Session 2010-11
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Identity Documents Bill

Identity Documents Bill

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Martin Caton  , Mr Gary Streeter 

Burley, Mr Aidan (Cannock Chase) (Con) 

Featherstone, Lynne (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)  

Green, Damian (Minister for Immigration)  

Halfon, Robert (Harlow) (Con) 

Henderson, Gordon (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Con) 

Hillier, Meg (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op) 

Hilling, Julie (Bolton West) (Lab) 

Huppert, Dr Julian (Cambridge) (LD) 

McCabe, Steve (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab) 

McKinnell, Catherine (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab) 

Mahmood, Shabana (Birmingham, Ladywood) (Lab) 

Mills, Nigel (Amber Valley) (Con) 

Morris, Grahame M. (Easington) (Lab) 

Opperman, Guy (Hexham) (Con) 

Phillipson, Bridget (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab) 

Simpson, David (Upper Bann) (DUP) 

Timpson, Mr Edward (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con) 

Wright, Jeremy (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)  

Alan Sandall, Annette Toft, Sarah Thatcher, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

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Public Bill Committee 

Tuesday 6 July 2010  


[Martin Caton in the Chair] 

Identity Documents Bill 

Written evidence to be reported to the House 

ID 11 Andrew Watson 

ID 12 David Williams 

ID 13 Gareth Hamilton 

ID 14 Nicholas Hodder 

ID 15 Liberty 

10.30 am 

The Chair:  Last Thursday, both Mr Streeter and I allowed considerable latitude in debates on the opening clauses of the Bill. The clauses before us today are narrower and hon. Members should ensure that their remarks are relevant to the clause under consideration. 

Clause 4 

Possession of false identity documents etc with improper intention 

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 

The Chair:  With this it will be convenient to consider clauses 5 and 6 stand part. 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Lynne Featherstone):  I am grateful that you will be expertly handling our proceedings today, Mr Caton, and I welcome serving under your continued chairmanship. This is my first sitting in Committee as a Minister in the coalition Government and I am particularly pleased that we are discussing the scrapping of the identity cards scheme. Like the Minister for Immigration, my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford, I have been a consistent critic of ID cards, and on Second Reading of the Bill I raised several serious concerns about the scheme. There were two key issues, the first of which was that it was too wide and not purpose-specific, and I was pleased that that sentiment was expressed by Liberty in its oral evidence to the Committee. The second issue was about security and protecting the information that is held. Clauses 4 to 6 deal with that important matter and I am grateful to have been allowed to speak to the three clauses together. 

As the Committee will note, the provisions are taken from the Identity Cards Act 2006 and are proposed for re-enactment under the Bill. I hope that hon. Members will appreciate that the purpose of the Bill is to scrap the ID cards scheme and the national identity register. Its aim is not to dismantle parts of the criminal justice

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system that apply to other forms of identity and the offences relating to false and unlawful use of those forms of identity. We are simply re-enacting the offences as they stand. 

Clause 4 covers the possession of false identity documents with improper intention, and re-enacts the offence under section 25(1) and (2) of the 2006 Act and the penalty for the offence under section 25(6) of that Act. Clause 4(1) provides that a person is guilty of an offence if that person is in possession of a document that they know or believe to be false, or of a genuine document that has been improperly obtained or relates to someone else. However, to be guilty of an actual offence, the person must have an improper intention, which is defined under subsection (2), for example, using the document for identity fraud. Subsection (4) sets out the maximum penalty for such an offence as 10 years’ imprisonment or a fine, or both. It is important to stress that the offences provide for an offence of being in possession of documents when such possession is for an improper intention or without reasonable excuse. Being in possession of an identity document for, say, an elderly relative in order to obtain health care or care services for them would not be an offence. 

Clause 5 deals with apparatus designed or adapted for the making of false identity documents and re-enacts the offence under section 25(3) and (4) of the 2006 Act, and the penalty for the offence set out in section 25(6) of that Act. Clause 5(1) and (2) provide that a person is guilty of an offence if, with the prohibited intention, they are in possession of equipment that is designed or adapted for making false identity documents. Subsection (3) sets out the maximum penalty for such an offence as 10 years’ imprisonment or a fine, or both. 

Clause 6 covers possession of false identity documents without reasonable excuse and re-enacts the offence under section 25(5) of the 2006 Act and the penalty for the offence set out under section 25(7) of that Act. Clause 6(1) provides that it is an offence for a person to have in their possession, without reasonable excuse, a false identity document, or a genuine document that has been improperly obtained or relates to someone else, or equipment used for making false identity documents. Subsection (2) sets out the maximum penalty for such an offence as a maximum of two years’ imprisonment on indictment or a fine, or both. On summary conviction, a person may be subject to a term of imprisonment up to a maximum period or a fine, or both. Subsections (3) and (4) set out the maximum period in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. So far as Scotland is concerned, the provisions reflect the effect of section 35 of the Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007, which has increased the maximum term of imprisonment for an either way offence to 12 months. 

There were almost 3,000 convictions last year under the provisions. The offences are used on a daily basis by police and other enforcement agencies. The provisions are important operational tools and we support their re-enactment. For those reasons, I recommend that the clause stand part of the bill. 

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op):  Her Majesty’s Opposition welcome the re-enactment of parts of the 2006 Act. Identity fraud is growing and we know that criminals and terrorists frequently use false documents and false identities, as I

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have said in previous contributions in Committee. The security of identity documents and measures in law to ensure that people cannot produce fraudulent documents or use them for wrong purposes are very important. Of course, this does beg the question of why the Government are rushing into abolition of the whole of the Identity Cards Act 2006 without proper scrutiny of all aspects of the Bill, and we will touch on that in our discussions of new clauses. 

However, we welcome this part of the Bill. It is the only area so far where the Government are not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The number of convictions demonstrate its use. One could argue, and I certainly do, that had other aspects of the 2006 Act been in use longer—namely, the actual use of identity cards—we would be seeing equal benefits, but in principle we have no practical objection to the re-enactment of clauses 4 to 6. 

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD):  Having had some experience of the law-making process under the previous Government, I do not automatically assume that just because they created an offence it definitely needs to be re-enacted. We saw far too many offences created, and it is important to think carefully about every new offence that we create. In particular, we took oral and written evidence from Justice, which was concerned that clauses 5 and 6 might replicate previous legislation. I got the Library to do some research—the reference is 2010/6/223-HAS if anyone wants to look at it. They found that in this case the clauses do not entirely re-create the previous laws, so I am happy that they are in fact needed in this instance. However, it is an important principle to think carefully about creating new offences. 

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab):  I echo those sentiments and welcome the provisions in clauses 4 to 6. When we debated previous clauses, I raised concerns about ID fraud and its being a growth area that needs to be addressed. When the Government get it right, as they have in these clauses, Opposition Members should welcome that. ID fraud is a big issue that needs to be addressed. There are a number of ways to do that and the clauses would help to reinforce the message that this is an area of crime that needs to be tackled in a positive way. 

Lynne Featherstone:  I am grateful to the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch for her understanding. This part of the Bill is a re-enactment, and it is important as it is needed to provide a gold standard against fraud. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge for looking into the issue of whether there was much difference between the re-enactment in the clauses and what was in the previous Act. I thank all Committee members for their comments. 

Question put and agreed to.  

Clause 4 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clauses 5 and 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 7 

Meaning of “identity document” 

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 

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Lynne Featherstone:  As we indicated earlier, the Identity Cards Act 2006 was used as a vehicle for introducing criminal offences on the misuse of identity documents. Such documents need to be defined for those criminal offences. Clause 7 re-enacts provisions from the 2006 Act—the only change is the removal of the reference to identity card documents. 

