|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I always think that it is fair that, when one is challenged as I was by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, the person challenged should do the answering. The noble Lord will know that there are very few luxuries in opposition. One is to wait and see what a disaster is left behind when this Government leave before making up one's mind.
I start by saying what a wonderful debate this has been. I say "wonderful" because it has had depth, breadth, erudition and passion from all sides of the House. For me it has been an unusual pleasure because arrayed behind me has been wholehearted and unreserved support. It is an experience that I shall treasure and hope will be oft-repeated.
I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that I think that for once his mathematics may be a little awry. I think that I counted more than 22 in favour of the Bill and some who are in favour in principle but, quite legitimately, question some of the issues on control. So it has been a truly excellent debate.
31 Oct 2005 : Column 110
It is important, however, for us to put this debate into context. A number of very interesting and significant points have been made. I think that it is right, as was said by my noble friend Lord Brennan, that apocalyptic allusions do not assist us. We have to be calm, clear and balanced. There are also certain matters that we need to bear in mind. It is not correct to say that the scheme is unique in the western world, as was suggested by my noble friend Lady Kennedy.
In my opening remarks I alluded to the 21 out of the 25 countries that currently have identity schemes. It is right to remind your Lordships that Denmark has a national population register, Cyprus, a common law country, has an ID
The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, before the noble Baroness continues, I ask her a question, which is the correct way of doing this. She says that this scheme is unique. This scheme relies on 13 biometric identifiers stored in a centralised database. Can she say categorically where else in the world that is taking place?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I do not say that it is unique; others say that it is. As regards the point made by my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, Cyprus, which is a common law country, has an identity card scheme. There are approximately 40 projects in 31 countries involving identity storage, the majority incorporating biometric details. Noble Lords will know that the reason we have identified the 13 biometric identifiers is so that we can maximise the opportunity for correctly identifying individuals in a way that will be meaningful and sound.
As was alluded to by the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, among others, the reality is that the biometric passports will come in in 2006. As was said by my noble friends Lord Bhattacharyya and Lord Harris, that is simply inescapable. We have discussed before why that is so. I refer to the United States making the measure compulsory for those who wish to take advantage of the visa waiver schemebiometric data in passports will have to be provided. With the EU moving to use biometric passports
The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, I hate to be a nuisance but will the noble Baroness confirm that the International Civil Aviation Organisation has been absolutely adamant that what is not required as an international standard is a biometric passport; what actually is required is a digitised version of the biometric? That is one of the fictions which the Government consistently parade as a justification for the Identity Cards Bill. It is very important that it should be knocked on the head.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am sure that we shall debate the detail of this matter in
31 Oct 2005 : Column 111
Committee as regards how the biometric data will be used. Noble Lords will know that one cannot travel to America without giving one's fingerprints and having one's photograph taken. If anyone has travelled to America in the past few months, they will have had that experience as, indeed, I did when I attended a conference in Atlanta. Whether one likes it or not, one's fingerprints are taken and one's biometric photograph is taken at the same time.
That is where we are going; that is the thing that we have to recognise. My noble friend Lord Giddens was right to say that globalisation has brought about dramatic changes. The world in which we now live is significantly different from that we have inhabited to date. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, explained why that was the case in his powerful speech.
Noble Lords have rightly asked whether we have the technology and the expertise and whether it will work. That has been a huge plank of today's debate. Many concerns have been expressed about the technical viability of the prescribed scheme. We recognise that there are challenges. Projects such as this will always face such challenges and opinions in the field of technology will differ. However, the body of representations within industry, existing project experience and research by established experts in the field of biometrics and database technology indicate that we are right to proceed with our plans at this stage. As with all major government projects, the technology behind the identity card scheme will ultimately come from the industry, and key sections of the industry are telling us that the technology can work.
An identity technology advisory group representing leading technology companies in this field says that if the UK decides to pursue such a scheme it will work. The industry can also point to a number of existing technology projects run successfully, including many for the United Kingdom Government using large databases. We have already referred to the UK Passport Service, the DWP payment modernisation programme, enabling direct payments; the biometrics are being used in relation to facilitating biometric passports and there are many large databases in operation already. The FBI AFIS database has 47 million sets of fingerprints, and the US MOD staff programme holds 22 million. The US-VISIT system had 4 million biometric records as of July 2004; at that time it was growing at the rate of 35,000 records a day. In the UK IDENT 1, the successor of NAFIS, the national automated fingerprint identification system, holds six million sets of prints. The technology that we have at the moment leads us to believe that we are in a good position.
The United Kingdom Passport Service trial in June 2005, although not intended as a test of technology, showed that 100 per cent of able-bodied participants and 99.954 per cent of all participants could register at least some of the biometrics. That is why we are on record as preferring the 13 biometrics so that we can capture them. I declare an interest as someone with brown eyes and I thank noble Lords for their concern for my well-being. The UK Passport Service trial
31 Oct 2005 : Column 112
showed that through the use of multiple biometrics many such problems can be overcome. Many simply relate to the environmental conditions, which can be easily addressed.
The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, will the noble Baroness address the issue that I illustrated in my speech? For Heaven's sake, please understand this. The mathematics of probability tend to indicate that there is a sliding scale of accuracy and deliverability the more biometrics are used. That is a function of probability. To what extent have the Home Office techies and the Government taken account of that simple fact?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I reassure the noble Earl that all those facts are being taken into account. I am sure that the noble Earl is not suggesting that the coincidence of having biometric data that identify the face, the eyes and the 10 biometric identifiers from the fingers all taken together, if they all coincide, means that it is less likely that it is the person that is so identified.
I am sure we will enjoy the opportunity in Committee to discuss those issues, on which there is clearly not total agreement. The view expressed by the Government is that the data are sufficiently robust to make us confident that those matters can be safely overcome. We were asked on a number of occasions what the purposes of the Bill are. I hope that in my opening I made clear the purposes in relation to national security, prevention and detection of crime, immigration control, illegal working and the basis on which people can be identified. All those purposes were clearly outlined and we will come to discuss them in greater detail.
The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, rightly raised the issue of what will happen if one has more than two names. I assure noble Lords that Clause 1(7)(a) and (b) enable both or all the names by which someone is known to be registered in a way that gives clarity.
On the question of the audit log, the provision of the audit and information to the police will be possible only in relation to serious crime. It will not be generally available if the issues are not serious. Not all crime, as the noble Lord suggested, will be affected. We recognise that information should be subject to a higher level of protection.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|