Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
THURSDAY 11 DECEMBER 2003
Q120 Chairman: Fine. Of course, what
I have said may be complete rubbish and science fiction, or it
may be true. Will you be publishing, at any point between now
and, say, the publication of the Bill, your best estimate of what
the available technology will look like in 10 years' time? Because
we would all be confident that the scanning and reading information
will be a lot more portable and a lot more sophisticated in 10
years' time, which will change the operation of it. Are you going
to publish your projections of how the technology will change?
Nicola Roche: I am not sure we
would be able to do that in time for publication of the Draft
Bill. As you know, we have a pilot run through the UK Passport
Service testing out the different biometrics that is going to
run for a number of months yet, but I think we would clearly want
to evaluate that and certainly we would want that information
to be available to the Committee.
Q121 Chairman: And on that you are
satisfied that that is of sufficiently large number of people
and scope to flush out all the problems that could come out?
Nicola Roche: We are. We have
taken expert advice on the size of sample that we need and the
different technologies and yes, we are confident.
Q122 David Winnick: In any compulsory
scheme it will be necessary to register, will it not?
Nicola Roche: Yes, it will.
Q123 David Winnick: And those that
refuse because they are so much opposed to any such scheme, what
sanctions would be applied to them?
Nicola Roche: That will clearly
be for Parliament to decide through legislation.
Q124 David Winnick: Yes, but there
would be sanctions, would there not?
Nicola Roche: There would be some
penalties, yes. I think whether they are criminal or civil would
need to be worked through further when we get to the stage of
a decision on compulsion.
Q125 David Winnick: Could one reasonably
work on the basis that those who refuse are fined because of their
principled stand, as they see it, refuse to pay the fine that
would lead inevitably to imprisonment, would it not? If they persistently
refused to pay a fine, the court would have little alternative.
Nicola Roche: I do not think I
could comment on that specifically, but what we do expect is that
there would be widespread acceptance of the card over a number
of years and the onus is clearly on us to demonstrate the benefits
so that people do feel it is enhancing their liberties and protecting
their identity, rather than something that they actually want
to object to. So we would expect that over a number of years the
number of people who do object would be relatively small.
Q126 David Winnick: Yes, I was going
to ask you that. You are working on that basis, are you, that
if a compulsory scheme came into existence duly approved by Parliament
and the rest, the number of people that would simply say no, their
stand would be of that kind, would be so small, so insignificant,
that it would not really make much difference? Is that what you
are telling us?
Nicola Roche: I think there are
two things there; one, there is very, very large scale public
support for an identity card scheme, over 80%. I think the second
thing is in terms of a decision to move to compulsion, that is
one of the factors that the Government of the day and Parliament
would want to take into account in taking that decision and clearly
if it was not accepted by the public, if there was going to be
large scale civil disobedience, that would clearly inform the
Q127 David Winnick: It is a fact,
is it not, that the last time we had identity cards which continued
after the War, it was one person who took such a principled objection
that led to a court case which led, very shortly afterwards, to
the Government abolishing the scheme. On that basis, presumably
you would not under-estimate the determination, however small
a number, who take a principled stand?
Nicola Roche: Some people do take
a principled stand and in response to the consultation exercise
we did get responses from those who do object in principle, but
the overwhelming response from the public has been in favour.
Q128 David Winnick: So you are not
worried about the small minority?
Nicola Roche: We believe that
over a number of years the benefits of the scheme will be demonstrated
and people will see it as an enhancement rather than a threat.
Q129 Chairman: But what will you
do about Mr Winnick? That is what he wanted to know and that is
what the other Members of the Committee want to know.
Nicola Roche: I am not sure.
David Winnick: Chair, if it is between
Mr Winnick and others, it is that I obey the rule of law if Parliament
so decides. What I am asking, and Miss Roche has tried to answer
the question, of those who take a view that regardless of the
Parliament they will not be willing to accept a compulsory scheme.
Time will tell.
Q130 Mr Prosser: Mr Winnick has been
talking about those who will resist it and some of the difficulties,
but one of the attractions and one of the benefits for individuals
is consolidating all of our IDs and bits of paper into one bit
plastic. Can you give us just a feel of the mechanics of this?
For instance, if my passport expires in 2006, I would be attracted
perhaps to go onto an ID card, at that stage would it become an
all-singing, all-dancing biometric ID card with my licence as
well, because my licence otherwise would not expire until a long
time? And linked to that, at present we can elect to have a plastic
version of a driving licence, but I understand you still have
to carry around with you a big sheet of paper explaining all the
details to make it legal and functionable. I do not think we want
to see that.
Nicola Roche: In 2006 the ID card
scheme is very unlikely to have come into effect. We believe that
the first cards will be issued by the end of 2007-08. A passport
in 2006 will have a digital photograph biometric in. Thereafter,
if your driving licence came up for renewal, say in 2008, it would
be issued in the format of an ID card and in order to get that
you would need to pay a personal visit to one of the offices that
we had designated for the purpose and give a biometric and also
take some other documentation that would set out who you were
and prove your identity. We would then do rigorous back office
checks to absolutely establish that you were the person you were
claiming to be. Once we had done that, we would register you on
the central database, the National Identity Register, and then
a card would be sent to you in a secure way and we will need to
work out exactly how that happens. When your passport then came
up for renewal, you would not have to go again or pay again for
the biometric element. Your passport would be automatically issued
in an ID card style. You would get your booklet as it is now,
but you would also get a passport ID card that would be credit
card size, as the driving licence would be. In terms of the additional
documentation you would need with the driving licence, my understanding
is that we have to have that to comply with EU law and that we
would need to continue to do that. Is that correct, Stephen?
