|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Secondly, I move on to the draft Identity Cards Act 2006 (Provision of Information without Consent) Regulations. The purpose of these regulations is to ensure that information from an individual's entry on the national identity register can be provided to a limited number of government departments for defined functions, and to specify who can receive information on behalf of the prescribed individuals in the security and intelligence services, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the police and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. The Identity Cards Act does not allow information to be provided from the national identity register to any private sector organisations without the consent of the individual to whom the information relates. The regulations extend the list of government departments to which information may be provided without consent and set out the function. They are primarily based on our experience of providing information from passport records, and they establish a transparent and clear framework for data provision from the national identity register.
The Identity Cards Act 2006 (Fees) Regulations establish a fee of £30 for either a first or a replacement identity card. These regulations also establish a number of cases where the fee is waived. There is a waiver of the fee where the original card issued to an individual proved to have been faulty or damaged in the manufacturing or issuing process. In addition, we have agreed to waive the fee for airside workers at Manchester and London City airports for an initial 18-month evaluation period.
It is also important to note the matters for which we are not charging a fee. Any change that does not require a replacement identity card to be issued, such as a change of address, will be free of charge.
I turn now to the draft Identity Cards Act 2006 (Prescribed Information) Regulations 2009. These set out the information that will be printed on the face of the identity card and held electronically in an encrypted form on the chip. There is a statutory requirement in the Identity Cards Act for some information to be encrypted as a safeguard.
The regulations make provision for a national identity card that will be issued to British citizens and British subjects with a right of abode. As this card will include the holder's nationality, it will be valid as a travel document within Europe. The second type of card, the identification card, will be issued to European economic area nationals, including Irish nationals, who are resident in the United Kingdom and it will not include nationality. As a result, it will not be a valid travel document. It can therefore also be issued to British citizens who are not entitled to be issued with a travel document-for example, people such as drug traffickers on whom the court has put a limitation or travel restriction.
As listed in these regulations, the information on both card variants will be very similar to that on the personal details page of the passport. The card will also incorporate a chip which will include the same information as recorded on the front of the card, along with two fingerprint images and a digitised image of the holder. Additional security features will also be included in the chip, such as cryptographic keys and certificates. These will provide protection for the information on the card, as well as prevent the fingerprints recorded being read by those unauthorised to do so. This is all in line with specifications for biometric travel documents recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. As was made clear as part of the public consultation, the holder's address and national identity registration number will not appear on these cards.
The Identity Cards Act 2006 (Application and Issue of ID Card and Notification of Changes) Regulations 2009 outline how an individual can apply for an identity card and what information must accompany their application during the initial phase of the National Identity Service. The application form will be very similar to today's passport. At a National Identity Service customer centre, applicants will be able to record their biometrics, have their photograph taken and register "shared secrets". These act as a password that will allow them to report a lost or stolen card or a change of address over the telephone once they are registered.
The form will request some basic personal information about the applicant, such as name, address, address history, gender, nationality, date and place of birth, national insurance number, a contact telephone number and signature, as well as the name of a referee who has agreed to vouch for their identity, similar to the countersignatory for a passport, and information that confirms that they are entitled to a travel document.
When an applicant does not already hold a valid British passport, there will be some additional requirements to verify their nationality. These regulations also introduce a requirement to update key personal details on the register within three months of a change and to report a lost, stolen or damaged identity card within a month of the cardholder being aware that
13 July 2009 : Column 1006
However, to report a lost or stolen card, or changes of information that do not relate to the information on the card, such as a change of address, the change can be made by calling a telephone service to be established by the Identity & Passport Service, during which the individual will be asked for their "shared secret". Finally, these regulations also set the validity period of the identity card which again, in line with passports, will be 10 years.
I trust that this explanation has clarified the purpose of these five statutory instruments and I commend them to the House. I will of course be very happy now to deal with any points or questions that noble Lords might have.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing these five statutory instruments, which I shall deal with now. I have a Motion to Resolve for discussion later on.
This is a slightly unreal debate. The Minister said that these statutory instruments, which implement the arrangements for the provision of identity cards, were due to have come to this House several weeks ago, but were delayed on the appointment of the new Home Secretary for his reconsideration. I think we all hoped that he would reconsider them out of existence.
