House of COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
Thursday 11 December 2003
NICOLA ROCHE, KATHERINE COURTNEY and STEPHEN HARRISON
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Thursday 11 December 2003
Mr John Denham, in the Chair
Mr James Clappison
Mr Gwyn Prosser
Mr Marsha Singh
Witnesses: NICOLA ROCHE, Director, Children, Families, Entitlement Cards & Coroners, KATHERINE COURTNEY, Director, Identity Cards Programme and STEPHEN HARRISON, Head, Identity Card Policy Unit, Home Office, examined.
Q1 Chairman: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for coming. Ms Roche, would you like to introduce yourself and your fellow witnesses before we get into the questions?
Nicola Roche: Thank you, good afternoon. I am Nicola Roche and I am Director with responsibility for ID cards policy. On my right is Katherine Courtney, who is the Director responsible for delivering the programme of ID cards. On my left is Stephen Harrison, Head of Unit on ID cards policy.
Q2 Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. This, as you know, is the first evidence session we have had in our new inquiry into identity cards, so thank you very much indeed for coming. We are sharply aware that, as a Committee, whilst previous Select Committees have had a chance to look at the principle of ID cards, we are the first Committee that has had the chance to look in detail at a specific Government proposal. So I hope that, in the course of this afternoon and also in future evidence sessions, we will not only look at the arguments of principle, but at the particular details of the particular solution the Government has come forward with. Before I ask the first questions, perhaps it would be helpful for Members if you could let us know how long both the Identity Card Policy Unit and the Identity Card Programme has been in place.
Nicola Roche: The Identity Card Policy Team has been in place for about two years and did the work on the consultation document that was published in July 2002 and has then been taking forward the consultation exercise. We have then been doing a lot of analysis of the responses and working that through with Government colleagues and from about June/July onwards we have gone into an intense phase of planning the programme and brought in people from both inside and outside Government to put the programme team in place. We are working very closely together. There is no separate programme team or policy team. We are very much integrated.
Q3 Chairman: So the Policy Unit for a couple of years and the Programme Team since the summer of this year?
Nicola Roche: About six months.
Q4 Chairman: Okay, thank you. Could we start by looking at how exactly the Government expects a universal identity card system to help tackle some particular problems? Could we start with the issue of illegal immigration and illegal working? How exactly do you anticipate an identity card system is going to help the Government and other agencies tackle those problems?
Nicola Roche: Traditionally, as an island, the UK has relied very much on our external borders for our immigration control, but these days we have some 90 million people a year coming through our ports and there is a huge global movement of people. So what that means is that we really have to look at all the controls and the decision that Ministers have taken is that we need to move much more to internal controls and an ID card scheme would be integral to that. In terms of how it might work, we would build on passports and driving licences as they were renewed. We would also make available ...
Q5 Chairman: If I can just stop you there. I do not want to cut you short because we will come on to the details of the scheme, but on the assumption that at the moment people are carrying an ID card. How exactly do you expect that, in itself, to help tackle the problem of illegal migration?
Nicola Roche: When we move to the compulsory phase, everybody who is legally here in the country would have a card. So those that were here illegally would very quickly be identified and clearly enforcement action would need to follow. For those who did not have a card, life would be very uncomfortable in that phase because what the Government has said that they would want to do is make access to free public services accessed through an identity card. So if you did not have one, life would become very difficult. We would also expect that a range of private sector services would also use the card.
Q6 Chairman: So in relation to illegal migration, it would be essential to go to the second stage of having a compulsory identity card before the identity card was of great use in tackling illegal migration? Is that right?
Nicola Roche: Our analysis shows that about 80% of the economically active population would be issued with an identity card through passports, driving licences, people who wanted a voluntary card or the issue of cards to 16 year olds. That would happen from about five years after the start of the scheme, at the end of 2007/2008. As the card is being rolled out, the benefits would accrue on roughly the same phase. So maximum benefits would be derived from when the scheme was fully compulsory, but that is not to say that there would not be benefits before a compulsory phase. There certainly would be. We would expect employers would want to use the card to satisfy themselves that people did have an eligibility to work in this country and that could start from as soon as the card became involved. Ministers have said that they would want the card to be mandatory for foreign and EU nationals coming to the UK from the outset of the scheme.
Q7 Chairman: Let us be quite clear about this; under the voluntary scheme 80% of the adult population have got a card, 20% of the adult population do not and an unknown other group of people have not got a card either because they are not here illegally. When they go to, for example, use the National Health Service, how would the existence of any identity card for 80% of the population help distinguish between the 20% of people who are perfectly entitled to use the NHS and the illegal immigrants who are not? Both of those groups lack an identity card, how does it help in those circumstances?
Nicola Roche: In the voluntary phase, the situation would be as now, which is that it is for each Primary Care Trust to decide on the eligibility of people for services, but the onus is on the individual to prove that they have that entitlement. So if you are here legally and you have a card, it would clearly be a very effective way of proving that you have an entitlement to NHS treatment, for example. So how would it work in day to day? We would expect that illegal migrants would find life increasingly difficult, but only in the compulsory phase would it really bite severely.
Q8 Chairman: So effectively the illegal migrant and the 20% of the population who do not have an identity card, both of those groups of people would have to go through some sort of enhanced test of whether they are entitled, for example, to the NHS?
Nicola Roche: That is certainly the plan for the second phase, for the compulsory phase.
Q9 Chairman: No, but even in the voluntary phase. I am trying to see why in the voluntary phase the identity card helps sort out the illegal migrants who are not entitled to the NHS and whether you could do that without having a high hurdle for everybody who does not have an identity card to prove their entitlement.
Nicola Roche: At the moment, in a range of situations, you are being asked to prove your identity. That applies for the public services as well as private sector services. What we are asked to produce at the moment are a whole range of different documents and you have to carry a range of different documents to do that. As an identity card becomes widely recognised and used, we expect that that will become the gold standard for proving your identity and for using services. So that is why we would see it as enhancing the checks that people do at the moment. But until we move to compulsory phase, the card itself would not be the absolute key to those services. It would be a very helpful way for services to confirm identity absolutely.
Q10 Chairman: What plans do you have to change the legislation, either for illegal working or for access to public services, to make it clearer how somebody establishes their entitlement? As you say, at the moment there is not, as I understand it, a well defined proof of entitlement to the NHS. That is left to different parts of the NHS. Do you, as part of this strategy, have plans to change the laws on entitlement so that it is much clearer what a public service needs to see before they can agree that somebody who does not have an ID card is entitled to use the service?
Nicola Roche: What will happen is that it will be for each public service to decide exactly how they are going to use the card in specific circumstances and, in checking the card, you will be able to do it to a certain number of different levels. So a quick visual check of the card through to a full online biometric check which will be able to explain in more detail if you would like. The Draft Bill, which is for introduction in this parliamentary session, will set out the range of services that could use the card and, broadly, we would expect in the Draft Bill the circumstances in which it could be used. Clearly, that would be for consultation and, of course, the Committee would be looking at that as well.
Q11 Chairman: What is the logic in saying that the requirement of proof of identity might be different for the NHS, to schools, to the benefit system? You said different public services would choose how to use the card, surely all the logic is in favour of having a single level of test for all public services so that everyone knows where they stand?
