Select Committee on Home Affairs Fourth Report


The international context

    1.  While we can understand why the Government has proposed a combined passport and identity card, we regret that no analysis has been published of the costs and benefits of a free-standing identity card. (Paragraph 20)

    2.  We consider in detail later in this report the concerns raised in the United Kingdom over the Government's proposals. The international experience clearly indicates that identity cards and population registers operate with public support and without significant problems in many liberal, democratic countries. In a number of these, the holding and even carrying of the card is compulsory and appears to be widely accepted. However, each country has its own social, political and legal culture and history: the nature of each identity scheme and population register reflects those unique elements. We cannot assume that any particular approach can be applied successfully in the UK. Nor can we yet draw on any significant international experience of the use of biometrics on the scale that is proposed in the UK. (Paragraph 38)

Concerns of principle

    3.  An identity card scheme of the sort and on the scale proposed by the Government would undoubtedly represent a significant change in the relationship between the state and the individual in this country. International experience does not suggest that objections of principle are overwhelming, although the development of a biometric-based scheme does introduce new elements that have not been tested elsewhere. We do not, however, believe that an identity card scheme should be rejected on constitutional grounds alone. (Paragraph 59)

    4.  The test should be whether the measures needed to install and operate an effective identity card system are proportionate to the benefits such a system would bring and to the problems to be tackled and whether such a scheme is the most effective means of doing so. (Paragraph 60)

Practical concerns

    5.  The proposed system is unprecedentedly large and complex. It will contain sensitive personal information on tens of millions of individuals. Any failure will significantly affect the functioning of public and private services and personal and national security. Measures to ensure the integrity of the design, implementation and operation of the system must be built in to every aspect of its development. As we will remark at a number of points throughout this report, the Government's lack of clarity about the scope and practical operation of the scheme, and the nature of the procurement process, does not give us confidence that this will be achieved. We will make recommendations for addressing this serious weakness later in the report. (Paragraph 64)

Benefits and weaknesses of the Government's scheme

    6.  It is reasonable for the Government to have refined the aims of its scheme after a consultation exercise and development of proposals for its implementation. It has now set out its reasons for introducing identity cards, in its most recent document, Legislation on Identity Cards: A Consultation, which accompanied the publication of the draft Bill. (Paragraph 70)

    7.  However, many elements of the design of an identity card scheme, from the national register, to the design of the card and to its operational use, depend greatly on the precise purpose for which it is designed. Although some core functions are consistent and clear, the changing aims of the scheme do not give total confidence that the Government has arrived at a complete set of clear and settled aims for the card. The Government has not yet clarified how it intends to deal with some elements of the original proposals for entitlement cards, such as which services should be linked to the card and whether there should be unique personal numbers across public services. We consider these issues further below, but it is clear that they are central to the functioning of the scheme. (Paragraph 71)

    8.  The draft Bill might have been expected to clarify the Government's aims but we do not believe it has done so. It is essential that the Government explain its intentions on issues raised in this report before the Bill is published. (Paragraph 72)

Illegal working and immigration abuse

    9.  Identity cards could make it easier for those seeking work to demonstrate their right to do so, and, by the same token, make it easier for the police to show that a company employing illegal labour had done so knowingly. (Paragraph 79)

    10.  We believe that identity cards can make a significant contribution to tackling illegal working. However this will need to be as part of wider enforcement measures, including action against culpable employers. We repeat our recommendations that the Government should target employers who deliberately break the law and that the Proceeds of Crime Act should also be used to seize profits made from the employment of illegal labour. We welcome the steps the Government has taken so far, but to be fully effective there must be properly resourced enforcement of existing regulations. (Paragraph 80)

    11.  The Government must clarify what action will be expected from the employer, including whether presentation of card by a job applicant is enough or whether an employer would have to check the biometrics or the authenticity of the card. If so, the Government needs to be clear how often this will be required and what access to biometric readers or the National Identity Register will be available to employers or other agencies. (Paragraph 81)

