Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1180-1199)|
MP AND MR
14 JUNE 2006
Q1180 Margaret Moran: The Gateway
Review has been completed but that focuses on process. Could you
tell us whether you are prepared to undertake a gateway review
on the practical and technical feasibility of the project and
make that available?
Joan Ryan: I would have to ask
to write to the committee on that. I would need to understand
the gateway review process and how it has been applied so far
to this process and also to biometric residents' permits. I do
not feel I can answer that at the moment.
Chairman: That will be acceptable.
Q1181 Dr Harris: You said you are
not aware specifically and you will let us know of any specific
changes that have been made following social science research.
We are told in your evidence, and I quote, "the mechanism
for incorporating the results of social science work into the
programme is predominantly a robust change control process".
Do you know what that means because I do not, I am afraid.
Joan Ryan: I think it means exactly
what Margaret was saying. We undertake this research and from
it we are able to acquire information about how best to do things
like enrol people and deal with people's issues. One of the things
we were interested in finding out from people was whether they
felt that giving fingerprints meant that in some way that you
are a criminal. There is a lot said about people's perceptions
being that if you are asked to give your fingerprints, there is
some notion of criminality and people would be very resistant
to do this. We discovered through the research that that is not
the case at all. People's attitude was pretty much: if you have
nothing to hide, why would you be worried? We also discovered,
through things like the biometrics road show, that people quite
like testing out the technology and that, far from it being a
barrier, the only times when it hit the barrier might be when
there are physical reasons why it is difficult for people to use
the technology. There are other issues as well, cultural issues.
We have seen these through the roll-out of the passport as well
and the new photograph in order to get the facial biometric; for
instance, the wearing of head wear for certain groups is an important
issue. Social science research has helped inform us about to how
to deal with and approach those issues. It is not so much making
a complete change from one idea to another but it is informing
us about how to approach and handle these issues.
Q1182 Dr Harris: Can I ask you about
costs? To what extent would costs be a driver in choosing the
technologies, or indeed the functionality? How do you balance
Joan Ryan: I suppose we would
want what is called best value in that the cheapest will not necessarily
be our choice because it might not be able to deliver what we
need to see delivered. Our business case has been seen by KPMG.
It has been through the Office of Government Commerce gateway.
It has had approval at many levels. We are confident that we have
the funding and the costings, that they are robust, and we have
built in contingency, optimism and bias. We feel we are going
to be in a strong position in relation to cost and procurement,
but clearly the priority is that we are confident we are (a) getting
value for money but (b) that it will deliver.
Q1183 Dr Turner: Could either of
you tell us something about the "joined-upness" of working
between government departments on the ID scheme, both on the technology
development and making sure that other departments can use it
without any operational difficulties. Obviously the Department
of Health is going to have an interest in this; DWP is going to
have a considerable interest. What can you tell us about that
Joan Ryan: We have undertaken
a great deal of work on what we call stakeholder engagement, which
is what I think you are referring to in terms of the development
of the identity card. We have also undertaken work with our delivery
partners and then with other groups as well, such as industry
groups and a technical group. Across government, the ID card programme
managers are key stakeholders who may expect to realise benefits
from the introduction of the scheme. We have account managers
and they have been in place since 2004. They each have a key contact
person at strategy board level. We draw in from that DWP, Department
of Health, CRB, the police, and the Department for Communities
and Local Government.
Q1184 Chairman: Are these contacts
at ministerial level?
Joan Ryan: No, these are at civil
servant level. Through that work, obviously we are attempting
to get this cross-departmental recognition of benefits, the buy-in
and working together. We also do that through working on our building
Q1185 Dr Turner: You will have taken
steps to ensure that the technology is compatible across the whole
Joan Ryan: Yes, it is absolutely
crucial that interoperability exists. We have a number of ways
in which that is being approached. We also ensure that with all
other schemes we have the technical specification whereby everybody
is going to be able to speak to each other.
Q1186 Dr Turner: One of our witnesses
suggested that there has not always been the coherence that there
might have been. Specifically they referred to the e-Borders programme
where it is suggested that there has been a lack of sharing of
evidence, a duplication of effort and a general overlap. There
is a specific claim that there has been little coherence between
the programmes, particularly in the early stages. What comment
do you have to make on that?
Joan Ryan: In terms of interoperability,
we have common technical standards as a start point. We have the
e-Government Unit and the Government's Interoperability Framework.
We work within that. Across departments, we have our stakeholder
groups and our expert assurance groups to make sure that is all
working together. You brought up the example of e-Borders. The
e-Borders Programme has its own timetable. Although we would look
to learn from particularly Project Iris for instance and issues
around iris scanning, e-Borders and iris scanning do not actually
have a card that relates to the database in that way. It is not
perhaps as close a building block to the ID card scheme as some
of the other building blocks I have mentioned. It would not be
correct to say that there is no interaction between our e-Borders
development team and the ID card scheme because there is and it
is very important. I am not sure the relationship between what
is being developed in both these things is as close as the relationship
with UK Visas and biometric residents' permits.
Q1187 Bob Spink: Given the technological
implementation uncertainties and the massive IT infrastructure
requirement, procurement will, I guess from your answers, be a
developmental process. Will it therefore be on a fixed-price basis,
or are you returning to the old cost-plus contract basis for this
procurement? Both of them have their problems.
Joan Ryan: I am loath to delve
into talking about the cost issue at the point where we are about
to go to procurement because I do not think that would be most
sensible. At the point where we talk about that, we would want
to discuss it.
Q1188 Bob Spink: I think that we
as a committee and Parliament generally have a duty to hold the
Government to account. If the Government is going to return to
a cost-plus rather than a fixed-price contracting basis, then
I think that is something of public concern.