On 30 June, in a Written Statement, the result of his cogitations was announced. It was that only the intention to make airside workers have compulsory ID cards in addition to those already required by their employers was to be changed from compulsory to voluntary. It was evident that the concerns of the unions, which had been against compulsion, had weighed heavily on the Home Secretary and he had thus given in. Hence the departure of one of the six statutory instruments-the Identity Cards Act 2006 (Designation) Order 2009 from those we are considering today.
This has blown a hole in the Government's strategy for ultimately having compulsory identity cards and has made it inevitable that they will now be issued to those who apply for them, apart from foreign nationals, and those who want them. That is a far cry from the original intention, and there must now be a serious question as to the level of take-up there will be.
The rationale for introducing identity cards for all citizens has had a slipping genesis. When first promoted in 2005 it was to prevent terrorism. Then when it became obvious that it most certainly would not do that, the script changed to one of helping prevent identity fraud and to help prove eligibility for social security purposes. It is now to enable citizens to travel in Europe without a passport and, as a Minister in the other place said, to provide us all with a secure and reliable means of proving our identity. So, we are some way from where we started. Why should we want to do that with a government-inspired ID card when there are many other ways that citizens can prove who they are.
The question is whether there is any justification to enter on another expensive government-inspired and controlled venture which will involve yet another national
13 July 2009 : Column 1007
My honourable friend Chris Grayling has written to all the contractors involved in, or bidding for, the work to implement this strategy, putting them on notice that if the Conservatives win power at the forthcoming general election, this entire scheme will be cancelled. It is clear that the savings on identity cards alone will be very significant. The detail in the five remaining statutory instruments raises many questions. Turning to them not in the order in which the Minister has dealt with them, just to make it easier for everybody, I refer first to the fees regulations 2009, which introduce a £30 fee for each identity card. Can the Minister explain, perhaps better than the Minister at the other end, how that sum was arrived at? Is it based on the baseless case of known cost of the number of cards that will be issued annually? If so, when might the scheme be expected to break even? Does the Minister agree that the estimated costs for identity cards have already risen by more than £160 million.
The current card production contract, which was entered into on the policy of a fast roll into compulsory cards has, according to the Minister responsible for borders and immigration has capacity to issue 250,000 cards annually. As this is now permanently a voluntary scheme, take-up simply cannot be known, but the fee will stay at £30 for the next two years. Will the Minister tell us whether it is likely that, as with passports, the costs will spiral thereafter?
I have a few further questions on this regulation. What is the contracted cost for the ID card scheme alone, as opposed to a joint one with biometric passports? Is it correct that any airside worker who decides to have an identity card will be issued with one free of charge, and to how many other categories of people will free cards apply? Is it intended to issue free cards for all the lucky over-75s, and young people? If so, when will the orders be laid to that effect, as the regulations on fees today do not do that? Why would the over-16s want another identity card to identify themselves when they can already access one to prove their age?
Moving on to the Identity Cards Act 2006 (Information and Code of Practice on Penalties) Order 2009, the first question that springs to mind concerns the list of specified persons from whom the Secretary of State can obtain information to verify information for an ID card or a request for inclusion on the register. Will he say what possible role a credit agency should have in that regard? Further, what reason is there for including details of the referee on the register? Presumably, such a referee is marked as for a passport-a magistrate or some other person of integrity or position. Once their bona fides have been established, why should their name be kept on the register? Why indeed, would they want to act as a referee if their details are held after verification?
There will now be a civil offence for failure to amend information such as an address, and a fine. Does that apply as much to the referee as to the applicant? What room is there for a civil offence in a
13 July 2009 : Column 1008
The orders and provisions have not changed since they were printed, prior to their being withdrawn for further consideration. They are still couched in terms of a mandatory identity card scheme. Neither the words nor the provisions are appropriate to something that is now purely voluntary and should be for the benefit of the individual, rather than of the Government.
