Select Committee on Home Affairs Fourth Report


39. On 3 July 2002 the Home Office published a consultation paper on Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud.[22] The paper stated that:

    "A universal entitlement card scheme would:

    (i) provide people who are lawfully resident in the UK with a means of confirming their identity to a high degree of assurance;

    (ii) establish for official purposes a person's identity so that there is one definitive record of an identity which all Government departments can use if they wish;

    (iii) help people gain entitlement to products and services provided by both the public and private sectors, particularly those who might find it difficult to so do at present;

    (iv) help public and private sector organisations to validate a person's identity, entitlement to products and services and eligibility to work in the UK." [23]

40. It continued: "The Government does not wish to consult on the introduction of a compulsory scheme, by which it means a card which everyone would have and be required to carry at all times."[24] But the paper also made clear that the preferred option was a "universal" entitlement card scheme, by which everyone in the country over a certain age was required to register with the scheme and to obtain a card, and a card would be the only way to access particular services (other than in an emergency or in cases where a card had been lost or stolen).

41. The preferred option of a universal entitlement card scheme was described by the paper as one under which:

    "(i) it would be a requirement that all lawful residents of the UK over a certain age register with a scheme and obtain a card;

    (ii) service providers would be free to decide whether or not to use the card scheme as the means to access their services;

    (iii) service providers who did choose to use the card scheme would make the scheme the exclusive way to access their services (with exceptions for emergencies such as lost or stolen cards);

    (iv) some services would rely on the database which administered the card scheme rather than require production of a card if that was a more efficient and convenient way to provide the service." [25]

42. Other issues raised in the consultation paper included:

  • whether there should be unique personal numbers;
  • what services should be linked to the card;
  • whether the card should also serve as a European travel document;
  • how to combat identity fraud;
  • what links there should be to the private sector;
  • whether biometric information should be included; and
  • what information should be included in a central register.

43. The paper focussed on the option of building on existing passport and driving licence systems. 13 million photocard driving licences had been issued in Great Britain, to EU-wide standards, since 1998 (in Northern Ireland since April 1999); the 25 million existing paper licences were being replaced by photocards when they were renewed, for example after a change of address. The UK Passport Service was examining the feasibility of issuing a travel card alongside the paper passport book; the card, which would have to comply with International Civil Aviation Organisation and EU standards, could be used for countries where there is no requirement for a visa or stamp on entry, such as the EEA. Those who did not hold either a driving licence or a passport, and did not wish to have either, could apply for a "non-driving licence/entitlement card".

44. On 11 November 2003, following the consultation exercise, the Home Secretary said that the Government had decided to begin the process of building a base for a national compulsory identity card scheme. The Home Office's paper Identity Cards: the Next Steps argued that the Government's proposals would help combat illegal immigration and illegal working, terrorism, money-laundering, people-trafficking and drug-related offences, identity fraud and fraudulent use of public services, such as health tourism.[26] It announced that a draft Bill would provide for further discussion. This was published on 26 April 2004, with explanatory notes on the clauses and a further consultation document.[27] This document set out the aims of the Bill as follows:

    "The Bill will:
  • establish a database—the National Identity Register, which will hold identity details of those people registered and issued with a card;
  • specify information that may be recorded in the Register (including the biometric data) and the safeguards to ensure this is only available to those with lawful authority;
  • provide data-sharing powers to conduct thorough background checks on applicants for identity cards so as to make sure that the details they have provided are correct;
  • establish powers to issue identity cards. This includes designating existing documents (which could include passport cards, residence permits for foreign nationals, and photocard driving licences) as part of the identity cards scheme. It also includes the power to issue 'plain' biometric identity cards;
  • enable Regulations to be made that will specify how an application for an identity card should be made and the information that must be produced to support an application;
  • set out the safeguards to protect an individual's data and define the exceptional circumstances in which specified agencies, such as security and intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies could have information disclosed from the Register without an individual's consent;
  • provide safeguards over "function creep" in terms of information that may be held on the card or the Register;
  • enable public and private sector organisations to verify a person's identity by checking a card against the National Identity Register, with the person's consent, to validate identity and residential status before providing services;
  • create new criminal offences around the misuse of identity cards and other identity fraud issues and provide a civil penalty for failure to notify changes affecting the accuracy of an individual's entry on the Register;
  • include enabling powers so that in the future Regulations can be made relating to the use of the card scheme; and
  • provide a power to set a date when the scheme would become compulsory with a requirement to register and be issued with a card and a civil penalty for failure to register.

