The role of the independent Identity Commissioner, as set out in the Identity Cards Act 2006, is to oversee the areas of the National Identity Service (NIS) set out in the Act, helping ensure the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) meets its statutory commitments. The key areas of focus are:
the arrangements for securing the confidentiality and integrity of the information recorded on the National Identity Register;
the way IPS deals with complaints under the NIS;
the way identity cards are used.
The Identity Commissioner and his office are open to receiving queries and are keen to hear comments from the public which will feed into the commissioner's report. The commissioner will also ensure that his recommendations and concerns influence IPS's future policy and processes. It is not part of the commissioner's role to respond to individual queries or complaints as there is already an established IPS complaints process.
The Act does not give the Identity Commissioner the power to impose sanctions. If the Identity Commissioner finds a material breach of the Data Protection Act he will report it to the Information Commissioner, as well as the Home Office. The Information Commissioner's Office does have the power to issue sanctions. Section 23 of the Act does, however, provide for the Identity Commissioner to report annually to the Home Secretary about the carrying out of his functions. In addition, the Identity Commissioner can make a report at any other time, to the Secretary of State, on matters relating to the carrying out of his functions as he sees fit. The Home Secretary lays the reports he receives, from the Identity Commissioner under this section of the Act, before Parliament.
The Identity Commissioner's First Annual Report was laid before Parliament on 25 February 2010. This report covers the Identity Commissioner's findings from his first three months in office and his future plans for 2010.
The Identity and Passport Service have provided all the information requested by the Identity Commissioner since his appointment in October 2009, including providing copies of Office of the Government Commerce Gateway reviews.
In his first annual report, laid before this house on 25 February 2010, the Identity Commissioner provided details of the work he has undertaken since his appointment. He also sets out his plan of work for 2010.