    12.  We are concerned that the three-month period for EU nationals, or those claiming to be such, might constitute a significant loophole: it is difficult to see what would stop someone moving from job to job on false papers. The Government must bring forward proposals to deal with this loophole, as well as making a substantial commitment to robust enforcement of laws against illegal working. (Paragraph 82)

    13.  It is also clear that the integrity of the UK system will be dependent on the integrity of the passport, asylum and visa regimes in other EU countries. In our visit to Germany we were told of a pilot scheme involving biometrics to prevent fraudulent asylum and visa applications. The Minister of State has set out the UK's involvement in similar schemes. As part of the development of the identity card scheme, the Government should report regularly to Parliament on progress being made across the EU to tackle any weaknesses in other EU countries, and, in particular, those countries currently judged to be the least secure. (Paragraph 83)

    14.  We conclude that identity cards, by reducing the "pull factor" from work, and public services, could make a contribution to preventing illegal immigration, but only if the scheme is properly enforced and complemented by action on access to public services. (Paragraph 84)

Organised crime and terrorism

    15.  We understand that the contribution to fighting terrorism would be the ability to disrupt the use of multiple identity, identity fraud and related activities like money-laundering, and illegal migration by terrorists and their networks. While, of course, not all terrorists make use of activities based on false identities, and some will have legitimate national or international identity documents, we believe that effective action on identity would be a real and important contribution to restricting the ease with which terrorists can operate. (Paragraph 94)

    16.  We note, however, the real benefits of an identity card in fighting serious crime and terrorism are only likely to be achieved with a compulsory scheme covering all citizens and residents. It will also be dependent on the effective use of the scheme to check identities, an issue we discuss in the next sections. (Paragraph 95)

Identity fraud

    17.  We believe there is a danger that in many day-to-day situations the presentation alone of an identity card will be assumed to prove the identity of the holder without the card itself or the biometrics being checked, thus making possession of a stolen or forged identity card an easier way to carry out identity fraud than is currently the case. The availability of readers of cards and biometrics, including to the private sector, is therefore a crucial factor. (Paragraph 99)

    18.  We think it would be likely that identity cards would help combat identity fraud, but only as part of a wider package of measures. The Government should be clearer both about how and when it expects the card and biometrics to be checked and about what levels of security are appropriate in different circumstances. (Paragraph 100)

Entitlement to public services

    19.  Identity cards would make it easier to establish entitlement to public services. But the Government should take action now to ensure that measures to check identity are developed across public services prior to the introduction of the new card. (Paragraph 107)

    20.  The Government should also review entitlements to public services across the board with the aim of rationalising and standardising them, since there does not appear to be a consistent set of principles underlining access to government services. (Paragraph 108)

    21.  The existence within the United Kingdom of up to four different systems for checking entitlement to public services will be a possible cause of confusion, particularly where cross-border services are provided. The UK Government should liaise closely with the devolved administrations on these issues, both to avoid confusion and to learn from the experiences of the devolved administrations' own entitlement cards. (Paragraph 112)

Easier access to public services

    22.  The Government's current proposals would improve access to public services to the extent to which this depends on identification. It is important to ensure that the convenience to the state of having a comprehensive system of identifying individuals and accessing data about them is accompanied by an increase in convenience to the individual. The benefits must not be entirely, or even predominantly, to the state. (Paragraph 118)

    23.  The Government has not developed coherent proposals for using the identity card in other ways to improve access to a wider range of services and information or to promote greater coherence across public services. As a result, citizens are still likely to be required to carry a wide range of cards and documents to use many local and national, public and private services. We believe that this is a missed opportunity. (Paragraph 119)

Key issues

    24.  We note that at the moment there is very little clarity about the level and nature of checks that will be required and carried out, even though this is fundamental to the whole scheme. We recommend that the Government should provide estimates of the proportion of checks that would be biometric and therefore highest security. (Paragraph 125)

    25.  It is not clear that Government departments have identified how the operation of their services, or entitlement to them, need to be changed to make best use of an identity card system. (Paragraph 126)

