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Session 2008 - 09
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Public Bill Committee Debates

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mrs. Janet Dean
Baldry, Tony (Banbury) (Con)
Blunkett, Mr. David (Sheffield, Brightside) (Lab)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD)
Burns, Mr. Simon (West Chelmsford) (Con)
Campbell, Mr. Alan (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab/Co-op)
Gardiner, Barry (Brent, North) (Lab)
Gray, Mr. James (North Wiltshire) (Con)
Green, Damian (Ashford) (Con)
Howarth, Mr. George (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab)
Huhne, Chris (Eastleigh) (LD)
McCabe, Steve (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
Moffatt, Laura (Crawley) (Lab)
Singh, Mr. Marsha (Bradford, West) (Lab)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch) (Lab)
Viggers, Sir Peter (Gosport) (Con)
Mark Etherton, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

First Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 6 July 2009

[Mrs. Janet Dean in the Chair]

Draft Identity Cards Act 2006 (Prescribed Information) Regulations 2009

4.30 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Alan Campbell): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Identity Cards Act 2006 (Prescribed Information) Regulations 2009.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to consider the draft Identity Cards Act 2006 (Application and Issue of ID Card and Notification of Changes) Regulations 2009.
Mr. Campbell: I am pleased to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs. Dean.
The statutory instruments will put in place the detailed arrangements for the use of identity cards. Last week, three statutory instruments were approved and the two that we are considering will complete the package of five that is required for the introduction of identity cards.
The draft Identity Cards Act 2006 (Prescribed Information) Regulations 2009 are primarily concerned with the information that will be printed on the face of identity cards and held electronically in encrypted form on the chips. The regulations make provision about two types of identity card. The first is the national identity card that will be issued to British citizens and subjects with the right of abode. As it will include the holder’s nationality, it will be valid as a travel document within Europe like passports and identity cards issued in other European countries. The second is the identification card, which will be issued to European economic area nationals, including Irish nationals, who are resident in the United Kingdom. It may also be issued to British citizens who are not entitled to a travel document.
The information on both cards will be similar to that on the personal details page of the passport. It will include name, date and place of birth, sex, facial image, date of issue, expiry date, card number, card title and the holder’s signature. The identification card will not feature any reference to the individual’s nationality and as a result will not be a valid travel document. The back of the card will have space to include observations and a contact address so that the card can be returned if found. In line with the passport, key biographical information recorded on the face of the card will be recorded in a machine-readable zone on the reverse side. For the avoidance of doubt, I stress that no sensitive information relating to medical, criminal, tax or benefit records will be recorded on the card or register.
The inclusion of the chip, the card design, the format of information and the security features are in line with the specifications for biometric travel documents that are recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which is a division of the United Nations. Furthermore, we have made it clear in the public consultation over the last year that the holder’s address and national identity registration number will not appear on the cards.
The draft Identity Cards Act 2006 (Application and Issue of ID Card and Notification of Changes) Regulations 2009 outline how an individual can apply for an identity card and what information must accompany an application. Despite the length of the statutory instrument, the application is quite straightforward. It is as simple as a passport application form. When a person applies for their first identity card or a replacement, they will first have to fill in an application form, which is similar to the passport application form. It will be made available by the Identity and Passport Service.
Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): I am grateful to the Minister for giving way so early on in his comments. I wonder if he can help me to understand what is happening. Earlier this afternoon, the Home Secretary said downstairs that providing notification of one’s change of address for an ID card will be akin to notifying the passport office that one has changed one’s address. I put it to him that one does not have to tell the passport office that one has changed one’s address. He replied that one has to tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to change one’s address on a driving licence. I am at a loss to understand what driving licences have to do with ID cards. If this is supposedly a voluntary scheme, why will there be criminal sanctions for ID card holders who do not provide notification when they change address?
Mr. Campbell: I am pleased to try to clarify that for the hon. Gentleman. In the heated debate during Question Time, there was a certain amount of confusion, which I am happy to try to resolve. In fact, individuals with a passport do not have to tell the Identity and Passport Service if they change their address—although it is obviously in their interests to do so. If something happens abroad, of course, those trying to help would want to know the address at which family could be contacted. As the Home Secretary said, notification of a change of address must be given in relation to a driving licence—if it is not done, there is a criminal penalty of up to a £1,000 fine.
For ID cards, we are proposing a civil penalty that is enforceable through civil courts—starting off with a fine of some £125 and going up to that maximum level. Of course, that is because we want the national identity register to be accurate and up to date—it is, in fact, incumbent on us to ensure that that is the case. I hope that that has clarified the situation with regard to passports and, indeed, driving licences.
Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): On a point of information, what happens if someone volunteers for one of these ID cards and they are homeless?
