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Mr. Clarke: There are two points to make in response to that. First, the organisations concerned will decide whether they want to follow that course. Forms of identity can be used other than the ID card if that is more appropriate, but they will decide. Secondly, all of this has to be compliant with the current disability legislation; that is self-evident and that is how it stands.
Geraldine Smith (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Lab): On people trafficking, international terrorism and illegal immigration, if identity cards are so helpful and so essential, why is this scheme voluntary?
Mr. Clarke: We hope to make it compulsory over time; we have set that out very clearly in the Bill. We have not waved a magic wand and made it compulsory now because the process of issuing ID cards for the whole population takes a good deal of time. But if you look, Mr. Speaker, at the great tragedies of which my hon. Friend has extensive experiencethat is obvious from the way that she is talking about some of the people-trafficking issuesor other events that are equally shocking, such as the tragedy of the people who died in the container going across the channel
If we look at the issues of people trafficking, there is absolutely no doubt: if we talk to those in any police organisation in the world, they will say that identity fraud, first, by the gangs who run such trafficking and, secondly, by the people who are being trafficked is a central weapon of their crime, and we should do everything that we can to stop that happening. My hon. FriendI will give way to her again in a momenteffectively says "Do it faster!", and she has a powerful message. We can talk about doing it faster, but let us not draw the conclusion that we should not do it at all. Let us do better and make such things happen more quickly, rather than more slowly.
Geraldine Smith: I would also say, "Do not charge people from general taxation". On the Morecambe bay tragedy to which my right hon. Friend refers, is he aware that those Chinese illegal immigrants held permits to work and had false national insurance numbers? What would stop such people having false ID cards?
Mr. Clarke: That was a terribly tragic situation, but I am afraid that my hon. Friend makes the case that I am seeking to make. The falseness that she describesto be honest, it arises with a number of the documents of people working in this country illegallyis possible because we do not have a substantial biometric element in the identification cards that exist. The biometric element will make a material difference to people's ability to forge those documents.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): The Home Secretary knows that the Home Office has a long record of difficulties with major IT projects. He well knows that evidence was given to the Home Affairs Committee by the United Kingdom Computer Research Committee, which said:
Can the Home Secretary reassure the House that, in years to come, the permanent secretary of his Department will not appear before the Public Accounts Committee to defend himself against charges of massive cost overruns and massive increases in bureaucracy and difficulties with IT?
Mr. Clarke: I can tell the House that the permanent secretaries of the Departments that I have been involved with always enjoyed coming to the hon. Gentleman's Committee to explain the situation, but I will come to the specific point in a moment.
On the necessity of carrying a card, will the Home Secretary clarify two points? First, he cited the Spanish experience and said that the Spanish only
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managed to get those people because having an ID card is a requirement to get a mobile phone in Spain. Is he saying that that would be the situation in this country and that people who want a mobile phone must have an ID card? Secondly, he told the House that a card will not be necessary to gain access to public services, but clause 15(1) says precisely the opposite: someone who provides public services may make it a requirement to see an ID card. Is it his intention to delete clause 15(1) in Committee?
Mr. Clarke: First, the point that I was making about Madrid is very simple. Contrary to what some people allege, ID cards have had an impact in helping to address the issues of Madrid. I am not making any proposition about mobile phones or any other service, but I am saying that the suggestion that ID cards cannot address questions such as the appalling bombing in Madrid is not correct.
On the second point, the fact is that we are saying in the legislationagain, we can discuss this in Committee if my hon. Friend has concerns about itthat organisations are entitled to use ID cards to identify people in those circumstances after they have become compulsory, but that it will also be possible for individuals to use other material if they wish to do so. Of course, the detail of that matter can be discussed in Committee if we make progress, but that is where we are.
Mr. Clarke: I will not give way again. I am going to make progress on the point about the capacity to run major projects made by the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh). There are a lot of easy jibes of the type that he made, and I want to begin by giving the example of the Passport and Records Agencyan organisation that has issued 6.1 million passports in the past year, that has 47 million records across the country and that, as is very well known, had major problems in 1997, which caused concern throughout the House.
Only this year, the Comparisat benchmark survey, run by FDS International, surveyed a wide range of organisations based on their customer satisfaction and what was going on. Number one on that list was the UK Passport Service, which was followed by Asda, eBay, Amazon, Virgin Mobile, Morrisons, Tesco, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Post Office, Boots and ScottishPower. I cite that example because it demonstrates that major public service projects, and even Home Office public service projects can, through investment in technology for massive schemes, beat the worldboth the public and private sectorin the service that they offer to people. That is a tribute to what can be done.
I can cite other examples. The UK information technology industry is currently rolling out the introduction of chip and PIN in stores and shops throughout the country. The project involves 42 million consumers who hold more than 140 million credit and debit cards, 3 million retail staff in stores throughout the country and more than 250,000 bank branch and call centre staff. That massive project is being carried out well.
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The Department for Work and Pensions payment modernisation system means that 22.5 million accounts are now paid by direct payment. The scheme was completed on time with less expenditure than was initially anticipated, and it will save more than £1 billion over the next five years. The same is true of NHS Direct. All those examples demonstrate that the public sector in general, and the Home Office in particular, has the capacity to undertake such major projects. Of course the projects must be well managed, and I could produce a list of private and public sector failures, but it is important to get a balance on the whole situation.
Our approach on the technology is straightforward. When the Bill has passed through Parliament, we intend to conduct trials of the technology, including small-scale tests, database tests and large-scale testing during roll-out. There has been a lot of concern about biometric identity cards, especially those using iris recognition, so I draw the House's attention to a report published earlier this week by the university of Cambridge computer laboratory. Its conclusion and recommendations indicate clearly and categorically:
"Iris recognition can be reliably used on a national basis in an Identity Cards scheme, including the capability for exhaustive iris code comparisons to detect multiple identities, if the decision policy employs a threshold criteria"
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