The Committee has just agreed that clause 9 should stand part of the Bill. The effect of that decision is that if the Bill completes its journey into statute, the Secretary of State will have the power to issue civil penalty notices to individuals who do not comply with it. As I said, the reason for proposing a civil penalty regime rather than a criminal offence is to ensure a degree of consistency between the Bill and the system of sanctions established in the Identity Cards Act 2006 and approved by Parliament. We would run into serious difficulties once the ID cards of foreign nationals had been designated as ID cards if we had a civil regime for ID cards and a criminal regime for biometric immigration documents. Given that clause 9 will now stand part of the Bill and that the Committee is suggesting that the Secretary of State should be equipped with the power to issue civil penalty notices, it would be problematic if the Committee did not provide for individuals to be able to object to the Secretary of State’s handing out civil penalty notices.
Clause 10’s provisions are quite straightforward. They will ensure that once the civil penalty regime is up and running, it runs fairly. We want to ensure that disputes between foreign nationals and the Secretary of State can be resolved at minimal cost. The clause will not eliminate any right of appeal. It is designed to act in accordance with existing schemes provided for under the Identity Cards Act. The point that I want to underline is that the offence of non-compliance with the provisions in the Bill will not be a criminal offence but a civil offence.
We are suggesting a civil penalty regime because that is how we think compliance can best be secured. A system of criminal offences would be slower—justice would be less swift—and less effective. Having provided for a civil penalty regime, it would be a bit strange for the Committee, and indeed for the House, to remove protections that have long been available in this country and abroad to citizens who disagree with the penalties handed out by the Secretary of State. It is absolutely essential that individuals should be able to object to decisions made by the Secretary of State, backed by the right of appeal if they choose to take the matter to that territory. I commend the clause to the Committee, as it is an essential protection and a consequence of clause 9.