|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Salmond: How is it possible for the House to place any credibility on the Government's estimates when they have palpably not answered the questions posed by the Select Committee, which one of the friends of the Bill posed to the Minister earlier this evening? If those have not been examined properly, which is the word of the Select Committee Chairman, how can any credibility be placed on the Government's costings?
Andy Burnham: I shall talk about the issues raised by the Chairman of the Select Committee now. I listened carefully to what he had to say. As always, he made a number of extremely valuable pointsand I hasten to remind him that he prefaced his remarks with the comment that he was a supporter of the scheme. I think he said that the case was compelling. Does the hon. Gentleman recall that?
I do as well. I welcomed the Chairman's observations: he made a number of sensible
18 Oct 2005 : Column 790
points, and it behoves one in my position to note them carefully and respond to them properly. One of them related to addresses
Mr. Todd: My hon. Friend touched on the net present value of the project. Will he place in the Library a calculation of its value, and its exposure to sensitivities? That would be useful to us during the remainder of the Bill's passage.
My hon. Friend referred to other stakeholders. I assume that he was thinking of the private sector and the contributions that it might have to make. Can he give us any idea of the basis on which we can place any reliance on what those concerned have said so far? In fact, they seem to have been silent on the subject.
Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend mentioned the KPMG report earlier. We have said that a summary of the report will be published shortly. I shall be happy to make it available to any Member who would like to read it.
Mr. Todd: My first point was about net present value, which was not precisely what the KPMG report addressed. It was addressed more in the Office of Government Commerce analysis. My second point related to the assumptions made about private sector contributions to the success of the project, and the extent to which we could rely on those involved in view of their relative silence to date.
Andy Burnham: As the scheme progresses, we shall seek to share more information. The Chairman of the Select Committee made the valuable point that being open about the procurement process could strengthen the scheme.
My right hon. Friend also mentioned the possible cost of constant re-registration by people moving house. As he will know, addresses are currently printed on the front of driving licences. I do not think it would be sensible to require people to obtain a new identity card every time they moved house. We want a system enabling people easily to communicate a change of address to those who run the scheme, but I take his point. He also mentioned the chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, and the recommendation that a group should be established to consider the efficacy of biometrics. I can tell him that a biometrics assurance group, a Government group, is being set up under Sir David's chairmanship.
The issues are coming into sharper focus now that we have reached a point at which rigorous testing is necessary. Regular meetings have already been scheduled for the next 12 months, and the Home Office has recently appointed a senior biometrics adviser from the private sector.
May I bring this particular issue into even sharper focus? The Minister has said, a year after the Select Committee's report, that the Government are taking on board the point about addresses, and that it
18 Oct 2005 : Column 791
will be easy for people to notify the authorities about a change of address. What will happen if they do not do that?
Andy Burnham: If the hon. Gentleman has read the Bill, he will know that people are required to notify the authorities of a change of address. I want to ensure that they can do that easily and quickly.
My right hon. Friend asked whether this was just a Home Office scheme that would be examined by the rest of Government, or a cross-Government scheme. He may know that a cross-departmental group of Ministers from the main Departments with an interest in the scheme, chaired by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, is looking in detail at all the issues that he mentioned. It is looking at how Departments can plan now to build the national identity register into their work, so that we can get maximum benefit at the earliest possible stage. However, my right hon. Friend's point was well made.
Tim Farron: On consulting other Departments and the costs that have yet to be built in, does the Minister recall his answer to me in Committee? He said that members of staff operating and administering the scheme would be deemed to be in positions of trust. Has he established how much it will cost to ensure that that vast army of people are security cleared and police checked, and has he consulted the trade unions?
Let me deal directly with the cost to the individualthe issue that those listening to this debate want most reassurance on. As the House knows, on Second Reading my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary gave a commitment that he would seek to introduce an ID card cost that we believe is affordable and fair to the majority of the public. The hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) said that we danced round this issue in Committee, and I am happy to tell him this evening that the Home Secretary has confirmed that a £30 fee for a stand-alone ID card would be a fair price to pay. We believe that, crucially, it is affordable
Patrick Mercer: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I might seek some advice. Would it be in order for you to ask the Minister to conclude his speech, so that I might have time to withdraw my amendment?
I shall endeavour to give the hon. Gentleman the reply that he asked for. We have been able to set this fee, but the one qualification is that before we enter the procurement stage, it is of course difficult to be hard and fast about the fees that could be charged. But we think it right at this stage to give those
18 Oct 2005 : Column 792
listening to this debate an idea of the cost of the stand-alone card. We believe that doing so will build confidence in the scheme.
Mr. Drew: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Will he clarify what will happen in the case of a lost, and particularly a stolen, card? Will the assumption be that the person in question has to pay for full cost recovery, or will tolerance be shown, so that the poorest, who may prove most subject to theft, are not asked to make the greatest contribution?
Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend makes a fair point, and we are looking at whether a replacement fee can be introduced. In cases where people lose their card, it should not be necessary for them to go through the whole process again and to pay the full price of a card. Such issues will be clarified as we get into the next stage of the scheme. My hon. Friend may find more reassurance in clause 37, which sets out the wide range of powers to set fees and allows for the payment of fees in instalments. As I pointed out, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, in setting the £30 stand-alone fee, said that we believe such a fee to be fair. It also means that not everybody will have to pay for the cost of an identity card and passport. The stand-alone fee deals with one of the issues raised by the hon. Member for Newark, in that it gives people a choice. They can choose whether to purchase an ID card, at a cost of £30, that will enable them to travel within the European Union, or to purchase the two documentsthe passport and the ID cardthe current combined unit cost of which is £93. However, the £30 card will not be a cut-price or inferior card, as has been suggested in some parts of the media.
Amendment No. 19 seeks to exclude from clause 37 the power to charge for ID cards. We believe that that is not the correct thing to do at this stage. We of course want people to register with the scheme, but a charge of £30 is affordable, particularly if they can pay in instalments. By way of comparison, several other EU countries charge for ID cards. France, where the ID card has traditionally been free of charge, is now looking to charge for the new biometric card, which will be introduced there soon. What we are proposing, Madam Deputy Speaker, is consistent with practice in other parts of the EU, particularly France
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|