Motion to Approve
Moved By Lord West of Spithead
That the draft order laid before the House on 6 May be approved.
Relevant Documents: 14th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 19th Report from the Merits Committee.
My Lords, these draft statutory instruments are being made under the Identity Cards Act 2006, which received Royal Assent in March 2006, and together will enable the Government to deliver on their 2005 election manifesto commitment to introduce identity cards.
We are discussing five draft statutory instruments, whereas we had laid before the House a package of six separate affirmative statutory instruments. However, as the Home Secretary announced in a Written Ministerial Statement on 30 June, the sixth order, the draft Identity Cards Act 2006 (Designation) Order 2009, has now been withdrawn. The explanatory memoranda published at the same time as each of the statutory instruments refer to this sixth order, and therefore those references should be ignored. The decision to withdraw the designation order was made so that obtaining an identity card will now be on an entirely voluntary basis—just as it is for passports for British citizens—including the identity cards that will be issued to airside workers at Manchester and London City airports later this year, and as they are issued in France where the vast majority of the population chooses to carry them.
This also means that the concerns of the aviation sector unions have been addressed. This was the key issue which was drawn to the House’s attention by the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee in its 19th and 20th reports on these statutory instruments. As usual, we are very grateful for these reports and have taken them fully into account.
Through a phased commencement of the provisions of the Identity Cards Act, we will start to issue voluntary identity cards to airside workers, but also to ordinary people resident in Greater Manchester, starting in the autumn, and with a subsequent extension to other parts of north-west England.
I will briefly run through the purpose of each statutory instrument. Initially, I shall explain the purposes of the draft Identity Cards Act 2006 (Information and Code of Practice on Penalties) Order. First, to confirm the identity of passport and identity card applicants, this order sets out the government departments and organisations which may be required to provide information in support of an identity card application or to verify information already held on the register. The prescribed organisations listed in the SI were engaged throughout the 12-week consultation process and are content to be included in the order.
Secondly, the order will enable the police to verify the identity of people where there has been a death or serious injury but there is no criminal investigation—for example, such as following a major natural disaster. It will allow information from an individual’s entry on the national identity register to be provided, without their consent, to the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and to the Security Industry Authority, as is currently the practice with passports.
Finally, it provides for the code of practice on civil penalties to come into force. A civil penalty regime will be in place to encourage individuals’ compliance with the requirement to notify changes, such as a change of name or address, that would affect the accuracy of the register, to surrender an identity card or to report a card lost or stolen. The code sets out when a civil penalty should be issued and how the amount of the penalty should be calculated. It explains the processes in an accessible format and is the one document for which we have a legal requirement to consult, although we have in fact carried out a 12-week public consultation on the entire package of secondary legislation.
The civil penalty scheme will not be punitive or revenue-raising. If there is good reason for failure to comply or if the requirements of the Act have been complied with, the usual procedure will be to waive any penalty. We do not expect to need to apply the civil penalty regime to any great extent. However, without it, there would be a serious gap in our ability to ensure that the register was up to date and reliable. The imposition of civil penalties would not lead to any sort of criminal procedure, so a person on whom a penalty was imposed would not receive a criminal record and there would be no possibility of imprisonment as a result. The maximum penalty allowed for in the Act is £1,000, which incidentally is the maximum fine for failure to update driving licence details with the DVLA. However, as the code of practice makes clear, the basic penalty level would be £125.
Secondly, I move on to the draft Identity Cards Act 2006 (Provision of Information without Consent) Regulations. The purpose of these regulations is to ensure that information from an individual’s entry on the national identity register can be provided to a limited number of government departments for defined functions, and to specify who can receive information on behalf of the prescribed individuals in the security and intelligence services, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the police and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. The Identity Cards Act does not allow information to be provided from the national identity register to any private sector organisations without the consent of the individual to whom the information relates. The regulations extend the list of government departments to which information may be provided without consent and set out the function. They are primarily based on our experience of providing information from passport records, and they establish a transparent and clear framework for data provision from the national identity register.
The Identity Cards Act 2006 (Fees) Regulations establish a fee of £30 for either a first or a replacement identity card. These regulations also establish a number of cases where the fee is waived. There is a waiver of the fee where the original card issued to an individual proved to have been faulty or damaged in the manufacturing or issuing process. In addition, we have agreed to waive the fee for airside workers at Manchester and London City airports for an initial 18-month evaluation period.
It is also important to note the matters for which we are not charging a fee. Any change that does not require a replacement identity card to be issued, such as a change of address, will be free of charge.
I turn now to the draft Identity Cards Act 2006 (Prescribed Information) Regulations 2009. These set out the information that will be printed on the face of the identity card and held electronically in an encrypted form on the chip. There is a statutory requirement in the Identity Cards Act for some information to be encrypted as a safeguard.
