House of Commons - Explanatory Note
Identity Cards Bill - continued          House of Commons

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Clause 43: General interpretation

220     This clause provides for interpretation of defined terms in the Bill. This includes the definition of biometric data in relation to an individual as meaning data about his external characteristics including in particular the features of an iris or other part of the eye.

221     Subsection (2) defines what is meant by the provision of a public service. This is broadly defined and is not restricted to what might be commonly understood as "public services" such as the NHS and could include the granting of a firearms certificate or the requirement to notify changes of address imposed on certain sex offenders.

Clause 44: Scotland

222     Subsection (1) provides that the use in relation to Scotland of the Register or an ID card is authorised only in matters which are reserved or which are in accordance with an Act of the Scottish Parliament.

223     Subsection (2) ensures that regulations may not be made under clause 15 which allow or require the imposition of a condition on the provision of a public service in Scotland except where it is in relation to a reserved function. Separate legislation by the Scottish Parliament would be required if, for example, it were proposed in the future to require an ID card to be produced as a condition of accessing a devolved public service in Scotland.

224     Subsection (3) provides that nothing in this clause restricts any of the provisions of this Act authorising information from the Register to be provided. For example, provision of information to the police in Scotland under clause 19 or for verification with consent under clause 14. This clause also does not restrict the powers under this Act to make other provision authorising such information to be provided to a person in Scotland (for example, regulations may be made under clause 22(1) to permit information to be provided to the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages for Scotland).

Clause 45: Short title, repeals, commencement and extent

225     This clause allows the preceding provisions of the Bill to be brought into force by order made by the Secretary of State. Different parts of the Bill may come into force on different dates.

226     Subsection (5) provides that clauses 38 and 39 (amendments relating to passport fees and data-sharing powers for passport applications) shall come into force two months after the Act is passed.

227     Subsection (4) clarifies that this includes a power to enable roll-out of the scheme to be undertaken by geographical areas; and that a trial may be undertaken in relation to particular areas or persons. This subsection includes a power to make transitional provisions for between the trial stage and the full commencement of the scheme.

228     Subsection (6) provides an extension power so that clauses may be applied to the Channel Islands or to the Isle of Man via Order in Council.

229     The Bill extends to Northern Ireland (Subsection (8)).

Schedule 1: Information that may be recorded in Register

230     Schedule 1 sets out the information that may be recorded in the Register. This includes:

  • personal information - names, date and place of birth, gender, addresses;

  • identifying information - photograph, signature, fingerprint, other biometric information;

  • residential status - nationality, entitlement to remain, terms and conditions of that entitlement;

  • personal reference numbers - for example the National Identity Registration Number and other government issued numbers, and validity periods of related documents;

  • record history -information previously recorded, audit trail of changes and date of death;

  • registration and ID card history - dates of: application, changes to information, confirmation; information regarding: other ID cards already issued, details of counter-signatures, notification under clause 13(1) and requirements to surrender an ID card;

  • validation information - information provided for any application, modification, confirmation or issue; other steps taken in connection with an application or otherwise for identifying the applicant and verifying the information; particulars of any other steps for ensuring there is an accurate entry in the Register; and particulars of notification of changes;

  • security information - personal identification numbers, password or other codes, and questions and answers that could be used to identify a person seeking provisions of information or the modification of an entry; and

  • records of provision of information - how and when any information from an entry was provided to any person or body.

Schedule 2: Repeals

231     Repeals can be found in Schedule 2 of the Bill.


232     The initial start up costs will be met from existing Departmental budgets or charging.

233     Costs will build on the development of biometric passports which will be essential for international travel and hence incurred in any event. At our current best estimates, £584 million will be the annual cost of issuing biometric passports and ID cards to UK nationals 1. The current best estimate of the unit cost for a combined package of 10 year passport and ID card would be £93. 2

1 At 2005/06 prices and including allowances for contingency, optimism bias and non-recoverable VAT

2 As note 1 above.

234     It is intended that, when the scheme is established, overall running costs will be covered by a combination of charges for applications, issue of cards, identity verification services provided by the scheme and for related services such as accreditation.


235     A new Executive Agency, incorporating the functions of the United Kingdom Passport Service (UKPS) and working closely in conjunction with the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) of the Home Office in respect of foreign nationals will be set up to administer the scheme. A National Identity Scheme Commissioner will be responsible for the oversight of the whole scheme.

236     In 2003-04, UKPS had 2905 staff. It is likely that there will be an additional staffing requirement for the new Executive Agency. The programme of feasibility studies will contribute to the evaluation of the requirements for additional staffing. No decisions have been taken as to whether any additional manpower will fall within the public sector.


237     A regulatory impact assessment has been published alongside the Bill.

238     The Bill as drafted places no burdens on business, charities or voluntary bodies. There are no provisions in the Bill which will allow the Government to require business, charities or voluntary bodes to make identity checks using the identity cards scheme. The required identity checks power relates only to public services.