    26.  In most cases, identity cards will only be fully effective if complementary enforcement action can be taken. (Paragraph 127)

    27.  Finally, more could be done to check identities today and there is a danger that action will be delayed pending the introduction of an identity card. (Paragraph 128)

Public support

    28.  It may be that citizens will choose to use identity cards voluntarily on an extensive basis. However, until identity cards are compulsory there should be realistic alternatives to their use in every case. There should also be effective restrictions on inappropriate demands for them. (Paragraph 133)

The 'voluntary' stage

    29.  Given the Government's decision to base identity cards on passports and driving licences, we believe the incremental approach to introduction is justified. We set out our concerns about the implications of this choice in paragraphs 19-20 above. (Paragraph 138)

Vulnerable groups

    30.  The effect of the identity card scheme on minorities, such as the elderly, the socially excluded and ethnic groups, is of the utmost importance. The Government should ensure that the scheme imposes no new disadvantages on these groups, and do so before it is implemented. (Paragraph 141)

The National Identity Register

    31.  We do not ourselves have the expertise to make judgements on the technical issues involved in setting up a national identity card system, but we have been struck by witnesses' insistence on the importance of the Government getting the structure right from the beginning and sticking to its decisions. We are concerned that the Government's approach has not taken into account the need to ensure adequate technical debate and public scrutiny of the design of the system. (Paragraph 144)

Architecture of the database

    32.  The structure of the database, and how to set it up and manage it, are among the most important choices the Government has to make. We are greatly concerned that the Government's procurement process appears to be taking these key decisions without any external reference or technical assessment, or broader public debate. We recommend the Government publishes details of consultations with any external bodies and also any technical assessments that have been undertaken. (Paragraph 147)

Access to the database

    33.  A balance needs to be struck between, on the one hand, protecting individuals from unnecessary access by public and private bodies to information held on them and, on the other, ensuring that users of the database have the information they need for the scheme to fulfil its purposes. Above all, it is important that the public should know who may be able to see information about them, and what that information is. (Paragraph 151)

'Function creep'

    34.  Whatever the merits or otherwise of such developments [eg. the establishment of a national fingerprint register], their potential should be recognised. It is essential that they do not develop incrementally or by executive action but are subject to full Parliamentary scrutiny. These issues are at least as significant as the decision to make cards compulsory. (Paragraph 158)

    35.  In a similar way, identity cards are not planned to be a single card for all public services, but it clearly is possible, and perhaps desirable, for a successful identity card scheme to develop in this direction. But this should be a decision of Parliament, not of the executive. (Paragraph 159)

Information on the database

    36.  The functions of the Register entail establishing an individual's identity in a number of different circumstances. For some of these, such as interaction with local authorities, addresses may be necessary. There is therefore a case for including them in the National Identity Register. But to do so would have significant administrative and operational consequences, since the Register would need to be updated frequently; the extra work could lead to mistakes which would be disastrous if not properly handled. The Government should be more explicit about the case for including addresses and demonstrate that the advantages of doing so outweigh the problems that would be created. The Government should also clarify whether addresses would be only on the Register or whether they would be legible on the surface of the card itself. (Paragraph 163)

    37.  In many parts of Europe, including Sweden and Germany, where there is a requirement to register addresses, it is a legal requirement for landlords to register their tenants. We recommend that this be adopted if the Government decides to include addresses, since it would help alleviate the problem of frequent changes of address. (Paragraph 164)

    38.  The nature of the individual number and its relationship to other identifying numbers used by the state are more decisions that are crucial for the design and development of the system. The Government must be clear and open about the issues involved and enable informed parliamentary and public scrutiny of any decisions (Paragraph 167)


    39.  The security and reliability of biometrics are at the heart of the Government's case for their proposals. We note that no comparable system of this size has been introduced anywhere in the world. The system proposed would therefore be breaking new ground. It is essential that, before the system is given final approval, there should be exhaustive testing of the reliability and security of the biometrics chosen, and that the results of those tests should be made available to expert independent scrutiny, perhaps led by the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser. (Paragraph 175)