Stephen Harrison: Yes, I will
just slightly clarify it. The paper attachment to the plastic
driving licence lists the criminal convictions. It is a record
of endorsements and that is how historically we have used driving
licences in this country. So it is both a permit to drive, but
also records for police purposes so they can check if you are
very close to your limit on points, for example, if they stop
you. As driving licences develop, and I cannot say there are any
firm plans for this yet, but as driving licences develop so you
could record that information, for example, on a microchip, then
you do not need the requirement to carry the paper counterpart.
In some countries in Europe they do not bother about you not having
to carry a record of your driving convictions with you. They just
access a police database directly if they stop you. Was I right
in thinking you were asking about combining both documents or
one card is both the driving licence and the passport?
Q131 Mr Prosser: Yes.
Stephen Harrison: The Home Secretary
certainly said it is an aspiration. That is something he would
like to see. I think the problem with those current documents
is that at present they have to comply to different standards.
So one set of standards is set by the European Union, in the case
of the driving licence, there is a common format agreed. For the
passport card, the International Civil Aviation Organisation sets
standards in those areas. At the moment the two are incompatible
in terms of the physical layout of the card. They require information
to be displayed in different formats. But we would hope to pursue
arguments with those bodies over time to try to bring the standards
together, but I could not say that that is going to be a short
Q132 Janet Anderson: So you could
have a situation where you have a combined driving licence and
identity card which would record your driving offences but it
would not, for example, if you had an anti-social behaviour order
out against you, record that?
Stephen Harrison: Because the
document serves both purposes, it is both there to serve the purposes
of the driving licence, one option might be to record the driving
conviction information on the chip so it could only be securely
read by a police officer or some other authorised person, that
will be one option. But as I say, there is no firm decisions on
that. It could be that the information is simply retrieved online
from DVLA's databases, but it is because it has the specific function
of the driving licence that it records information on driving
endorsements and it is purely because of that purpose, rather
than having the principle of it recording wider criminal convictions.
Nicola Roche: But on the National
Identity Register only your personal identity information will
be held. The information about driving convictions would not be
and so if you had an anti-social behaviour order that would get
nowhere near the central register.
Q133 Mr Prosser: Do you not agree
that if we are to attract people into the scheme, then this work
is essential because, on the one hand, we will be saying perhaps
you might have to pay your £40 or £50 or more for the
privilege of having this identity card, but if they are then told
that they will also have a big sheet paper to cover their driving
licence function and a conventional passport to keep in their
wallet, a lot of the attraction slips away. Would you agree that
that is quite an important decision?
Stephen Harrison: I think yes
and the Home Secretary has sent us a very clear signal on that.
I think in terms of the passport example, it is a question of
border controls. If you want to travel anywhere in the world with
a passport, which is what the passport gives you, then in a lot
of countries they will rely on a physical stamp in the passport
to show your entry clearance. But in future it may well be that
information such as that could be stored electronically on a chip
on a passport card, but I think when you look at the universality
of the passport, the fact that you could travel anywhere to Third
World countries and so forth, it would be unrealistic to expect
them to have that sort of technology to record your entry clearance
Q134 David Winnick: Would it be right
to come to the conclusion that previous administrations and the
present one considered, at some stage, having identity cards and
dropped any such proposal?
Nicola Roche: The idea of an identity
card scheme has been considered many times since the wartime scheme
was abolished. I think it is only now, when we know that there
is going to be these developments in terms of making more secure
documents, passports and driving licences, and the technological
developments that mean we can keep identity secure and have a
much greater enhancement in the way that a scheme works, that
we felt that this is a real opportunity. And, as Katherine said,
we really are looking at leading edge technology that will make
this a scheme that will last for a number of years before we need
Q135 David Winnick: So really this
has come to fruition since the present Home Secretary has been
in his post?
Nicola Roche: It is work that
has been ongoing and clearly within Government it is kept under
review, but the work was commissioned, as we said, two years ago
by the current Home Secretary and the unit set up, yes.
Q136 Bob Russell: The commercial
confidentiality; I have been thinking about what you were saying
and I would like to go back to that. Is one aspect of the fact
that you cannot say too much today that the possibility of one
or more commercial concerns may be interested in sponsorship?
It is quite a captive market, is it not?
Stephen Harrison: In terms of
having logos on the face of the cards?
Q137 Bob Russell: Yes.
Stephen Harrison: I think again
we then come to the point of the standards for those existing
documents, that if you choose to deliver the majority of the scheme
through the driving licence or through the passport card option,
I believe those standards preclude that sort of commercial sponsorship
on the face of the card.
Q138 Bob Russell: The Labour Party
Conference delegates, I believe, they had their identity cards
sponsored by a supermarket. So what is the difference in principle?
Stephen Harrison: Because that
was just a card for that particular purpose, but a passport card
would have to be internationally recognised.
Q139 Janet Anderson: How will you
decide whether the technology is working? Will you set certain
tests against which you will measure whether it is being effective
Katherine Courtney: I think it
would be obvious if the technology were not working, but the testing
that we will be going through, not only now in the feasibility
analysis stage of this programme, but throughout the set up, and
then conducting very rigorous end to end testing of the whole
system which includes testing the business processes behind the
technology and not just the technology itself, will put us in
a position to be clear that it is working as designed, that it
is meeting the specifications before we go live with the system
and launch cards and make them available to the public. And then,
once it is live and operational, you would be conducting the same
performance measurement that you would on any major technological
system on an ongoing basis to ensure that it continued to perform
up to the required standards.