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The Earl of Erroll: Would it not be sensible to record height on the card? If one is trying to identify someone with it, height is a sensible external characteristic that is known to the population just by looking.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: In due course, we may have the joy of debating that matter if anyone ever wants to bring forward an order.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Before the Minister gives up on this amendment, I shall ask one more question. Does she think that one's state of health will come under "physical characteristics", for example, whether one is suffering from an illness or a disease? To take a highly sensitive and contentious issue, if one had an infectious disease, would that not be a physical characteristic?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I can envisage a situation where by negative order one was allowed to register voluntarily various physical characteristics relating to one's own health, so that in the event of
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going to hospital there would be a record of them, but I cannot imagine them being added on a compulsory basis.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: The Minister is being her reasonable self, but I am a cynical old Liberal looking to the unreasonable Minister some time hence. I think that she is, in effect, saying that I am right in theory.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Only physical characteristics are capable of being used to identify a person, so I cannot imagine health status being compulsorily registrable. I can see someone wanting to include certain specific information under the voluntary forms of registration if the Home Secretary of the day allowed that category of information to be capable of being registered.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I am sorry to press the Minister again, but it is important to understand the ambit of the legislation. She spoke about what she would expect to be compulsory or voluntary. I am getting at the bare drafting. Am I right in thinking that, in theory, physical characteristics could include whether somebody had AIDS or a physical deformity or was in a particular physical condition that has visual characteristics—for example, to take an extreme case, smallpox? I am trying to get at the limits of this legislation.

5.30 pm

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: They would have to be physical characteristics which were capable of identifying a person. If someone had HIV/AIDS, that could not be seen; it would not be a characteristic which was capable of identifying him. Only physical characteristics which were capable of identifying a person could be used.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I shall make a final interjection and promise to make no more. I wonder whether the Minister is not talking about visual characteristics, rather than physical characteristics. There could be a difference. Will she at least take this away and think about it a little more, because it is important?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am quite happy to take it away and think about it. I am happy to write to noble Lords at greater length and, I hope, with greater clarity. I am willing to do anything that will shorten this Committee stage and help us to move on.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, has something of a point. We have to be careful about legislation creep. It worries me that people are being denied services because of their physical proportions. We read in the newspapers only this morning that obese people are being refused knee and hip operations. So there is something in what the noble Lord said. Perhaps the Minister might pay some
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attention to it, because, in the future, particularly since an identity card would give access to services, it may be of some importance.

Baroness Seccombe: I am grateful to those noble Lords who have offered support for this amendment. A point about height went through my mind. I think that we can all agree that as people grow older, they become smaller. Height details might not necessarily be up to date. I took note of what the Minister said. We will read it in Hansard and take it up with colleagues. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 45 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I make it clear immediately that I do not intend to seek the opinion of the Committee on whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill, although it is tempting, given that, after two and a bit days of debate, we seem to have uncovered more ambiguities in the drafting of the Bill than we have cleared up. It has normally been my experience in considering Home Office Bills that when I have tabled a huge number of amendments in Committee, I may not like the answers that I receive, but it is a matter of disagreement on a political principle. Therefore, I have to like it or lump it and divide and move on. On this occasion, one sees repeatedly that we will have to probe further in the future. I know that the Minister is doing all that she humanly can to shorten this Committee stage in the most proper way. I will not move my Amendments Nos. 54 and 56 to help speed up the process.

I have kept the question whether Clause 1 should stand part of the Bill on the selection list for the traditional reason of mopping up rather than seeking a Division at this stage. That offer not to divide on clauses will not necessarily live on until Report.

I have raised the question as a result of the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, during our debate on Amendment No. 1. The Minister dismissed his claims that the Government might be able to sell information from the register to private companies. We need to look further at that matter on Report, because of a story which appeared in the press this week. We know that stories in the press may not necessarily be based on the best research, but we need to find out whether they are true. An alarming report appeared in the Mail on Sunday that the DVLA is selling sensitive details about motorists to private car parking companies. I had thought that that was not possible under the provisions of the Data Protection Act. It now seems that the Road Vehicles Regulations 2002, which gave car park companies the right to find out about vehicle keepers, overrode any earlier restrictions in the Data Protection Act. Much of our concern arises from wanting to ensure that protections under the Data Protection Act will impose a rigour on this Bill. That is why I have raised the matter. Will the Minister assure the Committee that the Government
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will not issue any regulations under the provisions of this Bill that could enable information held on the national identity register to be sold or be made available for a fee to any commercial company unless the person to whom the information relates has prior knowledge and has given consent that that information should be revealed?

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for initiating this debate. One of the problems with a restriction on the sale of data is that although, in theory, it should be done with the consent of the citizen whose information is imparted, I can foresee a situation where banks, building societies, supermarkets and so on universally require anybody who wants to use their services or access their goods to agree to the provision of information on the register to them under the Bill. Although provision of the information is voluntary in theory, it could be quasi-compulsory in practice. Will the Minister comment on that?

The Earl of Onslow: My noble friend on the Front Bench has raised an extremely serious point: the Government could by later regulation ask for information provided under this Bill to be given to other people. Surely we should write into the Bill here and now that no Minister may later have the power to do that.

The Earl of Erroll: I shall make a couple of points arising out of ministerial responses. They relate to the purpose of the Bill. Its second stated purpose is the prevention and detection of crime. Much of the prevention of crime has to come from the ordinary citizen or employer. Why are we excluding such details as the police national computer number? Once a conviction is spent, you have the right to have those details erased. But it would be quite reasonable to have an index which flags up some concern that perhaps should be checked. The card would then have some purpose.

The trouble with the card is that it is going to be rolled out first to the ABC1s—to people with passports and driving licences, and to the better-off in society. It will not catch the disaffected people who are probably going to be the terrorists and the criminals. Their records and all 10 fingerprints are already on the police national database. The purpose of the Bill—the prevention and the detection of crime—would be better served if a biometric index were fed straight into the police national computer, without the need for the national identity card. If the national identity card is going to be useful for the prevention of crime, we should revisit what information will be included on it. Otherwise, we should index straight into the police national computer and think about ID cards later.

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