Select Committee on Science and Technology Sixth Report

3  Stakeholder engagement

24. The development of the identity cards scheme involves a large number of different organisations and groups including Government departments, Local Government, academic experts, industrialists, and officials from similar schemes in other countries. As will be explored in the following chapter, each of these groups represents a valuable source of scientific advice that the Home Office could be exploiting. Before dealing with each group in detail however, we will consider several over-arching issues in relation to stakeholder engagement that have been highlighted during our inquiry.


25. The Home Office has undertaken two main consultations; the first regarding the notion of an entitlement card in general and the second focusing on the legislation on identity cards. The first consultation on entitlement cards and identity fraud ran from July 2002 until January 2003.[43] It concentrated upon the purpose of the card, how cards might be issued, what information would be stored on any register and the cost of the scheme. The second consultation on the legislation on identity cards included some reference to the technology that might be used such as a National Identity Register, cards and biometrics.[44] It also covered several other areas dealt with by the legislation, such as regulations, data-sharing powers, compulsion and the information that would be recorded. This consultation ran from April 2004 until July 2004 and involved contacting stakeholders, using focus groups, undertaking quantitative surveys and giving presentations.[45]

26. More recently, the Home Office has run market-sounding exercises with industry, hosted by Intellect, that have focused on specific areas of requirements in technology. For instance, 35 companies participated in the verification systems seminar and 51 companies took part in the security systems seminar.[46] The Home Office has also sent specific questions to selected companies to provide detailed information on market capability. The Home Office explained that "Our contact with industry has been to share the high-level intentions of the Identity cards programme with companies and invite their reaction and feedback, and also to question them on specific technical areas".[47]

27. The Home Office believes that it has consulted widely on the identity cards programme. In oral evidence to us, Katherine Courtney said that "we have been consulting with industry about our plans…I do not think that we have in any way run the risk of not being open enough with industry. I think we have applied best practice in this area".[48] Professor Paul Wiles, the Chief Scientific Adviser at the Home Office has stressed the importance of consultation, stating that "it is extremely important that we regularly test the assumptions that we are operating on and our perceptions against a wider public understanding".[49] In general, relevant organisations have acknowledged that the Home Office has attempted to consult them regarding the identity cards programme. Intellect has said it "welcomes the basic approach taken by the Home Office during its period of consultation and deliberation".[50]

28. The evidence that we have received however suggests that there have also been several problems with the consultations. First, the nature and regularity of meetings does not seem to have satisfied the community. In written evidence to us, Peter Tomlinson from Iosis Associates stated, "That there were meetings at which HO [Home Office] was present and independent experts were also present is not disputed, but these were not HO consultations".[51] We also heard in oral evidence from Nick Kalisperas, Director of Markets at Intellect, who said that "there is a difference between consulting widely and having regular consultation".[52] In the same evidence session, Dr Tony Mansfield from the National Physical Laboratory noted that he thought that there could have been "better engagement between the original consultation and procurement, and there were perhaps a few opportunities that were missed for engagement with industry and academia to investigate certain solutions or certain problems prior to the procurement starting".[53]

29. Secondly, the evidence raised concerns that the consultations did not ask the right questions at the right time. Professor Thomas from the UK Computing Research Committee (UKCRC) said that "the consultation did not start at the right level", whilst Dave Birch from Consult Hyperion explained that "if you are consulting industry about whether the card should be red or green, that is very different from consulting industry about whether there should be a card" or another identity management solution that does not use cards.[54] The consultation process seems to have left the community with a lack of confidence regarding the scheme. Jerry Fishenden from Microsoft said that "after all these consultations we still do not seem to have had an impact on the level of understanding about what makes for a good identity system to practise".[55]

30. It was also frequently commented that the consultations appear to have focused unduly upon procurement issues. In written evidence, Microsoft said that "the current phase of public consultation by the Home Office has primarily focused on issues of procurement".[56] Jerry Fishenden from Microsoft elaborated that "every time we came close to wanting to talk about the architecture, we were told that was not really up for discussion because there was an internal reference model that the Home Office team had developed themselves, and that they did not feel they wanted to discuss their views of architecture".[57] Dave Birch agreed, saying that "A lot of the consultations tend to be discussions about the structuring of procurement and how exactly the procurement would work, and not really the kind of consultation that you would expect at a more scientific level, consultation about how the scheme should work overall and what it should do".[58]

31. The Home Office has consulted the wider community and has tried to apply best practice in this area. However, stakeholders are not satisfied with the nature of consultation and feel that consultations have been unduly limited in scope with unclear evidence gathering objectives. As a result, the wider community does not have the level of confidence in the scheme that could be expected following a successful consultation process.