Medical information

    40.  We agree with the BMA: it would not be either useful or appropriate to keep medical details on the Register. But it would be sensible for the identity card to be the mechanism that enables individuals to access their NHS records. (Paragraph 176)

The Citizen Information Project and other Government databases

    41.  We doubt that the Citizen Information Project will provide "a strong and trusted legal basis for holding personal contact information" if the information on it has to be confirmed by another, separate identity card Register. There is a very large degree of overlap between the Citizen Information Project and the National Identity Register. The Registrar General mentioned the options of "comprehensive legislation to oversee information matching which in itself was conducted by individual agencies but which improves the quality of individual registers without actually going to the next step of creating a register" and of "common standards for register management in the British government": each of these would be more worthwhile than the Citizen Information Project as it is currently planned. (Paragraph 185)

    42.  We are concerned by the proliferation of large-scale databases and card systems, since we have seen little to suggest that they are being approached in a co-ordinated way. While we have not taken detailed evidence on current proposals, other than the Citizen Information Project, we have the impression that each government department is continuing with its own project in the hope that it is not going to be significantly affected by other projects. The format of registration on different databases should be coherent and consistent. (Paragraph 186)

    43.  We believe that the Government must tackle this proliferation of databases, examining in each case whether the number, identifier or database is needed, what its relationship is to other existing or planned databases, how data will be shared or verified and other relevant issues. For this action to be effective, it must be co-ordinated at the highest levels of the Civil Service. (Paragraph 187)

    44.  We do not think that there should be a central database with all information available to the Government on it. But an identity card should enable access to all Government databases, so that there would be no need for more than one government-issued card. (Paragraph 188)

Registration and enrolment

    45.  The integrity of the enrolment and registration processes are central to both the smooth running of the system and to its security. Without data of investigative or evidential quality, few of the objectives of the scheme can be achieved. Issues the Government must consider include: the number of mobile units to enrol the housebound, the elderly and those in remote locations; how sensitive the equipment is to the environment; the training of personnel; and the need to minimise opportunities for corruption and fraud. More study of these aspects is needed. (Paragraph 193)


    46.  The type of card to be used is a decision of the same order of importance as the architecture of the database, since it has consequences for issues such as how the card will be used and the number of readers and the infrastructure needed, both of which have significant implications for costs. Some choices, such as the nature of the chip, seem to follow a decision to use the passport as an identity card (and therefore follow ICAO) rather than any independent assessment of what would be most appropriate for an identity card. We are concerned that the Home Office appears to be taking these key decisions without any external reference, technical assessment or public debate. (Paragraph 197)

    47.  The Government's figures on how much cards would cost compare them to 10-year passports and driving licences. The Government has not, however, confirmed explicitly how long the validity of identity cards would be. It must do so before the Bill is published. (Paragraph 198)

Readers and infrastructure

    48.  We are deeply concerned that the Government has published so little information about the number, type, distribution and cost of card readers and the infrastructure necessary to support this. This information is not only essential to proper costing of the scheme, but also to an assessment of how effective the scheme will be.
    (Paragraph 201)

    49.  We are also concerned that the Home Office may be leaving it to other government departments, local government and the private sector to decide what level of investment to make in card readers and infrastructure. There is an obvious danger that each organisation will opt for a low level of security, relying on others to raise the level of security in the system as a whole. If this happens the value of the identity card system will be significantly undermined. We also expect the Home Office and other Departments to give at least broad estimates of the numbers of readers they expect to need of each type and what level of provision other organisations are expected to make. (Paragraph 202)

Multiple cards

    50.  We support the issue of multiple identity cards to an individual in cases where there is a legitimate need, and welcome the Home Office's expression of flexibility on this issue. (Paragraph 203)


    51.  We believe that an identity card system could be created to a sufficient level of security. We stress, however, that the security of the system depends as much on using the proper procedures with the appropriate level of scrutiny to verify the card in use as it does on the integrity of the card issuing process or the identity register. (Paragraph 207)


