Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Fifth Report

5 Uniform format for residence permits for third-country nationals



COM(06) 110

Amended draft Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) 1030/2002 laying down a uniform format for residence permits for third-country nationals

Legal baseArticle 63(3)(a) EC; consultation; unanimity
DepartmentHome Office
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 5 July 2006
Previous Committee ReportHC 34-xxx (2005-06), para 5 (24 May 2006)
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared, pending evidence session with Minister

Previous scrutiny

5.1 In 2002, the Government opted into the Council Regulation which lays down a uniform format for residence permits for third-country nationals.[14]

5.2 In 2003, the Commission presented the draft of an amending Regulation to integrate biometric identifiers into the residence permits. The Government told the previous Committee that it strongly supported the inclusion of biometrics and that it had decided to opt into the amending Regulation. Our predecessors cleared the proposal from scrutiny.[15]

5.3 The draft Regulation provided for biometric identifiers to be incorporated into both residence permits and residence stickers. After the previous Committee cleared the document, an expert committee advised the Commission that, at present, it is not technically feasible to integrate biometric identifiers into stickers.

5.4 In the light of this advice, the Commission presented a modified draft of the Regulation. When we considered it in April, we asked the Government, among other things, whether the cost to the UK of implementing the modified draft would be similar to the estimates the Government had given the previous Committee of the cost of implementing the first draft of the Regulation.[16]

5.5 In his reply of 16 May, the then Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality at the Home Office (Mr Tony McNulty) told us

"We originally estimated that implementing the Regulation would entail start-up and running costs of £24 million and £15 million respectively. Our thinking has advanced since then. While I am happy to give you some detail on this, you should be aware that our cost estimates are still subject to departmental approval (which is why I did not include them in my original EM). Under current planning assumptions we believe that the start-up costs for biometric residence permits are likely to be in the region of £60 million. This significantly higher figure reflects a) an increase in our programme management costs in line with a programme of this complexity and b) our desire to ensure the issuing process is secure. We are developing additional security measures, particularly related to identity management and ensuring the integrity of the immigration process. Our estimate of running costs has also increased to £56 million. This is because a) it is a ten-year average figure, taking inflation into account, b) it incorporates a larger contingency element, in line with Treasury best practice, and c) in the light of a better understanding of the technical specification we have revised upwards our estimate of unit costs. The objective will be to recover these running costs through charges levied on those who apply for the service."[17]

5.6 When we resumed consideration of the modified draft of the Regulation on 24 May, we decided to ask the Minister for further information and, in particular:

  • Why the Government thought that the increase in cost would be outweighed by the benefits of incorporating biometrics into UK residence permits?
  • What are the expected benefits and how will the Government evaluate whether they have been achieved?

The Minister's letter of 5 July 2006

5.7 The Minister of State at the Home Office (Mr Liam Byrne) tells us that:

"Based on our current thinking, a [biometric residence permit] BRP solution that implements only the minimum required to meet the EU Regulation ("BRP Minimum" option) is estimated to have start-up costs of approximately £36 million. The preferred solution for BRP that includes additional features, over and above that required to meet the EU Regulation ('BRP Incremental" option), has estimated set-up costs of approximately £60 million (i.e. a £24 million increase over the BRP Minimum option).

"We have identified benefits for both the BRP Minimum and BRP Incremental options. The attached table, annexed to this letter illustrates clearly that the BRP Incremental solution will deliver more benefit than can be delivered [sic]

"Benefit 1 — Contribution to the wider National Identity Scheme: The BRP project forms an integral part of the UK's wider National Identity Scheme, comprised also of IND's UKvisas Biometrics, e-Borders and Immigration Asylum Fingerprint System+ (IAFS+) projects, and Identity and Passport Service (IPS). Together, these initiatives will ensure that all UK residents (and anyone requiring a visa) will have some form of recorded biometrics linked to their identity, providing significant benefits in terms of reduced identity fraud, immigration offences and threats to public safety. The additional benefits stem mainly from the increased assurance that biometrics are uniquely associated with an identity, through capabilities that are unique to the BRP Incremental option.

"Benefit 2 — Improvement to immigration control: Whilst the EU proposal for a uniform format biometric residence permit will help simplify immigration control within the wider UK society, including for employers and public offices; the EU Regulation does not stipulate any controls related to ensuring that recorded biometrics are unique. There is also no obligation to ensure that checks are carried out to ensure that biometrics are attached to the correct identity. As such, issues regarding counterfeiting and falsification are only addressed through the introduction of a product that is physically more difficult to counterfeit. The BRP Incremental option has been designed to include additional features that will help to control fraud and abuse, thereby improving immigration control.