32. The Home Office may be reluctant to allow wide-ranging discussion of technical matters because it is concerned that this may jeopardise the procurement process by suggesting to the market that particular solutions are favoured. The Home Office noted that if the market believed that a particular solution was being sought, it would be "losing the advantages of setting output-based requirements—that is, promoting innovation in the supplier community and allowing suppliers the ability to use their specialist expertise unhindered by being steered down a narrow technical path".[59]

33. Given that the identity cards scheme is still in the pre-procurement stage, it is possible for the Home Office to adopt a different approach. We have received several suggestions about the ways in which the Home Office could engage successfully with its stakeholders in the coming months. Microsoft has proposed that the "next stage should adopt the approach taken by the US State Department, which created a model that actively encourages broad, open dialogue in pursuit of improved outcomes".[60] Furthermore, it asserts that "correctly constructed, such consultation need have no implications for any 'pollution' (real or perceived) of subsequent procurement processes".[61] Nick Kalisperas from Intellect has similarly said that "as we approach procurement, there should be more intensive consultation specifically with the industry, so that the industry has a full and clear picture from which they can decide whether to bid for this programme or not".[62] The Home Office should consider how it might change its approach to stakeholder engagement. We acknowledge that the Home Office may be concerned about discussing technical issues because it believes that this may jeopardise the procurement process. However, we believe that innovative solutions are more likely to be stimulated by open debate with a well-informed, engaged community than limited discussion with a confused community. We recommend that the Home Office undertakes future consultations on scientific and technical issues as well as the procurement process.


34. Several submissions that we received highlighted the lack of transparency in the identity cards programme, particularly in relation to the processes by which advice feeds into policy. The Local Authority Smartcard Standards e-Organisation (LASSeO) has said that "Like other players outside central Government, we find the whole process highly opaque".[63] The British Computer Society (BCS) focused in particular upon the lack of feedback once scientific advice had been given about how this input had influenced the final policy. It states that "once advice has been offered there is a lack of feedback or follow through process".[64] Furthermore, the BCS commented that "where such advice actually informs policy those involved should be acknowledged and communicated with to ensure full understanding of the advice given".[65] This concern was shared by the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE).[66] The IEE observed that "it is generally felt there is very little in terms of published analysis or feedback".[67] It further commented that "There may be some value if future summary documents included information on the response to certain evidence, what was accepted/rejected, or how proposals have been amended".[68]

35. The identity cards programme team has said in future it would be clear and transparent how scientific advice had influenced the technology specifications to be released during procurement. Katherine Courtney said that "we have told industry that we will be publishing our changed thinking as a result of the dialogue we have been having with them and making that publicly available to the industry and we will be doing that".[69]

36. We conclude that the processes by which scientific advice is incorporated into policy are not completely transparent and that organisations are not receiving feedback regarding their advice. We urge the Home Office to fulfil their welcome commitment to make it clear how and what advice has been incorporated into the development of future policy, particularly the technical specification.


37. The scheme aspirations were set out in the bill and are now outlined at the start of the Identity Cards Act 2006 (see paragraph 8). As detailed earlier, the scheme is intended to prevent or detect crime; to ensure national security; to enforce immigration controls; to secure the efficient and effective provision of public services, and to enforce prohibitions on unauthorised working or employment.[70] The emphasis placed on different aspirations has varied throughout the life of the scheme and this changing focus has resulted in a lack of clarity regarding the likely technology requirements. For example, whereas originally the focus was on tackling identity fraud, it soon changed to countering terrorism and combating crime.[71] In oral evidence when asked about the objectives of the scheme, Joan Ryan, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for nationality, citizenship and immigration acknowledged that "It is true that people have sometimes given them in a different order and perhaps with a different emphasis".[72] We are aware that political pressures inevitably impact on the scheme, but it is highly regrettable that the emphasis on different aspirations has changed. This has created uncertainty for the public and industry alike. We hope that the situation will stabilise now that the Bill has received Royal Assent.

