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Identity Cards

Mr. Khan: To ask the Secretary of State for the HomeDepartment if he will make a statement on the powers of the National Identity Cards Scheme Commissioner. [4140]

Mr. McNulty: The National Identity Scheme Commissioner's powers are set out in clause 24 of the Identity Cards Bill. The Commissioner will be responsible for overseeing the operation of the Act and any subordinate legislation. The Commissioner will also oversee the arrangements put in place for the purposes of fulfilling functions granted to the Secretary of State or designated documents authorities under the Act and the arrangements made by those people authorised to receive information from the register (for example how the information is used, what it is used for, how is it recorded), except in the cases which would fall within the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Services Commissioner as set out in clause 26. The Commissioner will also be able to oversee the uses to which identity cards are being put.

The Commissioner will report to the Secretary of State as soon as practicable after the end of each calendar year about the carrying out of the Commissioner's functions. The Commissioner may also at any other time make such report to the Secretary of State as he thinks fit. The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a copy of every report made to him by the Commissioner. This is set out in clause 25 of the Identity Cards Bill.

There is nothing in the Bill to constrain the National Identity Scheme Commissioner from working with any other Commissioner (for example the Information Commissioner or the Commission for Racial Equality) in order to oversee the National Identity Cards Scheme.

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the cost of providing online verification to validate identity cards and other identity inquiries from user organisations; and what methodology was used to calculate the cost. [1784]

Mr. McNulty: The regulatory impact assessment published along side the Identity Cards Bill on 25 May 2005 contains the latest cost estimates. The current best estimate for the total average annual running costs for issuing passports and ID cards to UK nationals is
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estimated at £584 million. The cost of providing on-line verification of ID cards is included within this figure, however the costs have not been disaggregated. The costs were calculated in accordance with Government accounting guidelines and Office of Government Commerce best practice.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the potential impact the introduction of the identity card scheme may have on civil liberties; and what measures he is taking to protect confidential information. [2402]

Mr. McNulty: The ID card scheme is being designed to help support civil liberty and human rights by fostering a more inclusive society and allowing people to feel part of the community by easily demonstrating their identity and entitlement to reside in the UK, whatever their heritage. There will be very strong controls in place, including full auditing of all on-line checks to deter abuse of the scheme and ensure that any complaints can be fully investigated. The Register will be designed in such a way to ensure that data is stored in a highly secure manner. In addition, the design of the scheme will ensure compliance with legislation such as, among others, the Data Protection Act 1998, the Human Rights Act 1998, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 & 2005, the Race Relations Act 1976 & 2004 and the Gender Recognition Act 2004. The Government published their response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights interim report on 8 February 2005 which explains in detail why the scheme is in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report published on 8 June 2005,

The issuing of some form of identifying document to all residents does not seem to me to be objectionable in principle, nor does the right to private life guaranteed by the Article eight of the Convention preclude it. I carry an identity card myself and find it more useful than annoying.

The information which may be recorded on the National Identity Register is strictly limited by Schedule one of the Identity Cards Bill, and only Parliament would be able to change the information to be held. Unauthorised disclosure or modification of information held on the Register is subject to a criminal offence under clauses 29 & 31 of the Bill. The vast majority of checks on the Register will be made with the consent of the individual under clause 14 of the Identity Cards Bill. There are provisions for accrediting authorised users of the verification service. Even with an individual's consent, this clause only allows a limited amount of information from the Register, for example name, address, date of birth, residential status and status of the card, to be verified. Compulsion to carry the card is strictly prohibited in the Bill and clause 18 precludes any organisation from requiring the production of an ID card as sole proof of identity before the move to compulsion (so called compulsion by the 'back door'). Clause 15 only allows regulations to be made establishing a requirement to make use of the ID cards scheme a condition of provision of public services which have to be provided free of charge or social security payments should the scheme become compulsory. For all types of public services identity checks, rules need to be approved by Parliament on a case by case basis.
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Circumstances where information can be provided without consent are strictly regulated, as outlined in Clauses 19–23 of the Bill. Organisations which can be provided with information are listed on the face of the Bill and any changes will require Parliament's approval. There will be independent oversight of the ID cards scheme—including how the scheme is used—by the National Identity Scheme Commissioner set up by the Bill and by existing Commissioners such as the Information Commissioner and the Intelligence Services Commissioner.

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department from which external consultants his Department received advice on the biometric technology to be used for the proposed identity cards. [2698]

Mr. McNulty: Final decisions on the biometric technology which may be used for the proposed identity cards scheme have yet to be taken. Biometrics technology is advancing all the time and the Identity Cards Programme team are taking advice from a number of organisations who have been developing knowledge in the field. These include the United Kingdom Passport Service (UKPS), Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), Communications-Electronic Security Group (CESG), Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) and the National Physical Laboratory. Additionally, further advice has been received from biometric technology advisors at San Jose University and PA Consulting Group.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the merits of using DNA identifiers in the proposed identity cards; and if he will make a statement. [3175]

Mr. McNulty: The Identity Cards Scheme is not proposing to use DNA as one of the biometric identifiers. Clause 43 of the Identity Cards Bill defines a biometric as data about a person's external characteristics, eg facial image, iris pattern or fingerprints. DNA is not included in the list of information at schedule one of the Identity Cards Bill that may be held on the National Identity Register and there is no power under clause five of the Bill (applications relating to entries in the register) for the Secretary of State to require a person to provide a DNA sample.

David Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the classes of (a) public officials and (b) others who will have sufficient access to the National Identity Register under the provisions of the Identity Cards Bill to be able to retrieve an individual's record on the basis of a fingerprint or an iris scan. [2781]

Mr. McNulty [holding answer 9 June 2005]: Information held on the Register will be used by public and private sector organisations with the consent of the individual for verification purposes. Clause 14 of the Identity Cards Bill limits the information that could be provided with consent, and under these provisions the whole of an individual's record could not be obtained.
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An accreditation scheme will be established, so that only those private sector organisations that have been approved will be able to make checks on the National Identity Register on the validity of cards or the registered details.

There are also the required identity checks provision in Clauses 15–19 of the Identity Cards Bill. Parliament will need to agree rules on a service by service basis including whether biometric information would form part of the identity check.

Clauses 19–23 of the Identity Cards Bill set out how the information may be provided without the consent of the individual. The organizations to whom this information may be provided are listed on the face of the Bill, namely: the Security and Intelligence Agencies, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and the Police . Parliament must agree the rules under which such information would be provided without consent. The whole of a person's record may be provided to the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, GCHQ and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency provided it is for the purpose of the carrying out of their functions. The Police, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and Government Departments, including Northern Ireland Departments which have been specifically approved by Parliament, may only be provided with the whole of an individual's record for purposes connected with the prevention or detection of serious crime. Any other public authorities approved by Parliament to be provided with information without consent, cannot be provided with the whole of a person's record under the provisions of Clause 22 of the Bill.

The Bill ensures that provision of information without consent will be properly regulated and subject to independent oversight.

Specified staff working on the administration of the scheme would have access to individual records but only as required by their duties, and criminal sanctions will apply to any person who discloses information without lawful authority. The offence is punishable by up to two years imprisonment. This is set out in Clause 29 of the Bill.

Mr. Michael Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to conduct a computerised model for the national identity card system. [2636]

Mr. McNulty: Research is currently under way which will help to model various parts of the scheme, for example, take-up rates for registering with the scheme. Final decisions on the technical design of the scheme have yet to be taken. The scheme will be subject to rigorous testing but it is not possible to give specific detail of plans until the procurement phase is complete.

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