|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: No, my Lords, he is not. He is suggesting that, as the expert from Microsoft said, we may be inadvertently creating what he called a "honeypot" that would allow, in a simpler way, those who are determined to circumvent the systemsthere are many of them, and their numbers are growingto do so. I am warning against the easy assumption that the system that we are now setting up will be proof against all that. It patently will not. That is the advice that we are getting.
Lord Maxton: My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that banks in this country and throughout the world are gravely concerned about fraud using bankcards? They suggest that the best way to deal with that is to move to a biometric card system that allows machines to recognise who exactly is using them. So what is wrong with us moving to a biometric system as well?
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am not able to comment intelligently on the noble Lord's observation, because I was not aware until he mentioned it that the banks were doing so. I suggest, though, that there is a difference between the needs of a bank in relation to its customers, about whom they acquire a great deal of information in the course of
31 Oct 2005 : Column 25
opening an account and so on, and those of a computer system designed to cover every citizen of this land in totally different circumstances.
The noble Baroness made reference in opening to paragraph 9 of the Schedule 1 to the Bill. It authorises the logging in every citizen's ID file of details of every occasion on which their identity card is used. That may sound innocent enough, but, as with the use of computers and mobile phones, the logging of every such use builds up a picture of the lifestyle of the ID card owner and represents a serious intrusion into privacy. The time may well come when ID cards will be used in most shops, restaurants and banks to verify identity, with the intrusion of privacy complications that that will bring. I should add that Clause 20 gives automatic access to all of that data to the police for any crime. In respect of any crime, however trivial, the police, under the Bill, will have the right to access that highly sensitive information.
It is worth remembering that the extremely simple identity card issued to all of usnot all of us; not the noble Baroness for oneduring World War II was originally available for only three purposes but that by the time of its abandonment in 1952 it was being used for over 30. Fears of function creep are intrinsic to this experiment, and I believe that those fears are entirely prudent. So is our anxiety about the claims made by the Government for the utility of the ID card. As NO2ID, an NGO, succinctly put it:
My concern is that we are now so preoccupied with the hardware of security and policing that we devote far too little time and effort to the hearts and minds issues that underlie crime and illegality.
As several of us said about the Terrorism Bill, insensitive and excessive security powers can stimulate the very extremism and illegality that they are designed to deter. At least the Government are not claiming that the ID cards will stop terrorism, as has already been mentioned. As for immigration and working, people will still come here using foreign documentation, real or not, and there is nothing to suggest that the number of prosecutions for unlawful employment would increase under the new regime. Asylum seekers, in any event, have ID cards.
As for social security fraud and abuse of public services, identity is not usually the problem; that lies in false claims about means and so on. And what about our ancient common law right to call ourselves by what we will? My daughter, married though she is, uses her maiden name and her married name in different circumstances. Will that be illegal? Indeed, what of us? I job between title and my real name according to circumstances, and I am not thinking of restaurant tables. As for identity fraud, there is insufficient evidence that the ID card would work. Indeed, there is evidence that by relying on a single source for identification, the fraudster will have an advantagethat partly responds to the two interventions.
Cost has been hotly debated, and there is nothing remotely approaching consensus. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, quoted the figure of £15 billion to
31 Oct 2005 : Column 26
£20 billion. The LSE study showed that and gave great detail on how they came up with that figure. That was the cost for establishing and operating the scheme over 10 years. That would throw up, at a median figure, a cost per ID card of £230, not the £30 or £93 mentioned by the noble Baroness.
In addition, I am told that the LSE team will shortly update the estimates to include the integration costs of the databank with other government departments. That will be of the order of £5 billion to £10 billion. If they are remotely right, there are profound questions of political choice about how best to use an investment of that scale for the stated purposes. The Liberal Democrats in the other place suggested that even a part of the sum that might be devoted to the scheme would be better used putting more police on our streets.
Given that the Government havenot only in my view but, I should think, in anyone's viewproduced inadequate justification for those key figures and given how crucial they are in our deliberations, I suggest to the House that it would be folly to bring the Bill into effect unless an independent study or an independent audit of a government study had been fully completed and considered by the House. It may then prove that the basic cost assumptions that the Government hold are wrong. With that would come very profound alternative policy options.
What about the culture and psychology of a compulsory ID system? I have often been touched by émigrés, particularly pre-war ones, who have said to me in so many words, "What I have been profoundly grateful for is the freedom of this countrythe fact that I am on no one's list". Some say that we live in different times and that terrorism has changed all that. I refute that entirely. I believe that for us to be pushedsome might say panickedinto this Bill because of perfectly natural worries about the horrid phenomenon of terrorism would somehow be to truckle to it, even to lend encouragement to it. We would be changing significantly the relationship between the state and the citizen in response to it and would therefore inadvertently be giving it succour.
I much prefer the spirit of the East Enders in the blitz and of Winston Churchill and Lord Atkin when dealing with the question of alien detention in the middle of the Second World War, when we really were up against it. Churchill sent a telegram from north Africa saying that democratic freedom was what we were fighting the war for, and the inspiring judgment of Lord Atkin in Liversidge v Anderson gave everlasting voice to that sentiment.
What are we on these Benches looking for? First, we want primary legislation for designation of passports as identity cards, as that would cover roughly 80 per cent of the population. Secondly, we want the same for universal compulsion under Clause 6. We want the scope of paragraph 9 of the first schedule, to which I have referred, to be bolted and barred against extension of its use, even within the limits of the Bill. We want to query the use of the cards or rather to seek to confine the use of identity cards to what is called a
31 Oct 2005 : Column 27
one-to-one comparison rather than one-to-many comparisons. I do not have time to explain that further to noble Lords who find that to be gobbledegook. We certainly want to look carefully at the somewhat obscure provisions for pooling registered information with commercial interests. As to the information that can be stored under Clause 1, we definitely want to reduce the scope of the same, including a narrowed definition of "public interest" and "public services", as I have tried to explain.
We want carefully to scrutinise the whole Bill for its ethnic consequences, as there is no doubt that there is especial sensitivity in those communities. We will look carefully at the notification of change requirements, which as they stand seem likely to disadvantage the already disadvantaged. We will want the role of the National Identity Scheme Commissioneran important oneto be strengthened and made more independent, reporting to Parliament rather than to the Government, with the prospect of wider powers to deal with complaints, protection of privacy and preservation of the integrity of the system. We want to review the compliance of the proposed scheme with the Human Rights Act 1998 and with the European Union freedom to travel directive, which comes into force next April, and which I do not think is consistent with what we have here.
At all points we will prefer specific protection to reliance on the often uncertain protections of the Human Rights Act. We will be vigilant against function creep. As I said, we will not want the Bill to be implemented until the cost implications have been established. We look forward to stimulating debates, an accommodating government Front Bench and lots and lots of amendments.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|