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My interest is in two aspects of the Bill. The first is whether the benefits of the project have been set out with sufficient clarity and quantified in such a way as to justify its progress. The second is how Parliament is to scrutinise the commissioning, delivery and management of a complex, high-risk, IT-enabled change in the way in which we relate to our Government and the services that are sold to us.
In a project of this scale, I would certainly expect to see a business case published that identified the gains to be achievedquantified and valued where possibleand showed how they would be committed to and delivered. I have yet to see such a document. We have seen that various parts of our public service endorse the concept of ID cards, but that is insufficient in itself. They must own and sign up to the process changes, improved outcomes and efficiencies that they say can be delivered. We have noted, for example, that the Criminal Records Bureau will apparently greatly increase its efficiency following the introduction of ID cards. That could readily be quantified and valued, but we have yet to see it done. There have also been statements about the reduction in identity fraud. Again, it should be possible to quantify the potential gains and to analyse whether they relate to the costs and scale of the project. Those gains must then be assessed against the project's apparent costs and disbenefits, and a mechanism needs to be set out that will allow us to measure whether we are achieving those goals, and to monitor them in the future.
I would also expect to see an objective risk analysis of the project. I accept that the technologies used, and the process changes that are likely to be made, are achievable in themselves. However, delivering all of them within one project carries huge, multiplying risks. The Office of Government Commerce's gateway process has been far from perfect in preventing flawed projects from proceeding, yet it is probably the best mechanism available to date. I would strongly suggest that the OGC's reports be made public through this process, so that we can examine for ourselves whether the project is likely to be deliverable.
Associated with that is the recognition that any project of this scale and complexity should have defined boundaries in terms of cost, budget and functionality. It is all too easy to persist with a stricken project, rather than risk criticism by taking the correct course of cancellation. I would expect to see a definition of how the inevitable problems of this project will be appraised, and of how they will be assessed against reasonable criteria of success and failure.
Finally, I would expect a robust management strategy to be defined, both at political and project management level. Fatal to most projects, and certainly to this one, would be a creeping specification, involving changes part-way through. Politicians tend to wish to please, and we cannot predict what will be asked for in the future. Projects of this scale, however, need to be run with narrow-minded dogmatism to ensure that they are delivered at all. I see a huge contradiction between that and the likely longevity and complexity of this project. I would therefore like to see a public recognition in Government of the discipline required to achieve anything at all.
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Some of my expectations might be met through changes in the Bill. There are strong arguments for an affirmative vote prior to the commissioning of the project based on a far clearer understanding of what is being attempted than has been offered up to now. I would urge an amendment on those principles. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench can produce a more resilient and fact-based case during the Bill's passage. I thus reserve my support on the future stages of the Bill. Tonight's vote, however, is on the principle of the Bill, and it will have my support then.
When the Bill was debated in the previous Parliament, I, my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) and about nine others marched through the Lobby with clear conviction and certainty to ensure that we registered our protest against the principle of the Bill. Second Reading, of course, is about the principle behind the reasons for producing it. On the previous Second Reading, I produced a copy of a book by George Orwell called "Nineteen Eighty-Four", and directed it to the attention of the Home Secretary. It refers to the "Ministry of Truth", in which, George Orwell says, "Freedom is slavery". That is what lies at the heart of these proposals. [Interruption.] I hear the Minister of State say "Rubbish" from a sedentary position. I heard him generating a certain amount of hot air and rubbish on the subject on the "Today" programme this morning or perhaps yesterdayit was in the past 48 hours.
The fact remains that the Information Commissioner has stated that the Bill has within it the seeds of a surveillance society. In the previous debate, I referred to the fact that he said that it represented a sea change in the relationship between the individual and the state. I have heard the Home Secretary rubbishing the Information Commissioner today. I heard another Labour Member talking about hysterical paranoia. I would like to call their attention to the fact that the Information Commissioner holds a status by Act of Parliament that is no less than that of the Clerk of the House of Commons, in that he cannot be removed from office unless there is an address by both Houses of Parliament. That is a very high status. Those such as the Home Secretary who are wont to describe the measured remarks of the Information Commissioner in such terms seem to be getting dangerously close to fulfilling the axiom of Abraham Lincoln's to which I just referred.
