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Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): I should be grateful if the Minister returned to the question asked by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg). He referred the Minister to paragraph (e) of subsection (4)
Andy Burnham: Across the public sector, bodies are performing identity checks day in, day out, be they the local council, the Criminal Records Bureau or the DVLAany number of organisations. The point is that those checks are already being carried out, and if a higher standard of identity check can be introduced it must surely be in the interests of each and every one of us[Interruption.] Does the hon. Gentleman want to listen to the answer? It is in the interest of each and every one of us that those checks be carried out to a higher standard than at present.
Let me make one thing clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones): it is not and never has been our intention to create an elaborate database that would hold detailed personal profiles for every individual. Rather, it is our intention to create a system that takes basic personal facts about each of usname, address and date of birthwhich are already held on databases, such as those for passports or the DVLA, and link them to a unique personal identifier, such as a fingerprint or an iris scan.
The link between those basic facts and the unique identifier puts the individual citizen in control of the use of their data. They alone can put that personal stamp on
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those basic facts and they hold the key to their use. That is one of the main arguments for the system. It is a basic identification system, not the elaborate database about which my hon. Friend seemed to have concerns.
Lynne Jones: Will my hon. Friend explain how the Government's proposals, which involve storing 10 fingerprints, facial biometrics and two irises on the national database, will achieve his objectives more effectively than the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, under which just a face and fingerprint are stored on a chip on a card that people carry?
Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend raises an important point. We had to take a decision on the extent to which biometrics would be collected when enrolment was carried out. We believe that it is right to ensure that it will not be necessary to bring people back for further enrolment two or more years after their initial enrolment. The combination of different biometrics will give the high standard of identification check that we want.
Stewart Hosie (Dundee, East) (SNP): The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, of all bodies, has put together information about the use of multiple biometrics. Far from creating fewer false accepts and false rejects, the reverse can be the case in certain circumstances, so multiple biometrics do not necessarily lead to the results that the Minister wants. His assertion in reply to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) was thus not correct, so will he comment on the fact that using multiple biometrics will not deliver the beneficial results that he wants?
Andy Burnham: We will proceed to a full technology trial if the Bill receives Royal Assent. In the interim, I refer the hon. Gentleman to the report by the National Physical Laboratory, which examined the matter in detail and concluded that biometric systems could be used in the way in which we propose. I also refer him to experiences in the United States, where such systems are already in widespread use. The technology is not new and coming to us only now, but established and used today throughout the world to prove people's identities.
Stewart Hosie: The German Federal Parliament's Office of Technology Assessment warned that introducing biometrics on such a scale would be a "gigantic laboratory test" and that face recognition was known to fail. Other bodies throughout the world argue the case against what the Minister says.
The European Union has already agreed to move in the direction of requiring the widespread use of biometrics. The United States has also taken such a decision in principle, as has the International Civil Aviation Organisation, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak referred a few moments ago. It is up to the hon. Gentleman if he wants the British Government to stand back from that and thus ensure that British citizens have second-class passports that will not enable them to travel with freedom and convenience in the future, but Labour Members will not take that decision.
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Mr. Marshall-Andrews: The Minister said that it was not the Government's intention to create a vast body of information and that the Bill sets out what may be stored on the database. However, he is aware that Ministers will be enabled by secondary legislation to add to the categories of information on the database, which causes great concern to many of us. Will he comment on that and, especially, the report in today's edition of The Guardian that the Government will give an undertaking that that power could not be used? I do not know where that provision appears in the Bill, so I would grateful if the Minister dealt with the matter.
Andy Burnham: We do not have time to consider Government amendment No. 1, but I refer my hon. and learned Friend to it because it will give him the reassurance that he wants. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) raised the legitimate point in Committee that clause 1(5)(g) suggested that personal sensitive data could be covered by the Bill, such as those on the police national computer. We have thus tabled Government amendment No. 1 to rule out the use of sensitive personal data, as defined by the Data Protection Act 1998, with which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) will be familiar.
Terrorism was raised by many Opposition Members. No Minister has ever claimed that the proposal is a silver bullet to deal with terrorism, but the scheme as conceived will provide the security services and the police with a useful tool, enabling them to tackle and identify individuals responsible for terrorism. The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) asked me to give a definitive statement explaining why the measure is useful in tackling terrorism. I refer him to the head of the Security Service, who said:
We must listen to the security services, and we must take on board the points that they make. The right hon. Gentleman will remember better than me debates in the early 1990s about closed circuit television in which the same fears about a surveillance society and function creep were expressed. No one in this country can doubt the role that CCTV played in the aftermath of the London bombings.
Patrick Mercer: I acknowledge what the head of the Security Service said, but where is the proof? Where is the evidence? Can the Minister point to an incident that was prevented at a certain time and place in a certain country because of the possession of such an identity card? Have things been improved?
The argument is clear. The main strength of the biometric system is that individuals can only register their personal details once, because they have only one set of biometrics to register. Terrorist
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networks around the world rely and thrive on the use of multiple identities. They use multiple travel documents and passports. Tackling that is one of the Bill's key strengths.
Lembit Öpik: The Minister and the Government have failed to answer a fundamental question. Can they guarantee that the system is not open to corruption? If the Minister wishes to be taken seriously on the issue, can he give a 100 per cent. commitment that there is no opportunity for corruption within the system itself?
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