The regulations make provision for a national identity card that will be issued to British citizens and British subjects with a right of abode. As this card will include the holder’s nationality, it will be valid as a travel document within Europe. The second type of card, the identification card, will be issued to European economic area nationals, including Irish nationals, who are resident in the United Kingdom and it will not include nationality. As a result, it will not be a valid travel document. It can therefore also be issued to British citizens who are not entitled to be issued with a travel document—for example, people such as drug traffickers on whom the court has put a limitation or travel restriction.
As listed in these regulations, the information on both card variants will be very similar to that on the personal details page of the passport. The card will also incorporate a chip which will include the same information as recorded on the front of the card, along with two fingerprint images and a digitised image of the holder. Additional security features will also be included in the chip, such as cryptographic keys and certificates. These will provide protection for the information on the card, as well as prevent the fingerprints recorded being read by those unauthorised to do so. This is all in line with specifications for biometric travel documents recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. As was made clear as part of the public consultation, the holder’s address and national identity registration number will not appear on these cards.
The Identity Cards Act 2006 (Application and Issue of ID Card and Notification of Changes) Regulations 2009 outline how an individual can apply for an identity card and what information must accompany their application during the initial phase of the National Identity Service. The application form will be very similar to today’s passport. At a National Identity Service customer centre, applicants will be able to record their biometrics, have their photograph taken and register “shared secrets”. These act as a password that will allow them to report a lost or stolen card or a change of address over the telephone once they are registered.
The form will request some basic personal information about the applicant, such as name, address, address history, gender, nationality, date and place of birth, national insurance number, a contact telephone number and signature, as well as the name of a referee who has agreed to vouch for their identity, similar to the countersignatory for a passport, and information that confirms that they are entitled to a travel document.
When an applicant does not already hold a valid British passport, there will be some additional requirements to verify their nationality. These regulations also introduce a requirement to update key personal details on the register within three months of a change and to report a lost, stolen or damaged identity card within a month of the cardholder being aware that such an event has occurred. Where the change relates to a change of information recorded on the card itself, such as a change of name, the notification process is the same as that necessary to get a replacement card.
However, to report a lost or stolen card, or changes of information that do not relate to the information on the card, such as a change of address, the change can be made by calling a telephone service to be established by the Identity & Passport Service, during which the individual will be asked for their “shared secret”. Finally, these regulations also set the validity period of the identity card which again, in line with passports, will be 10 years.
I trust that this explanation has clarified the purpose of these five statutory instruments and I commend them to the House. I will of course be very happy now to deal with any points or questions that noble Lords might have.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing these five statutory instruments, which I shall deal with now. I have a Motion to Resolve for discussion later on.
This is a slightly unreal debate. The Minister said that these statutory instruments, which implement the arrangements for the provision of identity cards, were due to have come to this House several weeks ago, but were delayed on the appointment of the new Home Secretary for his reconsideration. I think we all hoped that he would reconsider them out of existence.
On 30 June, in a Written Statement, the result of his cogitations was announced. It was that only the intention to make airside workers have compulsory ID cards in addition to those already required by their employers was to be changed from compulsory to voluntary. It was evident that the concerns of the unions, which had been against compulsion, had weighed heavily on the Home Secretary and he had thus given in. Hence the departure of one of the six statutory instruments—the Identity Cards Act 2006 (Designation) Order 2009 from those we are considering today.
This has blown a hole in the Government’s strategy for ultimately having compulsory identity cards and has made it inevitable that they will now be issued to those who apply for them, apart from foreign nationals, and those who want them. That is a far cry from the original intention, and there must now be a serious question as to the level of take-up there will be.
The rationale for introducing identity cards for all citizens has had a slipping genesis. When first promoted in 2005 it was to prevent terrorism. Then when it became obvious that it most certainly would not do that, the script changed to one of helping prevent identity fraud and to help prove eligibility for social security purposes. It is now to enable citizens to travel in Europe without a passport and, as a Minister in the other place said, to provide us all with a secure and reliable means of proving our identity. So, we are some way from where we started. Why should we want to do that with a government-inspired ID card when there are many other ways that citizens can prove who they are.
The question is whether there is any justification to enter on another expensive government-inspired and controlled venture which will involve yet another national database with all the hazards that that involves—of the Government not having the finest record regarding their databases. We do not believe that there is such a justification.
My honourable friend Chris Grayling has written to all the contractors involved in, or bidding for, the work to implement this strategy, putting them on notice that if the Conservatives win power at the forthcoming general election, this entire scheme will be cancelled. It is clear that the savings on identity cards alone will be very significant. The detail in the five remaining statutory instruments raises many questions. Turning to them not in the order in which the Minister has dealt with them, just to make it easier for everybody, I refer first to the fees regulations 2009, which introduce a £30 fee for each identity card. Can the Minister explain, perhaps better than the Minister at the other end, how that sum was arrived at? Is it based on the baseless case of known cost of the number of cards that will be issued annually? If so, when might the scheme be expected to break even? Does the Minister agree that the estimated costs for identity cards have already risen by more than £160 million.