Nicola Roche: It certainly is and in terms of having done the work with all Government Departments over the last few months, it is quite clear that there are a number of different thresholds in eligibility criteria for public services. I think we all have an aspiration to make that as streamlined as possible. So we will want to work together to make sure that there is a clear message for the public on how the card is going to be used and in what circumstances it would need to be used as well. In terms of the detail of that, we are still working that through.
Q12 Chairman: Okay. Moving on to illegal working and still looking at the phase where an identity card might be voluntary, so only 80% coverage, we have had evidence in an earlier inquiry, including from the Minister, when we have been talking about illegal working, how difficult it is, effectively, to prosecute employers for having illegal workers because of the difficulty of establishing proof of whether somebody is entitled to work for them or not and not kind of hold them liable for checks that they have reasonably made. That situation will not change, will it, if there is simply a voluntary card?
Nicola Roche: No, but we would expect the card to become more widely used or asked for by employers as it becomes recognised as a gold standard of confirming identity. The card would also have details about immigration status and therefore being able to assess whether somebody had an eligibility to work here. We can give more detail about how that would work if that would be helpful.
Q13 Chairman: I think that would be useful because I would particularly like to know whether in the voluntary phase, which is all the Government is committed to so far, the law will be changed in any way to say that an employer who employs somebody, despite the fact that they do not have an identity card, would perhaps be more liable if they turn out to have employed an illegal immigrant?
Nicola Roche: Clearly the details of what will be in the Bill are still being worked through, but the intention would be that, as now under the Immigration Act Section 8, an employer has to satisfy themselves that somebody has an eligibility to work. Whether an identity card gives them a much stronger base on which to take that decision, that would be used in evidence in any case that was brought. So if they did not check the card then clearly "Why not? You were able to do this, you could have more established it".
Q14 Chairman: Have you made an assessment of how onerous life is going to become for the 20% of the population who choose not to have an identity card but nonetheless find an identity card demanded in all sorts of circumstances? Or is that part of the strategy?
Nicola Roche: It is not a deliberate part of the strategy, but I think that if you ask most members of the public, and these days you are asked to produce ID in a range of circumstances through from cash back to taking a video out to making financial transactions, and for the most excluded in society or those who do not travel or do not drive, they are finding it increasingly difficult to do that. We have had letters from many members of the public saying that often they are having to get a passport, even though they have no intention of travelling. The full cost of the passport, plus the cost of a photograph, £20 or so for a counter-signature - why not get a real robust identity card scheme that enables people to have a Government confirmed proof of identity? The big advantage of the scheme would be that the price we would be charging for passports and driving licences with the biometric ID element would allow us to cross-subsidise the low incomed who would find it difficult to pay the full cost.
Q15 Chairman: Right, but you are basically accepting that when we are in a world of voluntary identity cards the difficulties faced by those who do not have them are such that demand for them is likely to go up?
Nicola Roche: The demand will increase in any case, as we are finding now anyway. This will enable people to get a card, a voluntary card, if they do not want a passport or a driving licence. But yes, life is increasingly difficult without ID and the question of ID theft is very great and this will actually protect people better.
Q16 Chairman: Okay. Just to pursue one last issue about the purpose and crime. The Government have said that the ID cards will help to combat crime in a number of different ways. Again, looking at the non-compulsory stage, can you give the Committee a couple of specific examples of where crimes are currently being committed that it would be easier to tackle with a voluntary identity card scheme?
Nicola Roche: Yes, I think the first example would be ID theft which is a major component of ID fraud, which are two slightly different things. ID fraud is costing the UK economy about 1.3 billion a year and it is an increasing problem. So having a secure Government confirmed ID, by using the biometric with the National Identity Register, will stop that happening. I think the second example would be the use of multiple identities for money laundering. We estimate that about 390 million a year of money laundered is through the use of multiple identities. So we do anticipate the ID card would bite on that.
Q17 Chairman: Even though it would not be compulsory?
Nicola Roche: What we would expect is that as the card is rolled out, so in the first phase, the private sector would increasingly want to see an ID card. Already they are asking for passports or driving licences, so an ID card would be used, we would expect, in those circumstances.
Q18 Chairman: So effectively, although the card is not compulsory in this stage by Government policy, it will more or less become a requirement for many people to have one if they want to carry out normal financial transactions like buying a house or having other deals with an insurance company or financial services company or whatever?
Nicola Roche: It is, but those would be decisions for the individual companies. It would not be imposed by Government, but it would be building on what they are doing already and making those sorts of transactions much more secure.
Q19 Chairman: But it would be fair to say that in the Government's perspective those pressures to have a card will build up both from the public and the private sector, even though there is no requirement to carry one?
Nicola Roche: We would certainly expect that.
Q20 David Winnick: Just a couple of questions. Miss Roche, would it be right, arising from what you have told the Committee so far, that the desirability is for a compulsory card?
Nicola Roche: To reap the absolute benefits of this scheme, yes. A compulsory scheme in which everybody legally resident in this country had a card and were required to use it for a range of services is when we get maximum benefit. That is why the Government has decided to move towards building a base for a national compulsory ID card scheme.
Q21 David Winnick: Would it also be right to say that the political masters (and you will understand the distinction), but the Home Office and speaking of the Home Office and the Home Secretary and the rest, the wish would be to get to a compulsory scheme as quickly as possible and the reason that there is a voluntary stage beforehand is because of the political problems involved?
Nicola Roche: I could not comment on the political problems, as you have called them. What the Government has said and has set out in the Next Steps document that was published on 11 November is the steps that we are going to take to get to a position where we would need to do a full rigorous evaluation of are we ready to move to a compulsory scheme. There will be a range of factors that the Government of the day would want to take into account which, at this stage, we have set out as being looking at the costs and the risks, looking at whether there was a public acceptability of the card to be used as a compulsory card, how widespread the take up of the card had been, for example.
Q22 David Winnick: But from the Home Office point of view, the present policy, would I therefore be correct in saying what would be desirable, and to bring it about as quickly as possible if Parliament approves, is a compulsory scheme and one which every individual resident in the United Kingdom would have to carry that card with him or her?
Nicola Roche: I do not think that there is any distinction between the Home Office and Government. The announcement the Home Secretary made on 11 November was Government .
Q23 David Winnick:Well, call it Government policy. Call it whatever you like.
Nicola Roche: Certainly the decision is to move incrementally on building a base towards a compulsory scheme with the decision then. There is absolutely no question of people at any point being required to carry the card as a matter of compulsion. It is not going to be compulsory to carry a card and that has been ruled out very clearly.
Q24 David Winnick: So if we have a compulsory scheme, you are saying the policy at this stage is it is not going to be compulsory to actually carry it?
Nicola Roche: That is correct.
Q25 David Winnick: To which the inevitable question is; what is the purpose of having a compulsory card, and you are saying it is going to be necessary for it to be checked, whatever services you require in the public services you have to produce the card because you say that is a desirable wish, and yet it will not be compulsory to carry it? Does that make any sense or logic or you at all?
Nicola Roche: As now, you are required to carry documentation when you want to open a bank account or you want to get money out of the building society or do a range of things. You have to decide, when you are going to make that transaction, "I need to take documentation with me", but we are not saying that you have to carry the card at all times and you can be stopped in the street by the police and they can demand a card and if you have not got one you are going to be penalised. There is no question of that.
Q26 David Winnick: There is no question of that at this stage in the Home Office policy towards a compulsory card?
