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Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, has given us a fairly good series of reasons why the Bill is simply enabling legislation at this stage. Despite a sore throat, I must thoroughly welcome the Bill, as I welcome the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Soley, with whom I spent many an evening in the other place filibustering during those difficult years. I have argued for the Bill since 1994 and repeatedly called for its introduction in the 19972001 Parliament, often to the consternation of colleagues behind me on the green Benches, who would occasionally reward my interventions with a growl or a grunt of disapproval. How times have changed.
My first reason for supporting ID cards stems from my experience as a student in Paris in the early 1960s, at a time of conflict in Algeria. For a period, Paris was a city in fear of bombing, as the FLN and the OAS fought out their squabbles on the streets. With that came the frequent intervention of the riot police in their Black Marias, picking up people at random for identity checks and sometimes rougher treatment. My problem was that as a teenager I had a distinctly southern European, even Algerian, look about me. I was therefore a target for the CRS, and my only defence was my French identity card, which I learnt always to carry with me. It was a very effective defence against the excesses of the French state. I am absolutely sure that without it, I would have ended up in a Black Maria to be carried off for questioning, probably behind the concrete fortifications in the gendarmerie on the Rue Soufflot, which I remember well.
I have never forgotten that experience. In times of tension, minorities have the most to benefit from ID cards. All I ask is that when an individual is required to provide evidence of identity, the ID number is recorded by the police officer concerned. We do not need 10-minute form-filling exercises, just the number on the card. That would ensure the sensitive treatment of minority groups. Database monitoring would soon reveal the targeting of minorities.
My second reason for supporting the Bill is our clear commitment in the manifesto. It is the position that I took on tuition fees, where I repeatedly voted against the Government. In my view, manifesto commitments are solemn undertakings given to the people. We have no right to break our word. Indeed, it is unprincipled.
My third reason is that the public want the cards. I know there are those in the other place who argue that asking the limited question "Do you want a national identity card?" does not commit the respondent to a national register. But the public are not stupid. They know that a national identity card without a back-up register is a worthless piece of plastic open to fraud. It would be as useless as a debit or Switch card without a bank account.
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My fourth reason is the huge benefits that would arise from the scheme, many of which have already been referred to by my noble friends and others in all parts of the House. I will add a few that are more controversial. There is a huge black economy in the United Kingdom. Some people estimate its value to be in the order of £10 billion. I suspect that it is a lot larger than that. There are tens if not hundreds of thousands of people who are simply outside the system. They do not pay income tax, they do not pay national insurance contributions, and they avoid capital gains tax on share transactions. Thankfully, we catch many property transactions through stamp duty. They also do not pay tax on dividends. They trade above the VAT registration thresholds, and the loss of input offsets does not worry them at all. They do not pay taxes on rental income and totally escape capital transfer tax. Indeed, many here today will know some of the people I am referring to.
Just look at the amount of property in London, in the form of apartments and office accommodation, owned by companies based overseas with untraceable shareholders who often live anonymously in the UK, while the person on PAYE picks up the tab. People are getting tired of all that. One of the greatest benefits of the national identity card will be a vast increase in the tax take. It will far exceed the cost of card introductioneven the wildest estimates in the LSE study.
Another more controversial consideration is the use of cards to gain access to airline transport. They keep telling us that 9/11 could not have been avoided with the use of identity cards. Is that true? I understand that all the 9/11 bombers were already known to the FBI or the CIA and were recorded on their databases. We have that information from the various inquiries that have been carried out in America. If the legal requirements of the United States of America had included the swiping of a biometric data card at the hand luggage security checkpoint at embarkation, it would have triggered a red light alert as the information hit the national databases. Further biometric reader checks would have confirmed the element of risk attached to the particular passengers, and those terrorist passengers would not have even got on to the aeroplanes. Indeed, they probably would not even have tried to do so. It is only a matter of time before we have a worldwide system of biometric identification for all airline passengers; a system based not just on passports, which are not called for on domestic flights.
What are my reservations? My first reservation is that we forget that civil liberty for the man on the Clapham omnibus is that his bus will reach its final destination. The public do not want this whole exercise to be driven off course by concessions to an élitist, liberal establishment. I say that as someone who represented real people in the Commons over 22 years. I was ever worried about the disconnection between the people and Parliament. People were always complaining about the failure of Parliament to deal with real world problems.
