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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned identity fraud. However, he will be aware that the LSE study also found that the use of ID cards in combating identity fraud would be minimal. The LSE estimates that the saving might be £35 million, whereas identity fraud crimes cost up to £1.3 billion a year. Surely that is an enormous gap and means that the cards will be almost useless in that respect.

Lord Brett: My Lords, it is important to note that the introduction of ID cards is not meant to be a total answer to or a panacea for any of the difficulties. It will be a major aid in the areas I mentioned as well as in fighting terrorism as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Davies. It is therefore seen as having a value. The cost to the individual in 2009-10 will be £30 per year.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, what items of information will be required to be held on the identity card? I have heard that up to 50 items will be there. What information will have to be given about changes in circumstances and what will be the penalties for not giving it?

Lord Brett: My Lords, the identity card will have identity data including photograph and fingerprint biometrics, which will be held on the national identity register. It will also effectively have all the information that is currently in passports that we issue for some 47 million people. I will write to the noble Baroness on the second part of her question about penalties.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: My Lords, did I hear the Minister say that the cost will be £30 per year?

Lord Brett: My Lords, the ID card will be £30 per person in 2009-10. It is not an annual charge.

Lord Haskel:My Lords, will my noble friend give us the timetable for the implementation of these identity cards?

Lord Brett: My Lords, the Government are very conscious that there needs to be an incremental rollout and that the cards need to gain and hold the support of the public. Identity cards became compulsory in November of this year for people entering or seeking to stay in this country. A pilot scheme for air-side staff at Manchester Airport and City Airport will be introduced in the latter part of next year. In 2010, it is hoped to make identity cards available voluntarily to young people, many of whom currently use a passport for entry to nightclubs and the like, and from 2011 voluntarily to members of the public.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, the Minister tells us that the personal passport interview offices will be used for identity cards. In the 216,000 face-to-face interviews that have already taken place, there has not been one refusal. Is that because the Government have the right policy or because they are a waste of time?

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Lord Brett: My Lords, we would not expect there to be refusals in the case of straight-forward applications. In 2010, or when people renew their biometric passport thereafter, they will have the opportunity of having a passport, currently costing £72, a package including an ID card at £30 or, as many people may choose if they are going to travel on holiday in Europe only, an ID card but not a passport. Where necessary, there will be face-to-face interviews for people who are entering the country for whom the card is compulsory.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that when he tries to list the benefits of an identity card, it would be easier to do so if the identity card had two characteristics that it does not have at the moment: first, that it is compulsory and therefore does not differentiate between citizens and, secondly, that it is an entitlement card for benefits in this country?

Lord Brett: My Lords, it is not the intention at the moment, or in future as far as we know, to have a compulsory scheme. That would require primary legislation. In Europe, apart from Denmark and the Republic of Ireland, we are the only country not to have an ID card. Indeed, in Denmark there is a national ID register, although there is no card.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, when do the Government anticipate that good quality forgeries will be available?

Lord Brett: My Lords, I think that questions should be serious.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Brett: Let me finish, my Lords. I do not think we can be expected to answer for the criminal fraternity who will, no doubt, as in every other case, seek to find some way around the system. We have to have a robust system that makes it as difficult as possible for forgery to take place.



3.24 pm

Asked By Lord Blaker

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, our immediate priority is to alleviate the suffering of the Zimbabwean people. The UK has provided £47 million in aid this year, but humanitarian relief cannot provide a sustainable solution to Zimbabwe's problems. Only a stable and democratic political settlement can do that. We continue to press for this outcome, including through the EU and the UN, and we are working with the states in the region to that end.

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Lord Blaker: My Lords, is the Minister aware that Mugabe’s spokesman, George Charamba, very recently said:

“We won this country through the barrel of the gun and we will defend it the way we won it”?

This challenges the course, which is favoured by President Kikwete of the African Union, that dialogue is a better way forward than force. Is the Minister aware that an increasing number of African leaders see that Mugabe must go? Raila Odinga, the Prime Minister of Kenya, said recently of Mugabe:

“It’s time for African governments ... to push him out of power”.