Nicola Roche: There is no question of that in Government policy.
Q27 David Winnick: At this moment of time, yes.
Nicola Roche: And there is no expectation. Government has said in the compulsory phase that would be ruled out, but in terms of carrying the card at all times and accessing services, even if you did not have your card with you and, for some reason, somebody needed to check you were who you were, for example in terms of a money transaction you had forgotten your card or if it had been stolen, the check of your biometric against the National Identity Register can take place without a card.
Q28 David Winnick: You have a compulsory scheme, a policeman stops a person, will there not be an inbuilt suspicion if the person has not got the card with him? If it is a female and she responds by saying "I do not carry the card", will there not be an inbuilt suspicion by not having a card which, as you say yourself, the desire of the Home Office is to have a compulsory card?
Nicola Roche: The desire of the Home Office is to have a compulsory scheme. Certainly as now, if the police stop you for speeding, they can ask to see your driving licence, but there is no an expectation that you will always have it with you. We would expect exactly the same situation, the same culture. Ministers have been very clear, right from the outset, that they do not want a compulsory to carry scheme. For that very reason we do not want to move to a "Big Brother State" where you are having to produce a card at all times.
Q29 Mr Singh: Which public services do you envisage the ID scheme covering? Is there a phased plan for that? Is it all or is it some?
Stephen Harrison: The Home Secretary alluded to two services in his statement on 11 November, so we would certainly see a use of the card in the context of administering social security benefits and perhaps also in helping to check eligibility for free NHS care. Those were the two that the Home Secretary mentioned. I think in principle what the Home Secretary would like is a framework in which the card could be used in a wide range of circumstances by a wide range of public services, but in terms of when particular services might be ready to come on to the scheme, I think it is partly an assessment for Parliament if it is necessary to pass particular enabling regulations. There is also whether that service is just technically ready in terms of whether they have the infrastructure in order to make those particular checks.
Q30 Mr Singh: So you do not know when the public services will be expected to come on line to demand ID cards?
Stephen Harrison: I think it will be an incremental process, just as it is an incremental process to roll the card out to the population as a whole. I think it is also an incremental process for particular services to start using it.
Q31 Mr Singh: You do envisage a time when, if I am unfortunately on the dole and I want to claim it, I would have to produce my ID card to claim my dole cheque?
Stephen Harrison: I would think in terms of establishing your initial eligibility for the service, that you are who you say you are, when first making a claim or registering for a claim, that seems to be a sensible point at which to make an identity check. There is existing legislation, I believe, in the Social Security Fraud Act which lists particular types of identity documents that officials may ask for. In terms of a day to day transaction or a week to week transaction in claiming a particular benefit, there may not be sufficient reason to require a card to be produced on all those occasions, but I think at the initial key points where one is registering for a service that seems to be where the card would have most value.
Q32 Mr Singh: Now, I have a concern in terms of the linkage between illegal immigration as a driver for compulsory cards and I will tell you why; because when you then link that into public services, are you not then forcing those public services into racist practices because if it is linked to illegal immigration, is it not likely that the social security office or the nurse or the doctor are more likely to ask a non-white person for an ID card than a white person?
Stephen Harrison: I think that we must make clear in the rules that would apply to those particular services that requests for identity information are done in a non-discriminatory way. We have had discussions with the Commission for Racial Equality and other interested organisations on precisely this subject and in bringing forward the Draft Bill, we will do a race equality impact assessment. I think there is a positive message in terms of making it easier for people to show that they are entitled to various services, that they pay their taxes and that they are here legally, just as perhaps people might regard the white population as. So I think there is an enabling element as well. And also, generally, in terms of the benefits that legal economic migration brings to the country, in order to sustain those levels and perhaps even encourage them further, I think that it is important that we command confidence generally within the immigration system that we can actually administer more legal routes for managing immigration.
Q33 Mr Singh: But do you accept that there is a danger of increasing racism? For example, we know, at the moment, that black young men driving cars are more likely to be stopped than other groups of people. Would an ID card scheme, especially in the voluntary phase, be likely if those young black men are not carrying ID cards that the police will put extra pressure on them or will harass them further or take them in for questioning?
Stephen Harrison: Well, we would hope not and we are working, firstly, with the police as well during the consultation exercise. I think it is an education process and about making sure that if there is a request to produce a card it is done appropriately. As Nicky said, there will not be a power for the police to demand that the card is produced. I think we have got time, in terms of how the scheme rolls out, to make sure that people are properly educated, both in terms of the circumstances when they should ask for a card, but also your reaction as an individual citizen is you are asked to produce the card so that you understand your rights properly in all circumstances.
Nicola Roche: If I could just add, the Commission for Racial Equality have come out and said that they support this scheme and, just to emphasise what Stephen said, we want to work very closely with the Commission in working through the detail of this so that it is not discriminatory. We are absolutely committed to making the scheme work by enhancing equality.
Q34 Mr Singh: Nicola Roche, you said "until the compulsory phase". Now, that is the first time in connection with the ID card that I have heard the term "compulsory phase" or indeed "until the compulsory phase". Have you already got a timetable mapped out from voluntary to compulsory?
Nicola Roche: The timetable is that we would expect the first cards to be issued around the end of 2007, early 2008 and looking at the expected roll out, the expected issuing of passports and driving licences and the number of 16 year olds during that period, we think we could cover 80% of the economically active population by about five years after that. When the Government of the day decides it is time to look at it and make it compulsory, we do not know, but we would not really expect it to be much before that, I think would be our working assumption. But clearly that is an issue for Ministers at the time.
Q35 Mr Singh: But you have already made your plans for that phase?
Nicola Roche: Well, the announcement was about building a base to move towards a compulsory phase, so in terms of our working assumptions, yes, we have got some dates pencilled in, but that is moveable and it is a decision for Ministers in the Government of the day.
Q36 Mr Singh: Just to change tack slightly, would you explain what an Office of Government Commerce Gateway Review Process is and has it started in terms of the ID scheme?
Katherine Courtney: The Office of Government Commerce is an office of the Treasury and was set up really to provide best practice on procurement and programme management of major Government initiatives. The principle mechanism that they use for that is a Gateway Review Process. Gateway Reviews are independent reviews that are carried out by a team of experts at certain fixed key decision points over the lifetime of the programme. There are six Gateway Reviews. They are numbered from Gateway 0 to Gateway 5, that is just the numbering scheme they decided to use. This programme has arranged for its initial Gateway Review, ie Gateway 0, which is really looking at the strategic rationale behind the programme, in late January of 2004. There have been two prior reviews by the Office of Government Commerce of the programme and this is following on from those.
Q37 Mr Singh: In terms of draft legislation, have you a date when you expect to publish draft legislation and when you intend to introduce it?
Nicola Roche: As announced in the Queen's Speech, the plan is that draft legislation will come forward in this parliamentary session and we would hope that it is in the first part of the New Year.
Q38 Chairman: Can I just go back on the question of access to public services? At the moment staff in the Benefits Agency or Job Centre Plus or whatever are used to establishing people's identity. So this is simply what they do at the moment. At the moment, headteachers and general practitioners generally are not required, in practice, to establish the identity of parents presenting children at school or people trying to sign up with GPs. Is it an inevitable consequence of the ID card system that every GP and every headteacher will have to become responsible for being a gatekeeper into those public services and for checking a system in a way in which they do not at the moment? Is that true and have you really looked at what sort of cultural and management changes will be needed in public services to bring that about?