38. Although the scheme aspirations are now clearly laid down, there is still a lack of information regarding how these aspirations will be delivered by the scheme. Jerry Fishenden from Microsoft has called this lack of a clear link between aspiration and practical detail the missing "technology policy" layer.[73] Professor Martyn Thomas from the UKCRC stated that "everything…that I have seen about the programme, lays down a set of aspirations for the ways in which the identity scheme might contribute to reducing fraud under some circumstances, but there is no quantification, there is no analysis".[74] This missing information includes a lack of detail regarding the scope of the scheme, the involvement of different Government departments and the ways in which individuals will actually use their identity cards. The Government needs to clarify the details of the scheme in order to successfully develop the technical architecture that is required to support it. Microsoft stated in written evidence that "the overall technical architecture…is clearly inter-dependent on the policy and business requirements and objectives of the ID card scheme".[75] Professor Thomas from the UKCRC agreed, saying in oral evidence that "It is clear that the technology is interdependent with the business case because the business case is founded on the requirements and the technology should be there to support the requirements".[76]

39. It is unsatisfactory that the boundaries of the scheme still seem not to have been set. We have the impression that the Government still does not know precisely what it wants from the identity card scheme. In October 2005 for example, the Home Office estimated that the number of verification transactions would be 163 million per annum. In May 2006 the Home Office's estimate of the number of verification, identification, authentication and information provision services had risen to 771million per annum. The Home Office said that the rise resulted from "the progress made in understanding public and private sector organisations' intended use of the scheme".[77] The Home Office asserts that it intends to ensure that a solution can be scaled up to the demand required rather than developing the scheme around a number of fixed transactions.[78] However, this assertion implies that the Home Office is not confident either in its estimates regarding the number of transactions or in its awareness of the intended uses of the scheme by public and private organisations.

40. There is also apparent confusion regarding the use of the identity card across Government. In oral evidence to us, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for nationality, citizenship and immigration, Joan Ryan, said that the Home Office was in discussions with the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Health, the Criminal Records Bureau, the police and the Department for Communities and Local Government. She explained that "we are attempting to get this cross-departmental recognition of benefits, the buy-in and working together".[79] There still appears to be confusion regarding whether the NHS will use the card. In October 2006, the then Home Secretary, Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP, said that "no medical details will be on the database".[80] In April 2006, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality, Andy Burnham MP said that "you could argue that blood group, allergies, donor status, that sort of information could be potentially helpful" and he proposed that this information could be placed voluntarily on the National Identity Register.[81] However, soon afterwards in response to an article published on 15 April 2006 in The Independent, the Home Secretary Charles Clarke wrote that the National Identity Register would not include health or medical records.[82] This issue was raised by Dr Edgar Whitley from the London School of Economics in an oral evidence session.[83] More recently, there has been disagreement regarding the release of information concerning the likely uses of identity cards by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). In December 2004, an FoI request was made to the DWP for a copy of the Department's feasibility study on identity cards. The DWP refused this request and on 11 July 2005 the individual asked the Information Commissioner to make a decision about the handling of the request.[84] On 5 June 2006, the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, decided that the information was in the public interest and should be released. He said that "there is clearly a strong public interest in the public knowing whether the introduction of identity cards will bring benefits to the DWP, and to other departments, and if so what those benefits will be".[85] This lack of transparency and reticence to share information regarding the cross-departmental uses of the scheme damages public confidence. It also adds to the impression that the Government has not yet determined the scope of the scheme. It seems that the Home Office is willing to expand the scheme at a later date. On 14 June 2006, Joan Ryan MP said that the main aspirations of the scheme "should not exclude developmental work on using the card in other ways as time moves on".[86]