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My second reservation is that the biometrics would exclude DNA. Charles Clarke, whose clear-sighted commitment to the whole process is an example to every Secretary of State, especially at the moment, should consider the inclusion of biometric detail in the form of DNA. I know that his reservation is based on civil libertarian considerations. But Charles, why not let the public decide by giving them the option of offering DNA data for inclusion? Millions would volunteer. Some might say that it would be the wrong millions, but with a foot in the door it would soon become mandatory as part of the long-term exercise that we are engaged in. The implications of the use of DNA for the criminal justice system are immense and well documented on the basis of existing collection arrangements.
I suspect that the only people who would lose out would be the lawyers for the defence. Imagine the benefits in investigating rape, murder, burglary, child molestation, major robbery, drug dealing and a host of other cases. If you want to measure the confidence held by the general public in DNA, you need do no more than watch those appalling but inevitably tragic early morning television programmes. The subject is always Who-Did-What-To-Whom-And-When. The public queue up in their role as voyeurs to witness circumstances in which DNA is used as a substitute for Pentothal or a judicial hearing.
Finally, I want to turn to the subject of biometric error. I am no mathematician, and I am sure that the Joint Matriculation Board of 1958 would agree, but I would wager that the odds on an error in a multi-biometric matching are infinitesimal. If you add to that DNA data, the chances of error must venture into the world of astrophysical calculation. On top of that you have to convince a jury, in whom some in this House place so much faith. I have seen too many miscarriages of justice in my lifetime. "Jury guessing", I call it, like word-against-word decisions in rape trials without evidence.
The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, I begin by declaring my interest. I have recently accepted an appointment as a special adviser to the Enterprise Privacy Group, an association of organisationsboth private and public sectorworking in partnership to assess and understand privacy-related issues and to achieve collaborative solutions. I should add that my involvement with the group is unpaid.
As the noble Baroness told us in her lucid introduction, we have been here before. The Bill is in substance the same measure as we debated before the election. I am sure it will surprise no one that in the intervening period my distaste for it has not been assuaged. Notwithstanding some vague tinkering with the drafting, I continue to have deep misgivings about it both on grounds of principle and of practicality. That said, I acknowledge that a fundamental responsibility of government, and therefore of
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Parliament, is to enact measures aimed at defending the security of the nation. I can therefore accept that the statutory purposes of the Bill are valid, but I cannot and do not accept that the proposed scheme represents a proportionate mechanism to resolve these matters.
Your Lordships will recall that at our previous Second Reading I focused on three distinct themes. As it happens, the relevance and import of those criticisms has manifestly deepened since we last considered the Bill. I begin with the technological aspects. To state the obvious, the success or failure of the scheme envisaged by the Bill is wholly dependent upon the viability of the technology that underpins it. For myself, I stand by the proposition that, because the stated purposes of the scheme are myriad, disparate, vague and unfocused the technological architecture of the proposed scheme will inevitably be equally vague and unfocused.
As with previous major public sector IT projects, irrespective of the party of government at the time, this is not a good augury, neither as to viability nor indeed the cost of the scheme. In this context, as the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, has already revealed, the past few weeks have seen a rash of adverse comment from within the industry as to the scheme's proposed design and the technology underpinning it. In particular, the noble Lord quoted Jerry Fishenden, the national technology officer of Microsoft UK, as expressing grave concern that the centralised database that is so intrinsic to the proposed scheme could well give rise to a massive escalation of identity-related crime. For my part, I merely add this observation from Mr Fishenden:
Even the Government, on the basis of trials conducted to date, have been forced to admit that, contrary to their expectations, the technology will not provide adequate infallibility from a single biometric for the scheme to be workable for the whole of the UK population, a point highlighted by my noble and learned friend Lord Lyell of Markyate. Nor can they draw comfort from their insistence that reliance upon multiple biometrics will resolve this difficulty. As John Daugman of the computer laboratory at Cambridge University has pointed out, the combination of a relatively strong and relatively weak biometric test will tend to give rise to an overall result that is likely to offer a significantly worse performance than the weaker of the two original results. Given the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, I apologise immensely for making that point immediately after him. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, takes the view that intuition may suggest the opposite. Nevertheless, while I do not
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propose to take your Lordships through the mathematics, there is undoubtedly a very real problem here.