Nicola Roche: In respect of schools, I do not think there is any expectation that there will be checking of ID to enable a child to start school. Children under the age of 16 will not have an ID card but, of course, their parents or carers would.
Q39 Chairman: So if you have a family here who are here illegally, their children do not have ID cards, so there would be no question of checking their children's entitlement to education? They would get free education even though their parents were not here legally and the children were not here legally?
Nicola Roche: There is no expectation that the card would be used to check children starting at school and we have talked that through with the DFES and clearly it is a policy lead for them in respect of schools, in respect of asylum seeking families.
Q40 Chairman: Perhaps we will ask the DFES, but if the aim of the system is to prevent people who are not entitled to expensive public services getting access to public services, it seems a bit odd that that would not apply to schools.
Nicola Roche: Well, in terms of the parents being here illegally, there will be other ways of highlighting their presence here through other services. We have not worked through in terms of what it would mean about children at school, but clearly it is a matter for the DFES.
Q41 Chairman: But unless the parents were picked up in some other way, the DFES have no objection to children getting free education in this country, even though they and their parents have no right to be here?
Nicola Roche: That is clearly a matter for the DFES, but this is about the adult population, this is not about children. In respect of GP surgeries and GPs checking, there would not be an expectation that every time you went to a GP you had to produce your ID. It would be about when you first registered, for example. What we would want to do is work through both Primary Care Trusts and with GP surgeries. Clearly this is the Department of Health in the lead on this, with the Home Office in support, making sure that what we have is something that was easy to operate, actually facilitating the work that they are doing already. The Department of Health announcement in terms of health tourism earlier in the year did highlight that there is great misuse of the services that are free for people who have an eligibility but are being misused by people who claim to have an eligibility who do not. So this is about enhancing what is going on already.
Q42 Chairman: But some parts of the Health Service, when people register with the GP, would require the use of the ID card to establish their entitlement?
Nicola Roche: Yes.
Q43 Chairman: So the system would exclude children of illegal migrants from the Health Service when the parents went to register them, but not include those same children in getting access to the Education Service?
Nicola Roche: I think in terms of registering children, I do not think anyone would want to deny children getting health treatment and there would no question of emergency health treatment ever being subject to a card.
Q44 Chairman: But GPs too?
Nicola Roche: In terms of that we are still working through the detail with the Department of Health.
Q45 Chairman: But will these issues, which are quite important, be clear when the Draft Bill is published or will this all be left to be defined?
Nicola Roche: I think we are still working through that detail and how much of it will be in the Draft Bill is still being looked at and clearly we will want to get it right. In terms of first registering with the GP, the card being used for education services, that would be for phase 2 and these are exactly the sort of issues we will want to make sure are absolutely right before advice goes to Cabinet and then to Parliament on the ultimate decision.
Q46 Mr Prosser: I want to ask some questions about the National Identity Register. Have you made any firm decisions on what information will go into the Register and, if so, what are they?
Katherine Courtney: The information that is proposed to be held on the National Identity Register is simply that information which is required to establish a person's core identity. So that might include name, date of birth and a record of certain biometric identifiers. However, the decision of exactly what is going to be held on the Register is subject to legislation and, therefore, is really a matter of Parliament. That decision has not been taken yet.
Q47 Mr Prosser: What measures will you take to ensure that some sort of fraud does not take place at that critical moment and therefore undermine the whole issue of an ID card?
Katherine Courtney: At the moment of enrolling an individual into the Register?
Q48 Mr Prosser: Yes.
Katherine Courtney: Quite rigorous security will be built into the system. Just to give some of the examples; first of all, recording the biometric details of an individual will enable us to check against other records held on the Register to ensure that, for instance, a person is not presenting themselves with a second identity and trying to claim that they should be issued with a second ID card; secondly, at the point of first enrolment we will be undertaking a very rigorous background check on the individual based on the information that they supply in the application procedure. So that will include looking at what we call a "biographical footprint" or where that individual has had contact with other Government departments in the past. That is not to capture that data into the Register but simply to verify that individual's existence in the UK. It is very difficult for somebody to invent a biographical footprint and so that is a very effective fraud prevention measure in itself.
Q49 Mr Prosser: Will that registration be linked to the Civil Registration Service? Will there be any linkage between the two?
Katherine Courtney: We hope to have a link in that the Civil Registration Service is working towards electronic records of births, marriages and deaths and it would certainly be an easy way for us to validate information that people are presenting to us about their birth date, for instance, if we were able to check that electronically against the new electronic registration database, as we know the current paper documentation for birth certificates etc. is not particularly secure.
Q50 Mr Prosser: You have been using the expression "biometric footprint" ...
Katherine Courtney: It was "biographical footprint".
Q51 Mr Prosser: "Biographical footprint"? Okay. In regards to the biometrical information stored in the card, are decisions made on that yet?
Katherine Courtney: Again, no decision has been taken on precisely what will be stored on the card or indeed will be recorded on the Register. We have taken quite a long look at the biometric technology and the current state of evolution there and we are now embarking on a process of design, analysis, feasibility testing and technology tests to look at, in particular, three types of biometrics, which I am happy to elaborate on if you would like further information. Would you care for me to speak further about it?
Q52 Mr Prosser: Yes.
Katherine Courtney: The three that we are evaluating are; a facial biometric, which is effectively a digital photograph of an individual's face that can then be matched against other digital photographs in a database; fingerprints, which is a digital record again of a person's fingerprints; and iris, which is a photograph effectively of the shape of a person's iris. These are unique physical identifiers and when captured in a digital format can be quite easily compared with other similar records to see whether there is a match or not. We have the UK Passport Service just about to undertake a pilot of enrolment looking at all three of those types of biometric recording to evaluate the robustness of the technology, the enrolment experience across a sort of representative segment of the UK population to see what that end-user experience is like.
Q53 Mr Prosser: We are told that the facial recognition is not a safe enough system. You have not dismissed that yet?
Katherine Courtney: Facial recognition in and of itself is not as robust as iris or fingerprint, but what is important is that we intend to be using more than one biometric record because that really gives you a very high level of assurance that the individual being held in the Register and presenting themself in front of you not only looks like the picture but also has an identifying physical characteristic that can really only be unique to them.
Q54 Mr Prosser: We are told that one in 10,000 people would not be suitable for iris recognition, but I suppose if you have got two different recognition patterns ...
Katherine Courtney: This is why we are undertaking this stage of intensive testing and analysis. We have no intention of launching a technology that is not fit for the purpose and certainly over the coming year we will be doing feasibility testing and then over the three years set up of the programme. We will be doing rigorous end to end testing of the whole system to ensure that it is robust and ready for launch for the first ID cards are introduced.
Q55 Mr Prosser: How will you break down the possible public resistance to people having their fingerprints taken and all the connotations and connections with the criminal world?
Katherine Courtney: I think this is a matter for public education because the fingerprints are not being recorded for the purpose of checking them against any criminal database or any other policing sort of purpose. The purpose of taking a picture of your fingerprints, taking a picture of your iris, taking a picture of your face is to record in your record in the register unique characteristics that if somebody were to steal your ID card or if you were to lose it, it would make it virtually impossible for somebody to pass themselves off as you.
Q56 Mr Prosser: Have you considered taking samples of DNA?