Meg Hillier:  The Opposition are happy to support the clause. 

Lynne Featherstone:  I thank the hon. Lady. 

Question put and agreed to.  

Clause 7 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 8 

Meaning of “personal information” 

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 

Lynne Featherstone:  Clause 8 defines what constitutes personal information, for the purposes of the criminal offences defined in clauses 4 to 6. The clause defines specific areas of personal information, such as residential status or previous name, and it focuses on key pieces of information for consideration when a person is suspected of being involved in an offence. We consider that it is right to adopt a focused approach, because it is essential to have certainty in the definition of a criminal offence. 

We believe that it would not be appropriate—as the Information Commissioner discussed in his written evidence—to use a broader approach, such as adopting the definition of personal data set out in section 1(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998. To do so would mean that a potential offender would not be sure whether a behaviour is criminalised. The criminal offences defined in the Bill are those of using false identity documents to establish certain facts about a person. It is essential that those facts are set out in the definition of the offence. If a more open-ended definition is used, there is a risk that an innocent person might unwittingly be caught by an offence. 

Meg Hillier:  We are happy to support the clause. 

Question put and agreed to.  

Clause 8 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 9 

Other definitions 

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 

Lynne Featherstone:  The clause is self-explanatory; it sets out additional definitions that are used in the Bill. 

Meg Hillier:  We also support this clause. 

Question put and agreed to.  

Clause 9 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

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Clause 10 

Verifying information provided with passport applications etc 

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 

The Minister for Immigration (Damian Green):  Clause 10 re-enacts the provisions of section 38 of the 2006 Act. It is a fraud prevention measure that allows the Secretary of State to require that relevant information is provided to verify the information within a passport application, or to decide whether to withdraw a passport. Relevant information includes identity information, to confirm that the applicant is a real person and is who they claim to be. It enables the Identity and Passport Service to obtain information on the completed application, which is necessary to conduct an effective interview with first-time applicants. That may include records from a credit reference agency about how long a person has resided at an address, or at how many addresses they have lived. 

It would be unlawful, and a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998, to require information that was not relevant to the passport application. The use of a credit reference agency mirrors the approach in the private sector, which routinely uses such agencies for bank loans or credit applications. Whereas the focus may be on credit worthiness, it also provides organisations with some confidence in the identity of the person applying for the bank or credit facility, and enables them to check personal details such as an address and the length of time that a person has resided there. Checks with an external credit agency, in addition to the range of governmental agencies, provide a high degree of security and verification in considering applications for passports. It would be odd if the Identity and Passport Service could not check an applicant’s identity with a credit reference agency, when mobile phone companies, shops, and banks and building societies that offer credit terms do so every day. 

The information supplied to the Identity and Passport Service is automatically deleted 28 days after a passport has been issued. When a passport has been refused, the information is retained for possible investigative and prosecutorial purposes. We hope that that is an appropriate and proportionate approach to data retention. I commit to ensuring that that policy remains in place and is firmly applied. I am aware, from conversations with colleagues from all parts of the House, that there are concerns about the scope of the clause, so I will be interested to hear representations on it from all parts of the Committee. 

10.45 am 

Meg Hillier:  In principle, we do not have any objection to the clause. We recognise the importance of verifying passports, especially as they will be the only secure identity document, if the Bill reaches the statute book. Of course, a higher level of verification was required for the issuing of identity cards. 

Given the detail in the clause and the list of information that the Identity and Passport Service rightly requires to verify passports, it still puzzles me that the Government are rushing headlong into the abolition of identity cards. With identity cards, the verification process needs

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to take place only once, and thereafter an organisation would have less need to undertake verification by going to credit reference agencies or other bodies. That system would have limited the amount of data that private sector and other organisations need to look up, because of the secure nature of the identity card and the fact that an identity check can be made against the register to prove, once and for all, that somebody was on it. 

I reiterate my deep concern that, overnight, the Government are junking the idea of using fingerprints and, in the future, biometrics, which are a more secure way of proving identity. However, we support the clause in principle. 

Dr Huppert:  I thank the Minister for his comments, and it is this clause about which I have concerns. He described how the clause will be used, which I support. I appreciate that clause 10 will re-enact section 38 of the 2006 Act, so the Opposition presumably support it. 

I am still concerned that the clause contains potential errors. As well as looking carefully at new laws, we should be careful about new powers. “Relevant information” means information that might be used 

“for determining whether to withdraw a passport.” 

Questions arise about what information might be used by the Secretary of State to determine whether to do that, and what rules apply. That was briefly discussed during the first oral evidence session under Question 26. Again, the Library has done some work on this issue—reference 2010/6/80-HAS. There is no statute law governing the granting, refusal and use of British passports, and no limitation on what can be done. The question whether that should be statutory is for another debate. 

Currently, there are no rules stating that the Secretary of State can use some but not other information to determine, for example, whether to withdraw a passport. If the Secretary of State makes the argument that somebody’s tax records are an important factor in deciding whether to withdraw their passport, they would be able to do so under this clause. If the Secretary of State believes a record of somebody’s speaking to undesirable people during the past few years would be useful information in making such a decision, they would be allowed to do so. I am not in the slightest degree suggesting that those are the intentions of the Minister, of the Opposition when they were in government or of anyone else, but I am worried that the wording is too loose and that “Relevant information” is undefined. 

I have heard what the Minister said, and I hope that he will consider how the phraseology can be slightly tightened. If the relevant information concerns identity or residence, that might be written in the Bill, which would avoid any of those concerns. I hope that the Minister will take my comments in the spirit in which they are intended—as a constructive suggestion. I hope that we will see a slight limitation applied to the clause, so that we do not give excess powers to future Secretaries of State, who may not be as wise the current one. 

Damian Green:  I am grateful for the remarks from both the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch and my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge. I am particularly grateful that the hon. Lady recognised in her speech that the UK passport is a secure document, although there seemed to be some doubt about that last Thursday. I am glad that she has put that on the record this morning. 

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Meg Hillier:  I need to clarify my view. Yes, I believe that the passport is a secure document. However, the point that I clearly made last week—the record will show this—is that the IPS and all Governments over the years have been ahead of the curve in ensuring that the passport remains secure and will be secure in the future, which is why I am concerned about the loss of fingerprints and biometrics. 

Damian Green:  I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that clarification. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge has made several interesting points, which were also made by him and, indeed, others on Second Reading. In the oral evidence session, I was interested to hear that both Liberty and Justice were broadly supportive of the clause, which was noteworthy and welcome. I have a degree of sympathy for the points made by my hon. Friend about the scope of the Bill. There is the opportunity to consider clarifying what was section 38 of the 2006 Act. I am particularly keen to examine how the Bill will ensure that information requests are passport application specific and how we can increase transparency and public accountability by ensuring that a data retention policy is set out in the Bill. 

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab):  I should perhaps know the answer to this question. Where an individual has information about them supplied to the Minister for the purposes of verification, is that individual notified of that information and of its source, or is secret information being transmitted? 

Damian Green:  That is a good question, and I suspect that the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch may know the answer off the top of her head. I do not know whether someone who has applied for a passport in the past couple of years is given that information, but I imagine that that is not the case. The hon. Gentleman has raised an underlying important point about the confidence of the citizen in the Government’s data retention policy and in the active application of the Data Protection Act 1998. 

If the hon. Gentleman wants a detailed answer, it is that those applying are not notified automatically, but they can ask under the data subject accord provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998. As someone who has recently applied for a passport, it is news to me that it is possible to ask for that information. Clearly, the system is designed to ensure that those who might be particularly careful about the information that they provide to the state have some ability to find out about that. 