    The Bill will provide enabling powers to establish the identity cards scheme. Many of the detailed arrangements for the card scheme will be determined as the identity cards programme proceeds and the systems for issuing identity cards are designed and procured. These detailed arrangements will be set out in regulations made using secondary legislation provided for in the draft Identity Cards Bill. This would include the exact format of applications and the levels of fees to be charged." [28]

45. The consultation paper also indicated the content of the National Identity Register:

    "The Schedule lists the categories of information that may be held on the Register, although not every item listed need be included when the Register is established. The Schedule includes the following information:-

    Personal information

    - a person's full name and other names which he or she currently or has previously used (e.g. a stage name or maiden name);

    - date and place of birth;

    - gender;

    - address, this will include the person's principal residence together with any other addresses at which they reside.

    Identifying information

    - a photograph;

    - fingerprints or other biometric information such as an iris image.

    Residential status

    - nationality (if a person holds dual nationality, such as British and Irish, it would be possible for both to be recorded);

    - for foreign nationals, immigration status.

    Personal reference numbers

    -  each person will have a "national identity registration number" together with other relevant reference numbers recorded (e.g. national insurance number or existing passport number).

    Record history

    - previous details (e.g. earlier names or addresses) will be held on the register.

    Registration history

    - details of previous identity cards or registration applications made by an individual will be retained on the register.

    Validation information

    - information about any background evidence or document checks carried out to confirm identity or to reconfirm it when re-registering.

    Security information

    - security information such as an individual's personal identification number (PIN) or a password or other information that enables a person to identify themselves remotely would be held on the Register.

    Access records

    - there would be an "audit log" held on the Register of each occasion when an individual's identity record has been checked." [29]

46. The likely types of identity card were also spelled out:

    "The "family" of compatible identification cards could include:-

    a passport identity card (valid for travel and issued to British citizens);

    a driving licence photocard;

    a residence permit card for foreign nationals;

    a special residence permit (or "registration certificate") card for European Economic Area (EEA) nationals;

    a "plain" identity card available for those who do not qualify for or do not wish to have one of the other cards." [30]

47. The consultation paper gave details of the parliamentary procedure to be followed before the move to compulsion:

    "The draft Bill provides for the second, compulsory, stage of the identity cards scheme at Clause 6 by establishing a power to make it a requirement to register. This power would enable a date to be set at which point it would become an obligation to register. However, this will only be brought into force at a later date once the initial stage of the identity cards scheme has been successfully completed and following a debate and Vote in both Houses of Parliament. Regulations made under this clause would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure but, in addition, the draft Bill provides at Clause 7 that the Government could not table these Regulations until it has published a full report that has been approved by both Houses of Parliament. The Government's report would set out its case for the move to compulsion and cover all relevant aspects of the proposal. This report would be laid before Parliament to allow for a period of consideration before both Houses were invited to debate and approve (with the possibility of amendment) the Government's proposition in the report." [31]

The Government estimated that the costs of identity cards would be £35 for a 10 year plain card, £77 for a passport card and £73 for a driving licence card. The Government argued that this was only £4 more than the costs that would have to be charged for improvements to the security of driving licences and passports, including through biometrics, which would anyway have to be introduced. Cards would be free to 16 year olds and would be cheaper for those on low incomes.[32]

Aims of the Scheme

48. The Home Office's written submission to our inquiry argued that the scheme would provide benefits in the areas of:

It should be noted that the Home Secretary did not argue that identity cards would by themselves resolve any of these issues, only that they would make a contribution to their solution.[34]

49. We examine in detail how the Government believes the scheme will achieve its stated aims in paragraphs 66-128.

22   Home Office, Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud, CM 5557, July 2002 Back

23   CM 5557, para 1 Back

24   CM 5557, para 2 Back

25   CM 5557, P4, p20 Back

26   Home Office, Identity Cards: The Next Steps, Cm 6020, November 2003 Back

27   Home Office, Legislation on Identity Cards: A Consultation, Cm 6178, April 2004 Back

28   Home Office, Legislation on Identity Cards: A Consultation, Cm 6178, April 2004, para 2.2, p 14 Back

29   Home Office, Legislation on Identity Cards: A Consultation, Cm 6178, April 2004, para 2.9, p 16 Back

30   Cm 6178, para 2.16, p 18 Back

31   Cm 6178, para 2.52, p 25 emphasis as in original Back

32   Home Office, Legislation on Identity Cards: A Consultation, Cm 6178, April 2004, paras 3.15-18, pp 34-5 Back

33   Ev 199 Back

34   Q 623 Back

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