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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that noble Lords opposite will see this as something of a win for them. These amendments seek to clarify that appointments to attend an enrolment centre will, where possible, be at a convenient place and time for the individual. That issue was raised by noble Lords from both parties opposite at an earlier stage of the Bill. The amendments relate to Clauses 5, 9 and 12, and take effect when an individual makes an application to be entered into the register, when an individual already entered becomes subject to compulsory registration and when an individual notifies the agency of changes to their circumstances.
The amendments respond to the concern that there should be a provision in the Bill confirming that individuals would be offered a choice of appointment dates and times. It has always been our intention to offer such a choice of appointments and I am happy to confirm this by way of these amendments. However, these amendments do not exclude the possibility that some individuals may, at some point, be required to attend at a specified place and time if it has proved impossible to come to an agreement.
I am sure your Lordships will agree that, although we do intend to offer individuals a choice of when to enrol, a means to ensure that individuals attend is ultimately required. The possibility of unilaterally setting an appointment time because it has been impossible to come to an agreement about a convenient time is one which will not be used until the scheme becomes compulsory. I beg to move.
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Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I spoke on this topic in Committee. I am grateful to the Minister for bringing forward the amendment. Of course, whether it is of any great value to the individual still depends on the number and type of locations chosen for attendance and the degree of convenience that can be provided.
During that debate it was pointed out that in some parts of the United Kingdom the distances might be great or the time taken to travel anywhere might be large. Therefore, it would be helpful if the Minister could advise us at the end of this debate, or perhaps give some indication, of the scale of provision that the Government envisage. Unless they provide a sufficient number of locations, well suited to the convenience of people, this will still be a pretty intolerable burden imposed, particularly on those who do not find travel easy or for whom there are few facilities for travel.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, could I ask whether such locations will be provided on every inhabited island, particularly when trying to roll out this scheme to the northern and western islands of Scotland?
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I thank the Government for bringing forward the amendment, which is a considerable advance on where we were and takes into account most of the nub of what I was endeavouring to achieve in a previous amendment.
Obviously, when we had the earlier debate, I think the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and I were at loggerheads about numbers. I cannot really give much more detail. When we had that debate it was clear, at least from the way in which the UK Passport Service was developing, that it would have many more fixed-point locations. I can assure the noble Lord that the Government envisage that a person will have to travel no more than one hour to get to an enrolment centre.
The other important point I made at the earlier stage of debate on this was that we will be able to establish and developit is so intendedmobile enrolment centres. The question of whether we could have an enrolment centre on every inhabited island does not really arise. What we will be able to do is to take enrolment to every inhabited island, if that is the appropriate, efficient and effective way of doing it. Of course we will need to be sensitive to those who have acute mobility problems and so on.
This is a service that will be sensitively developed and designed. I have no doubt that we will be able to provide many more points of contact between a service based around the UK Passport Service than is currently the case, with very few UK Passport Service centres and locations.
In some way that travels towards those issues concerning the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and I hope that it covers the point raised by the noble Earl,
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Lord Mar and Kellie. I am glad to hear that the amendment is welcomed across your Lordships' House.
"( ) The power of the Secretary of State to make regulations containing (with or without other provision) any provision that he is authorised to make by this section is exercisable, on the first occasion on which regulations are made under this section, only if a draft of the regulations has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House."
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we are romping through this afternoon with this wonderful co-operation between my Benches and those of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury. I am sure that Members of the Benches opposite will have a great debt to pay to these Benches by the end of the day as the, shall we say, feisty parts of the debate are being dealt with so speedily. That is my excuse for that interchange and I will stop at that before I sink myself further.
In moving Amendment No. 46, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 52, 52H and 54A. Amendment No. 46 would remove Clause 6 from the Bill and the other amendments are consequential to that. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the transition from a so-called voluntary system of ID cards into an all-out compulsory scheme should be made by primary legislation. It is consistent with the Government's commitment in their manifesto that the scheme would be rolled out initially on a voluntary basis. The transition to full compulsion, we say, is a matter of public importance. This is a skeleton Bill and we need to be able to respond effectively to the impact of the so-called voluntary period of registration on the whole process of people entering upon the register, obtaining an ID card and then entering the changes on that register as they move or their circumstances change.