Meg Hillier:  Will the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee how many people have made such a request in recent years? 

Damian Green:  Off the top of my head, I cannot. I will write to the hon. Lady with that information, which is important because, I suspect, few people know about that process, and therefore few people ask. In her previous incarnation, she may well have been at the other end of those requests, if they came that far up the system. 

Returning to the good general points made by my hon. Friend, if he and the Committee are agreeable to this, I will consider those points further before the

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subsequent stages of the Bill to see whether the clause can be improved to ensure that it is not over-intrusive or too loose in its attitude to the provision of private data. 

Question put and agreed to.  

Clause 10 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 11 


Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 

Damian Green:  We now return to the self-explanatory and less contentious clauses of the Bill. The clause provides that orders made under the two order-making powers in the Bill under clause 7(6), relating to the definition of identity documents, and under clause 10(4), specifying persons whom the Crown may ask to provide information to verify passport applications, will require consideration by both Houses under the affirmative procedure. So it protects the interests of this House and will be welcome in all parts of the Committee. 

Meg Hillier:  The Opposition support the clause. 

Question put and agreed to.  

Clause 11 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 12 

Consequential amendments 

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 

Damian Green:  I am tempted to move the clause formally. The clause states that 

“The Schedule contains consequential amendments” 

and is genuinely self-explanatory. 

Question put and agreed to.  

Clause 12 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Schedule agreed to.  

Clause 13 

Transitional provision 

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 

Damian Green:  This proposal may not be as self-explanatory as the previous one, but it is fairly clear. It provides for the continuity of the law in relation to the provisions re-enacted in the Bill. As indicated in the consideration of earlier clauses, we have sought to re-enact provisions that relate to offences concerned with false identity. The Committee has discussed the fact that some 3,000 convictions were achieved last year, and it is important that we maintain continuity. 

Question put and agreed to.  

Clause 13 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

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Clause 14 

Commencement, extent and short title 

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 

Damian Green:  The clause provides for the Bill’s provisions to come into effect on, or following, Royal Assent. We have discussed the timeline for implementation under clauses 2 and 3. The enactment of the Bill will represent a swift and decisive scrapping of the ID card scheme. 

Meg Hillier:  It is important to reiterate some points about the haste with which the Government are getting rid of not only identity cards, but the register. In the discussions on new clauses, we will move on to why a little less haste would be good, for the fairness of citizens and for the protection of the public. It is sad, however, to think that if the Minister had been in his job a little longer, he may have realised, after examination and scrutiny, some of the benefits of the 2006 Act. We recognise that both parties in the coalition Government are keen to rid the country of the benefits of ID cards, but to do so with such haste is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. 

We do not support the clause, but we will not push it to a vote because we recognise where the Government are coming from. However, we have made our points well, and we will continue to argue them in the discussions on new clauses. 

Question put and agreed to.  

Clause 14 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

New Clause 1 

Passport fees for holders of ID cards 
‘If a person to whom an ID card has been issued applies for a new passport before the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, the fee charged for the passport shall be reduced by £30.’.—(Meg Hillier.)

Brought up, and read the First time.  

Meg Hillier:  I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time. 

We have rehearsed in previous sittings the unfairness of card-holders, who in good faith paid £30 for British ID documents that would be valid for 10 years, now facing the future without them. 

Because of the wording of the Bill, we have been unable to ask for refunds to be given. We have made attempts—sadly, we lost on a vote—to ensure that people had some benefit and could continue to use the card. The new clause is moderate, and would slightly slow the Government’s plans to remove identity cards. It would allow citizens with a card to transfer the £30 fee as a credit towards a new passport. All of us—certainly those of us from London and the Manchester area—have constituents who bought cards because their passports had expired, or were about to, and felt that this was suitable for their needs. Those individuals paid £30, thinking that the card would last for 10 years. Now, they are being asked to pay £77.50 for another travel document, which is unfair. 

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The clause is reasonable. It would not be beyond the wit of the Government to allow the relevant data sharing, with the permission of those who request a passport, who could say that they have an ID card and agree to the data being transferred—indeed, perhaps it would be enough for them to produce the card at the passport office and ask for £30 off the cost of their passport. 

Dr Huppert:  Does the hon. Lady mean that anybody with a card should get £30 off, and would that include those who got them for free through the previous Government’s programmes? 

Meg Hillier:  No. This proposal is clearly for those who have paid £30 for a card. [ Interruption. ] We are suggesting that people who paid £30 get their money back as a credit towards the cost of a passport. I ask the Government one more time to consider this out of fairness to the British public. 

11 am 

Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab):  I will not repeat all the arguments that I made last week, but I want to raise a couple of those issues, because some of my constituents have written to me expressing their concern that identity cards are going and asking for some sort of recompense. Last week, we discussed the mean nature of the Bill, which meant that I have been unable to table an amendment stating that my constituents should be reimbursed. The new clause would ensure that people who paid the Government £30 for an identity card in the best faith, and now discover that they will not be able to use it, would at least have some recompense. 

I remind the Committee that many of the people who purchased the cards are on low incomes or on fixed incomes. Many of those who have written to me are pensioners who, when their passport ran out, decided to get an identity card, because it was cheaper and because at their time of life they intended to travel only to Europe. Their faith in the Government has been dented, and I ask Government Members to consider supporting the new clause, because it goes some way towards restoring people’s faith in the system. It is important that such people are not asked to pay a further £77.50, but are offered the difference between the money that they paid for the identity card and the cost of a passport. 

Damian Green:  The new clause is interesting, and the objections to it fall into two categories: there is an objection in principle and two serious practical objections. The objection in principle is that the new clause would force the taxpayer to reimburse those who bought an identity card voluntarily. We had long and passionate debates last week on how we can extricate ourselves from the ID card scheme with the least possible cost to the taxpayer. The Committee has been running for 32 minutes and nobody has yet mentioned the former Chief Secretary’s notorious letter revealing that there was no money—an epitaph on the previous Government’s economic policy. One of the effects of there being no money—he was exactly right and honest in telling his successor that—is that the current Government must be as prudent as possible in their running of the nation’s finances. 

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Julie Hilling:  Does the Minister accept that we are discussing taxpayers who have paid their money to the Government and who are asking for a credit for that money? At this stage, we cannot ask the Government to provide such people with a refund, so we are asking for a credit towards the cost of a passport. Does he acknowledge that those are taxpayers asking for their money? 

Damian Green:  That is an interesting point, which brings me to the first of my two practical objections. 

Steve McCabe:  It occurs to me that the Committee has now been running for 34 minutes, and I am the first person to mention the Chancellor’s fake assertion that we are all in this together. What the Minister is proposing to do shows that we are not; he is singling out some people for special and unfair treatment. 

Damian Green:  The Labour party is trying to single out every British taxpayer for unfair treatment, but I congratulate him on the ingenuity of that intervention. 

The new clause deliberately favours those who choose to apply for a new passport within 12 months of the legislation receiving Royal Assent. The hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch knows as well as I do that the vast majority of ID card-holders already hold passports. Those who have a passport with five or more years remaining on it would be financially disadvantaged by applying for a new passport so far ahead of the expiry of their current one. For many of them, the measure would have not only no effect, but a negative financial effect. 

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab):  Will the Minister give way? 

Damian Green:  I will finish the point first. 

The hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch said that many people who bought an identity card were on low or fixed incomes, but she will be aware that there is not a shred of evidence for that assertion—to be fair, there is not a shred of evidence either way. Intuitively, I feel that it is unlikely, however, that those who are living on low incomes would regard an identity card as an essential purchase—that does not seem to be the way such people would operate. 

Steve McCabe:  Where is the evidence for that? 