    52.  The Home Office have provided us with details of the assumptions on which their costings have been based, on a confidential basis. We are not convinced that the level of confidentiality applied is justified. Cost information is an essential element in determining the value for money of any project. It is of prime importance where expenditure is funded from the public purse and of particular relevance with regard to public sector IT projects which have a history of poor performance and cost-overruns. We are also concerned that the least robust cost estimates appear to relate to the assumptions with the greatest cost-sensitivity, such as the length of enrolment time, the anticipated number of applications requiring further investigation, the cost of card production and the criteria for subsidised cards. Changes to any one of these factors could cause significant increases to the cost of the programme. (Paragraph 212)

    53.  The failure to attach a Regulatory Impact Assessment to the draft Bill, or to provide any detailed information on estimated costs and benefits, significantly weakens the basis for pre-legislative scrutiny and the public consultation exercise. This secrecy is all the more regrettable since the case for an identity card system is founded on whether its benefits are proportionate to the problems it seeks to address: a proper cost-benefit analysis is an indispensable element of this. The excuse of commercial sensitivity should not be used to avoid publishing a full Regulatory Impact Assessment with the Bill. (Paragraph 213)


    54.  We welcome the Home Office's efforts to overcome their record on IT procurement. We do not believe that it is impossible for them to deliver the project on time, to specification and to cost. (Paragraph 215)

    55.  But we are concerned about the closed nature of the procurement process which allows little public or technical discussion of the design of the system or the costings involved. We do not believe that issues of commercial confidentiality justify this approach. Any potential gains from competing providers providing innovative design solutions are likely to be more than offset by the unanticipated problems that will arise from designs that have not been subject to technical and peer scrutiny. (Paragraph 216)

    56.  Nor do we believe that the Government's OGC Gateway process has yet demonstrated the robust track record on procurement projects that would allow it to be relied upon for a project of this scale. (Paragraph 217)

    57.  The Home Office must develop an open procurement policy, on the basis of system and card specifications that are publicly assessed and agreed. The Home Office should also seek to minimise risk, including, as appropriate, by breaking the procurement process down into manageable sections. We have already recommended that the Chief Scientific Officer be invited to oversee the development of the biometric elements of the scheme. We recommend that individuals or groups with similar expertise be invited to advise on the scrutiny of other aspects of the scheme. (Paragraph 218)


    58.  Identity cards should not be ruled out on grounds of principle alone: the question is whether they are proportionate to the aims they are intended to achieve. Identity cards could make a significant impact on a range of problems, and could benefit individuals through enabling easier use of a range of public services. This justifies, in principle, the introduction of the Government's scheme. But the Government's proposals are poorly thought out in key respects: in relation to the card itself, to procurement and to the relationship of the proposals to other aspects of government, including the provision of public services. These issues must be addressed if the proposals are to be taken forward. It is important that the Government clarifies the purposes of the scheme and makes them clear through legislation. (Paragraph 219)

The draft Bill

    59.  The draft Bill gives the Government powers to require and register a wide range of information not obviously needed to establish identity. It gives a wide range of organisations access to that information and to the audit record of when and by whom the National Identity Register has been accessed, so giving information on key actions of individuals. While the draft Bill undoubtedly enables these actions to be taken in the fight against serious crime or terrorism, it allows for far wider access to the database than this justifies. In particular, given the lack of clarity about the aims of the identity card, to leave so much to secondary legislation is unacceptable. (Paragraph 222)

    60.  It is unacceptable that basic questions about the degree of access to the National Identity Register should be left to secondary legislation. The Government must clarify what access will be given to public and private sector bodies, and under what circumstances. Once identity cards are compulsory, there is a significant danger that the concept of consent to disclosure of information will in practice be eroded, unless there are clear statutory safeguards against improper access to the Register. (Paragraph 224)