Katherine Courtney: No, we have not considered taking samples of DNA.
Mr Prosser: I am not suggesting it.
Chairman: Do not put ideas into their heads, for goodness sake.
Q57 Mr Prosser: Do not forget what I said about the open mind. Just taking the various biometrics you have told us about, could you give us a rough idea of the cost comparisons and what part will cost play in deciding which of the elements or which two of the elements you use in the card?
Stephen Harrison: On the costs, I think there is an equipment cost and we do not see any great differential between the equipment costs for fingerprinting and iris at present. I think what you have got to do is look at the overall cost of the process and the real costs are in the staff time involved in actually recording the information in the first place, as much as the cost of the technology that you might install at various places around the country. So that is one of the reasons for the Passport Service pilot in that what we will do is look at the overall process, how long it takes and whether there are actually any significant differences between how long it takes, for example, to record iris information against how long it takes to record fingerprint information. I think that will then go into the analysis of whether one is better than the other for these purposes.
Q58 Mr Prosser: When the system is up and running, have you given any thought to how you will overcome the problems of the occasional fault where somebody shows their identity and it does not match up properly through no fault of their own?
Stephen Harrison: I think that a lot of this, in terms of one of the reasons for designing the pilot with the Passport Service, was a study that the National Physical Laboratory did for us during the consultation exercise where they recommended that we do this initial set of feasibility tests. Part of that will involve actually the degree to which the system reliably recognises as much as also how you record the information in the first place. I think if it failed once, you can sort of try again, as it were. It is a bit like the three goes on your PIN number before the machine eats your card, but obviously we would want to ensure that the system was properly designed and did not produce that level of false rejects.
Q59 Bob Russell: How many of the existing European Union countries have the ID system?
Nicola Roche: Nearly all. It is only ourselves, Ireland and Denmark that do not have an ID card scheme.
Q60 Bob Russell: And of the applicant nations?
Nicola Roche: I do not have that information but I could get it and send it to you.
Q61 Bob Russell: If you could, that would be helpful. So we are almost the odd one out at the moment?
Nicola Roche: We are, along with Ireland and Denmark, yes.
Q62 Bob Russell: So what lessons can we learn from other countries' experience, both the European Union and indeed around the world, where other countries do have ID, either compulsory or voluntary? Indeed, are there any voluntary ones?
Stephen Harrison: Yes, the countries which have strict compulsory schemes are Belgium, Germany, Spain and Greece. The others have voluntary schemes, but often the level of card coverage is usually so high, France is often quoted as an example, but it is just a natural expectation that one would be able to produce a form of ID that it is almost de facto compulsory. We have looked at the experience of some of the countries. In particular, we paid visits to Italy, Sweden and The Netherlands to look at their particular schemes to see what lessons could be learnt from there. Italy at the moment is moving from a paper-based card system, an old cardboard type card used in the wartime, and replacing those with an electronic plastic card which can also record fingerprint information. We actually had a meeting with them earlier this week. The Netherlands has a scheme which bears a lot of similarity to what this scheme might look like in a few years' time in that everybody does not carry an ID card or is required to have an ID card. You have existing forms of identification like passports and driving licences and residence permits and they all form part of one over-arching scheme.
Q63 Bob Russell: In your evaluation, have you rejected anything that any of the other countries have which they think is a good idea but which you suspect is not? And are there any things you have now incorporated which you had not thought of until you saw them?
Stephen Harrison: At the moment the discussions we have had with other countries have been ones of principle and how their schemes operate at a very broad strategic level. We did not get down to individual discussions about particular technologies or approaches for how things work issues. Obviously there are different schemes throughout Europe. Some schemes are more centralised than others. Some rely on a central database but then issue cards locally. Some keep all of the data held locally. We have made some good contacts with colleagues in other European countries and we will need to keep those going as we develop our plans.
Q64 Bob Russell: Bearing in mind all those different countries with different systems both within the EU and out, in what way will the cards be mandatory for foreign nationals?
Stephen Harrison: The card scheme will work on the basis that their residence permits would be an acceptable form of identity card. So it would form part of the family of ID cards and it will be possible to require foreign nationals coming to the country for a period of longer than three months to register and obtain the document. That is not the law as it currently stands, so that would form part of the legislative change.
Q65 Bob Russell: Would that be compatible with the constraints of European law?
Stephen Harrison: Yes.
Q66 Bob Russell: So will they have to carry them at all times or will they, like a driving licence, have time to produce them?
Stephen Harrison: It is not compulsory to carry the card. I think that in terms of, particularly, cases of immigration enforcement, for example, if you look perhaps towards the harder end scenarios, if you take examples at the moment with the Immigration Service, if an asylum seeker works illegally but is caught by the Immigration Service in that situation, they will not be carrying their application registration card because that says "Employment prohibited" in very big letters, but is possible for the Immigration Officer to make a check of the biometric, the thumbprint, directly against the database and that then brings up the fact that they have registered for asylum and therefore they are not entitled to work.
Q67 Bob Russell: Nearer to home, the Republic of Ireland, the Ireland Act of 1949, and it has been indicated that they do not have an ID card scheme at the moment, so how will you take into account the existing statutory provisions concerning Irish nationals if the UK brings in an ID scheme?
Nicola Roche: As you know, with Ireland we are part of a common travel area as well as with other parts of the British Isles and therefore there are no border checks between Ireland and the UK. The scheme we are proposing is based on the residence, so an Irish person resident in the UK would not have to have a card until the compulsory phase. Once we move to compulsory phase, everybody resident in the UK would need to have one. Before that phase, an Irish resident would be treated either exactly as a person born in Britain with a British passport under common travel area arrangements and, therefore, when they come to renew their driving licence, that would be issued in an ID card format, or they could opt to have a voluntary card if they wanted one, or for Irish citizens if they chose to exercise their rights as an EA national they could have a residence permit issued as an ID card.
Q68 Bob Russell: So you could have a situation where citizens of the six counties of Northern Ireland would have a voluntary almost, but from what is being said, virtually a compulsory ID card system to circulate within the United Kingdom, but citizens of the Republic of Ireland would not?
Nicola Roche: No, people from Ireland resident in the UK would be treated in exactly the same way as everybody else, including in Northern Ireland.
Q69 Mr Singh: In these countries, especially where the carrying of the card is compulsory, or to have one is compulsory, do those countries believe that their ID scheme has helped their fight against crime and their fight against illegal immigration? Is there any evidence, if they do believe that, to back up their claims?
Nicola Roche: Stephen may be able to add a little bit more from his discussions with other European countries, but the case that comes to mind, when you said that, was the Belgian court judgment about some lorry driver facilitator for illegal immigrants who did say that he thought one of the pull factors to the UK was the fact that we did not have an ID card scheme and that is why Belgium was not seen as a country that was attracting illegal immigrants on the same scale, but that was clearly his judgment. Our judgment is that an ID card scheme, as we have set it out, would help us tackle illegal migration and illegal working.
Q70 David Winnick: How much is all this going to cost?
Stephen Harrison: The Home Secretary in his statement set out the set up costs that we anticipate over the initial three years of the scheme, which totals £186 million, it is a 36/60/90 split. What those set up costs buy for you is; the central database on which we would record the identity information; the other parts of the IT infrastructure, which would allow you to do the checks that Katherine mentioned to properly validate somebody's identity and the network of equipment that will be required around local offices so that biometric information could be recorded for the population as a whole. I think it is worth observing that probably most of those costs may well have to be incurred anyway if there is international movement towards biometric passports.
