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Lord Lucas: My Lords, I have frequently made an idiot of myself in the House—doubtless I will do so again—and perhaps I am doing so on this occasion. I shall certainly take up the Minister's kind invitation. With luck, that will result in me making no further nuisance of myself on the Bill. I shall certainly take him up on his offer.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, if it has that end we will all be extremely pleased.

Some people believe that we should go further than the Bill does and ban sales of fireworks to the public. But fireworks bring much pleasure to millions of people and it should be noted that by far the majority of those people enjoy fireworks through their sensible and responsible use. Injuries come through misuse, through failure to follow instructions, through carelessness and through deliberate mischief. Banning the retail sale of fireworks to the vast majority of people who derive safe and innocent amusement from them because of the irresponsibility of a few would be unfair. It should also be noted that an outright ban could lead to the development of a black market in fireworks and, because of such an unreasonable prohibition, encourage people to produce home-made devices.

It is on these bases, and including the desire of the Government to balance safety with individual liberties, that we believe that the case has not been made for the banning of the sale of fireworks to the general public and limiting the use of fireworks to organised public displays alone. I am very happy that the Bill reflects this position.

The Bill offers a very real scope to improve the control of fireworks, both further to enhance safety beyond the limitations of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and to tackle the distress, annoyance and anxiety that people can experience from fireworks. As

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a number of people have made clear, we must always bear in mind the considerable injuries that can come from fireworks, although the main purpose of the Bill is not focused particularly in that area.

I hope your Lordships will agree that the Bill can considerably reinforce and strengthen existing controls on the sale and use of fireworks. I believe it will deliver a significant lessening of concerns which so many have expressed about fireworks. We do not want to over-react and do away with a popular form of celebration and family entertainment. Rather, our concern is to ensure that in enjoying fireworks people are safe and do not cause annoyance and distress to their neighbours and communities. We believe that the Bill strikes a good balance between protection and the freedom of the community to enjoy fireworks, and we support it.

1.59 p.m.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I am profoundly grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate and for the overwhelming support for the Bill that has come from all sides of the House. I am also grateful to my noble friend the Minister for expressing the support of the Government.

My noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe raised the question of noise levels, as did the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. There will undoubtedly have to be very wide consultation. It was discussed in another place—at some great length, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, made clear. Different views were expressed as to where a decibel level should be fixed. I am well aware of the views of the RSPCA and what was said in another place by the Minister and Bill Tynan. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, made it very clear what those views are. No doubt the matter will be thrashed out in the consultation process before the regulations appear. I was pleased to hear my noble friend the Minister explaining to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that the regulations will only be available after consultation has taken place. Obviously, that is why regulations are not available now.

This is not the time or place for me to deal in any detail with the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. He raised several points about the responsibilities of responsible pet owners, which were quite outside the scope of the Bill. It is important, however, that I go on record on one or two points. I do not agree with his interpretation of Clause 2 as meaning that there would be a complete ban, and I was pleased that my noble friend the Minister was also of that opinion. Everyone except the noble Lord has recognised that the enjoyment and magic of fireworks will be safeguarded and continued by the Bill, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, and many others, made clear in their interventions.

I did not understand the noble Lord's point about statistics. I shall study Hansard, and perhaps he should do the same and read my comments. Then we could both read the Commons Hansard and see what the points are. I am frankly very suspicious of all statistics, but that is merely a personal hang-up. I have no

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grounds at all to doubt that the statistics provided to me by charity organisations were given in good faith and are as accurate as they could be.

We have had a selection of excellent contributions including some very moving personal experiences, and I am very grateful to everyone who participated and who allowed us to have an insight into some of their personal and family life scenes, which were very intriguing. They also reflect the many different dimensions and concerns on the issue, and the importance and—I would maintain—the need for the Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Immigration (Provision of Physical Data) Regulations 2003

2.3 p.m.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 12th June be approved [23rd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this statutory instrument is made in exercise of the powers conferred on the Secretary of State by Section 126 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. Section 126 enables the Secretary of State, by the making of regulations, to require that an immigration application be accompanied by physical data of an external characteristic. The regulations require that those applying for entry clearance in Sri Lanka will have to provide a record of their fingerprints when making their application. That requirement will be underpinned in practice by the collection of fingerprint data at post in Sri Lanka.

It is right that we now examine the benefits that can be derived from the collection of physical data from individuals who apply for entry clearance. To do that we propose to run a pilot exercise in Colombo, Sri Lanka, during which all entry clearance applications must be accompanied by a record of the fingerprints of the person making the application. The requirement will be fulfilled by the applicant having their fingerprints taken by a member of staff at the British Mission in Colombo. Only fingerprints taken at the British Mission will be acceptable because otherwise it will be not be possible to verify that the fingerprints provided are those of the applicant. Once the fingerprints have been collected they will be given a unique serial number and this number will be inserted on the visa application form so as to form a record of the fingerprints on the application. This record will allow copies of the applicant's fingerprints to be accessed easily at a later date if necessary. The pilot will initially run for six months during which time applicants applying for entry clearance, regardless of nationality, will be expected to provide the required fingerprint data.

In common with many other governments, we consider that physical data of this kind, including fingerprints, iris or facial recognition, provide the only

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certain way to confirm a person's identity. The collection of fingerprints allows a person to be linked to an identity once their details have been registered. That will aid us in our efforts to prevent document and identity fraud in the immigration field. It is essential that we embrace that technology and utilise it to ensure that those who have an entitlement to enter this country can do so without hindrance, but those who seek to circumvent our controls are prevented from doing so.

We have built into the regulations safeguards, equivalent to those that apply when taking fingerprints in the UK, for any applicant who is under 16 years of age. In all cases where a person under 16 years seeks to make an application, they will only have their fingerprints taken in the presence of a responsible adult who is over 18 years and not employed by the government.

It is intended that the fingerprint records collected in Colombo will be added to the Immigration and Asylum Fingerprint System database. That will allow for the identification of any visa applicant who subsequently makes either an asylum or immigration application in a different identity. That in turn will help establish the nationality of those who no longer have a basis on which to remain in the UK, and so aid with securing their removal. In common with other fingerprints collected in respect of immigration and asylum applications, data will be shared with the police and other law enforcement agencies in the prevention or investigation of crime. All such exchanges will be in compliance with the relevant data protection provisions.

The regulation provides that any application not accompanied by the required data may be treated as invalid, without a right of appeal. It is anticipated that the majority of applications that are not accompanied by a record of fingerprints will be treated as invalid. However, there will inevitably be exceptions, including applicants who because of physical disability or injury cannot provide fingerprints. This system will be operated in a reasonable way to limit the impact on applicants.

We have selected Sri Lanka in which to base this pilot as Sri Lankan nationals continue to make significant numbers of unfounded asylum applications, and to use false identities in the process. From a practical perspective we also have a substantial visa issuing post in Colombo that was able to accommodate the not inconsiderable upheaval that this pilot will inevitably involve. Finally, but not least, we have excellent relations with the Sri Lankan Government who have been co-operative and supportive as we develop this imaginative initiative. I commend the regulations to the House.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 12th June be approved [23rd Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Evans of Temple Guiting.)


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