The current card production contract, which was entered into on the policy of a fast roll into compulsory cards has, according to the Minister responsible for borders and immigration has capacity to issue 250,000 cards annually. As this is now permanently a voluntary scheme, take-up simply cannot be known, but the fee will stay at £30 for the next two years. Will the Minister tell us whether it is likely that, as with passports, the costs will spiral thereafter?
I have a few further questions on this regulation. What is the contracted cost for the ID card scheme alone, as opposed to a joint one with biometric passports? Is it correct that any airside worker who decides to have an identity card will be issued with one free of charge, and to how many other categories of people will free cards apply? Is it intended to issue free cards for all the lucky over-75s, and young people? If so, when will the orders be laid to that effect, as the regulations on fees today do not do that? Why would the over-16s want another identity card to identify themselves when they can already access one to prove their age?
Moving on to the Identity Cards Act 2006 (Information and Code of Practice on Penalties) Order 2009, the first question that springs to mind concerns the list of specified persons from whom the Secretary of State can obtain information to verify information for an ID card or a request for inclusion on the register. Will he say what possible role a credit agency should have in that regard? Further, what reason is there for including details of the referee on the register? Presumably, such a referee is marked as for a passport—a magistrate or some other person of integrity or position. Once their bona fides have been established, why should their name be kept on the register? Why indeed, would they want to act as a referee if their details are held after verification?
There will now be a civil offence for failure to amend information such as an address, and a fine. Does that apply as much to the referee as to the applicant? What room is there for a civil offence in a voluntary scheme? The provisions in this order make it very clear that this process is not directed towards enabling individuals to identify themselves, but a move by the Government to hold a considerable amount of information on each individual who is misguided enough to opt to have an ID card. Such information can then, under the regulations, be passed to other bodies. Indeed, under the Identity Cards Act 2006 (Provision of Information without Consent) Regulations 2009, that information can be passed on without the individual’s consent. Can the Minister tell us why, under those circumstances, anyone would risk applying to hold a card—especially someone who had something to hide? What safeguards will be in place to prevent any information between agencies and government departments going AWOL or falling into the wrong hands?
The orders and provisions have not changed since they were printed, prior to their being withdrawn for further consideration. They are still couched in terms of a mandatory identity card scheme. Neither the words nor the provisions are appropriate to something that is now purely voluntary and should be for the benefit of the individual, rather than of the Government.
The two remaining orders—on the application for and issue of ID cards, and the notification of changes regulations and prescribed information—give details of the reams of information that will be required when applying for documents and the information that will be put on the card. The Minister said that some of that will be encrypted. Can he tell us which bits of information will be encrypted? That was not made clear in the other place.
Having read all the orders, the one thing that strikes one forcefully is that an ID card will be of no greater value than a biometric passport, which will indeed be of some value. In order to travel further than the borders of Europe, one will still have to have a biometric passport. In applying for an identity card, one is giving government departments and bodies carte blanche to hold and pass between them personal information about those who have cards. What is now being proposed is a complete pig-in-a-poke in comparison to where this all started.
I have not touched on the register, which will also have to be maintained, as I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has tabled an amendment to Motion which, I believe, will draw attention to the dangers of the register, so I will leave it to her to make the points about that, but I know that we will agree on them.
The scheme, if it ever had a purpose, has lost it now. The Government have, to all intents and purposes, given up with it, and the opposition parties are committed to seeing that any work on implementation will be curtailed once the Government are in opposition.
My observations were on the order. I shall move the Motion standing in my name later.
My Lords, we on these Benches have consistently opposed the introduction of the ID card scheme. We have never seen it as likely to be effective against terrorism. We have not seen it as solving any problems, but as raising some new ones, and as a very expensive thing to introduce when the money could be so much better spent.
Personally, I associate these Benches with the criticisms of the scheme made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham. Some of her specific questions are ones that I would also like to ask the Minister—especially about the position of referees. If they get the information wrong, what is the penalty on them?
The part of the scheme on which I want to concentrate my remarks this evening is what lies behind the ID cards, which are, after all, just bits of plastic—albeit with biometric information on them. What lies behind the ID cards is the national identity register. In that regard, I want to raise three points. First, is the scheme actually voluntary? Secondly, the Government tell us that the national identity register is not substantially different from the passport database, but I believe that it is. Thirdly, the Government claim that the national identity register will be useful. For what?
First, everyone who applies for any designated document must register personal details on the NIR database, according to Section 5(2) of the Identity Cards Act 2006, which mentions designated documents. The fact is, therefore, that for the purposes of everyday living, the database will be compulsory for anyone who wants a designated document. The first designated document will be a passport. Then, any official licence, registration certificate or permit can be designated. That includes many documents used in everyday life, such as driving licences. Can the Minister confirm which documents the Government intend to designate? If designation is widespread, the idea that the scheme will be voluntary is completely false. People will be unable to go about their lives as normal without registration on the database. That problem is increased by the fact that there is no mechanism for being removed from the NIR once you are on it. So it is not voluntary.