41. As already noted, the Home Office is taking an incremental approach to the identity cards scheme (paragraph 10). The Home Office has, however, not clarified what the various incremental steps towards identity cards will be beyond the introduction of biometric passports. On several occasions, the Home Office has referred to different schemes as precursors to identity cards and this has resulted in a lack of clarity between the introduction of identity cards and other registration documents, which use biometrics. In oral evidence, the Minister Joan Ryan stated that "I was watching ID cards being issued yesterday at Lunar House in Croydon. The ARC [Application Registration Card] card for asylum seekers is, in effect, an ID card".[87] Application Registration Cards were launched in February 2002.[88] The cards contain two digital images of the holder and the holder's fingerprint details.[89] The Home Office has also said that the identity cards programme would begin with the introduction of "biometric residence permits for foreign nationals in 2008".[90] It is unclear whether full identity cards, including the three proposed biometrics, will also be introduced in 2008. Indeed there have been reports of an "early variant" identity card that would include a facial image or two fingerprints (see paragraph 10). The Home Office has not clarified the situation by saying that there are no "firm plans" for a different type of card to be issued earlier than others.[91]

42. We are surprised that the scope of the scheme has still not been finalised. There is insufficient evidence to suggest that uses across Government have been explored fully. As will be discussed in more detail in the following chapter, interoperability is crucial to the success of the scheme and the longer that the Government takes to determine its scope the more difficult it is likely to become to make sure that the technology is interoperable. We urge the Home Office to finalise the scope of the scheme and the technical standards needed for interoperability as soon as possible.

43. This lack of clarity regarding the overall scope of the scheme is exacerbated by a lack of detail concerning when, where and how identity cards might be used. The Home Office website currently contains three examples of how an identity card might be used in daily life to prove your age, collect a parcel or transfer money.[92] This lack of detailed information regarding precise scenarios has been highlighted in written and oral evidence. LASSeO has stated in written evidence that, "It is very difficult to establish what detailed plans exist or are being developed, what technologies will be selected, how these technologies will be used, etc.".[93] Jerry Fishenden from Microsoft explained that "I would have expected at this stage to see a fairly rich set of very precise scenarios about exactly where and how the ID card would be used and to address many of the issues we are talking about here as to what gets released in those types of scenario".[94] He also noted that "I have heard nothing in any of the consultation about how this card would operate in an online context".[95] Furthermore, he has questioned whether, if a chip and pin type of technology is going to be used in the majority of scenarios, the debate on biometrics has been "a bit of a side issue".[96]

44. Representatives from the UKCRC and Microsoft have also highlighted the lack of clarity regarding when the identity card would be used for authentication, that is finding out if you are eligible to do something, and identification, which is finding out who you are.[97] Professor Martyn Thomas from UKCRC explained that "If you go that extra step to ask for identity information when what you actually want is authentication…you are revealing information which makes things like identity fraud much more likely to occur".[98] Jerry Fishenden from Microsoft referred to two examples on the Identity and Passport Service website, which described that an identity card would be used to reveal an individual's date of birth so that they could buy alcohol at 18 or get a pensioner's discount at 65. He questioned "Why would you want to reveal somebody's date of birth in that scenario?...You do not even have to reveal their age, but that they are over 65".[99]

45. In order to clarify when and how the card might be used, we recommend that the Home Office releases more information regarding what personal data will be revealed in different scenarios, including in an online context. Until this information is released, it is difficult to ascertain the true scope of the scheme and to fully understand how technology will be used within the scheme.

46. The evidence that we have received has also highlighted a lack of clarity in another area of the identity cards programme: the procurement process. In general, industry appears to be unsure about when the specifications will be released and, when they are released, what they are likely to be.[100] Initially the procurement process was due to start as soon as Royal Assent had been granted; however several months have passed and the process has not yet commenced. Nigel Seed, Director of the National Identity Register, told us on 22 March 2006 that:

"We have what we are calling level one requirements which describe not in very detailed terms what we want the programme to do. That will go out initially to all the companies that have expressed an interest. They will come back and tell us what their proposals are. We will then down-select to a smaller group that will receive the more detailed requirements."[101]

However, Intellect has said that they "would like to see a final Statement of Requirements prior to commencement of procurement".[102] We understand that the Home Office is attempting to implement best practice in procurement but we believe that there is a disagreement between Government and industry regarding what best practice actually means. This disconnect may be due to the use by the Home Office of EU terminology regarding procurement. In January 2006, new regulations regarding public procurement came into force in the UK.[103] These regulations use the term 'procurement' to describe what has traditionally been known as the acquisition process. Procurement, ie. the buying stage, was part of this acquisition process, which also involved feasibility, trialling and piloting. Within the terminology of these new regulations procurement includes a dialogue with suppliers, specification, selection and award. Thus whilst Intellect is seeking a final statement of requirements before procurement begins, for the Home Office discussion about such a statement is part of the procurement process. We recommend that the Home Office issues a clear timetable for the publication of the technical specifications and defines procurement processes and stages.