Q71 David Winnick: On the basis of a voluntary arrangement and then a compulsory one, what at the end of the day would be the total estimated cost?
Stephen Harrison: We then have the set of costs there, as I have mentioned. We then have a period at which cards would be issued to the population and the Government's policy position on that is that those costs should be recovered through charges ...
Q72 David Winnick: But could you just give us the figure of what it is estimated to be at the end of day, the cost involved, whoever meets the bill? We will come to that in a moment, but what do you believe is the sum which we should be working on if it comes from both the voluntary stage and the compulsory stage? What is the round figure?
Stephen Harrison: I think in terms of looking at that, forgive me for trying to give you a sort of lengthier answer on this, I think it depends at what point one draws the line because in a sense the scheme ...
Q73 David Winnick: At the end of the day, if Parliament approves, what would be the round figure? Is that difficult to answer?
Stephen Harrison: What is the end of the day in that sense? Even if you reach a point ---
Q74 Chairman: Mr Harrison, in the Government's consultation document last year you published a figure £3,145 million.
Stephen Harrison: Yes.
Q75 Chairman: Is that still your estimate?
Stephen Harrison: There was actually a range of figures which were published and what that was based on was adding costs and we talk about the period at which you cut it off. That was based ...
Q76 Chairman: Is that our best figure?
Stephen Harrison: We have better estimates of some of the detailed costs that have gone on.
Q77 David Winnick: You seem to be rather evasive about this. I understand you are not a politician, Mr Harrison, but you seem to be following in certain footsteps of politicians, perhaps including myself, you do not want to give a straight answer. All I want to know, Mr Harrison, I know it is difficult and all the rest of it, if you can give some sort of round figure. Now, the Chair has quoted one from the consultation document, just give the round figure if there is, as I have said before, at the end of the day a compulsory scheme. How much is it going to cost at this stage?
Stephen Harrison: On the consultation paper there was a range of costs and it varied from about 1.3 to about 3.1 billion. We believe that if you look at a comparable costing for the period of that scheme, the consultation period envisaged which was 13 years, then our cost estimates still lie within that range.
Q78 David Winnick: Which range? Quote the figure yourself. Which range?
Stephen Harrison: The 1.3 to 3.1 billion. There are a lot of detailed assumptions underlying that cost. Our information gets better as we do more analysis and we learn more. We would be happy on a confidential basis to share some of those assumptions with Members of the Committee. What we are concerned about at this stage is just the commercial confidentiality of giving too much away at this stage before entering into commercial ...
Q79 David Winnick: You have been very cautious, Mr Harrison. Congratulations. Would it be right to say that, as with other estimates, one will find that the actual cost is substantially more than what is being planned at this moment?
Stephen Harrison: We do our best to identify all of the costs that we can. In terms of our work on costs, we have been quite conservative in our estimates. As I say, the information we can share with you, and we can give to you in confidence, I hope would illustrate that. Of course, the work that Katherine outlined in terms of the further work on feasibility and testing will help us actually to understand whether the assumptions that we have made to date actually work out in practice and so over time we would expect the certainty of our cost estimates to increase as they are informed by real experience.
Q80 David Winnick: We will take that answer as "maybe". Can I ask you, will the costs be picked up by the Treasury?
Stephen Harrison: The costs in the set up phase will be met through departmental budgets in the usual way, so it is part of the spending. In terms of the costs that follow that, once cards start to be issued, then there is revenue coming in, in terms of the charges that people would pay, and those charges have been estimated ...
Q81 David Winnick: Charges being paid by the individual?
Stephen Harrison: Correct. And those therefore cover, just as passport fees, for example, do, they would cover the operating costs.
Q82 David Winnick: But I was told by your colleague, Miss Roche, that I was wrong to talk about Home Office policy, it is Government policy, and I conceded that, but since it is Government policy is there any reason why the Treasury is not willing to meet the full bill?
Stephen Harrison: I think in terms of looking at building a scheme which is based on existing forms of documentation, it is an established practice that people do pay for passports and do pay for driving licences and also pay for various documents via the Immigration Service and therefore it is that principle that we followed in designing the propositions to the scheme.
Q83 David Winnick: You would have no comment if I said that there had been reports that the Home Secretary has not been able to persuade the Chancellor that the full cost should be met by the Treasury?
Stephen Harrison: You would be correct that I have no comment on that.
Q84 David Winnick: I understand that and I am not going to pursue that with you. The Home Office commissioned some research, I understand, on public reaction to charging for ID cards. When did that occur?
Stephen Harrison: There was research at different times during the course of the consultation exercise. The last research that we did was conducted in August of this year, over the summer period, but the issues of charging also went back to the work that was done on the qualitative research.
Q85 David Winnick: What was the overall result of that? What did you find?
Stephen Harrison: Around half the people would be willing to pay something. I cannot quote the detailed figures at the moment, but an appreciable number would be prepared to pay and particularly once you discussed the context of the benefits that a card would offer the individual and the fact that people pay for passports and driving licences already, there seemed to be an acceptance that it was reasonable to expect people to pay. I think if you asked the basic question "Would you like to pay or not pay?" most people start with the premise that they would not.
Q86 David Winnick: Did you see an opinion poll in the Daily Telegraph not so long ago where there was quite a lot of resistance to paying and while there was some acceptance, majority acceptance of ID cards, the opinion poll found that 86% took the view that if there is to be such a card it should be provided free? So that does not come as any surprise.
Stephen Harrison: No, it is a finding in an opinion poll alongside all of the other research that we have done. I recall the survey actually demonstrated a reasonable level of support for a scheme in principle, but that particular point on costs.
Q87 David Winnick: Do you know what happened in Australia? Because presumably, when your unit was looking into the whole concept of the ID card, you would have seen what happened recently in Australia and other such countries. Would it be right to say that in Australia the scheme was dropped because of widespread resistance to the costs involved?
Stephen Harrison: I could not answer to the reasons for the Australian Government dropping the scheme.
Q88 David Winnick: But they did drop it?
Stephen Harrison: They did drop the scheme, yes.
Nicola Roche: If I could just add on costs and the public's willingness to pay, they are going to have to pay many of these costs anyway because of trends worldwide to making identity documents like passports and drivers licences more secure. So it is not something that we are going to be able to avoid. The costs are based, we estimate that if we just had to introduce more secure passports and driving licences, as we expect we would have to, it would only be £4 cheaper than the cost we are looking at and that £4 will enable us to cross-subsidise the documents for the low incomed.
David Winnick: I am sure your political masters will be saying a lot of that to try and soften up public opinion, but I appreciate that.
Q89 Chairman: The range is 1.5 billion to 3 point what?
Stephen Harrison: 1.3, I believe, to 3.1.
Q90 Chairman: 1.3 billion to 3.1, quite a wide range. 1.8 billion between top and bottom.
Stephen Harrison: Yes.
Q91 Chairman: And anything more precise than that would endanger commercial confidentiality?
Stephen Harrison: I think it is the underlying assumptions that generate that final figure that we would be concerned about. I hope we could make that clear in the information we could provide in confidence to the Committee.