"Benefit 3 — Compliance with EU legislation: The UK's opt-in to the 2003 version of this proposal remains valid, and we are therefore bound to participate in, and implement this new proposal. Whilst compliance with this Regulation would be achieved through the BRP Minimum option, we consider, as noted above, that there are significant benefits in going beyond the requirements of the draft Regulation.

"Benefits Realisation

"Whilst the BRP project is still at a relatively early stage in this process and the benefits are still subject to departmental approval, we can inform the Committee of our current work on benefit realisation.

"The BRP project has been working closely with the Home Office Group Investment Board to agree an approach for benefits identification, quantification and realisation. The project will follow the standard Office of Government Commerce (OGC) guidelines for ensuring the realisation of these benefits, including obtaining agreement from benefit owners and appointing a benefits realisation manager.

"We are also employing a co-ordinated approach to benefits management with the IAFS+ and UKvisas Biometrics projects. The aims of this coordinated approach are to:

  Give business partners a clear understanding of the strategic business benefits that IND's three major biometric projects (BRP, UKvisas Biometrics Programme and IAFS+) aim to deliver

  Form a realistic picture of how each business area can contribute to the successful delivery of the projects, ensuring that IND strives to maximise the realisation of potential benefits.

"The approach will include:

  Briefing business partners on the strategic objectives of IND's three major biometric projects

  Outlining the potential benefits identified during development of the business cases and providing an overview of the methodology used to baseline and quantify these

  Validating assumptions and business benefits with representatives from the impacted business areas

  Ensuring that the benefit realisation strategy will be included in future operational business plans

  Establishing a network of business benefit managers to monitor the progress of actual benefit realisation."

5.8 The Minister concludes by emphasising that the cost estimates "remain subject to departmental approval". He also says that the information in his letter is subject to the outcome of his review of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.

5.9 The table attached to the Minister's letter is reproduced below:



BRP Minimum

BRP Incremental
Contribute to the wider National Identity Scheme Align with the wider National Identity Scheme to ensure no gaps in the system
Support other organisations/projects in the wider National Identity Scheme by increasing the volume of assured biometrics data held by UK which can be checked against
De-risk ID Cards for Third County Nationals (TCNs) by trialling similar technology and processes
Increase attractiveness of UK for legal migrants by establishing a secure identity with clear entitlements — BRP a contributor
Improved immigration control Reduce the market for counterfeit documents by increasing document security
Improve immigration control by identifying multiple applications made under a single identity — BRP a contributor
Reduce support and processing costs by increasing the detection of asylum and immigration offences — BRP a contributor
Increase number of illegal applicants identified against which enforcement action to be taken
Increase cost effectiveness for residence permit appeals by decreasing processing time, enabled by enhanced, evidence based initial decisions — BRP a contributor
Increase cost effectiveness for removals by detaining people at interview and/or biometric recording stages
Increase operational efficiency through joined-up processes and technology improvements
Comply with EU legislation To comply with EU legislation


5.10 The Minister's letter and the table attached to it state what the Government believes to be the benefits of the biometric residence permit if either the "minimum" or "incremental" option were adopted. But neither the letter not the table gives any indication of the scale of the benefits. For example, they do not explain by how much the market for counterfeit documents would be reduced, how and by how much identity fraud would be reduced or how many more "illegal applicants" would be identified.

5.11 We do not understand the Minister's explanation of "Benefits Realisation". Who are the "business partners" and how will these arrangements enable the Government to assess whether benefits are achieved?

5.12 The Minister's letter says that the estimates of cost are subject to "departmental approval". We do not understand what this means.

5.13 The implementation of the proposed Regulation, through either the "minimum" or "incremental" option would cost a great deal of public money, perhaps even more that the Government's current estimates. At present, the likely benefits appear intangible and we have seen nothing to show that they would exceed the estimated start-up and annual running costs. We doubt that we shall be able to obtain a satisfactory answers to our questions through further correspondence. Accordingly, we ask the Minister to appear before us to give oral evidence on the costs and benefits of the proposals. Meanwhile, the document will remain under scrutiny.

14   Council Regulation (EC) No. 1030/2002: OJ No. L 157, 15.6.2002, p.1. Back

15   (24918) 13044/03: See HC 42-xi (2003-04), para 22 (25 February 2004). Back

16   See HC 34-xxvi (2005-06), para 13 (26 April 2006). Back

17   See headnote. Back

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