Damian Green:  If the hon. Gentleman was listening, he would have heard me make that point. 

Catherine McKinnell:  The Minister’s point does not make sense in the light of the new clause. He suggests that ID card-holders who want to receive credit towards a passport would be forced to do so before their current passports expire, but the proposal simply offers people the means of doing so. Does the Minister have to hand the numbers of those who may wish to apply for a passport who do not have one already? 

Damian Green:  I do not have those numbers. I hope that the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch has them, as she moved the new clause. I am not, of course, suggesting that the proposal would force ID

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card-holders to apply for a passport. My point is that for a significant number of people, the new clause would be financially disadvantageous rather than advantageous. 

Julie Hilling:  I can assert that many of those people in my constituency are pensioners and those on low incomes. They have written to tell me that they think it deeply unfair that they will not be reimbursed in any way for the ID card that they bought in good faith. 

Damian Green:  I would be interested if the hon. Lady shared with the Committee how many letters she has received from such people. 

There is another practical point, which my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge made in an intervention. The new clause does not apply only to those who paid £30, because it simply states that: 

“If a person to whom an ID card has been issued applies for a new passport…the fee charged for the passport shall be reduced by £30.” 

The hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch proposes to offer a £30 credit to people who were given the identity card free in the first place, which seems to be a strange use of taxpayers’ money. Somebody who has been given something free by the Government would then be given a credit on their passport—so they get £30 knocked off that as well. 

Meg Hillier:  I was clear in my opening comments that that was not the intention of the new clause. I am not a parliamentary draftsman; I take advice. If the Minister is willing to give way on the principle of the proposal, and to consider a practical solution, we will not press the matter to a vote, in the hope that a solution will be found on Report. I seek some hope from the Minister for the handful of people who would benefit from the measure. 

Damian Green:  I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s clarification. I am not a parliamentary draftsman either, but I can see that the measure applies to the several thousand people who were given ID cards, many of whom are in the north-west. I suspect that a lot of the constituents of the hon. Member for Bolton West work at Manchester airport, and they are the largest single group of people in this country who have ID cards. 

We can bat back and forth individual letters, but I return to a practical point made in the evidence of Ms Epstein, who strongly supports the retention of ID cards. She was clear that what the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch wants to achieve through the new clause would be of no relevance to her, because she had just renewed her passport. In both principle and practice, the new clause would be damaging, so I ask the Committee to reject it. 

Meg Hillier:  The new clause simply provides an option, which is limited to 12 months, so it will not satisfy everybody. There are people who have passports as well as identity cards, but the new clause provides an option for those who do not. The Minister is concerned about money—we are all concerned about money—but it is mean-spirited not to give back £30 to those who paid for something that they did not receive. For the financial

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reasons that he has indicated, not everyone will take up the option, nor will everyone be able to, because it would not be sensible for them to do so. The measure is proportionate, practical and would be possible to achieve, so I am disappointed that the Minister seems to be rejecting it out of hand. 

I offer the Minister one more chance to commit the Government to looking again at the new clause, which would provide a simple solution for the relatively few people who will otherwise find that extra £77.50 difficult to find, whom my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West has talked about. That would not even include all those who obtained an identity card, because not all of them paid for it. The new clause provides a reasonable option, and I will be disappointed if the Minister recalcitrantly sticks to his argument. I do not see how the new clause breaks the principle behind his desire to be the Minister who abolishes identity cards and to be the poster boy for that issue. His accepting the new clause would show that he has a fair streak, as well as a desire to get rid of ID cards, and I urge him to take up the opportunity to be popular with the small group of people that the new clause would affect. 

Question put and negatived.  

New Clause 2 

ID cards issued to airside workers 
(1) The Secretary of State must take such steps as he considers appropriate to ensure that work undertaken at Manchester Airport and London City Airport before the passing of this Act on the assessment of the benefits for airport security of secure identity documents is completed.(2) The Secretary of State must lay before both Houses of Parliament a report on—(a) the outcome of the work referred to in subsection (1), and(b) the measures the Secretary of State proposes to implement arising from it.(3) Any ID card issued to an airside worker under the critical workers scheme, which is valid immediately before the day on which this Act is passed, shall continue to be valid until the report referred to in subsection (2) has been laid.’.—(Meg Hillier.)

Brought up, and read the First time.  

Meg Hillier:  I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time. 

New clause 2 also seeks some reasonableness from the Government. In a way, the new clause addresses a fringe element of the scheme that the Bill will discontinue, but it is important given the Home Department’s responsibility for ensuring the safety of the British public and the challenges faced by the air industry. The pilot scheme was carefully worked out by the Department for Transport and was developed with airports, the air industry and other groups. All those involved in the discussions are looking forward to seeing the result of that pilot scheme, so that they may discover what benefits might accrue in the areas of good practice, money saving and security improvement; we have already heard from Manchester Airports Group some of the benefits that it saw in the scheme’s early days. Frankly, it seems crazy to throw out the baby with the bathwater by

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stopping the scheme in its tracks when we are already seeing benefits that may help pressured industries at a pressured time and may play an important role in security. 

The new clause addresses the haste with which the Government are trying to get rid of identity cards. Were they to take a measured approach, they would allow the pilot scheme to finish. We recognise the coalition Government’s position on identity cards—they could get rid of the cards when the pilot scheme finishes—but they should look at what lessons can be learned and whether there is any other way in which they could introduce such measures. There will be challenges if the Minister sticks to his guns on not allowing passports ever to contain the holder’s fingerprints, but, nevertheless, that is an important matter that needs to be looked at. 

This is a probing new clause, and I hope that the Government will give me, the Opposition and the general public reassurance about airport security, and that the Government will recognise that identity cards have been beneficial both financially and in aiding security. These are early days, however, and it is a shame to get rid of identity cards now. Money has already been spent on the scheme, so discontinuing it would mean yet more money being wasted in the abolition of identity cards. For the sake of a few more months, we might have seen real benefits from the scheme. I urge the Minister to consider the new clause; we will consider our position depending on his response. 

Catherine McKinnell:  As an MP with an airport in my constituency, I am acutely aware of the difficulties faced by the aviation industry, airports and the businesses housed in airports, and I want to highlight some of the problems that ID cards were designed to resolve—there is evidence that the pilot scheme was positive in resolving such problems. The aviation industry has suffered considerably of late with the bad winter snow, the rising cost of fuel, the economic downturn, the British Airways strikes, and, most recently and devastatingly, the volcanic ash. In particular, Newcastle International airport suffered £1 million in direct losses due to the volcanic ash, and that figure does not include the losses of other industries and businesses that relied on the airport for their income. On that basis, it made sense for the then Government to make an effort to assist the aviation industry and airlines with at least one aspect of their costs and time constraints through the ID card system. 

11.15 am 

The trial scheme showed some positive results. The turnaround time for staff recruitment—getting new members of staff on board—went from four days to one. There was also an impressive reduction in the bureaucracy and red tape that airlines and airports have to go through, reducing the application form from eight pages to two. The three-day process for visitors from other airports became a same-day process for those with ID cards. 

The benefits of a successful ID card system for airports and the aviation industry were clearly demonstrated in the short time that the pilot was allowed to run. That is why I support the new clause. I accept that in principle the ID card is not accepted by the Government, who want to repeal the legislation, but I want to persuade them to allow the pilot scheme to continue for at least

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the period for which it was supposed to run, so that some of the benefits to airlines and the aviation industry in assisting them with their security requirements can be recognised, and so that its results can be used to assist the aviation industry in some way in the future. 

If the Government remain entrenched in not allowing the pilot scheme to continue, to coin the phrase of my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch, it will be a case of throwing out an important baby—public security and the future of our important aviation industry—with the bath water. 