    61.  We note that whilst a range of data might be required to verify an application, it is not necessary for all that data to be retained on the National Identity Register. They could either be returned or, if necessary for audit purposes, held on a separate database. The Bill should be amended to restrict data held on the register to that information required to establish identity once the card has been issued. (Paragraph 229)

    62.  The one exception would be information about immigration status. This is so central to the justification for the Bill that it would be useful and convenient to hold this on the central register. (Paragraph 230)

    63.  The purposes of the draft Bill as set out in Clause 1 are very broad and the list of registrable facts is longer than those the Home Office has said are necessary to establish identity. Both the purposes of the Bill and the registrable facts should be strictly limited to establishing identity and immigration status, so as to ensure that the provisions of the Data Protection Act cover the operation of the scheme effectively. (Paragraph 231)

    64.  It is not yet possible to be more precise about the list of registrable facts, because the aims of the scheme, and hence the requirements for information to be registered, are not sufficiently clear. As the Bill proceeds, the Government must set out its justification better. (Paragraph 232)

    65.  Clause 1 should set out the aims of the scheme. A possible formulation might be: "to enable an individual to identify himself in order to gain access to public and private services or when required to identify himself for the purposes of law enforcement". Wording of this sort would establish a test against which the data to be stored and used could be tested. It would also guard against the type of function creep in which the state uses the register to identify individuals without amendment by Parliament. (Paragraph 233)

    66.  There should be explicit provision in the Bill that all access to the register must be recorded. (Paragraph 234)

    67.  We support the provisions in Clauses 2(4) and 8(4) that enable registration of failed asylum seekers and other similar cases, but recommend that the Home Office clarify the purposes of these Clauses in the Bill. (Paragraph 235)

    68.  Clause 3 provides an acceptable mechanism for amending the information required to be held on the Register, but only if the statutory purposes of the Bill are clarified as we recommend. (Paragraph 237)

    69.  It is practical to allow some flexibility over precisely which documents are required at registration and that these should be set out in secondary legislation. But the Bill should state that only those documents that are reasonably necessary to establish identity may be required. There should be a right of appeal to the National Identity Scheme Commissioner. (Paragraph 239)

    70.  The proposed penalties [for failing to register when required to do so and for failing to provide information] are reasonable given their purposes and existing penalties for similar offences. (Paragraph 244)

    71.  It is unlikely that if full Parliamentary procedures were followed the Government would, as it fears, be accused of "proceeding by stealth". The move to compulsion is a step of such importance that it should only be taken after the scrutiny afforded by primary legislation: the proposed "super-affirmative procedure" is not adequate. We would, however, support the inclusion in the Bill of powers to enable the Government both to set a target date for the introduction of compulsion and, if necessary, to require agencies and other bodies to prepare for that date.
    (Paragraph 248)

    72.  The Government should consider statutory provisions to ensure the integrity of the registration and enrolment system, as well as specific penalties for breaches of these provisions. (Paragraph 250)

    73.  It is reasonable to require individuals to report relevant changes in their circumstances, provided that the range of information they are required to update is not excessive and that they are able to check that the information held on them is accurate. We do not believe that there should be charges for updating information on the Register, since this would be likely to affect adversely the accuracy of the information held. (Paragraph 253)

    74.  We find it anomalous that failure to update a driving licence should be a criminal offence, especially when failure to update the National Identity Register will not, and we note that the Home Office does not know how many prosecutions there have been for failing to update a driving licence. This offence should be reviewed in the light of the proposed legislation on identity cards. (Paragraph 254)

    75.  Clause 11(1) could have significant implications for past and current employers, neighbours, landlords, family members and past spouses, all of whom might be required to assist in the identification of an individual. The Government should clarify the scope and limits of this clause on the face of the Bill. (Paragraph 255)

    76.  The practical application of Clauses 11 and 12 to socially excluded groups must be clarified as soon as possible. This should be done in such a way as to ensure that such groups are no further disadvantaged by the operation of the scheme. The Bill should contain legal duties on the Home Secretary to take into account special needs, such as health, in applying these clauses; and to establish a clear legal status in the primary legislation for those of no fixed abode. (Paragraph 256)