I turn to the second of my previous criticisms of the Billthat is, the fact that the real aim of the proposed scheme is to establish a centralised national identity database rather than an ID card system. This issue caused concern to the constitutional committee in its previous report on the Bill. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Holme, touched upon it earlier today. As the committee commented:
"When the scheme is fully in place, the role of identity cards themselves will be secondary to the database of information regarding the personal history on a life-long basis of every individual in the Register".
"It will be possible, once all the biometric information is recorded, for the authorities, by scanning anyone who is or should be on the register, to check their identity and access information about them without recourse to the identity card itself".
The importance of this should not be underestimated. The internal logic of the scheme is that, so far as it is possible for current biometric technology to deliver adequate levels of accuracysomething which, as I have already implied, is far from certain at the moment or, indeed, for the foreseeable futurethe registered individual himself is to all intents and purposes the card. In other wordsas successive Home Office Ministers have all but claimedidentity cards themselves are wholly redundant to the scheme. Little wonder, therefore, that the Government are so sanguine about compelling us to carry them.
Moreover, given that Clause 1(1) confers responsibility for the maintenance of the register on the Secretary of State, there is a palpable sense in which control of the identities of registered individualsI do not necessarily say ownershipvests in the Government of the day. Like the constitutional committee, I find this deeply worrying.
There is a further aspect of this that merits attention which other noble Lords have already touched upon. Again, the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, cited the relevant passage from the Government's manifesto; namely, the commitment to,
Additionally, my noble friends Lady Anelay, Lord Waddington and others have already explained the way in which the Bill forces compulsion by default upon the individual, certainly so far as concerns registration. This, combined with the fact that identity cards are, to all intents and purposes, irrelevant to the operation of the schemeand here I offer due deference to the views of the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savoursrenders the Bill inconsistent with the manifesto.
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The waters are further muddied by a Motion passed by the Scottish Parliament in February of this year, a point to which my noble friend Lady Carnegy has already alluded. Within the text of the Motion are the unequivocal statements that,
Like the Scottish Parliament, I can accept that, in terms, this so-called enabling Bill is a reserved matter. Nevertheless, I question how true to the spirit of the devolutionary settlement it is for this Westminster Parliament to impose "compulsion by default" on Scotland, especially in light of the fact that its democratic process has determined that the proposed scheme is wholly undesirable.
Finally, I turn to the point of principlethat is, the proposition that the Bill fundamentally alters the relationship between the individual and the state. I know of no objective independent commentators who say anything other than that the proposed scheme represents a serious assault upon our liberties. As A.C. Grayling puts it:
"the expert bodies best informed on matters of law, human rights and civil liberties are unanimous in their opposition: the Law Society, Liberty, JUSTICE . . . Privacy International . . . and others, even among them the Information Commissioner, criticise the proposals".
Within Parliament, the Home Affairs Select Committee in another place, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and, as amply revealed by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Holme, the constitutional committee have all expressed considerable disquiet. Stakeholder groupsincluding many of the unions, the Commission for Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission and so onhave ongoing and voluble concerns about the Bill, no doubt reflecting the fact that, if enacted as currently drafted, its more insidious elements will affect the most vulnerable in society disproportionately.
Yet in the face of such comprehensive and consistent opposition, the Government have sailed blithely on, holding to the Home Secretary's anodyne proposition that, in some mystical way, the current proposals for ID cards will "control" the so-called big brother state, or to the Prime Minister's fatuous justification for the schemenamely, that it is an idea "whose time has come".
The reality is that the Bill, as drafted, will not only diminish our liberties but will also undermine our historic adherence to the rule of law. In terms, it establishes an executive system of control of the individual citizen by reference to his/her identity. Again, A.C. Grayling outlines the effects of this far more eloquently than I can. He says:
Here we should remember that the underlying intention of the Bill is that, notwithstanding the inherent weaknesses of the technology, the registered person should be the card by virtue of his or her biometrics. In other words, the force of the conscription envisaged by the Bill is far more pernicious, and that much deeper, than one might at first suppose.
I have no doubt that the Minister will seek to dismiss these criticisms in her winding-up speech. So be it. But I cannot help feeling that this is of a piece with an increasingly apparent attribute of the current Administration. Writing in last week's Daily Telegraph, Simon Heffer articulated the point in this way:
Indeed, there is a palpable sense in which the Government now perceive their responsibility to be to rule, rather than govern, us. The distinction is not merely semantic. I hold to the conviction that governmentsall governments of whatever political hueshould be servants of the people. Yet the Bill will do much to deliver the reverse. It will move us inexorably towards being servants of the state.
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