Julie Hilling:  I would like to raise a couple of issues that relate to the individuals who work in the airports. We heard from Manchester airport about the barriers and difficulties faced by employees who are currently without ID cards in moving from one employer to another. Each time someone wished to do that, particularly those people who wanted to progress, they had to go through the process of obtaining airside security clearance again. That is costly to themselves and to the employer. 

The other point is that it makes it easier for foreign nationals to be immediately employed at the airport. 

Dr Huppert:  Does the hon. Lady recall Question 50 to Mr Fazackerley, where he confirmed that all of that could be done using passports? 

Julie Hilling:  I will take the hon. Gentleman’s word that that is what Mr Fazackerley said. 

Catherine McKinnell:  Does my hon. Friend recall that although Mr Fazackerley mentioned that it could be done by some other means, he did not specify which ones, and that at present, passports do not contain biometric data and thereby do not offer the same advantages? 

Julie Hilling:  I thank my hon. Friend for her comment, which was very helpful. 

The Opposition accept that the Government want to get rid of ID cards, but the new clause suggests that we let the trial run its course and allow airports to continue to develop a better system. The airports have said that they need another system, but that will not be in place tomorrow or within a month of getting rid of ID cards. We must not get rid of the cards with undue haste. Several sectors of the population found the ID cards useful, one of them being airports with airside workers. Rather than waste money, let us see the scheme through to the end and see how it can be developed. 

The airport told us clearly that, while foreign nationals and other migrant workers still have identity cards it is much easier to employ them, rather than people who live near to the airport. That is particularly true of Manchester airport. The community surrounding the airport is not affluent and does not gain great benefit from it. Let us not put up barriers to local people being able to work there. 

Dr Huppert:  To clarify the exchange we had regarding Question 50, I asked Mr Fazackerley: 

“Is there a fundamental reason why the DFT could not do that based on a passport”. 

Mike Fazackerley replied: 

“No.”––[Official Report, Identity Documents Public Bill Committee, 29 June 2010; c. 25, Q50.] 

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At Question 72, my hon. Friend the Minister asked: 

“I am interested to hear you say that you could gain the benefits by other means. Is that basically by using passports for the same sort of purposes?” 

Mike Fazackerley replied: 

“Yes.”––[Official Report, Identity Documents Public Bill Committee, 29 June 2010; c. 29, Q72.] 

Steve McCabe:  I am tempted to ask the hon. Gentleman to read us every question between 50 and 72 so that we can check the accuracy of everything he said. Does he want me to give way? 

I want to pick up on what my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch intends with new clause 2. One of the by-products of the development of the ID card system was that work that had to be undertaken in relation to airports was undertaken at that time. It may be that the Minister, for good reason, does not want to accept new clause 2, but we would like to hear how seriously he treats this problem. He has obviously looked at it in the context of scrapping the Identity Cards Act 2006, so it would be helpful to the Committee if he could describe how he plans to take this piece of work forward. Obviously, the security of the public at airports is core business for the Home Office. We know that there was a programme of work in place. The risk is that that will be scrapped and that the money spent will be lost if there is no assessment in the valuation. A Government who talk about effectiveness and value for money would not want to be found guilty of wasting money in that way, so it would be really helpful to know exactly what the Minister has in mind. 

As my hon. Friend suggested, the airlines are having a hard time at the moment. Anyone who has used an airport recently will know about the delays and problems that the public experience due to security anxiety. Anyone who has any contact with people who work for airlines can relate the difficulties that the airlines and airport operators have with regard to security issues. Almost any person in the security business will say that the biggest anxiety about security at airports is not actually the public—it is people who appear to work at the airport. At regular intervals, we have the benefit of the press showing us a headline and photograph of someone who has managed to get airside or on board an aircraft to show how easy it is. We all know that that is a genuine problem. The difficulty for airports and airline staff is how they manage, in a way that does not cost them excessively, to carry out reasonable and proper security checks so that they are able to employ staff in a reasonable period of time, rather than employing people who cannot do their job because the security processes are not yet completed. 

I cannot say with certainty that the work the previous Government undertook was absolutely going to resolve those problems, but it was a serious and deliberate programme of work. It was well in train and there are lessons that should be learned from it. It is not sensible to scrap that work without any attempt to assess it, or any attempt to tell us what will happen subsequently. 

Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab):  Does my hon. Friend agree that it is likely that the Government will have to re-visit the issue of airport

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security, particularly if we experience a security issue? The valuable work done in this pilot should continue in order to inform any work the Government will do in this area. 

Steve McCabe:  Absolutely. That is exactly my point. The issue will not go away. There may be another way to attempt to address it, but I cannot believe that a Minister of this calibre would be prepared to take these steps today without having a plan B. I am simply asking him to give the Committee the benefit of his plan B. We do not want anyone out there saying that this Minister is lax about airport security, do we? If he is going to scrap this scheme and has no intention of letting us see the benefits of the assessment re-evaluation we want him to do us the favour of telling us what his alternative plans are. 

Damian Green:  I am grateful to the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch for moving this new clause, which she described as probing. Airport security is hugely important in the modern world. Let me deal first with the content of the clause and then move on to the general points made by hon. Members. 

The hon. Lady will be aware that the Home Office research, development and statistics directorate published a baseline for the evaluation of airside workers’ identity cards on the Home Office website in February 2010. The research was not taken forward because the Home Office knew that a general election was coming and that one of the eventualities was the one that has happened: a Government would be elected who would not continue with the ID card scheme. The idea, implicit in several speeches, that we are halfway through a research programme that is now being junked, is not true. There is no research programme to junk. As the Bill is about scrapping the ID card scheme it would be a complete waste of taxpayers’ money to carry out an evaluation on a project that will not be implemented. 

Steve McCabe:  Where does the new clause say “research programme”? The point that my hon. Friends and I were making was that a piece of work was well in train, and the intention was to evaluate that. I do not recall any mention of a research programme. The Minister may be slightly misleading in what he suggests. 

Damian Green:  Let me read the new clause. It refers to 

“work undertaken at Manchester Airport and London City Airport before the passing of this Act on the assessment of the benefits for airport security”. 

Steve McCabe:  Where does it say “research programme”? 

Damian Green:  A research programme and work carrying out an assessment seem to me to be the same thing. The hon. Gentleman is being slightly disingenuous. 

Catherine McKinnell:  Will the Minister clarify what those costs to the taxpayer would be? I understand that the cost of putting the ID cards in place has already been expended. The new clause would simply let the pilot run for the remainder of its period. 

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Damian Green:  The costs would be in assessing the effect of a project that we are not going to continue with. It would be about £5,000, which would be a waste of taxpayers’ money. We are not going to proceed with the scheme and I cannot see the point of spending £5,000 of taxpayers’ money to say that it is a good idea that people working in secure or sensitive areas would benefit from some form of identity procedure. That is an issue that does not divide us. 

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak, asked what plan B was. Plan B is what is already plan A in every airport in the country, which is to ensure that airside workers have their identity properly secured. It would be extraordinary if that were not already the case. I hold many things against the previous Government, but not the thought that they treated airport security in a lax way. They were perfectly serious about that, as any responsible Government would have been, given the current state of terrorism in the world. I do not suggest that airport security was in any way lax in the many dozens of airports other than Manchester and London City, where the ID card pilot was operated. 

Bridget Phillipson:  I was a little surprised by the figure that the Minister quoted. Given the Government’s opposition to any attempt to look at the benefits of the scheme, I imagined that the figure would be higher than £5,000. Does the Minister not value our national security? Does he not think that the benefits of the scheme—we have not properly considered the benefits to the aviation industry—are worth £5,000? 