    77.  We agree with the CRE that the Bill should be accompanied by a full Race Impact Assessment and that there should be a further Assessment at the time of the move to compulsion. (Paragraph 257)

    78.  A reasonableness defence to the offences that might follow from Clause 13(1) should be included on the face of the Bill, rather than left to regulations. (Paragraph 258)

    79.  The Bill should contain an explicit reaffirmation of the right of individuals to see both the data held on them and the audit trail of who has accessed those data and on what occasions, subject only to the national security and crime exemptions of the Data Protection Act. (Paragraph 259)

    80.  It is reasonable that there should be the possibility of restricting releasable information in certain cases. We welcome the Home Office's readiness to consult on the issue. (Paragraph 260)

    81.  Earlier in this report, we referred to the different levels of security, from simple visual examination of the card to access to the National Identity Register, which the Home Office expects to be undertaken. Although it would not be possible to specify in detail all the circumstances in which different bodies might have access to the Register, we believe that the principle and tests of reasonableness should be placed on the face of the Bill. (Paragraph 261)

    82.  The Bill might also allow individuals to limit access to certain data under certain circumstances. For example, a citizen might choose that addresses could not be released to all those who access the Register. (Paragraph 262)

    83.  We welcome the provisions of Clause 19 prohibiting any requirement to produce an identity card before the move to compulsion. (Paragraph 264)

    84.  We are not opposed in principle to access to the database and to the audit trail without the consent of the individual concerned. But we are extremely concerned by the breadth of the provisions of Clauses 20 and 23 and particularly by Clause 20(2) which would allow nearly unfettered access to the security and intelligence agencies. At a minimum, disclosures without consent should be limited to cases of national security or the prevention or detection of serious crime. (Paragraph 269)

    85.  It is not acceptable to have as broad a Clause as 20(5) simply because the Government is unclear about its objectives. (Paragraph 272)

    86.  The Bill should have explicit data-sharing provisions to make clear the relationship between the National Identity Register and other official databases. Some of the proposed databases have no statutory basis—this is unacceptable and needs to be addressed in further legislation. (Paragraph 273)

    87.  It is reasonable for the scheme to be operated by an Executive Agency similar to the DVLA or UK Passport Service. But we reject the argument that since their operations are not overseen by a Commissioner, neither should those of an identity card agency. We believe that because the identity card scheme would directly affect the daily lives of millions of people, and routinely involve sensitive and often highly personal information, oversight of its operation is utterly different to that of the DVLA or UK Passport Service. The National Identity Scheme Commissioner should report directly to Parliament. He or she should have powers of oversight covering the operation of the entire scheme, including access by law enforcement agencies and the security and intelligence services. (Paragraph 276)

    88.  There are no provisions in Clause 27 to cover aiding and abetting the offences created, or conspiracy to commit them. It is possible that these can be dealt with through existing legislation, but we believe that it would be more sensible to cover them explicitly in the Bill. (Paragraph 277)

    89.  We welcome the Home Office's commitment to enabling complaints to be made about the operation of the scheme. The provisions to enable this must be effective, unbureaucratic and practical. (Paragraph 278)

Overall conclusions

    90.  We believe that an identity card scheme could make a significant contribution to achieving the aims set out for it by the Government, particularly tackling crime and terrorism. In principle, an identity card scheme could also play a useful role in improving the co-ordination of and the citizen's access to public services, although the Government has not yet put forward clear proposals to do so. We believe that the Government has made a convincing case for proceeding with the introduction of identity cards. (Paragraph 279)

    91.  However, the introduction of identity cards carries clear risks, both for individuals and for the successful implementation of the scheme. We are concerned by the lack of clarity and definition on key elements of the scheme and its future operation and by the lack of openness in the procurement process. The lack of clarity and openness increases the risks of the project substantially. This is not justified and must be addressed if the scheme is to enjoy public confidence and to work and achieve its aims in practice. (Paragraph 280)

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