The Minister talked about fines. He said that the Government do not intend to be punitive, but it will be interesting to see how that operates when it comes in. If you forget to notify authorities of your change of address, a £1000 fine, which is at the maximum, sounds pretty punitive.
In the debate on identity cards in the other place last Monday, the Minister suggested that the NIR is not much different from the passport database, but it is clear that it is a completely different type of database in two ways. The first is in what is stored. At the moment, just a small amount of personal information is stored on the UK Passport Service database: name, age, date of birth, place of birth and nationality. Schedule 1 to the ID cards Act sets out 50 pieces of information—the Minister has listed some of them—that the NIR can hold on each citizen, in addition to fingerprints and facial scans, and current and past UK and overseas places of residence throughout the lives of anyone on it. Those are all included. The legislation on the register states that further information can be added. There is also the potential for links to other government databases. The amount that will be stored on the NIR is completely different from what is stored now. It would be helpful if the Minister agreed with me on that point.
The second difference concerns what it will be used for. The passport database is a passive or inert database. Its data are accessible to the police in very limited circumstances. It was never envisaged that should be shared between departments, and not accumulate over time. The NIR would be much more active, accessed by all sorts of public service deliverers. The Minister has given some details of how it would be accessed, but that access is recorded as an audit trail of the number and type of organisations who have accessed someone's record, which actually creates a profile of a person’s life. As Dr Palmer said in the other place:
“The original reason why the audit trail was to be included was to protect people and give them the reassurance that they could see which organisations had been looking at their data. If we are serious about that ... we should give the individual the power either to dispense with the audit trail or to edit it”.—[Official Report, Commons, 6/7/09; col. 788.].
Do the Government intend to respond to that suggestion, which came from their Benches?
Then there is the provision of information without consent of regulations. In the Coroners and Justice Bill, we have just thrown out—or the Government withdrew, after opposition in another place—the information-sharing clause. We feel that this provision brings back wide-ranging interdepartmental information-sharing in a new guise. In other words, the NIR can create a detailed profile of every citizen accessed by a range of agencies.
What is the register meant to do? According to the Home Office website, it will help to protect people from identity fraud and theft and to ensure that people are who they say they are. Those are big claims, but it is not clear whether either of them is achievable. The team at the LSE, including top privacy experts such as Simon Davies, investigated the Government’s claims about savings on identity fraud and found that they could not be backed up. Prominent technology experts such as Jerry Fishenden, the national technology officer at Microsoft, have warned for a long time that the scheme could trigger massive identity fraud. It may—we believe that it will—create far more problems than it will solve.
Finally, we return to cost. The Government say that the scheme will cost about £5 billion over the next 10 years. The LSE estimated that it would be more like £20 billion, but we feel that the real cost, besides all the money, will be to our privacy. The national ID scheme is not voluntary, and the database is the clearest indication of that. After the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, has moved her Motion, I will move mine.
My Lords, linking the identity card with the passport interview offices clearly shows that a network is being set up with the long-term aim of being used for ID purposes and building a national database. We know that every new passport applicant over 16 years of age will have a face-to-face interview. We know that until about 10 months ago—I am waiting for the Government’s updated figures—216,000 people had gone through the personal passport interview procedure. Not a single one was refused a passport. If you add that to the estimate of about 600,000 people a year who apply for passports, probably half a million people who applied for a passport had a face-to-face interview. It will be interesting to see exactly how many of these people have been accepted and whether any have been refused.
We know that the interviews were established for this network. In an Answer to a Written Question last December, the Minister in the other place said:
“we will build upon existing practice for interviewing first time adult passport applicants”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/12/08; col. 518W.]
Clearly the passport interview offices were part of the network to be set up to provide the necessary administration for identity cards. I think that 68 out of the 69 offices are already operational and that about 468 officers are in place. We also know that these interviews are going ahead day by day. If not one applicant has been refused, does that make the scheme a white elephant? If the scheme is not to proceed, does that mean that we have spent scores of millions of pounds on a scheme that is of no use whatever? Will the Minister enlighten us as to whether the passport interview scheme is to continue—as I said, the long-term aim was to provide procedures for the identity card—if identity cards are not going ahead? What has been the cost? Perhaps the Minister will be able to give me the updated figures on these 68 offices.
As part of the scheme, the 30 or 40 remote places that did not really justify a full-time, or even a part-time, office were to have video links. If biometrics such as fingerprints are to be collected, will the Minister say how you can process fingerprints by video link? Not only are ID cards ill thought out but the very structure on which they are to be based does not meet the demands of biometrics in any way. Will the Minister say how many of these remote video links have been established and are operational? The whole scheme is a condemnation of an ill-thought-out, half-baked white elephant.