The Government want that transition to all-out compulsion to be made by order, albeit by the novel process of a super-affirmative statutory instrument. We acknowledge that this is an improvement on the usual affirmative procedure, but we believe that it is not robust enough to allow for proper parliamentary consideration of the operation and costs of the ID card scheme during the initial period.
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In Committee, I asked the Government to justify the super-affirmative process itself and to explain how it would operate if the House ultimately decided that it would be right to go down this route instead of insisting on primary legislation. There was a very full debate at cols. 1058 to 1073 on 12 December. Since we are on Report I will summarise only the major parts of that debate.
We submit that the Government have not yet proved the case for all-out compulsion based on the provisions of the Bill. The Billan enabling Billleaves significant questions unanswered. The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, at paragraph 248 of its 4th Report 200304, said:
"it would be preferable to separate the two phases in order that the compulsory phase would have to be introduced by primary legislation. This would enable Parliament to ensure that the legislation fully reflected experience gained, especially about safeguards, during the voluntary phase".
The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee's view, into which I went in some detail in Committee, is that the route to full compulsionprimary or secondary legislationis to be judged appropriate by one's view on whether or not the initial period is voluntary and whether the House approves of all-out compulsion. At paragraph 20, the committee says that if,
"one considers . . . this Bill as introducing a voluntary scheme which may gradually be extended towards compulsion . . . then the power in clause 6 is inappropriate and a compulsory scheme should only be introduced by means of a bill".
As we recognised in our previous debates, the Government have repeatedly said that the initial period is voluntary. By agreeing to our Amendment No. 38, this House has ensured that the initial period is what the Government have always said it wasvoluntary. We continue to believe that any change from that initial voluntary period to one of all-out compulsion must be made by primary legislation.
Our problem with the super-affirmative proposal is that, although interesting, it is no solution to the real question. Would that process ensure that the legislation fully reflected the views of both Houses about the experience gained, especially about safeguards? We feel that it would not.
At Second Reading, I referred to my concerns about the super-affirmative process, in that it would not allow your Lordships' House full powers of amendment and rejection. I referred to the debate in another place on 12 July, when the Minister responsible for the Bill, Mr Burnham, was asked:
"I guess that the procedure would be the same as it is now; the elected House, with primacy, would prevail. I would not want there to be any procedure other than that. I will get back to the hon. Gentleman with regard to the detail of how the process would work on the Floor of the House, but from my point of view it is clear that the elected House will ultimately determine whether and how the order goes forward".[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee D, 12/7/05; col. 216.]
"my honourable friend was probably referring to the final way in which we would have to implement this if the super-affirmative procedure was not adopted. I think he meant that if both Houses did not agree, ultimately it would be up to the other place to determine the matter by primary legislation".[Official Report, 12/12/05; col. GC1070.]
The difficulty is that the Minister with policy direction of this matter has not taken the opportunity to confirm either to this House or to another place whether what the noble Baroness thinks is what he probably meant is in fact the case. I am aware that Ministers in another place acknowledged in the press during last summer that they knew that there were problems with the super-affirmative process, but we have heard no more of that.
Whatever the position on that matterwhether we can between us resolve that there is a power of this House both to modify and then reject the super-affirmative processI would say more. I would say that that is still not the appropriate method by which to move from the so-called voluntary period to one of all-out compulsion. I believe so simply because our discussion of the Bill during six days in Committee and, so far, two days on Report has shown that the information about it is so lacking, the costs so obscure in everything but their massive size, and the details as yet so far from being determined that, even if the scheme were to go ahead on a genuinely voluntary basis, then substantial change would inevitably be needed. That can properly be done only by the mechanism of primary legislation. We believe that Parliament is owed nothing less than that. I beg to move.
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