Skip to main content

Identity Scheme: Non-listed Residents

Volume 693: debated on Monday 25 June 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What is their estimate of the number of people resident for many years in the United Kingdom who are not listed in any official statistics; and what will be their status when identity cards are introduced.

My Lords, no Government can be expected to produce an accurate figure for the number of people who are not included in official statistics. However, once identity cards are introduced, details of everyone issued with an ID card will be held on a national identity register which will provide us with much better information on who is resident in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, I thank the Minister. I ask this Question because I met a Latin-American woman who has been living in this country for 27 years. She got a job on arrival here; the employer gave her a national insurance card and deducted tax from her pay. When the business folded—I do not know whether it was because they ran away or because it just went broke—and she attempted to reclaim the tax, she was told that nothing had ever been paid and her national insurance number was a fake. She has been living in fear in this country—and living invisibly—ever since. There must be many thousands of people similarly invisible. What are the human rights of these people, and what will happen if they apply for an ID card when the time comes?

My Lords, obviously each individual case throws up different answers but, in general terms, the noble Baroness’s acquaintance should apply to the Home Office Border and Immigration Agency to regularise her position and apply for indefinite leave to remain; that is, to settle in the United Kingdom entirely legally. The Immigration Rules allow for that. The noble Baroness may like to look at the useful website provided by the Border and Immigration Agency. It bears consideration and may enable her to assist her friend.

My Lords, it was a clear manifesto commitment and we have put legislation in place. Clearly, the public understand the benefits of identity cards.

My Lords, the cost report on ID cards produced by the Government last May indicated that the people taken into account were British or Irish citizens resident in this country. A large number of people are non-resident—people from other countries who have a legal right to settle here or who may be on indefinite leave to remain here. Have the Government quantified the number of those people involved and the costs relating to them?

My Lords, I am sure that we do make estimates of that sort, but such a group would be caught by the ID card implementation programme. If they have indefinite leave to remain here, they will benefit from an ID card which, in many respects, will be a passport to many of the services and benefits that they wish to enjoy while living in this country.

My Lords, the type of case raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, is not totally unknown to me. Does the Minister agree that one advantage of the introduction of identity cards is that it will be made more difficult, although not impossible, for employers to abuse individuals in that way, which is devastating for them?

My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend. The implementation of the ID card scheme will bring many benefits that we cannot currently foresee. That is why the Government are bringing it forward.

My Lords, what would be the position of the person given as an example by my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes if they were to apply for treatment under the National Health Service? Would they have to pay and, if so, is the National Health Service geared up to make proper demands for such payment?

My Lords, I am sure that there are rules governing people in that position. I do not have a precise answer for the noble Lord, but I will find one and communicate with him directly.

My Lords, we have heard from the Minister that one of the benefits of ID cards is that people in this country who are unknown to us will be found out. However, are the Government ready for the application of perhaps several hundred thousand of these people for leave to remain and identity cards? If they all apply, it will be in very large numbers.

My Lords, of course we are ready for that eventuality. It is part of our planning so that this programme is introduced in a sensible and phased way. That is why we have given ourselves a reasonable run-in period. First up, it will be for foreign nationals to register through the ID cards process. That will provide a lot of information to enable us to see how the process works best and to have a smooth implementation.

My Lords, will the Minister clarify his earlier comment that the ID card will be a passport to services? I understood that that had been categorically excluded from the legislation.

My Lords, the ID card scheme will enable us to prevent abuse of our system. In the same way, it will act as a passport so that people will know who is in front of them and whether or not they are entitled to a service.

My Lords, the Minister mentioned the “indefinite leave to remain” passport stamp, but all Australians renewing passports are being told that this stamp is no longer being issued. That contradicts his remark.

My Lords, I do not think that it does. I tried to explain to the noble Baroness that her acquaintance should seek indefinite leave to remain here to regularise her position. She will then be properly brought into the population, accounted for and issued with all the relevant documents. If she is fully entitled to services, that will be of immense benefit to her.

My Lords, has the Minister noticed that there is growing support for the Strangers into Citizens campaign? Have the Government formed a view on that?

My Lords, I am not aware that we have formed a view on it, but it seems to me that encouraging people to regularise their position if they have been long-term resident in the UK is a very sensible strategy.