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Lord Phillips of Sudbury moved Amendment No. 4:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am happy to say that Amendment No. 4 can be moved with relative rapidity when compared with the previous debate on Amendment No. 1.

Everyone agrees that it is essential that the national identity register should be absolutely secure. Literally everyone—and without equivocation I include the Government Front Bench—has said that it is of the essence in this whole arrangement that the information and personal data in the register are absolutely secure and beyond being poached.

The amendment that I advance for the approval of the House—it is supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, and my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford—would put into the keystone clause, Clause 1, the fact that, as well as security and reliability for the ascertainment and verification of registrable facts, the same characteristics of security and reliability should apply to the recording and storage of the registrable facts. It really is as simple as that.

It is fair to point out that the Government are seeking on Report to amend Clause 24. Amendment No. 77 would place on the commissioner who oversees the register a duty to see the extent to which the confidentiality and integrity of information recorded in the register are observed in relation to the functions that are cast on the commissioner under Clause 24(2). The Government have brought forward that amendment from the Committee stage, when various amendments, including one of mine, sought to address that point. The Government's amendment would require that the four functions mentioned in Clause 24(2) should also have as a common theme running through them confidentiality and integrity of information.
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I believe that Amendment No. 4 is uncontroversial. I also believe that it is important that the words in the amendment are contained in Clause 1, which sets the tone of the whole Bill and, indeed, defines the statutory purposes by reference to which every other function under the Bill is carried out and construed. At present, Clause 1(3) states that the,

and maintain,

It also talks of,

The facts are to be ascertained by the officials of the national identity register and will principally be verified by public authorities as defined in the Bill and, indeed, by the private sector users, of which the Home Office reckoned that there might be as many as 44,000, before the day is done, so to speak.

The words that I am seeking to have included would put the recording and storage of that precious and often sensitive information on the same footing as regards security and reliability of method as applies to the ascertainment and verification of that information. I have sought hard to find a reason why that would not be acceptable, but I have not been successful in that. I think that the amendment runs entirely with the tide of the Government's intentions, so I hope very much that they will accept it. I beg to move.

5.45 pm

Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, I speak in support of Amendment No. 4, to which I have added my name. As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, has explained, this amendment amends Clause 1(3)(b) to include the terms "recorded" and "stored". The statutory purpose under subsection (3) would thus be to facilitate, by the maintenance of a record of registrable facts about individuals in the UK, the securing of a reliable method for such facts to be ascertained, recorded, stored and verified.

I agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, that it should not be an option that, if the scheme is to work, an individual should not be ascertained or verified when in consideration of the public interest test. The Oxford English Dictionary explanations of "ascertained", which is "determined by investigation, fixed", and of "verified", which is,

are significantly divergent in their meanings. The removal of the word "or" and the addition of the word "and" as well as "recorded" and "stored" place a firmer emphasis on the workings of the national identity register. It is no good if the information ascertained is false and this is then not picked up as it has not been verified. Indeed, this debate picks up the point that I raised in the last group following remarks made by my noble and learned friend Lord Lyell of Markyate. Meanwhile, the inclusion of the words
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"recorded" and "stored" simply put into the legislation the process that the Minister has been describing throughout the debates to date on the Bill.

There is, as this House knows, widespread public concern over the facts to be gathered under the Bill. I am in full agreement with that concern, which is not confined to the accuracy of the information, vital though that is. The facts must, indeed, be accurate and up to date, but they also need to be secure from theft and misuse. We are all aware of the growing problem of identity theft and fraud and the importance of keeping personal information safe and private. That is doubly true of the information to be held under the Bill, requiring as it does so much information to be held in one place. As such, I support this simple, worthwhile amendment.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, is seeking through his amendment to extend the reference to "secure and reliable" in Clause 1(3)(b) so as to refer to more than the method for which registrable facts about an individual can be ascertained or verified. I also understand the spirit in which he has moved the amendment. I dare say that we agree on the obvious point that the register must be both secure and reliable, but I am not convinced, having heard what he said, that this needs to be stated in the Bill in the way in which he suggests.

Additionally, I am not convinced that Amendment No. 4 really achieves this, as Clause 1(3)(b) is concerned just with identification where that is in the public interest, whereas we would expect the register to be secure and reliable in every instance. I think that the noble Lord might want in any event to think about the drafting of the amendment.

It goes pretty much without saying that the Secretary of State will want to ensure that the register is secure. Furthermore, once we have reached government Amendment No. 77 to Clause 24, which the noble Lord mentioned, there will be a specific reference in the Bill to the National Identity Scheme Commissioner being able to review the arrangements for securing the confidentiality and integrity of information that is recorded in the register. I should also, once again, remind noble Lords that the data on the register must be held in a manner that is compliant with the Data Protection Act, as I am sure the noble Lord and the noble Baroness will be aware. The security of data is dealt with in some detail by the seventh data protection principle, which provides that:

I feel strongly that we should not seek to reiterate in this Bill the obligations that already fall on the Secretary of State by virtue of the Data Protection Act. Nor would it be desirable to provide for parallel or overlapping obligations.
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We are often criticised for doing that in legislation—at least, that is the assumption behind some amendments. We need to have faith in the detailed provisions that not just your Lordships' House but another place has made about the protection of personal data.

In any event, we think that we are covered. We think that the amendment is unnecessary and question at least one item in the noble Lord's drafting, although, in spirit, we are all there. The noble Lord is absolutely right to continue making the case for secure and reliable data and ensuring that they are properly protected. Although we understand the point, we think this amendment is unnecessary and ultimately undesirable.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said. Indeed, he made the point about the Data Protection Act last time.

I tabled the amendment because this is a very particular Bill. It is about putting together a national central database; it is not about something wholly unrelated to data protection. Nothing could be more central to the Bill than the need to protect the data which find their way on to the register. The noble Lord more or less accepted that. It therefore seems bizarre to rely, by implication, on the provisions of another piece of legislation. There are nearly 42 pages in the Bill, and for us not to have, upfront, in Clause 1, a duty—part of the statutory purpose—to have secure storage and recording seems wrong and against common sense. On that basis, I should like to test the opinion of the House.

5.51 pm

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 206; Not-Contents, 144.

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