My Lords, I have to admit that I have spoken more on identity cards in my time in your Lordships’ House than on any other subject except trying to save the shipbuilding industry from nationalisation. I will not inflict what I have said on the Minister, but I can send it to him; it is all in the Library. I have a very simple question for him. As someone who has had an identity crisis all his life, I have to ask myself—and I have been asked—“What is your name? Nomen nomini”. What is the Minister’s name, what is his full name, and what is his legal name? I doubt whether one is entitled to have a legal name in the United Kingdom, and in my identity crisis I have suffered from having a long name and having 25 numbers in my alphanumeric code on my passport. I thought the best thing that I could do would be to take a colour photograph of my passport. I was then told that that is not legal in this country, so someone else did it for me to prove who I was. If the Minister will answer my simple question, I will feel very happy.
My Lords, I agree with the powerful case made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Hanham and Lady Miller. If obtaining an identity card is to be entirely voluntary, and if the purposes of the card are in essence the same as the purposes of a passport, how can the Government begin to justify the cost that it will involve and the real risk of the contents of the database being accessed by unauthorised persons or by a disk being lost in transmission from one place to another? I entirely understand the case for a compulsory ID card system, although I disagree with it, but surely a voluntary ID card makes no more sense than a voluntary income tax or a voluntary sentence of imprisonment.
My Lords, I should be grateful if the Minister could help me out of a fog. I am sure that when he was in the Navy he got into intense fogs and managed to find his way out of them. I find the whole business of identity cards enormously complicated. As my noble friend Lady Hanham said, you can prove who you are quite easily in lots of different ways, including credit cards, driving licences and so forth. Therefore, why do we have to have another one? That seems to me to be a fairly fundamental thing.
I think that the Minister said that it will not be compulsory and that it will be voluntary. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. What is the point of that? About 20 years ago, I had the privilege of being an ornament in the Home Office. At that time a lot of people said that we should have voluntary identity cards. I said that I could not see any point in it being voluntary because all it would mean was that all the goodies would get the voluntary card and all the baddies would not bother. Therefore, from the point of view of catching the baddies, there would be no purpose.
The same applies with this: what is the point of it being voluntary? Why should people be obliged to buy something which will not be of much help to them, unless you come to a point where you say, “If you have not got an ID card, you cannot have a passport, a driving licence or whatever else”? But in that case it becomes compulsory. Will the Minister be good enough to explain whether it is voluntary or compulsory? If so, what is the reason for saying which it is?
I fear also that this will create more penalties. The Government—bless their heart—think that the best way to run the country now is to create more penalties for everything that you do. We really do not want to have a new identity card produced and have a range of penalties, including one whereby if you forget to say you have changed your house, you get done for £1,000 or whatever it is. In fact, I thought that it was £5,000, so I suppose we can be grateful for small mercies.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said that this is supposed to protect the individual. It rather looks as if it is giving more information to the Government, which is a major worry because they want more information on everything and we are rapidly becoming a police state. The Minister should heed this. It is not just a passing flippant remark. It is a fact that the Government want more information and if you do not provide it, you are a baddie and you will get caught for it.
My noble friend Lord Selsdon was interested in knowing the names of people. Perhaps I may offer the Minister this advice: again, when I was in the Home Office, we had problems over the new computerised passport. I said, “My name is Ferrers and therefore it must say Ferrers”. I was told, “No, no, the computer does not work that way. It has got to have Shirley written on it”. I said, “If I go to a place overseas and ask to cash a cheque and I am asked my name—Ferrers—and my card says Shirley, that will not marry up”. I was told, “But then it will say on the bottom, if you look at page 13A it will say that the proper name of the person is Earl Ferrers”. It took two years to get that sorted out, but I warn the Minister that he is opening a big elephant trap.
My Lords, I find the introduction of these orders is a sad occasion because they reveal once again the unreconstructed and, certainly, unenlightened, muddled thinking of the government machine on this issue. I will put it as simply as I possibly can in the hope that even at this late stage the Government might take on only what is really needed. I recognise that what I am going to say is not universally agreed.
Ever since I have been a Member of your Lordships' House, I have believed that it is necessary to have a national identity database, which should include biometrics. I have always been opposed to identity cards for all sorts of reasons, including, first, the fact that it is culturally unattractive for people to have to carry cards; secondly, they are pretty useless; and, thirdly, if they include biometric details they are dangerous because if the object of the card is to identify a particular person, you can be sure that any serious criminal or terrorist will ensure that the biometrics on the card coincide with his or her own biometrics. That is technologically possible and I would not accept the Government saying that it is not. On the other hand, if there is a central identity register database and it becomes necessary to discover whether someone is who they say they are, the biometrics of that person can be taken and they can be compared with the biometrics on the central national identity base. I therefore reject the need for any identity card.
However, we have—and have had for generations—a need for passports, which have, for international reasons, become more and more complicated. I say to the noble Lord and to the Government that any purpose for which an identity card under these orders is alleged to be necessary can be met by a passport. Let those people who have particular jobs, posts or accesses, and for whom it is necessary that the government machine should be able to ensure their identity, be issued with a passport—if necessary, as is proposed under this scheme, with a free passport. We would not then have a new national identity database. I agree with the noble Baroness from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench that if there is to be a national identity database it should be the same one as the national identity passport base; we do not need another one. It should be a national identity database, neither more nor less, and should not be used to store other information. If the Government were to focus their thinking in the direction that I have suggested, they could achieve both the needs of fighting crime and terrorism, and preventing fraud—which is a huge cost to the taxpayer that we can ill afford at the present time—without having an identity card. They would then save all the costs involved in that.