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, we welcome every such statement by African leaders. Africa has demanded that it should lead on this issue, and we should all expect them to lead and to take whatever steps are necessary to resolve a crisis in a country that is both a humanitarian catastrophe for the people of Zimbabwe as well as its neighbours and a terrible scar on the reputation of Africa in the world.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, will the Minister tell the House whether the advice given to Her Majesty’s Government is that, in light of the fact that Zimbabwe is more a state in institutionalised chaos than it is a functioning sovereign state, it would be legitimate under international law for the UK to intervene for humanitarian reasons?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, let me adamantly say that we have not received such advice. Let me remind the noble Lord that, as recently as July, a resolution, which certainly did not even call for force but called for a much milder set of sanctions against Zimbabwe, failed in the UN Security Council. The Security Council resolution, which is normally taken as the basis for such intervention, is, in our view, not achievable at this time.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, surely all Members of the House will commend my noble friend on his valiant efforts in this field, and will recognise that British over-involvement will be used against us by the Mugabe regime. Would my noble friend agree that this is a test case of the principle of the international right to protect citizens against their rulers, and that the international community is falling at this first hurdle?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, let me say two things. First, I certainly think it is a test case for Ministers to be careful about what they say, because, as I have repeatedly said in this House, everything that we say here appears the next day in the government-controlled press of Zimbabwe. Already last weekend, there were stories to the effect that the British Government were calling for a colonial invasion of Zimbabwe. That does not help us advance this to the solution for which we all devoutly hope.

The second part of the noble Lord’s intervention was about the responsibility to protect citizens. Increasingly, the humanitarian catastrophe and the

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role of that country’s Government in generating it pose a direct challenge to the will and integrity of the international community as a whole and to Zimbabwe’s neighbours in particular. How long do they have to see this go on before they act?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords—

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, I think it is the Liberal Democrats’ turn.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, it is reported that the Minister is going to South Africa tomorrow to discuss the cholera crisis. Will he take the opportunity to ask South Africa whether it is preparing to send in rescue forces to protect the enormous numbers of aid workers who will need to be sent into Zimbabwe to save the people from starvation and disease and to begin the process of reconstruction?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I am actually leaving straight from this House to South Africa to carry the sentiment of, I believe, the whole House that South Africa must act. It is up to the leadership of South Africa to construct the most effective way to do that. I know the motive and purpose behind the noble Lord’s question, but I would just say that humanitarian access is being achieved and that food aid is being distributed to 4 million people as we speak and it will be to 5 million people by next month, which is almost half those remaining in Zimbabwe. There has been some success in recent days in responding to the cholera outbreak. Yes, I agree with his sentiment, but I reassure him that humanitarian workers are currently able to do their job without much restriction.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am sure that we all give my noble friend the very best of good wishes for his mission to South Africa. He quoted the reaction of the United Nations in July, which predated the outbreak of cholera. Does not the inability of the Zimbabwean Government to cope with the spread of cholera beyond its borders mean that there is now an extra incentive to get the countries of the region behind doing something serious about Zimbabwe?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I completely agree with my noble friend. The UN Security Council will meet in closed session at the beginning of next week precisely to discuss the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe and the implications to which she has drawn attention. The fact is that cholera has now spread from Zimbabwe into South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. How much further must it spread before the region acts?

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, as quiet diplomacy reaches its tragic conclusion, does not what the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, and the Minister have just said confirm that this is no longer a Zimbabwe problem? This is a problem of cholera spreading, with

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disease and unrest, through the whole of southern Africa. We wish him well in his mission from this House today, but would he stop in Botswana to give it encouragement for its proposals to cut off fuel and petrol supplies to the Zimbabwean police and army, who seem to be on the rampage and arresting innocent people on all sides?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the President of Botswana was here just two weeks ago when the Prime Minister had the opportunity to express on behalf of all of us our enormous support to that country for its brave and principled leadership on this issue. The matter of trying to hold back fuel is very difficult. Fuel is critical to those relief trucks which are distributing food to the 4 million people, and to the ambulances and the healthcare system which are addressing cholera. I do not know how we could stop fuel reaching the powerful military and security forces without them seizing it from the humanitarian workers. We have to weigh that suggestion carefully.

Barnett Formula Committee

Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee

Privileges Committee

Refreshment Committee

Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Membership Motions

3.32 pm

Moved By The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

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Motions agreed, and a message was sent to the Commons.

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