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Identity Documents Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:43 am on 29th June 2010.

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Shami Chakrabarti: For Liberty at least, it is an area of residual concern, so I am delighted that the Government appear to be moving in the direction of making clear that these will be immigration purpose-specific residence documents. They will not be known as identity cards for foreign nationals. The language is important. I know that Ms Hillier and some of her colleagues will say it is just language, but it is not. The language can lead to limited purposes. In our view it is and always has been perfectly acceptable as a matter of immigration control to have visas or residency documents required of foreign nationals as part of their leave to remain.

That the UK Borders Act 2007 and the European legislation that was implemented subsequently do not contain sufficient safeguards in respect of the database is incredibly important. We urge the Government to return to that matter. If that is not possible during examination of this Bill, we want them to put the database for foreign nationals on a clear statutory footing, to limit its purposes very tightly to immigration control, to limit the amount of information on the database and so on. A lot of that does not happen because such matters were not covered by the national identity register legislation and, as Ms Hillier rightly pointed out, various limits and assurances in that legislation do not currently apply to foreign nationals.

We urge the Government to pay closer attention to such matters. There could be less information on the database than there is currently. For example, when people leave the country, there is no reason why their biometric and other information should be retained indefinitely. It might be quite an important tightening-up exercise to ensure that it is not just an exercise in  citizen’s rights’ protection, but that it is about human rights and privacy protection for everyone.