Over the past year or so, we have also noticed that this new Labour Government, in contradiction to what the Prime Minister used to say, have moved increasingly down the route of greater inhibitions on individual freedom. The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 is a good example, as it contained a provision that would enable the Government to repeal any Act of Parliament if they declared an emergency. In 1995, when the Prime Minister was in opposition, he said:
The ingredients of this Bill include the making of statutory instruments, so when we pass the principle but do not provide for the enabling provisions, we do not know what we are letting ourselves in for. This Bill, despite the perambulations of my party on this subjectI am glad that they have now been resolved in the direction in which we originally put the caseshould be condemned. No other common-law country of any note has such a provision, including the United States. This Bill is a disgrace, and it is Big Brother coming back again.
Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway) (Lab): In view of the time, I have torn up the civil liberties peroration with which I was hoping to entertain the House. I will limit that aspect of my speech to pointing out the undoubted fact that the bite of this Bill lies in its secondary, not its primary legislation. It would be as well if Members understoodI am sure that they dothat under the Bill's secondary legislation, it is possible for the Secretary of State to extend the information put on the register in respect of any individual to include any matters relating to security and crime. If he does so, people will not be able to access it, because the Data Protection Act 1998 will not allow them to do so. That is all that I have to say on civil liberties, apart from endorsing in general terms the rather florid comments of the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), whom I have the honour to follow.
I shall attempt to give the House the benefit of my research into one of the few things about which I know a little: crime. I was entertainedindeed, I was exercisedby the claim, which has been made on many occasions, that so-called identity theft costs the nation £1.3 billion a year. I thought it would be interesting to find out how that figure was arrived at, and I want to give the House the benefit of my research in the very short time available.
I find that difficult to believe. I know that British Telecom and British Gas, for example, can be tiresome when people try to get their records put right, and that one can spend a lot of time listening to music on hold. But I found the claim that one can spend two weeks, on continental time, trying to put one's records right as a result of documents being removed from one's dustbin an unconvincing start to my research.
However, things got worse when I finally found the document on which this figure is baseda Cabinet Office document called "Identity Fraud: A Study". It deals with various aspects of crime that, it is said, cost £1.3 billion. The overwhelming majority of that figure is said to come from the following types of crime: VAT fraud, which
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accounts for £215 million; credit card theftof course, that cannot be affected by this legislationwhich accounts for £215 million; and money laundering, which accounts for some £400 million.
I am delighted to say that I know a little about the form of money laundering to which that study refers. It involves people going into bureaux de change in order to launder money. All such crimes referred to in that study£400 million-worthare actually a limited number that were committed in 2001. Generally speaking, what happens is that somebody goes into a bureau de change bearing a rucksack or haversack, in which is contained approximately £1 million in old notes, mainly Scottish. That person then offers them to the owner of the bureau de change, saying, "Please may I have new guilders?" He is then given the guilders in exchange for the notes.
That is the crime that it is hoped will be completely laid to rest by identity cards. I invite hon. Members, in the short period I have left to speak, to speculate and contemplate what happens when Jock or Bill arrives with his million quid. The owner of the bureau de changeChinese, probablysays to him, "I see you are back here again with another million pounds of Scottish notes for which you want guilders". He will then say, "Any chance of an identity card?" No? Well, it would be all right with an ID card, but if the person in question said no, I invite the House to say that that would not be the end of that particular transaction.
Of course, it gets worse when we contemplate serious blue-collar crime. It is envisaged that the scheme will do something to prevent armed robbery. Well, I can contemplate the cashier who has the misfortune of looking at a balaclava and a shorn-off shotgun. I dare say that some would have the sang-froid at that moment to say, "Please may I see your identity card?". I have known some very stupid criminals in my time, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but very few who could be prevailed upon to give themselves away as a result of this legislation, which I greatly hope we will not pass tonight.
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