Q92 Chairman: To be perfectly honest, a margin of error of nearly £2 billion seems to me a bit broad to say anything else would compromise commercial confidentiality. Surely it is going to be possible for the Government to be more precise about the sorts of figures that they think are involved before they invite the House of Commons to vote on the Bill later this year? Because there is an enormous difference between those two, one is nearly three times as big as the other. It is hard to see how commercial confidentiality would be endangered by being more precise than that.
Stephen Harrison: Perhaps it would be helpful to say that the estimates of the consultation paper are at the lower side, assume that the card would be a sort of simple, plain plastic card without any degree of intelligence or chip based models. Obviously we are looking at a card which is more sophisticated and I think there is not the same degree of margin ...
Q93 Chairman: So we are moving towards the higher end of the costs?
Stephen Harrison: We are moving away from the lower end certainly.
Q94 Chairman: Can I ask, one assumption which I think is a perfectly reasonable one and not a commercial one, how many card readers do you expect there to be across the country in those agencies like the police, like Health, like Benefits Offices, that would need to check the biometric information against the person who is carrying the card?
Stephen Harrison: In terms of our broader analysis of the business benefits for the card scheme, we certainly have estimates for the numbers of readers for those organisations. At this stage, if you could forgive me, we would err on the side of caution and we will put that in the confidential information we give you to date and perhaps come back to that.
Q95 Chairman: We can do that for today, but a point of principle it would not be unreasonable for the public to know how many of the machines and at how many locations you expect to have machines that can check that somebody is actually the person they say are on the card.
Stephen Harrison: I can see that and I think if you could just give us a margin to take that away.
Q96 Janet Anderson: When do you expect to start issuing passports and driving licences with biometric identifiers?
Nicola Roche: We expect to be able to issue passports with a biometric identifier, the facial digital photograph, from 2005.
Q97 Janet Anderson: Right, but not plain ID cards until 2007/2008?
Nicola Roche: That is right. We would need legislation to be able to designate documents as identity cards and that would include the plain card.
Q98 Janet Anderson: How many cards of each sort do you expect to be issued per year?
Katherine Courtney: In total, when the system is up and running, we would expect to be issuing somewhere between 10 and 17 million of these cards per year. That is roughly similar to the volume of passports, drivers licences and other identity type documents that are being issued in the UK currently. I do not have the specific breakdown of how many of those would be through new and renewal passports or drivers licences.
Q99 Janet Anderson: When do you think you would be able to cover the whole of the economically active population?
Katherine Courtney: Our estimates show that on a sort of phased incremental approach we should reach about 80% of the economically active population within five years after the launch of the scheme.
Q100 Janet Anderson: When the whole population, do you think?
Katherine Courtney: To reach the whole of the population would probably require a move to compulsion, so I cannot give an estimate of when that would happen.
Q101 Janet Anderson: You do have some proposals for a combined passport identity card, I think that is mentioned, and a combined driving licence identity card.
Katherine Courtney: Yes.
Q102 Janet Anderson: Presumably for passports, driving licences and identity cards you would have three different databases? Is that right?
Katherine Courtney: Yes.
Q103 Janet Anderson: Will they be able to talk to each other and do you ever see a point where you may want to combine the whole lot into one IT database?
Katherine Courtney: Passports and drivers licences have already, as those two agencies have been doing quite a lot of work together, working very closely, on both the initial checking of applicants and also verifying documentation against each other's databases already. We are effectively looking to build on the good practice that they have already been working on.
Q104 Janet Anderson: And that is working, is it?
Katherine Courtney: Yes. In terms of whether those agencies might ever be combined into a single agency, really the structure and function of agencies is a decision for the Government of the day, so I am not able to comment on that.
Stephen Harrison: There will be one record of identity established in the National Identity Register, along which those documents then hang off. Each of those agencies continue to need their own database so that, for example, specific medical information the DVLA might hold about you which might affect your entitlement to drive stays only with DVLA and is owned by DVLA. The basic core identity information like name, address and date of birth sits once on the shared National Register.
Q105 Chairman: We have a number of elements to the system; we have the database, we have the physical job of collecting the biometrics, we have the production of the cards, we have the administration system and so on. Which of those different functions, potentially, could be carried out by private sector companies rather than by public sector institutions?
Katherine Courtney: As you know, we are now entering into what we call the "project definition stage" of this project and the design of the solutions, both from the business process and technology perspective, is exactly what we are looking at over the coming year. So it is premature for me to be able to give you any idea of how private sector companies might be involved in the eventual delivery of that solution.
Q106 Chairman: Are there any areas that have been excluded at the moment from being delivered by the private sector?
Katherine Courtney: I do not believe that any firm decisions have been taken on any of the designs.
Q107 Chairman: So the database itself could potentially be run by a private sector organisation?
Katherine Courtney: I think you would want to distinguish between who has authority over the database and which entity actually does the operational day to day technical maintenance of the database and again no decisions have been taken.
Q108 Chairman: Is that a clear distinction in your mind?
Katherine Courtney: It is a clear distinction in my mind, yes.
Q109 Chairman: Right, but I mean the police national computer, for example, is maintained by the police. The Criminal Records Bureau has access to it. That is not the same as saying that the Criminal Records Bureau, God help us, should run the police national computer.
Katherine Courtney: Yes, but I think the specific question was about private sector organisations' involvement in this scheme.
Q110 Chairman: Yes, I am just trying to be clear; in principle, have you excluded the idea that the database could be run and managed and effectively controlled by, not necessarily owned by, controlled by a private sector organisation?
Katherine Courtney: Again, I can only say that these are all issues that are being explored during the design phase.
Q111 Chairman: So nothing has, as yet, been excluded. So the job of requiring people to turn up and have their irises photographed, their fingerprints taken, could be potentially be contracted out to a private sector organisation?
Nicola Roche: As Katherine said, all of this is still under consideration but potentially yes.
Q112 Chairman: Okay. Clearly production of plastic cards or whatever happens all the time in credit cards. Clearly there are some things that would raise no eyebrows, there are other areas where people might think it was more sensitive to have a private company taking responsibility for an activity. Are there any principles that are governing whether you think a private sector company could do the job or is it simply likely to be cost and deliverability?
Nicola Roche: I think absolutely essential to this scheme is ensuring that people's personal information and their biometric that they give to us on a confidential basis to keep secure is honoured and that in storing that on the database that we make sure that whoever is running it, whoever has access to it is going to be keep it secure. So that would be a guiding principle throughout and that people's civil liberties are absolutely protected and that there is no way that information could be passed to somebody who did not have a legitimate right to see it.
Q113 Chairman: Do you expect the Draft Bill to define those areas that can be put out to tender and those that are restricted to public sector operation?
Nicola Roche: I am not able to give you an absolute answer on that today, but it is clearly something that we will take back to discuss with Ministers.
Q114 Chairman: You recognise it is an important issue?
Nicola Roche: Yes.
Q115 Chairman: In terms of the private sector, you have talked about banks, financial institutions, solicitors or whatever who might wish to use the card; to what extent will you be designing the card and its content around the requirements of private sector users as opposed to public sector users like Benefits or Health?