Damian Green:  I shall come on to whether the scheme added to the security of airports in a second. 

11.30 am 

Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con):  I draw my hon. Friend’s attention to the answer Mr Fazackerley gave me to Question 9. He confirmed that security arrangements at East Midlands airport are as strong as those at Manchester and London City airports, even though East Midlands was not part of the scheme. 

Damian Green:  My hon. Friend anticipates one of the points that I was about to make in response to the hon. Members for Birmingham, Selly Oak, for Newcastle upon Tyne North, and for Houghton and Sunderland South. We had an extremely good evidence session on airport security with someone who runs an airport. He made several interesting points, one of which was made in response to a question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley, who is interested in an airport in his constituency and worried about its security. Mr Fazackerley happily reassured him that security at East Midlands airport is as strong as it is at Manchester airport. His actual answer was, “Yes, of course.” I can therefore put to rest the worries of the hon. Members for Birmingham, Selly Oak, and for Hackney South and Shoreditch. Do not forget that the Manchester Airports Group owns a number of airports throughout the country, some of which had the ID card pilot scheme, some of which did not. Those who run our airports reassured us that security at those airports that did not have the scheme was every bit as good as at those that did. 

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Catherine McKinnell:  Does the Minister accept that the issue is not simply security and whether the airport is more secure? The level of work involved in ensuring that security, and the associated delays and costs, is also an issue. The benefits provided by the ID card—the added speed and convenience—have already been outlined. Perhaps it would be worth £5,000 to the aviation industry if the study was completed. 

Damian Green:  The hon. Lady’s point would be entirely valid if there was any evidence from Mr Fazackerley that that was the case. He said, however, in response to a question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, that 

“we have been quite clear that the benefits could, in theory, remain if we had access to biometric passport checking. Even with the first-generation biometric passports, if we had a means of checking them and verifying that it was a valid document and that it belonged to that person, I believe we could still offer those advantages.”––[Official Report, Identity Documents Public Bill Committee, 29 June 2010; c. 25, Q50.] 

Passports that are already available are therefore explicitly able to provide the same security benefits, presumably at the same cost and with the same lack of problem that there would have been under the ID card scheme. One of the most useful things that we have discovered in this Committee is that those who were worried—it was a genuine worry—that airport security might be compromised by the abolition of the ID card scheme can be reassured that that is absolutely not the case. 

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con):  Are we not forgetting one simple fact? We are not talking about a compulsory scheme. As it was a voluntary scheme, to which people signed up, it was piecemeal and was without any fundamental benefit, in terms of evaluation of the data. 

Damian Green:  That is a good point that starkly highlights the airport security aspect. It is compulsory, with or without a voluntary ID card scheme, for workers who go airside at airports to have some kind of secure identity. In direct response to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak, of course all airports have that kind of security, because they more than anyone want to ensure that the passengers using them are secure. A voluntary ID card scheme added absolutely nothing to the security of airports. 

The hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch said that this is a probing new clause, so I think that it has served its purpose well. It has indeed probed the issue of airport security. All those who heard Mr Fazackerley’s evidence will now be reassured that the ID card scheme offers no addition to airport security, and that it is therefore sensible for the Government not only to scrap it, but to not delay doing so in the interests of an assessment exercise on the effect that the scheme might have had. The effect that it might have had was zero, so I recommend that the Committee rejects the new clause. 

Meg Hillier:  I said that this was a probing new clause because I hoped that the Government would provide a response. I am disappointed that the Minister misses the point, as does the hon. Member for Hexham. We are talking about a pilot scheme that looked at the potential benefits of using a secure initial form of

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identity check that was Government-backed—gold-plated, as it were—to deal with a number of issues at airports, of which security was a major part. For example, the scheme could improve pre-employment and security checks by making them quicker and cheaper. Some airports said that they were spending up to £160 on the identity part of a security check. The approach taken in the pilot meant that it was a lot cheaper. 

There was a holy grail among airports and air industries of having portable passes, so that an individual who needed to work in several airports did not need several different airport passes, or could at least get those passes more quickly if they had first gone through a secure identity check—for the ID card, in this case. Those individuals could include pilots, who often have to relocate to different airports due to fog, or the engineer who was the only person in an airline company able to deal with a particular maintenance task arising in different airports. 

Guy Opperman:  I am curious about the cost that the Government covered for Manchester and London City airports. There is self-evidently the £30. Can the former Minister explain how much cost there was to the Government per ID card issued? It was clearly way more than £30. 

Meg Hillier:  It is for the Government to provide those figures. We did hear some evidence from Mr Fazackerley on that point. The money went in from Government because sometimes Government need to lead from the front, rather than wait and negotiate slowly to get everyone to implement. This was at a time when there was an oil crisis and other issues—raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North—such as challenges to airports, airlines and air industries. Another benefit, in addition to security, was the cost and efficiency savings to air industries—everything from retailers through to airports and airlines that needed to employ people airside at an airport. 

We recognise where the Government are coming from on ID cards, but the pilot had begun. Why not let it continue, see whether it provides lessons that could be applied in other ways, with or without ID cards, and see what the benefits of that security check might be and whether they could continue? 

Other benefits included faster Criminal Records Bureau checks, which were speeded up. I will not repeat the evidence given by Mr Fazackerley, but he talked about reduction in bureaucracy and the fact that processing could be reduced from four days to one. There was also some indication that the application form shrank from eight pages to two. As all Governments say that they want to get rid of red tape, I would have thought such benefits could be learned from. Even if identity cards are to be abolished, which is the Government’s intent, there may be other ways of bringing on board those benefits, potentially through the passport. However, even Mr Fazackerley would agree that he is not an expert on what the passport could do, particularly without fingerprints. However, we know that the identity card involved a more secure identity check than passports did, and that was one of the points of the card. 

Even without that, practical benefits for airlines, airports and airside industries could be accrued if the Minister were willing to extend the pilot long enough to

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learn the lessons. We are not talking about acres of research; we are, as the Minister revealed, talking about £5,000 to continue the process. Compared with the cost of setting it up, that is small fry, as the hon. Member for Hexham rightly highlighted. That is a very small amount for the Government to commit to looking at what could be huge cost and efficiency savings for business, at a time when I would have thought that the Government, as well as the Opposition, would want to support business. We are looking at a practical element here. 

Mr Fazackerley touched on the subject of passports. A passport validation service already exists, but that system is not as secure as an ID card and requires a slow manual check. In time there could have been automatic checks, but I am not going to rehearse the arguments for ID cards. I am saying that we should look at the issues around security, delays in checks, and benefits to employees and employers, and make sure that we do not throw out the baby with the bathwater. It would take very little movement from the Government to acknowledge that there could be lessons learned. If the Government chose to, they could apply those lessons to another identity document, possibly the passport, or just use them to streamline processes at airports. They could share the information with other airports and perhaps other industries, such as the nuclear industry, where such protection is vital and speed of checking is important. There were many potential benefits, yet we will now see none of them—all for the sake of £5,000. The Minister wants to get rid of ID cards, but I beg him to use this opportunity to make a clear statement that he will at least allow the assessment to continue long enough to ensure that we can see the benefits. 

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time. 

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 10. 

Division No. 3 ]  


Hillier, Meg   

Hilling, Julie   

McCabe, Steve   

McKinnell, Catherine   

Mahmood, Shabana   

Morris, Grahame M.   

Phillipson, Bridget   


Burley, Mr Aidan   

Featherstone, Lynne   

Green, Damian   

Halfon, Robert   

Henderson, Gordon   

Huppert, Dr Julian   

Mills, Nigel   

Opperman, Guy   

Timpson, Mr Edward   

Wright, Jeremy   

Question accordingly negatived.  