My Lords, I declare an interest as an unpaid adviser to the Enterprise Privacy Group, Privacy International and 80/20 Thinking. I have little to add to what has already been said but I invite the Minister to comment on three points. First, can he confirm that the ICAO standard requires no more than a digitised impression of a biometric fingerprint—that is to say, that the whole of the ID Cards Bill is a glorious piece of gold plating?
Secondly, can he comment on the way in which the grandiose ambitions of the source Act have been substantially scaled back? I have in mind, in particular, the complete abandonment of the principle of a clean database, which is very important to the reliability of the data that sit on it, and of the collection and recording of iris and facial biometrics. At the very least, this has to call into question the utility of the whole scheme which, to be fair, was decidedly suspect in the first instance for technological reasons.
Thirdly, would the noble Lord care to comment on why it is deliberately legislated to entrench inequity in fees? I cannot see why any individual would wish to apply for an ID card but, for those who do, why is it that airside workers at Manchester and London City airports, in these straitened financial times, are exempt from fees, whereas the rest of those in the pilot area are expected to pay £30? I look forward to the Minister’s answers.
My Lords, my remarks are not really directed at the Minister at the Dispatch Box but at the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This scheme is hugely unpopular, hugely expensive and will quite possibly be very short-lived. The Government are desperate to cap their expenditure. They are already spending money that they do not have. Should not this scheme be the first one to be axed?
My Lords, I thank noble Lords for the various important points they have raised and for the 47 questions that have been asked. I shall try my best to answer them.
I certainly will be getting an identity card. On my way back here in a car tonight, I started counting all the various documents that I have to have to say who I am. I thought about my last visit to a prison to see some prisoners and what I was asked for there; about my last visit to Buckingham Palace, where I was asked for all kinds of things, including a passport, a photo and God knows what; and about my last visit to an event at St Paul’s, where I was asked to prove my identity with a whole raft of different things. I thought to myself, “How jolly nice it will be to have one simple document to do this”.
The National Identity Service is a major undertaking which will eventually provide us with a secure and reliable means of proving our identity whenever we wish to do so. There will be significant benefits to individuals from holding an ID card. There will not be a plethora of different ways of having to prove who you are. As to whether this was introduced for the purposes of counterterrorism, I have been in government for only two years, but when I was asked about this in my first week, I said that its prime role was not as a counterterrorist measure but that it would stop people having lots of different identities. We know very well that al-Qaeda, for example, has at least 30 identities for their people. They will not be able to do this when biometrics are attached. It will be the most convenient, secure and, at £30, the most affordable way of asserting one’s identity in everyday life. They will be valid for travel throughout the European economic area instead of a British passport, just as our neighbours in Europe are able to use their identity cards to travel here. I am sure that those in this House who have gone through the various controls will have noticed lots of our colleagues in the European Union using their ID card to do exactly that—to go backwards and forwards.
The regulations are based on the current tried, tested and familiar arrangements for application for a passport under the royal prerogative. The process for applying the information on the identity card and the data-sharing arrangements match very closely those already in place for passports. I understand the concern that introducing these cards is a major step. It is a major step; however, we will be appointing someone to the new post of identity commissioner to reassure the public that the way in which the National Identity Service is operated not only is lawful but also meets the needs of the public.
My Lords, to ensure the safety and security of these data, as a number of noble Lords mentioned. We have said a number of times that in the past data have not been as well looked after as they should have been. Lots of data are needed to run life nowadays, I am afraid, and there is no doubt that we are better at looking after them than we have been over the past few years, and we need to get better. We cannot just ignore these data; we need them—
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord again, but he said that he is introducing the post of identity commissioner to make sure that everything works right. He cannot do it on his own, so presumably there will be a plethora of people underneath him, and that means more bureaucracy.
My Lords, there will be a mechanism to make sure that the database is run correctly. There will be an independent person to make sure that things are being done properly, which I think is appropriate. If we were not doing it, I imagine that I would be standing here and people would be saying, “Why the hell haven’t we got someone doing this?”, so it makes sense.
The debates on cost are very interesting. There is a lot of loose talk about how much money can be saved by not doing this. If anyone’s plans are made on the basis that the amount of money this is in theory costing will suddenly be available for spending to bail out some other issue, they are living in cloud-cuckoo-land. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, mentioned take-up. I say again that these cards are voluntary in France, where there is a huge take-up because of the value and ease of using them. There will be a large take-up here, I am sure.
My Lords, I have it in mind that the latest cost summary projected over the 10-year period from when it was issued is that 95 million ID cards would be issued. That projection is whatever that projection is, but it is something like half as much again of the population of the UK. Therefore, what faith can we have in costs if they are based on a scenario where one and a half times the population of the UK will end up being issued with ID cards?