47. The evidence has highlighted four main areas where the Home Office still needs to clarify the scheme: its overall scope, the involvement of other Government departments, the practical uses of the card and the procurement process. These areas were all highlighted in 2004 by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee's Report on identity cards.[104] In response to this Report, the Home Office noted that "Work is continuing with stakeholders" on the scope of the scheme.[105] In relation to the use of the identity card by other departments, the Home Office stated that "The Government recognises the need for ongoing work on these issues".[106] We are disappointed that two years after the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into identity cards the problems regarding clarity have not been resolved. We urge the Home Office to address these issues immediately.

43   Home Office, Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud: A Consultation Paper, Cm 5577, July 2002 Back

44   Home Office, Legislation on Identity Cards-A Consultation, Cm 6178, April 2004 Back

45   Home Office, Identity Cards: A Summary of Findings from the Consultation on the Legislation on Identity Cards, Cm 6358, October 2004 Back

46   Ev 114-115 Back

47   Ev 114 Back

48   Q 338 Back

49   Q 1127, HC 900-x, (to be published in HC 900-II, Session 2005-06) Back

50   Ev 103 Back

51   Ev 99 Back

52   Q 471 Back

53   Q 522 Back

54   Q 475 (Thomas), Q473 (Birch) Back

55   Q 489 Back

56   Ev 127 Back

57   Q 476 Back

58   Q 473 Back

59   Ev 124 Back

60   Ev 126 Back

61   Ev 127 Back

62   Q 471 Back

63   Ev 93 Back

64   Ev 82 Back

65   As above Back

66   This organisation is now known as the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Back

67   Ev 77 Back

68   Ev 78 Back

69   Q 339 Back

70   Identity Cards Act 2006, para 1(3-4) Back

71   See speeches by David Blunkett: HC Deb, 11November 2003, col 171 & HC Deb, 19 July 2004, col 23 Back

72   Q 1143 Back

73   Jerry Fishenden, Weblog, 31 October 2005. Back

74   Q 492 Back

75   Ev 127 Back

76   Q 492 Back

77   Ev 112 Back

78   As above Back

79   Q 1184 Back

80   Isabel Oakeshott, "Labour U-turn over ID card medical details", The Sunday Times, 23 April 2006, p 13. Back

81   As above Back

82 Back

83   Q 536 Back

84   Information Commissioner's Office, Decision Notice: Department for Work and Pensions, 5 June 2006 Back

85   "Whitehall fights ID costs demand", BBC News Online, 5 July 2006, Back

86   Q 1149 Back

87   Ev 36 Back

88   "Application Registration Cards for Asylum Seekers launched", 1 February 2002, Back

89   Home Office, Application Registration Card (ARC) and Standard Acknowledgement Letter (SAL), July 2006 Back

90   Ev 129 Back

91   Ev 128 Back

92 Back

93   Ev 95 Back

94   Q 493 Back

95   Q 502 Back

96   As above Back

97   Q 489 Back

98   Q 489 (Thomas) Back

99   Q 489 (Fishenden) Back

100   Andrew Murray-Watson, "ID card scheme start delayed by Home Office", The Daily Telegraph, 11 June 2006, p 2 Back

101   Q 273  Back

102   Ev 104 Back

103   Public Contracts Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/5); Office of Government Commerce, EU Procurement Guidance, January 2006 Back

104   HC (2003-04) 130-I, paras 71, 119, 125, 216. Back

105   Home Office, The Government Reply to the Fourth Report from the Home Affairs Committee, Session 2003-04, Cm 6359, October 2002, p 8. Back

106   As above, p 15. Back

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