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"(e) the acceptance or acknowledgment of the conduct of an individual as compliance by that individual with a requirement imposed on him by or under an enactment, or the receipt of any notification or information provided by an individual for the purpose of complying with such a requirement."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment is intended to respond to concerns about the precise drafting of the Bill that were raised at an earlier stage. I recall in particular that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, who is at the moment not in his seat, argued at Second Reading that the definition of public services was too wide. We have considered the matter and we are persuaded that the existing wording of paragraph (e)
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in Clause 43(2), the subsection that defines public services, is potentially wider than we had intended. The current wording in paragraph (e) is,
We accept that that definition could be interpreted more widely than we had intended and might be read as deeming someone to have complied with a legal requirement when he has not in fact done so. In these cases we need to be able to deal with where, for example, it would be a requirement for individuals to attend a public office to identify themselves. In such circumstances the service could be much wider than what might easily be regarded as a provisional service; for example, an offender who has to report to a police station as a condition of bail or as a condition imposed on certain sex offenders.
Once identity cards are introduced, and especially when, as we intend, they become compulsory, reporting in such circumstances would seem a clear instance of when an individual could expect to be asked to produce an ID card. The new form of words in Amendment No. 120 is longer, but it is more precise and less open-ended than the existing wording. The main point is that it is now sufficient for the purpose of ensuring that the definition of "public service" covers the circumstances where reporting conditions have been imposed. I beg to move.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is probably an extraordinarily simple amendment, but it has an ulterior motive that is absolutely clear. I want to try to get us back on the right track. Identity cards for some purposes are a good thing. If that were made clear, life might be a little bit easier. But the identity register, if it is not correctly understood and correctly produced to the nation, is a bad thing. If you mix good with bad, you get something indifferent. So my proposal is that this Bill, as I suggested on 15 November and other noble Lords suggested at various times during its passage, should not be known as the Identity Cards Bill, but simply as the Identity Register Bill. Whether that register will prove to be a good thing over time is another matter, but one of the difficulties that we have had during the passage of this Bill is in distinguishing between compulsory and voluntary. If we pursued the voluntary objective, we would find much more support than we do at the moment with the fear of a register. This fear is more international than national. Other countries are seen not to have the same obligations as us.
I therefore suggest to the Minister and her colleagues that if they simply change "cards" to "register" in the Title of the Bill, it would be more accurate. In order to be sure about this, I rang one of my old English dons and asked whether he would be kind enough to read it through. In my university days,
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we would often be asked to précis large texts, sometimes to not more than a quarter of their original length, and sometimes to only three words. This Bill would be better if it was known as the Identity Register Bill rather than the Identity Cards Bill. I beg to move.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I am an inadequate replacement for the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. Perhaps I may pay tribute to him at the end of this Report stage for his indefatigable work on the Bill. He has pursued the Government into all sorts of labyrinthine mechanisms during its passage, almost accepting its principle. I couple that with my admiration for the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the Ministers, the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for their work.
I am ultimately unconvinced by the basic principle of this Bill. This amendment echoes the one that I moved at the beginning of Committee which would have replaced the national identity register with a national surveillance register. That is what this Bill is all about. If one looks at the index to the various sections, one sees that few entries refer to the identity card as such, and that almost all of them are concerned with the register, access to it, the information that is stored on it and the information that comes out of it.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I was intrigued that my noble friend seemed able to find a new way of trying to alter the Title of a Bill as I was aware that one was unable, by ordinary amendments, to change the Title itself. The noble Lord has delivered an opportunity to the Government to accept that the purpose of the Bill is indeed a national identity register. He delivered his explanation with admirable brevity. He is seeking to make sure that the Bill does what it says on the tin: it is all about a register.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his kind invitation. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, although salutations of that sort do not normally come at this stage. But I welcome them gratefully from the noble Lord. The short answer to "the Identity Cards Bill" is that that is how the public generally see it. It is about identity cards. I hear, of course, what the noble Lord says, that the register is of importance. I do not disagree with him. But the primary importance remains as described on the tin: the Identity Cards Bill. Therefore, as inviting as his invitation is to dance, on this occasion I have to decline.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I am sorry, I am totally tone-deaf and I cannot really dance. But I did win the dancing prize for waltz at my prep school with Francis Woodhouse, who could only go backwards and I could only go forwards. Taking that as a guide, and listening to what has been said, I cannot agree with the noble Baroness that this is about identity cards that everybody wants. The Government have not presented
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things quite as clearly as they should and I would like to test the opinion of the House, even if there are only one or two people who want to vote for it. There is a point of principle here. If you believe that the description of something is wrong, you should point it out. The description of this Bill, as it is now, is wrong. I would therefore like to test the opinion of the House.
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