My Lords, I do not recognise those statistics, just as I have not recognised a number of the other statistics. The cost of the service for a rolling 10-year period is reported to Parliament on a six-monthly basis. The latest estimated cost of the service for 10 years is £4.945 billion. That sum will be covered by the cost of the cards themselves over the 10-year period. The estimated cost of issuing identity cards to foreign nationals is £379 million in the same period.
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the Minister’s argument, but am I right in thinking that his response to the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, was that the Government have carried out absolutely no investigation into the extent to which a voluntary scheme might be taken up? In all events, if they have, he is not aware of it.
My Lords, I am not aware of a specific poll having been done, but our assessment is that 60 per cent of the population have said that they support the introduction of identity cards and I am sure that that is the sort of number that we are looking at. However, there has not been a specific, Gallup-type poll on that statistic.
I go back to costs, where there is a lot of loose talk about people saving huge amounts of money. The setting-up costs so far are £245 million. That would be lost if we decided not to go ahead with the scheme. We will not make some vast saving. If people have worked on the basis that this is going to bail out something in budgetary terms, they have a rude awakening coming to them.
The debate has often overlooked the corresponding benefits of the service to the wider economy. They have not been addressed at all. The impact assessment, which was published with this legislation, forecast a current best estimate of net economic benefits of £6 billion arising from the National Identity Service. This was discussed in relation to the Merits Committee reports, in which the figures were slightly larger, but I think that £6 billion is more accurate over a 30-year period. That is to say nothing of the non-monetised benefits, such as better assurance of the identities of those working in sensitive positions, enhancing immigration control and contributing to wider public security.
Governments are often accused of being short-sighted and short-termist, but with the national identity scheme we are building a better and more secure identity scheme that will have real benefits for individuals, for society as a whole and for the United Kingdom economy. In short, these statutory instruments are supported by some useful benefits when one looks at how they can be utilised in the long term, particularly in the way in which we are improving how government runs. There should be no doubt that this is a significant undertaking and a long-term investment, but it is one that is worth making. Any suggestion that we should cut the plans for identity cards would save very little but would waste much investment that we have already made and the benefits that we expect in the longer term.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, asked whether the purpose of identity cards has changed. The Identity Cards Act sets out the statutory purposes of identity cards as being,
“the provision of a convenient method for such individuals to prove registrable facts about themselves … and … the provision of a secure and reliable method for registrable facts about such individuals to be ascertained or verified wherever that is necessary in the public interest”.
These were the statutory purposes of the scheme established in 2006 and I believe that they remain the same today.
The noble Baroness asked when identity cards will break even. That clearly depends on the take-up. A lot of the cost relates to the central database, which will be required for passports anyway. Going down the other route will not be a large saving. She also asked why we need an ID card when other forms of identification are available. There is no uniform standard for proving ID. It is remarkable how many documents one has and can carry. Having something simple and straightforward such as this will be very attractive to people and I believe that they will like having it, because they want it.
My Lords, would the Minister agree that we have a sort of continental drift in this ID card system? We are now justifying it on the basis that it will be really convenient and all the rest of it, but that is not where we started. The Minister may say that that was where he started, but in 2005 the whole rationale for identity cards was that they would prevent terrorism. We are a long way from there.
My Lords, the noble Baroness refers to a period before I was here, but I said very shortly after my appearance in this House that that was not the major driver of the scheme. I believe, however, that being able to prove one’s identity is extremely valuable—I think in terms of the cybersecurity strategy and the risks to people’s identity through that medium. It is another area where people like to be able to prove their identity straightforwardly and easily.
The noble Baroness asked what safeguards are in place to protect the data. The data-holding organisation must be approved by Parliament or by a Secretary of State. Without the consent regulations set out, there are a number of safeguards. Additional obligations such as security requirements will be set out in an MoU or the contract and the scheme will be overseen by an independent commissioner.
The noble Baroness said that the provisions were not suitable for a voluntary scheme. The provisions for applying for a voluntary identity card are based on, and will be very similar to, the existing procedures for applying for a passport.
On encryption, the information to be encrypted is outlined in Regulation 5 of the prescribed information regulations. It is the information held on the face of the card—name, date of birth, gender, nationality where that is recorded on the card, facial image, expiry date and ID card number. In addition, two images of fingerprints will be recorded on the chip. The proposals align with the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, to which I think one speaker referred.
The noble Baroness asked why the details of referees have to be held. As now with passport applications, it is right that we hold information on referees in case we find that there has been a false or bogus application. Furthermore, fingerprints are not required from the referee—I think that the noble Baroness mentioned that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, referred to the passive nature of the passport database. Provision of information between departments will be no different from what occurs for passport records, to support public protection and service delivery. The passport database also, quite naturally, holds information on when someone changes their name or other details on their passport.
The noble Baroness also asked why we need such wide-ranging data-sharing powers. They are no more wide-ranging than existing powers for passports and there is no doubt that, in areas such as prevention and detection of crime or helping to combat illegal immigration, it is in the public interest to share information held on the national identity register.