239     Should the Government propose any new requirements through other legislative vehicles for business, charities or voluntary bodies to require identity checks or to incorporate the identity cards scheme within existing requirements to undertake checks, the Government will produce and publish regulatory impact assessments relevant to the sector(s) affected. An example of where this has already been done is the RIA produced when revised regulations on identity checks for foreign workers were published earlier this year.

240     The costs of the scheme are outlined in paragraphs 228 to 232 of the Explanatory Notes. In general the benefits of the scheme fall into the following categories:

  • More efficient processes;

  • Removing duplication of functions;

  • Reduced fraud;

  • More convenient access to services;

  • Improved enforcement of immigration controls;

  • Enhancing the UK's ability to counter terrorism and organised crime.


241     Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 requires the Minister in charge of a Bill in either House of Parliament to make a statement about the compatibility of the provisions of the Bill with the Convention rights (as defined by section 1 of that Act). The statement has to be made before second reading. The Secretary of State has made the following statement:

     In my view the provisions of the Identity Cards Bill are compatible with the      Convention rights.

An Identity Card scheme

242     Of the 25 EU member states, all apart from the UK, Ireland, Denmark and Latvia already have identity cards schemes. Some of these schemes are voluntary and some are compulsory. Some schemes, unlike the proposed UK scheme, include a requirement to carry the card. The concept of an ID cards scheme is therefore a well established aspect of European life and could not in principle be regarded as incompatible with the ECHR.

243     The details of how the scheme will work in practice may raise issues under Article 8 of the Convention (right to private life). Any interference with Article 8 rights will need to be justified as in the public interest in accordance with Article 8.2 ie to be proportionate measures in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health and morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Clause 1 (4) of the Bill sets out those aspects of the public interest which are the purposes of the National Identity Register.

244     In so far as Article 8 may be engaged, the government takes the view that any interference will be necessary and proportionate, in pursuit of the legitimate aims set out in Article 8(2), and in accordance with the statutory purposes set out in clause 1 of the Bill.

Retention and Provision of Information

245     Schedule 1 of the Bill lists the information which may be held on the Register. It includes identity information such as name, photograph and biometrics.

246     The Bill contains a range of safeguards to ensure that any interference with rights to privacy is proportionate. The information which can be contained in the Register is strictly limited by clause 1 and Schedule 1. The information which can be provided for verification with the consent of the registered person is further limited by clause 14. Disclosure without consent is provided for in clauses 19 to 23 of the Bill. Those clauses are structured so that the persons to whom and the purposes for which information may be provided are specified. The provisions are thus tailored to each recipient in order to ensure compliance with the principles of necessity and proportionality. The information which might be regarded as particularly sensitive- the audit trail of how and to whom information about an individual has been provided in paragraph 9 of Schedule 1- may only be provided in very limited circumstances.

247     The order making powers under which the Secretary of State may specify additional public authorities to whom information may be provided can only be exercised consistently with the statutory purposes set out in clause 1 and do not permit disclosure of the audit trail information.

248     Outside bodies will not be able to access the Register and those who are employed to access it will face severe penalties if information is disclosed inappropriately.


249     The exercise of powers under clause 6 to require individuals of a specified description to register may potentially engage Article 14 rights (prohibition of discrimination). Whether Article 14 rights were engaged would depend on the terms of the order (which is subject to the "super-affirmative" procedure). An order which required only certain foreign nationals or only those under a particular age to register would need to be based on objective and reasonable justification.

250     Those applying for documents which have been designated under clause 4 would also be required to register. The designation of documents is a pragmatic means by which, over a number of years, the majority of the population will obtain an ID Card. The government does not regard designation of passports as engaging Article 14 Being an applicant for a passport is neither a status nor a personal characteristic within the ambit of that article. If Article 14 rights were engaged by the designation of a particular description of document, any difference in treatment would need to be based on objective and reasonable justification.

251     The Bill will have effect in the context of the Data Protection and Human Rights Acts of 1998. Rights and duties under those Acts will apply to the operation of the scheme. For example, subject access and rectification rights of individuals and the Secretary of State's duties as a data controller will apply to the scheme. The Secretary of State and public authorities who may receive information under the Bill will be obliged to exercise their functions compatibly with the Convention rights by virtue of section 6 of the Human Rights Act.


252     At 2005/06 prices and including allowances for contingency, optimism bias and non-recoverable VAT. The estimate of the indicative charge published in the previous RIA was derived from a unit cost of £88 which was at 2004/05 prices and excluded allowances for contingency, optimum bias and non-recoverable VAT. Commencement of clauses 38 and 39 relating to passports is two months after the Bill is passed. Apart from commencement of the false identity document offences at clauses 27 and 28 which would be sooner, the remainder of the Bill will be commenced in time for the issue of the first ID cards starting in 2008. There may also be different dates when parts of the Bill come into force so that trials of the scheme and an incremental roll-out may take place.

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Prepared: 27 May 2005