New Clause 3 

ID cards issued to transgendered persons 
‘Any ID card issued to a transgendered person, which is valid immediately before the day on which this Act is passed, shall continue to be valid until the Secretary of State has laid before both Houses of Parliament a report to the effect that the Secretary of State is satisfied that an identity document in the assigned gender is available for issue to a transgendered person.’.—(Meg Hillier.)

Brought up, and read the First time.  

Column number: 130 

Meg Hillier:  I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time. 

This important aspect of identity cards would have been lost on many members of the public, but it was important to those immediately affected. It relates to identity documents for transgender individuals, who face many challenges as they go through that difficult process. I am delighted that the Minister for Equalities is serving on the Committee, but I am disappointed that this matter was not mentioned in the impact assessment. An identity card was the only document that could be given to someone in an acquired identity without a gender recognition certificate as well as a certificate of their birth identity. 

The process of transgendering is not a subject that needs to detain the Committee at great length, but the introduction under legislation passed in 2004 of a gender recognition certificate was a major step forward. It allowed someone who had acquired a new gender to have an identity document in their acquired gender. That was fine for those who had gone all the way through the process, such as those who had had surgery and others who had lived for a time in their acquired gender. However, the process takes some time and it can be distressing for people to travel on one identity document while looking very much like their new acquired gender and having a new identity in that gender. 

Under the 2006 Act, identity cards allowed people to travel and use an identity document in their acquired gender—in the gender that they were living in at the time. It made the transition process much less painful, more manageable and much more fair. I hope that the Government recognise that as an important step. They have made commitments to support members of the transgender community. This is their first test, yet they are repealing the 2006 Act and the option for people to have the two documents. They will be restricting their ability to carry out their day-to-day life with the ease that identity cards would have allowed. A small number of people will be affected, but I hope the Government acknowledge that fact, and I ask them to tell us what proposals are in place to support people going through the process of changing their gender and to ensure that they are not disadvantaged by this Bill. 

11.45 am 

Julie Hilling:  I want to add a little to what my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch has said about the journey that people go on. Changing gender is not something that just happens. People have to go on a journey and it can take many years. For the vast majority of people it will take at least two years before they reach a position of saying, “Yes, I wish to live as another person” and before they can undergo surgery. Of course, in the end many people do not undergo surgery because it can be dangerous, painful or not a success. 

I want to say a little about my friend, whom I will call Jane. My friend Jane is still working as John in what is a male-dominated industry, and has been for a long time. She is usually Jane at home, although with some of her family she is not yet Jane—her elderly parents are finding it difficult to accept. Because of such different situations, she has to live her life with two genders. That is hard enough to imagine—one cannot even say, “Right,

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I am going to have that transition”—but let us also try to imagine Jane’s embarrassment in other ways. What does she do when she wants to book a hotel room or a flight? How does she do that? Identity cards have allowed her to say, “Okay, I will go on holiday because then I am able to live as Jane, but at work I need to continue as John.” Jane’s story is not unusual. 

As I said earlier, the transgender process is a journey prior to receiving a gender recognition certificate. If a person does not undergo surgery, they can of course still achieve a certificate, but it takes considerably longer. What we are saying is that their passports will still be in the name of the opposite gender until they have reached the end of that journey. Identity cards were a liberating thing for transgender people. Transgender organisations that made contact said, “That has been forgotten in terms of the equality agenda. Yes, we are a small group, but identity cards made a huge difference to our lives.” We therefore ask the Government to consider this issue and see whether there might be a solution. 

Dr Huppert:  As hon. Members may have observed, I am keen on finding evidence, and we have a number of transgender people in my Cambridge constituency. Indeed, we had the first transgender mayor in the country—a good friend of mine and a ward colleague. My immediate reaction was to talk to them and find out their response. It was very interesting, and contrary to what the hon. Member for Bolton West just said. 

The clear steer from members of the transgender community in Cambridge was to oppose the amendment. Under the amendment, the only valid ID cards would be for transgender people, so if someone presents an ID card it is not a valid card unless they are transgender. I am sure that that is not what is intended, but that would be the impact of the amendment, and the people I consulted were very concerned about it. As I am sure the hon. Lady will be aware, inadvertent or deliberate outing is a real concern to many people in that community, and they felt that it would make it easier rather than harder for them to be outed. 

The transgender community also commented that the passport system works quite well at present. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will talk briefly about what flexibility there might be, but according to one transgender constituent the Passport and Records Agency and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency accept a doctor’s note confirming that the person is undergoing gender transition and the transition is intended to be permanent, which allows for a graduated process. In her particular case, in 2005 it took five days to get a new passport, so the system does work. 

Meg Hillier:  I respect the point of view. However, although it is true that a transgender person can get a passport in the required gender, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West has highlighted with a particular case—and there are many others—not everyone lives solely in one gender, and the benefit of ID cards was the entitlement to two, one of which was travel-enabled, which meant that an individual could live in whichever gender they were using at that particular moment. 

Dr Huppert:  I was going to go on to talk about the variety of circumstances that pertain, but the key point is that there are systems that work, and an admittedly small set of people—not every transgender person in

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the country—said that the situation worked for them at the moment. They did not want to see such a solution. I accept that it may be different for other people, however, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will talk shortly about what might be doable. 

There are a number of different circumstances: there are people who are neutrois and inter-sex people—there is a complicated collection. The simple solution to many of these circumstances is just not to have gender information on any of these identity documents. The people I spoke to would push for that very strongly. They are concerned about a repeat of what happened in Trafalgar square at Pride 2008 when there were inappropriate demands for gender recognition certificates. Hon. Members will know some of the history of that. 

There does not seem to be a need for identity documents of any kind to have gender information. It is not a very good biometric; it is roughly a 50:50 split. Military ID, such as the MOD90, which obviously can have quite a high security clearance, contains no gender information. That might be what we should look at. It is certainly what some of the people I spoke to were keen on. 

To summarise, the transgender people I spoke to said they did not want this new clause. I therefore do not support it because I support them. 

Lynne Featherstone:  I found new clause 3 very interesting, and I agree with the hon. Member for Bolton West. Transgender people are on a journey, and they can be anywhere on that journey at any point. I hope she agrees with me that it was a great shame that in the Equality Act 2010 the previous Government did not accept my suggestion that the term “gender reassignment”, which is rather far along that spectrum, be changed to “gender identity”, which might cover anyone on that spectrum. 

The hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch has spoken about having two ID cards, but the new clause would not do what she wants. As I understand it, the purpose of the new clause is to provide that the Secretary of State cannot cancel an ID card until a transgender person in the assigned gender—the gender of choice—can apply for an identity document in that assigned gender. I can confirm, as the hon. Lady confirmed in her speech, that the Identity and Passport Service currently has a policy of issuing a passport in the acquired gender to a transgender person who is able to provide the necessary medical evidence. So this clause would have no practical effect except for requiring the Secretary of State to lay an unnecessary report before both Houses of Parliament. I am sure that is not what the hon. Lady intended, but that would be the effect of the new clause. 

Current passport policy permits someone who experiences gender dysphoria to apply for a passport in their acquired gender on production of medical evidence. A gender recognition certificate is not required. Obtaining a passport in an acquired gender is a key facilitator in obtaining the evidence necessary to demonstrate to the gender recognition panel that a person has lived their life in an acquired gender. It enables them to change their identity on utility bills, at work and in a variety of other circumstances. An application for a passport in an acquired gender is also an indicator used by the gender recognition panel itself. 

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Transgender people can apply for a passport in their acquired gender or the gender in which they are living or have been living for some time. We recognise its importance to transgender people who are seeking official recognition of their acquired gender. Approximately 1,000 people per year apply for a change of gender in their passport, although that number can vary significantly. 