Joan Ryan: We have given quite
detailed information as far as we are able, without breaking commercial
confidentiality or going outside the scope of the committee, on
the business case. That is in the public domain. You will also
know that we have undertaken every six months, subject to commercial
confidentiality, to submit a report to the House of Commons, and
that was agreed at the Lords' Amendment Stage.
Q1189 Chairman: It was and we are
content with that. Joan, thank you very much indeed for answering
all these questions. We will have further questions later in the
session. Can I briefly ask you this? Last week we had Paul Wiles
in front of us, the department's Chief Scientific Adviser. We
specifically asked him whether he had responsibility for ICT in
the department and he said "no". Neither he nor in any
evidence we have received from the Home Office have said who is
responsible for ICT. Do you know who it is?
Joan Ryan: Could I ask to write
to the committee on that point to confirm who I think it is?
Q1190 Chairman: That is interesting
because it is actually Vincent Geake. What we would like to know
is why in fact he has not been mentioned in any evidence at all
and why you as the Minister did not know and neither did the Chief
Scientific Adviser. Perhaps you would write to us on that issue
because IT seems to be incredibly important to this project.
Joan Ryan: Obviously he is the
Chief Information Officer. I was just a bit thrown when you said
"technology". I do in fact know that that is his job.
Also, he is newly appointed and so I was struggling to find his
name, but I do in fact know it is him.
Q1191 Chairman: It was not a trick
question but just that it is an important issue. Thank you very
much indeed, Joan. We will return to you. We move on to Vernon
Coaker and the issue of drug classification. Could I launch in
straight away, Vernon, and say that the Chief Executive of the
Medical Research Council described the current classification
system, and I quote: "It is antiquated and reflects the prejudice
and misconceptions of an era in which drugs were placed in arbitrary
categories with notable, often illogical, consequences".
Do you agree?
Mr Coaker: No, I do not agree
Q1192 Chairman: Why not?
Mr Coaker: I think it is a fairly
extreme view and I am sure it was meant to actually put a point
of view. I think the classification system has generally served
us well. There is a basis for the classification of the drugs.
I think it is a system that is understandable to people and has
credibility with the public.
Q1193 Chairman: You would defend
it, as the Minister responsible?
Mr Coaker: I would defend it.
That is not to say it is perfect.
Q1194 Adam Afriyie: Could I go back
one step? What do you consider to be the aim of the UK drugs policy
and the classification system in particular? Obviously we want
to see drug use stopped. Is the policy to stop the users, is it
to stop dealers, or is it to stop the suppliers? What is the aim
of the policy of the classification system?
Mr Coaker: That is a very good
question. It is not either/or. Sometimes, in these debates about
drugs strategy, we get into an either/or situation. As an overall
strategy, it is about tackling drugs, dealing with the street,
trying to tackle that in terms of crime on the street and doing
something about some of the problems that people see on their
street. It is about getting more people into treatment, trying
to do something about those people who are misusing drugs, and
trying to support them. If you look at the numbers going into
treatment, there is a record number of people going into treatment
at the present time. It is about breaking that cycle. Alongside
that, it is also about education and changing attitudes. I think
the classification system helps in the sense that it identifies
those drugs which are potentially harmful.
Q1195 Adam Afriyie: I am somewhat
surprised that you argue that the classification system has been
helpful when drug use has increased enormously since the introduction
of the classification system. What does that say about the classification
system when in other countries like Sweden drug use has virtually
Mr Coaker: We have a situation
where we have a drugs strategy that is tackling drug use out there;
it is tackling the prevalence of drugs on the street and drug
use. If we look at some of the statistics, in terms of the drugs
strategy, we are seeing a degree of success with 16-24 year-olds.
The 2004-05 British Crime Survey compared the present situation
to 1998 and for 16-24 year-olds the proportion that reported that
they had ever taken any drugs had fallen by 15%.
Q1196 Adam Afriyie: If we go back
to when the classification system was first introduced, then I
think the picture would be very different. It is easy to point
at a graph, take a couple of dates and make a case. If you look
at the overall picture since the introduction of the classification
system, the evidence is completely the other way round, is it
Mr Coaker: If you go back to '71,
we were in a different type of society. We are dealing with society
and the community as it is now. I think in that sense we have
a situation where there is an overarching drugs strategy, which
is not just based on the classification system but on education;
it is about changing attitudes and it is also about enforcement
of the law. It goes back to what I said earlier. It is not one
situation or the other; it is a package of measures trying to
deal with the problem we have.
Q1197 Adam Afriyie: What precise
or specific evidence is there that putting a drug in a higher
class actually has a deterrent effect? From what I can see, sometimes
it even seems to have the reverse effect.
Mr Coaker: I think that people
out thereif we talk about the population in general, the
public at largeif we have classified a drug as a Class
A drug, realise that it is a serious drug; they realise that it
is a drug that is harmful. It is a drug that has a particularly
Q1198 Chairman: Where is the evidence?
I am not doubting that you believe that, but where is the evidence
to demonstrate your response to Adam's question?
Mr Coaker: The evidence is in
the survey that we have taken recently where we have looked at
drug use, and the statistics that I have just given out, where
we have seen a reduction in the use of drugs.
Chairman: The point of Adam's question,
if I get him right . . . . I am sorry, Adam, perhaps you should
ask the question.
Q1199 Adam Afriyie: The point of
the question is this. What specific evidence is there that when
you move a drug to a higher class there is a deterrent effect
on its use? Where is the evidence for that?
Mr Coaker: We take the advice
of the ACMD; we take the advice of the police. The ACMD has scientific
representatives on it. They are people who are professors of pharmacology,
and so on. They advise us on that, and they advise us on the class
of drug, where a drug should be classed, and we take evidence
from them. Then that gives us the opportunity, as I say, to reflect
on the impact that has on the public.