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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Amendment No. 270 has apparently been left out of the groupings list, and it seems appropriate to include it alongside the amendment just moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. Amendment No. 270 seeks to add to the definition of "biometric information" in Clause 43 the words,
Like the noble Baroness, I am simply probing in this amendment, because it is common ground that there is a great deal of anxiety around the Chamber about the prospects of placing highly sensitive data about all of us within the aegis of "biometric information". I am told, for example, that moisture left from a fingerprint can be sufficient to garner DNA information about the individual concerned. I suppose that another external characteristic would be hair and, again, I believe that it is possible to obtain a great deal of highly germane and sensitive information about an individual from a single hair. So my amendment is advanced in order to be sure that there is no intention to include any of that within the ambit of this piece of legislation.
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I add one last point. This is one of the most obscure pieces of draftsmanship that I have had the misfortune to come across. But it is particularly unfortunate that, as the noble Baroness made clear on the previous occasion, Clause 1(5) is the key to this entire part of the legislationthat is, if anything is not within Clause 1(5), it cannot be within Schedule 1. However, I think I am right in saying that you will not see in subsections (5), (6) or (7) of Clause 1 any reference to biometric data or biometric information. That crops up only in later clauses and, indeed, in Schedule 1. As I said, I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to render reassurance in that regard.
Lord Lucas: I share the concerns of both noble Lords who have spoken, but I think that we are looking at this in the wrong way. I rather feel as though we are trying to stop the Thames by standing in the middle of it. The fact is that DNA data will be, if not directly part of this database, linked to it. The police will have an extensive range of DNA data. In a few years' timeI think that three years is the current estimatewhen we are able to take and analyse DNA samples on a while-you-wait basis, DNA analysis will start to become part of everyday medicine so that we know to which diseases we are liable and how we are liable to react to particular drugs. It will become a very important personalising part of medical treatment and, on that basis, our DNA records will become extremely widely available.
With facial biometrics on the ID card, combined with high-quality cameras all over the country, we will be able to tell exactly who is where in which street at any part of the day. We are getting ourselvesfor the very best of reasonsinto a surveillance society where potentially the Government will know exactly what each of us is doing at any time. If we combine that with the information which will be available from commercial databases and therefore accessible by the Government based on RFID technology as that comes in, we will be absolutely pinned down whenever the Government reach the point of wanting to know what we are up to.
Rather than try to pretend that we can stop the march of technology, we should be looking at an equivalent of the Data Protection Registrar. We should be looking at a body which can operate on principles rather than detailed legislation, which can say where our rights to privacy and personal information really begin and end, and which, on that sort of basis, can control what the Government and other people do with it. To imagine that we can stop technological progress in this way is illusory. We should not think that gives us any safety, given the time scales we are talking about for identity cards in this Bill.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I have great respect for the views of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on all this, but does he not think that there is a difference between
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stopping the march of technology, as he puts it, and stopping state surveillance of us? They are two quite separate issues.
Lord Lucas: I do not think that all we are doing in this Bill is stopping one particular way in which surveillance might take place. Because the DNA databases will be there anyway, in the end they will be linked to. If you are looking for a rapist and there is a national DNA database within the medical system, are you going to deny the police access to that? No, you are not; for very good reasons, you will let the police have access to it. One way or another it will happen, and we ought to look at dealing with the consequences of the inevitable, rather than imagining that we can stop it from happening.
The Earl of Erroll: I heartily agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas; I think trying to behave like King Canute is totally futile. These things will change; perceptions will change in some crisis, and this information will be accessed. The one thing I think is very good about the Data Protection Act is that it deals with eight principles. We need to go back to legislating in strong principles, rather than trying to regulate a complex society, using rules that might work in simple systems but do not when applied to such complex issues as those we are dealing with here. We need to go back to thinking about principles.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I think the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has taken us down a very dangerous road indeed. It may very well be that technology has proceeded, but the basic situation, as far as we as individuals are concerned, is that we belong to ourselves. That has always been a great principle of the relationship of the individual to government in this country. The road he has taken us along says that the very essencebecause DNA is the very essenceof our individuality belongs to the state. That is the last thing I want to see. There may be cases where DNA is useful; perhaps it should be used in criminal cases, but most peoplea huge majorityare not criminals. Therefore, it is not necessary for the state to have a DNA profile of every individual. For medical reasons, one would presumably give permission for the use of one's DNA data; that is no reason why the state should have it.
I believe that we are now getting very far beyond Nineteen Eighty-Four. I do not think George Orwell, the other Blair, could even have contemplated the uses to which an individual's personal propertythat is, DNAwas going to be used to put him under control and surveillance. I know that this is rapidly ceasing to be a free country where the individual matters, but those of us who believe in individual freedom must, I think, stand up for the principle that we belong to ourselves, not to this or any other state. Indeed, in a previous debate, we were told that the identity card might be used throughout the European Union. Perhaps our DNA samples would also be available to all those officials. We may not be just talking about our own government, which we always trust to be
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reasonablethat trust in the future might prove to be misconceived. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will rethink his position.
The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, believes that what we are talking about should be excluded. She said that in our first debate. She specifically said that biometric information would not include DNA. It seems that she is very mindful of the uses to which DNA could be put and, therefore, wants to reassure us that it will not be included in the biometric material that will be available to the Government. I thank her for that.
Lord Crickhowell: I support my noble friend's amendment. My noble friend Lord Lucas took a long look into the future when he said that at some time we would need further protective legislation. But let us come back to this Bill. The conclusion that I draw is that later in our proceedings we must strengthen the role and position of the registrar. We have touched on the subject previously, but this debate confirms the view that I had already formed; namely, that this is a subject that we must return to. Later in our proceedings we must find a role for the registrar that will enable us in this Bill to go as far as we can to deal with the problem that my noble friend has identified.
Lord Gould of Brookwood: It is time that we had some common sense here. It is true that there are concerns about the future, but this Bill is not about Orwellian control or surveillance. That will not be the case. Technology is always frightening, but, on balance, the optimistic view of the world wins over the pessimistic view. Quite honestly, most people think that an identity card is a sensible, reasonable, workable way of dealing with today's problems of identity fraud and all of the related problems that come from the new global world that we live in. People are sensible. They understand it. To talk about Orwellian societies and controlled societies is not real. It is a common-sense measure that should be debated in common-sense terms.
I also believe that there is a principle here, not just a rule. People are entitled to have their identities protected and affirmed. That is a pretty powerful principle that I adhere to. I have no trouble with the Bill in these terms.
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