My Lords, Her Majesty’s Government are not aware of receiving any representations from public authorities on the case for introducing national identity cards.
My Lords, following the Brexit decision and its possible implications for national identity cards, have the Government not detected the mood change and change in public attitudes on their introduction, not only in the country but in the Commons, in this House and indeed on their own Benches? Why cannot we now sit down and have a sensible conversation with the Government on the way forward? We could start by supporting the application before the Liaison Committee for an ad hoc committee inquiry into ID cards to be set up in this Session of Parliament.
My Lords, I have not detected any more of an appetite for national identity cards since the Brexit discussions began. The Government will certainly have to think about identity post Brexit, but that will be the subject of discussions and negotiations.
My Lords, the Government’s position on ID cards is clear, and we support it. However, an even greater intrusion into privacy has been highlighted in today’s Guardian by the Surveillance Camera Commissioner, who said that:
“The problem is when new and advancing technology is brought together by well-meaning people that actually invades people’s privacy, or worse, leaves privacy at risk of theft or uploading on YouTube”.
He concludes that,
“regulators and the government were struggling to keep up with the pace of technological change”.
What are the Government doing about it?
One of the reasons why the Conservative Party opposed identity cards was because of the civil liberties issue which the noble Lord outlined. However, he is absolutely right to point out that the Government should also always be mindful of privacy versus the advances in technology that such information can give us.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that, since exit checks were cancelled about 20 years ago, we have not had the slightest idea who is on this island? Will the Government therefore look again at this issue and perhaps take up an idea first proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, that we could start with passports, which are already owned by 80% of the country’s population? There is surely a way forward here and we should take it.
My Lords, has my noble friend the Minister read the early evidence to the Economic Affairs Committee’s investigation into Brexit and the labour market? I do not want to prejudge the conclusions of that report but it makes for interesting reading, highlights the significant difficulties in both measuring and controlling migration, and provides some compelling reasons for revisiting the case for identity cards.
My Lords, I refer to my interests in the register. Given the decision that has been taken to leave the European Union, and the fact that a timetable is about to be established for that which sets an end date, can the noble Baroness tell us what assessment the Government are making of the need for better identity assurance—for example, for the citizens of Northern Ireland, those citizens who wish to use our health service, and, indeed, to tackle the employment issues that have just been raised by her noble friend? Those are urgent questions. What assessment are the Government making?
My Lords, I think the next Question has been called.