The noble Baroness asked what information the register will hold. The information that can be held on the register is defined by category of registrable facts, defined in Section 1 of the Act. For example, there is core biographical information—I have mentioned already name, address, place and date of birth, gender et cetera—unique biometric records such as fingerprints, photographs and signature, administrative data, which will be a record of past core biographic details listed when you registered, and a record of your application. Most of the 50 items of data referred to by the noble Baroness are administrative and not personal.
The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, asked about passport interviews. The whole purpose of the interview for a first-time passport is to deter bogus or multiple applications for passports. In many other countries in the world, a personal interview is expected before a passport is issued. We believe it to be a safer and more secure method than relying on postal applications. The fact that few bogus applications have been picked up does not necessarily mean that the system is not working; it means that people are wary when they are making those applications. The noble Lord also asked why we should have the interviews at all. No one has been denied a passport because the interviews are pointless; they are a part of the process. As I said, the fact that no one has been arrested does not prove that they are not having an impact in deterring people from fraud.
The noble Earl, Lord Northesk, talked about the figure of 95 million ID cards. There are 96.7 million passports and identity cards; many may opt for both. I am talking about issues of those places such as France and Germany where they are used. The numbers also need to account for replacement cards, lost cards and changes of name. That is the sort of number of applications that is going through.
As for the remote video links, the video interview service started this year and will still be in place to conduct interviews to help to verify identify for passports. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, asked what documents would be designated; no document can be designated without the approval of both Houses of Parliament. The Government are considering designating passports and immigration documents, but not in the immediate future.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, asked when we were bringing forward regulations about the over-75s. We are looking at options that could allow those aged over 75 to receive ID cards free of charge, but that will not form part of the initial few months of the rollout. However, it is being looked at and in due course a further set of fees regulations may be laid before the House to submit proposals for parliamentary approval.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, touched on why the individual does not have the power to edit his audit trail. There is a statutory requirement to record any instance when information from an individual has been recorded on the register, which will be provided only to prescribed government departments or those named in the Act for the prevention and detection of serious crime. The power to edit a record may undermine those law enforcement efforts.
I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, is supporting the ship-building industry. He asked what a legal name was. For the purposes of identity assurance, it is important that each person has a name used for official purposes; an individual can choose that name but the national identity register will lock that name to a set of biometrics, including fingerprints. That means that a person cannot have multiple identities or assume the identity of another person. The point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, about being able to change biometrics. We believe that it is impossible to change the biometrics on the card. We would know that it had been done, but even if it was not detected and the person who had the card had a false identity, he would certainly have no other identity or we would know that he was trying to have one.
The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, also talked about a name on a card. I can reassure him that there will be a space on the reverse of the identity card for titles or any other name legitimately used by the holder.
My Lords, the Minister says that the name will be on the reverse of the identity card. In other words, on the front of the card will be the person’s family name but not the name by which he is known. I think that the Minister will run into a lot of trouble over that. The right name must be put on the front.
My Lords, I shall get back to the noble Earl on that issue. I shall investigate the Shirley issue in a little more detail to find out exactly what the position is.
The noble Earl, Lord Northesk, asked why we were giving ID cards free to airside workers but not to the general public. The identity cards for airside workers will be issued at no cost for the first 18 months, while we evaluate the cards at Manchester and London City airports. We believe that there are valuable benefits to be gained by issuing the cards; as I have said, they will provide a single, consistent means of proving identity. We believe that waiving the fee will enable us to evaluate the benefits that the cards bring. These process improvements will also benefit the rest of the aviation industry.
My Lords, as I understand it, that is correct. If I am wrong on that, I will get back to the noble Earl in writing.
I have quite a large number of other answers here. I think that maybe the best thing would be for me to look at these with the Box and write individually to those involved. Time is marching on and we might slip well beyond the first watch.
My Lords, will the Minister kindly answer my fundamental point? If we have a perfectly good voluntary system of passports, which has its own database that is being developed to be more efficient and effective with biometrics and so on, why do we also need a voluntary system of identity cards with a new database? It is a very simple question.
My Lords, these are cheaper and handier to carry. My youngsters have now grown up, but when they were in their mid-teens I would much rather that they had had an identity card each. They can easily tell someone that they have lost them by phoning through. We cannot yet do that with passports; maybe in the future we will be able to. I think that there is a huge utility to them. I will have no difficulty in having one. It will be jolly useful and I look forward to having it in my wallet. I think that there will be an awful lot of people who will want to do that and will find them extremely useful.
Perhaps I may write to individuals. I believe that these five draft statutory instruments are essential for the introduction of the card. I believe that having the card is a good thing, that it will be very useful for people and that in time we will look back on this and think, “My goodness, why was there all this fuss?”. Research has shown a consistent level of public support for this—60 per cent. I therefore commend these statutory instruments to your Lordships’ House and I trust that the explanation that I have given has reassured the noble Baroness opposite.