who are developing these systems in the Home Office would liaise closely with the Governments anti-trafficking organisation, which was prominently referred to in the debate that the noble Lord praised. There are, as he rightly pointed out at the beginning of his remarks, some important implications in what we are doing here for what may be developed under the anti-trafficking strategy. I do not think that I need to ask the noble Lord to give me that assurance, as I am sure that it follows without saying that the BID development team will be working closely with those concerned with the anti-trafficking strategy.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Indeed, that is the case. It must be right. I tend to think that we could do much more about human trafficking. I believe in effective law enforcement as a discouragement. It will help us in the fight against human trafficking, which is one of the great evils of our time. In the past few months, we have had a lot of debate and discussion about slavery because of the anniversary of Wilberforces Act. It is a stain on our nation that trafficking and exploitation of children exists and carries on. It is essential that we have the facility to determine age because, as we have all learnt over the past few years, the age at which young people are exploited in this appalling way can be very young indeed. So this will be a useful tool in our fight against trafficking and exploitation.
The noble Lord said: In view of all that I said on Amendment No. 14, which covered very much the whole purpose of this amendment, it would be an intrusion on the Committees time if I were to say any more at this juncture. I look forward to the other arguments on the group. I beg to move.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I rise because I have Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 grouped with Amendment No. 23. As has become apparent from our previous debates, we are very concerned about the wide powers that regulations will give Ministers to permit the use of information for specified purposes that are not directly related to immigration. I can be brief; although not quite as brief as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who was exemplary in these matters, but I will try.
First, I will jump to Amendment No. 25. It tried to elicit from the Government very much what they have put in government Amendment No. 23A. We were
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Our intention with Amendment No. 24 was to try to prevent fishing expeditions. As has been seen today, the Government are collating more and more personal data across all departments. This is just one part of that exercise. We have already seen in the Serious Crime Bill that the Government are embarking on a very wide piece of work on data matching and data mining. In Amendment No. 24, we are trying to limit the use of the powers in this Bill to circumstances that are already enshrined in legislation and, therefore, in some form or another have already been debated and acceded to by Parliament. So, again, we are trying to look at the range of government powers to see whether they are adequate.
Lord Avebury: Clause 8 provides a link between the information contained on the document and the information that would be held on the national identity register created by the Identity Cards Act 2006. It allows regulations to permit the use of information for specified purposes not related to immigration, and it provides that there is no need to destroy information if it is retained in accordance with other enactments.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has argued that this could be seen as an intention by the Government to collect data for the purposes of enforcing destitution, such as we were discussing earlier, and denying healthcare in some scenarios, which could breach the UKs human rights obligations under various international instruments. The JCWI foresees that the effect of the enforced destitution regime of immigration control, coupled with the universal registration of non-EEA nationals before the rest of the population, will lead to a culture where officials routinely demand production of BIDs and people will effectively be compelled to carry them. It believes that a culture of biometric data collection, sharing and checking of associated biometric documentation against registers will mean discrimination against visible minorities in the UK. To some extent, that was confirmed by the discussion that we had earlier, when the Minister did not see anything odd in an employer requiring a person of Somali appearance to produce a BID, although he did to some extent correct himself later on, when he said that national insurance documentation would be perfectly satisfactory if that was available.
The JCWI believes that this culture will mean discrimination against visible minorities in the UK. It cites in support of that claim the fact that in several European countries where identity documents are already compulsory ethnic minorities are disproportionately checked. We fear that the same is likely to happen in this country. We fear above all that the introduction of BIDs will systematise the destitution of hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants now surviving in the parallel economy, with disastrous consequences not
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Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I rise, unusually, to remark on the fact that we are approaching 6 pm, and I appreciate that the rules today require that we must, regardless, finish at 6 pm. I observe to the Minister that he has got to speak to his own amendments, and therefore we will do our best to complete our contributions, but we do not wish to be guillotined. We appreciate that if we reach 6 pm and we have not completed this group, or if we have started the next group and have not completed it, we have to suspend, even if we are in the middle of debating an amendment.
Lord Hylton: I am concerned about government Amendment No. 23A, in particular subparagraph (d) which, as far as I can see, makes it possible to use information for investigating any offence at all; trivial, mediocre or serious. That is why Amendment No. 25, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is very much needed. It would limit the sharing of information to serious organised crime.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions, and to my noble friend Lord Judd for starting the debate. The amendment could lead to the clause being interpreted in such a way that the Border and Immigration Agency could not use biometric information collected under regulations made under Clause 5 for non-immigration purposes. Leaving the clause open to interpretation in this way would be undesirable because it would prevent the Border and Immigration Agency using this information for other important purposes, such as to check a fingerprint provided by the police against our databases in order to try to identify and trace an offender. For those reasons and on the grounds of good law enforcement, we must resist the amendment.