Mr. Campbell: That is an interesting point. I shall seek the answer to that question, but my initial response is that, of course, there are some instances in which it might be impossible for people to provide the evidence sought in an application. There exists a way in which the service can, in fact, help people get towards the kind of evidence that would get them to the threshold of being able to get one of the cards. However, if there is further information that I can add, I would be happy to do so in a few moments. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not take me further down that line.
Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): The Minister mentioned that the penalty he is imposing is a civil one. I draw attention to the explanatory memorandum, which indicates that the Identity Cards Act 2006 (Designation) Order 2009 is still to be placed before Parliament—that is not what I understood to be the case, but it is what the explanatory memorandum states. It also indicates that the penalty will be a criminal conviction certificate. Will the Minister please confirm that that measure has now been withdrawn, and will he explain why? If it has not been withdrawn, will the Minister say why the Government have indicated that there will be a civil penalty?
Mr. Campbell: I will come back to that point in a moment. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: we should have absolute clarity on that point. I will return to the matter.
Let me go back to the issue of process. An appointment at a national identity service customer centre will allow the form to be submitted with any supporting documents and the relevant fee. At that point, fingerprint biometrics will be recorded, photographs taken for the ID card, and what are known as shared secrets will be selected, such as the shared secret we would expect to have if we bank online.
The regulations establish the information and the supporting documents that must accompany applications for a first or replacement identity card. Again, I do not believe that there is much radical or new in relation to that, because it replicates what is currently required for passport applications. If the applicant already has one, they will be asked to provide a valid UK passport. In addition, they will be asked to fill in the required information on the application form, including basic personal information such as name, address, address history, gender, nationality, date and place of birth, national insurance number, a contact telephone number and their signature.
The applicant will also be asked for the name of a referee who has agreed to vouch for their identity and some of the information that confirms they are entitled to a travel document. For example, they will be asked to confirm that they do not have outstanding repatriation debts, which is similar to what happens in relation to a passport. If someone loses their passport abroad, goes to an embassy where they might be helped to get back to this country, and is lent money for the air fare and so on, it is not unusual for them not to be issued with a passport until they have repaid that debt. I, too, was quizzical about that, but apparently that is the explanation.
Mr. Campbell: Let me check that. However, I would imagine that there are people who apply for a passport and decide that they do not want to make use of it after all. I doubt whether, in many cases, such people send it back to the Identity and Passport Service, but I suppose that it is a possibility.
I want to move on to the duty of the Secretary of State to maintain a secure and reliable record of registrable facts on the national identity register in order to facilitate the provision of convenient and accurate data. The requirement is contained in the Data Protection Act 1998.
Once information is entered into the national identity register and a card has been issued, it is important that the information is kept up to date so that correct information is on the register when a person’s identity is verified. To that end, the regulations introduce a requirement for an individual to update changes to their details within three months. That means that if any information listed on the card changes, or if the individual changes address, they should notify the IPS. If they are aware that their identity card has been lost or stolen, they are required to notify the IPS within a month so that it can be cancelled. The notification process will reflect the process for obtaining a replacement card, as I have previously described.
The requirement to update information is, once again, nothing new. Similar requirements are already in place for other documents, although not passports: for instance, people are required to notify the DVLA of changes of name and address.
Finally, the regulations establish the validity period of the ID card, which is 10 years. That is in line with the passport and with the majority of passports and identity cards across Europe.
I am conscious that I shall need to return to some points in my concluding remarks, but I hope that my explanation has clarified the purpose of the statutory instruments and the reasons for proposing them. I am happy to deal with any points or questions raised. I commend the regulations to the Committee.
4.42 pm
Damian Green: It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs. Dean. I thank the Minister who, I am conscious, is standing in for someone else. Ministers who have responsibility for ID cards have a habit of disappearing, for a variety of reasons. They go off on maternity leave, or they get hastily reshuffled to other Departments. In a fit of ingenuity, the current Minister has escaped to France for the day rather than introduce the statutory instruments. I sympathise with him, because, overall, an air of unreality pervades this debate. We all know that there will not be an identity card system. If my party wins the general election, which will be within the year, we will scrap the scheme, and I dare say that the body language of the Home Secretary—
Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside) (Lab): I am sorry to intrude at such an early stage, but the hon. Gentleman’s provocative remarks got me to my feet. Is he contradicting the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), who indicated that a great deal of what is required, not least for a biometric passport system, would be retained? Is it not the case that the only things the Opposition are proposing to scrap are the clarity and reliability of the database, and the actual issuing of a card for convenience so that people do not have to carry a passport?
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Prepared 7 July 2009