Katherine Courtney: The design of the scheme throughout the consultation period to date, coming up with the initial concepts, etc., has been in consultation with private sector organisations as well as public sector. The financial services sector, for instance, has expressed quite a lot of interest in the possibility of using this scheme to prove identity in the future. So the design of the scheme is meant to be putting in place capabilities that are effective and cost effective for a whole range of situations. That runs from potentially a small retailer wanting simply to, if date of birth, for instance, is reflected on the face of these cards, maybe just wanting to be able to use a very simple check for proof of age. On the opposite end of the spectrum you may find that for major financial transactions, a bank may want to be able to perform a verification check of that identity against the database and will be exploring possibilities to make that feasible for them.
Q116 Chairman: Suppose a financial institution came and said what would be really useful would be for the card to carry details of major criminal convictions?
Katherine Courtney: I think we have been quite clear that the function and the purpose of the scheme and the function of the card and the system itself is to verify identity. There is no intention to hold any other information about individuals.
Q117 Chairman: So that would be a straight no to any institution that asked for extra information to be carried in other than the identity information you have already told us about?
Katherine Courtney: Absolutely.
Q118 Chairman: What other departments and agencies are being involved alongside the Home Office in developing the biometric and other technologies?
Katherine Courtney: We have been working very closely not only with colleagues in other Government departments here and across the Home Office, both with the DVLA, who have been looking at this issue, with UK Passport Service, who have done quite a lot of work due to the requirements that are placed upon them now by evolving standards in the international community and also the Immigration Service has done quite a lot of work in this area. But in addition to that, we have been working closely with other countries, with EU partners, with the US and, for instance, taking a very active role in the G8 Working Group on Biometrics.
Q119 Chairman: How much is the technology going to change? At the moment when you have your iris scan, you have to sit down, I think, in the special booth or in front of a camera. I presume, given I was hoping to get this wonderful mobile phone camera for Christmas, that in ten years' time a police officer will probably be able to carry a camera capable of doing an iris scan in the street and checking it against a card. Have you looked at how the technologies will change over the next ten years and what the circumstances are likely to be when the new card is brought into force?
Katherine Courtney: Certainly the work that has gone before with the National Physical Laboratory study and the consultations that we have taken with the industry sector through, for instance, Intellact, has informed the decisions that have been made to date in designing the preliminary concept for this scheme in terms of how we are going forward. We are looking at future proofing the scheme. Obviously there is no point in building something that is obsolete before we launch it. I cannot predict for you how the technology will change.
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 ten 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 ten 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 decision.
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 it very unlikely to have come into effect. We believe that the first cards will be issued by the end of 2007/2008. 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 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 term development.
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 electronically.
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 to upgrade.
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 in 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 or not.
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 performance up to the required standards.
Q140 Janet Anderson: Do you think you have learnt any lessons from some of the things that have happened in this past? I was just thinking about passports and when the asylum databases were combined, the three databases, have you learnt lessons from what went wrong there, you think, which will inform what you are doing here?
Katherine Courtney: Certainly we are drawing lessons not only from projects that have gone wrong but also from projects that have gone well, in the public sector and in the private sector. Quite importantly, the team that has been brought together to manage this programme bring a wealth of expertise from the private sector, which is where I myself have come from, as well as across Government and having been involved in other major Government initiatives in the past. And then finally, I should say that the Office of Government Commerce oversight that we have invited in is providing us again with access to best practice, information and learning from other Government initiatives.
Q141 Janet Anderson: Do you think that there will be a need for an independent assessment at some point, or do you think that you will have built sufficient safeguards in place?
Katherine Courtney: I am not sure I understand what an independent assessment is?
Q142 Janet Anderson: At some point would you perhaps commission an independent assessment, an outside assessment, to assess whether it was, in fact, working as you had intended?
Katherine Courtney: Certainly we have, within the proposed governance framework for this programme, a whole raft of oversight both within the Home Office and independent advice from outside. No decision has been made whether we would commission a particular independent.
Q143 Chairman: You noted earlier that the OGC Gateways go from 0 to 5, that is because it is Gateway 6 would tell you the system was really going to work, is it not, and we never quite get there? I mean this is the same OGC framework that signed off the Criminal Records Bureau, I think, was ready to run. So do you have complete confidence that the OGC Gateways are sufficiently robust to say "Yes, we can push the button on this one and it is ready to go"?
Katherine Courtney: I know that OGC Gateway system is a fairly new process. It has only been in operation for the last couple of years and I, coming in from outside of Government, cannot really speak on how effective the process is. What I do know is that, from my own background, I have confidence that a programme like this, it is possible to deliver a programme of this size and complexity within plan and effectively and successfully.
Nicola Roche: I think also the OGC reports to this senior responsible owner for any programme within Government. In this case it is our Permanent Secretary of the Home Office. So the ultimate decision and the advice that goes to Ministers, yes, it takes into account OGC, but it is not just solely resting on that. So if we did have concerns, there would be ...
Q144 Chairman: Have a look at the advice we got on the Criminal Records Bureau. Could you just tell us what your background is?
Katherine Courtney: Certainly. I have spent the last 12 years in the technology sector leading major development programmes both for major companies like Cable and Wireless and BT and also have been involved in the start up of several new technology ventures. Most of those were rolling out new businesses on an international basis which requires a great deal of not just complexity in terms of the technical systems, but also in terms of the cultural and business process issues there.
Q145 David Winnick: How were you brought into the Home Office? Was it an advertisement or other contacts?
Katherine Courtney: Yes, there was a recruitment process and I saw an ad in the Sunday Times and applied for the job.
David Winnick: As good a way as any to get a job.
Q146 Mr Prosser: Just on the question of safeguards, and we have already heard people suggest that any card could be fraudulently used and that nothing will be secure, a spokesperson from Migrant Helpline recently said on regional television that he has already got the evidence that the R-cards which are distributed to asylum seekers, which have got biometric imprints on, are already being fraudulently used and being counterfeited. Do you have any evidence of that at all? If not, I wonder if you could let the Committee know what the actual situation is?
Nicola Roche: I do not know about the specific case with the R-card, but we will certainly look into it. Clearly our job in this testing and feasibility stage is to make sure that any possibility of fraud is rooted out. We can already see where people might be thinking of it and are closing that off, but we will want to do really rigorous testing and keep on doing it as the card is used and upgrade as we need to.
Q147 Chairman: Finally, what are the consequences of the Scottish Executive's policy, who said they would not make use of the card compulsory for devolved services?
Nicola Roche: That was fully discussed by Government as the decision was taken. The operation of devolved services are a matter for the Scottish Executive in the case of Scotland, it is a decision for them and we know that is going to happen.
Q148 Chairman: Without, as it were, some of the advantages of holding the card which you described earlier for England and Wales, does that mean that you would expect the take up of the card to be less in Scotland precisely because you do not need to use it, for example, to register with the Health Service?
Nicola Roche: People who live in Scotland will still be renewing passports and driving licences, so they will get the identity card through those documents, as will 16 year olds.
Q149 Chairman: But in the voluntary bit, as it were, there may be slightly less take up because there is less reason to have it?
Nicola Roche: There might be, but they will still be required to produce identity in a range of circumstances and may find the ID card helpful.
Stephen Harrison: I think just to add to that as well, the vast majority of services are devolved in Scotland but, for example, social security benefits and so on ...
Q150 Chairman: Are national.
Stephen Harrison: ... remain the responsibility of Westminster.
Q151 David Winnick: Do you know why the Scottish Executive came to that decision?
Nicola Roche: I would not be able to give a comment on that, no.
David Winnick: We will try and find out. Thank you.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for getting the inquiry off to a good start.