Clause 6

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 8th March 2007.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 3:45 pm, 8th March 2007

The amendments concern the procedure that we should use to scrutinise these matters. Amendment No. 21 would allow the regulations in clause 5 to be amended when they are presented before Parliament. Amendment No. 22 is similar, in that it seeks to include in the Bill the right to fair treatment within a person’s various convention rights. Amendment No. 95 also seeks to give Parliament more of a say in the process, by insisting that the designation of a senior officer for the purposes of cash seizure should be taken through Parliament by  affirmative resolution and with regard to any regulations relating to the disposal of property.

We think that this issue is important because the relevant powers are so important and the issues are so complex that it may well be that, with the best will in the world, there will be Members in all parts of the House who agree with some of the regulations that are introduced, but not with others.

Clearly, the biometric registration document has the potential to be extremely invasive in allowing extremely broad powers for the collation, retention and dissemination of personal information, and the regulations that the Minister will be introducing will force any non-EEA person to provide unlimited information for unlimited purposes. The regulations in clause 5(2)(d) could require any person to provide detailed information about their medical history and that information could then be used for purposes that have nothing to do with immigration, by virtue of clause 8(2). I assume that the Minister will argue that the point of the regulations is to clarify the scopeof that potential invasiveness, but the ability of Parliament to determine whether that scope is appropriate is limited.

The reason why we can discuss the amendments now is that clause 6 sets out the process by which the regulations will be made. They will be made by the positive resolution procedure, so they will be laid before and approved by both Houses. However, as we all know, that does not allow for variation; the regulations will either stand or fall. As I said, the regulations are likely to be long and detailed; they will certainly be important. I suspect that there will be many Members in all parts of the House who will feel that some of them are reasonable and others are not. The purpose of the amendments is simply to allow hon. Members in all parts of the House who are sufficiently interested and concerned about these important regulations to do something about them. We think that the way to do that is to make such wide-ranging regulations amendable. That would not be a particular innovation. The Identity Cards Act 2006 allows for such changes to be made and so do other Acts, including the Civil Contingencies Act 2004.

It is precisely because these regulations are likely to be lengthy and are certain to be important that I hope that the Minister will look sympathetically on the idea that, when the House comes to discuss them, they should be amendable. I commend the amendment to him.