Turning to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, it is extremely instructive that transgender people would find this new clause more difficult as it would put them in an identifiable situation. It would in some way “out” them. I am sure that that was an unintended consequence. 

Meg Hillier:  The hon. Member for Cambridge acknowledged that it was anecdotal evidence. What consultation has the hon. Lady, as Equalities Minister and a Minister in the Department that is putting forward this first Government Bill, had with transgender groups and the transgender community as a whole about the repeal of identity cards? 

Lynne Featherstone:  At the moment, we are aware that only one person has been issued with a card under the transgender category. I understand the point that the hon. Lady is making. 

Meg Hillier:  That was not my question. 

Lynne Featherstone:  As I go on, I hope the hon. Lady will see where I am going. 

I understand that the previous Government had introduced a policy that would have allowed a transgender person who was in the process of changing gender to hold and use two ID cards—that is the point that the hon. Lady raised, but not the one included in the new clause. She deserves credit for the enlightened approach adopted on transgender people in that area, and for me, as Equalities Minister, it is something of an open door. She will also be aware that the policy was not extended to passports. I should make it clear that as a passport is primarily a travel document, the current policy is that a person can hold a passport in one gender only. The principle behind the Bill is that ID cards are not the answer, and it follows logically that passports are. 

Bridget Phillipson:  The Minister obviously shares my concern on the matter and understands that it is an important one for the transgender community. Will she therefore shed some light on why the impact was not considered as part of the Government’s impact assessment when they were looking to scrap the ID cards? 

Lynne Featherstone:  I do not have the information at the moment, but I will come back to that. 

The matter is not under consideration as part of the Bill, but I would like to consider the scope for two passports to be issued to transgender people. I am sure that Members on both sides recognise that travelling in the European Union and in other parts of the world may present different situations and circumstances for transgender people. 

Meg Hillier  rose—  

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Lynne Featherstone:  It is important that we examine how best to ensure freedom of travel while ensuring that individuals are accepted in their preferred identity. For those reasons, I ask the Committee to reject the new clause. 

Meg Hillier:  I am disappointed that the Minister did not take another intervention, as she did not answer my question about whom she had consulted. She simply said that one person had applied, but as the scheme was not long-running and was available in only a few areas of the country, that is not surprising. I have no evidence that the Government have acknowledged, as my hon. Friend has once again reminded the Committee, the impact on the group in the impact assessment. There appears, if I take silence as a no, to have been no consultation with the community. We therefore have to rely—as I say, I am not critical of the hon. Member for Cambridge—on anecdotal evidence. 

Lynne Featherstone:  None of the transgender communities to whom I have spoken have mentioned anything about ID cards. 

Meg Hillier:  The Minister once again obfuscates. The “people to whom she has spoken” is not the same as a formal Government consultation. I remind the hon. Lady that she is now a Minister of Her Majesty’s Government, and consultation has a proper process, which means writing to certain groups. If she cannot tell me now, will she write to me with a list of the groups that she or her senior Minister wrote to about the Bill to gauge opinion? It is important that before an Act of Parliament is laid, there is assessment of the full impact. Clearly, that assessment was not properly done because it was not mentioned in the impact assessment. 

I am delighted that the hon. Lady is talking about using passports. The point about passports being primarily a travel document is valid, which was why two identity cards would have been produced: one as a travel document, and the other a non-travel version. It would be good to know whether there was a proposal to produce a non-travel version of the passport, which seems a bit odd as it is self-contradictory. I am not sure that there is an easy alternative. 

Lynne Featherstone:  I assure the hon. Lady that I will write to her on the point about the impact assessment. We have agreed to discuss the matter further outside the Bill and consider how it can be taken forward, as the Bill deals only with ID cards. We will consult the key stakeholders. 

Meg Hillier:  All I can say is that I am slightly reassured that Her Majesty’s Opposition have uncovered an area that the Equalities Minister was not aware of before the new clause was tabled. I am slightly alarmed, but it shows the benefit of Opposition. I am heartened that she will continue to look at this matter and would like to know whether she will report any progress to Parliament. No doubt we will have the opportunity to raise the issue—she is twin-hatted at Question Time—but I hope she will be proactive in letting the Opposition know what is happening. We have a shared agenda here—we all want to ensure that the right support is available to people making that journey. Some 1,000 people a year is not an insignificant number, even though it is a small figure compared with the general population. 

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12 noon 

Lynne Featherstone:  As I pointed out in my earlier remarks, I think that I have an honourable track record on transgender issues. I just wish that the previous Government had listened, during the Equality Act, on matters where there is detriment to well-being. 

Meg Hillier:  I know the hon. Lady well—we have worked together before. I take her at her word when she says that she takes the issue seriously and I recognise her record. We will happily either withdraw the new clause—if you advise that that is appropriate, Mr Caton—or not press it to a vote, but we expect and hope that, on Third Reading or on Report, we receive further information on the progress made by the hon. Lady and the Home Office on that. It is important that people who are affected by this are reassured that it is not just kind words from the Under-Secretary—who I do not doubt means what she says here and now—but that there is effort from her Department to ensure that that really happens. 

Lynne Featherstone:  I cannot vouch for the absolute timing, but the document published and launched at 10 Downing street by the Prime Minister states that for the first time the Government will have a gender action plan. No Government have ever had such a plan on transgender issues. 

Meg Hillier:  Action plans and words are all very good, but we need to hear information presented to the House before the Bill passes into law. I am pleased that the hon. Lady takes the issue seriously. I did not doubt that she would and I look forward to hearing more from her, as the Bill progresses, to ensure that this important detail, which affects people greatly, is not lost. We withdraw the new clause in the hope that we have real Government action, because I think that there is cross-party agreement on this issue. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion. 

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.  


That certain written evidence already reported to the House be appended to the proceedings of the Committee.—(Damian Green.)  

Question proposed, That the Chair do report the Bill to the House. 

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Damian Green:  I thank you, Mr Caton, and Mr Streeter, for your chairmanship. You presided over the proceedings so well, with a perfect light touch for a Committee with so many new MPs. I congratulate all of those new MPs who have now got through their first Committee stage. I can assure them all, as a veteran of many Public Bill Committees, that the first is always the most difficult. I thank the Clerks, the Hansard reporters, the attendants, the police and my own indefatigable officials. I also thank the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch for probing well a Bill that I know she will deeply detest. She was closely involved with the ID cards scheme, which she strongly supported and which Conservative Members strongly opposed. That is what the House is supposed to do—argue about things that we care about and do it in detail so that Bills can be improved. In many ways, this has been a model Committee stage and I am delighted that the Bill can now move on to the next stages. 

Meg Hillier:  I, too, thank all involved in ensuring that democracy takes place and that the Committee has run smoothly. Thank you, Mr Caton and Mr Streeter, for your chairmanship. Democracy may run smoothly, but we may not always agree with its outcome. I would just like to say a word about lost opportunities. 

We have now removed, if the Bill becomes an Act, fingerprints from the lexicon of identity documents and identity security, and that is a missed opportunity. I wish to put on the record that the Opposition will look to pursue what we do about security of identity documents when we are, one day, again in Government, which may be sooner than the Minister hopes. We will look closely to ensure that the safety of the British public is paramount and that passports are a secure—not just now, but in the future—and convenient document. We will continue to probe the Minister further. 

I thank the Minister for the courtesy with which he has dealt with me personally during the Committee and look forward to engaging with him further on Report and Third Reading. 

Question put and agreed to.  

Bill accordingly to be reported, without amendment.  

12.5 pm 

Committee rose.