On the other hand, government Amendments Nos. 23A and 25Fthe latter is a consequential amendmentare very much in the spirit of the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. Our amendments seek to specify the non-immigration purposes for which biometrics information can be used. Careful consideration has been given to exactly what those purposes might be. For example, Amendment No. 23A ensures that where the police have a fingerprint from a crime scene and ask the Secretary of State to check that fingerprint against fingerprints she holds in order to trace a suspected offender, the Secretary of
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I should also make it clear that this amendment ensures that the Border and Immigration Agency can share biometric information by relying on its existing data-sharing powers, as long as the regulations provide for this. So Amendment No. 23A also allows the Secretary of State to specify additional uses for the information if these are identified in the future in regulations which will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.
I want to assure noble Lords that any use of the information collected under these provisions must be in accordance with the Data Protection Act and Human Rights Act, because those are fundamental protections. We are right to rely on them because they provide the public with a degree of reassurance. I beg to move.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is about to withdraw his amendment. In that case, perhaps I may come back with one question. I was rather thrown by the fact that the Minister sought to move his amendment when he cannot do so yet. He is only speaking to it. However, it is late in the afternoon after quite a few hours of debate.
Lord Avebury: As on the previous occasion when we considered government Amendment No. 16B, the effect of spelling out the conditions in paragraphs (a) to (e) is almost entirely spoilt by the addition of paragraph (f). Having set out the various purposes in the first five paragraphs, the Secretary of State is then given carte blanche to do anything she likes, not just in connection with another enactment but with whatever may come to mind. This is the second time we have had an example of this sort. Not only is it incumbent on the Minister to explain what these other purposes are, as the noble Baroness has requested, it is also necessary to explain why such a catch-all is needed at all. Why is the Secretary of State not satisfied with the provisions set out in paragraphs (a) to (e), and what is going through the minds of the draftsmen in the Home Office that might possibly create the need for the additional powers sought in paragraph (f)? If the Minister cannot explain it, other than that paragraph (f) has been added simply because someone thought there may be a need for it at some future date without having anything specific in mind, I think that we will want to delete it at a later stage.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The explanation is very simple, although I am not sure whether the Committee will like it. Paragraph (f) simply preserves the Secretary of States common law power to share information. That power already exists. This simply seeks to re-establish the status quo, as it were.
Lord Judd: I have listened with great interest to the contributions by other Members of the Committee. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, asked me whether I was about to withdraw my amendment. I do not know why she made that assumption. On the basis of everything that I have said, I should have thought it was most unlikely that I would withdraw my amendment were it not a case of force majeure and the Grand Committee procedures with which we are faced. I wanted to get that on the record.
There is one other thing that I should report to Members of the Committee. I had to visit my office briefly this afternoon. It is extraordinary how these things happen, but quite coincidentally I noticed that among the mail on my deskI emphasise that this was delivered with the mail this afternoonwas a copy of the Governments reply to the report on asylum of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I was tempted to seize it and, when I rejoined the Committee, to start to analyse what was in it. However, it seemed to me that that would be too instantaneous a reaction and that I needed to consider very carefully what was in it. However, it will be considered very carefully before we reach the next stage of the Bill. At the moment, I am far from satisfied but because of the procedures I can only assist my noble friendwhich in another sense I am glad to doby withdrawing the amendment.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Before my noble friend sits down, I should mention two things. First, I did not respond to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. I think that the noble Lord was unhappy that we can check fingerprints for any offence irrespective of its severity. An offence may not be related to a serious organised crime, for example an isolated murder, but we would want to be able to undertake a check for the police in those circumstances.
I probably need to put a correction on the record. I may not have made myself sufficiently clear when I responded to questions relating to illegal working. I should make it clear that in those circumstances an employer may ask a prospective employee to produce a number of documents. They include the British passport, a birth certificate or national insurance number combined with another document. I want to ensure that the record is correct. I am concerned that I might have inadvertently given an inaccurate response and therefore I want to make that correction at this stage.
Lord Avebury: The point that we were discussing, to which the noble Lord has just replied, is whether the employer would feel obliged by the legislation to
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Lord Bassam of Brighton: To conclude, the code that is issued makes it clear that any employee should be checked, irrespective of nationality. The code is intended to enable employers to comply with race relations legislation. I understand the noble Lords difficulty, but what we are trying to achieve is in employers and employees best interests. That will probably be understood more widely in the labour market. I think we should close on that point because there is not much point in opening it up for further debate. I am sure we can return to it at another stage.
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