The two remaining orders-on the application for and issue of ID cards, and the notification of changes regulations and prescribed information-give details of the reams of information that will be required when applying for documents and the information that will be put on the card. The Minister said that some of that will be encrypted. Can he tell us which bits of information will be encrypted? That was not made clear in the other place.
Having read all the orders, the one thing that strikes one forcefully is that an ID card will be of no greater value than a biometric passport, which will indeed be of some value. In order to travel further than the borders of Europe, one will still have to have a biometric passport. In applying for an identity card, one is giving government departments and bodies carte blanche to hold and pass between them personal information about those who have cards. What is now being proposed is a complete pig-in-a-poke in comparison to where this all started.
I have not touched on the register, which will also have to be maintained, as I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has tabled an amendment to Motion which, I believe, will draw attention to the dangers of the register, so I will leave it to her to make the points about that, but I know that we will agree on them.
The scheme, if it ever had a purpose, has lost it now. The Government have, to all intents and purposes, given up with it, and the opposition parties are committed to seeing that any work on implementation will be curtailed once the Government are in opposition.
My observations were on the order. I shall move the Motion standing in my name later.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we on these Benches have consistently opposed the introduction of the ID card scheme. We have never seen it as likely to be effective against terrorism. We have not seen it as solving any problems, but as raising some new ones, and as a very expensive thing to introduce when the money could be so much better spent.
Personally, I associate these Benches with the criticisms of the scheme made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham. Some of her specific questions are ones that I would also like to ask the Minister-especially about the position of referees. If they get the information wrong, what is the penalty on them?
The part of the scheme on which I want to concentrate my remarks this evening is what lies behind the ID cards, which are, after all, just bits of plastic-albeit with biometric information on them. What lies behind the ID cards is the national identity register. In that regard, I want to raise three points. First, is the scheme actually voluntary? Secondly, the Government tell us that the national identity register is not substantially different from the passport database, but I believe that it is. Thirdly, the Government claim that the national identity register will be useful. For what?
First, everyone who applies for any designated document must register personal details on the NIR database, according to Section 5(2) of the Identity Cards Act 2006, which mentions designated documents. The fact is, therefore, that for the purposes of everyday living, the database will be compulsory for anyone who wants a designated document. The first designated document will be a passport. Then, any official licence, registration certificate or permit can be designated. That includes many documents used in everyday life, such as driving licences. Can the Minister confirm which documents the Government intend to designate? If designation is widespread, the idea that the scheme will be voluntary is completely false. People will be unable to go about their lives as normal without registration on the database. That problem is increased by the fact that there is no mechanism for being removed from the NIR once you are on it. So it is not voluntary.
The Minister talked about fines. He said that the Government do not intend to be punitive, but it will be interesting to see how that operates when it comes in. If you forget to notify authorities of your change of address, a £1000 fine, which is at the maximum, sounds pretty punitive.
In the debate on identity cards in the other place last Monday, the Minister suggested that the NIR is not much different from the passport database, but it is clear that it is a completely different type of database in two ways. The first is in what is stored. At the moment, just a small amount of personal information is stored on the UK Passport Service database: name, age, date of birth, place of birth and nationality. Schedule 1 to the ID cards Act sets out 50 pieces of information-the Minister has listed some of them-that the NIR can hold on each citizen, in addition to fingerprints and facial scans, and current and past UK and overseas places of residence throughout the lives of anyone on it. Those are all included. The legislation on the register states that further information can be added. There is also the potential for links to other government databases. The amount that will be stored on the NIR is completely different from what is stored now. It would be helpful if the Minister agreed with me on that point.
The second difference concerns what it will be used for. The passport database is a passive or inert database. Its data are accessible to the police in very limited
13 July 2009 : Column 1010
"The original reason why the audit trail was to be included was to protect people and give them the reassurance that they could see which organisations had been looking at their data. If we are serious about that ... we should give the individual the power either to dispense with the audit trail or to edit it".-[Official Report, Commons, 6/7/09; col. 788.].
Do the Government intend to respond to that suggestion, which came from their Benches?
Then there is the provision of information without consent of regulations. In the Coroners and Justice Bill, we have just thrown out-or the Government withdrew, after opposition in another place-the information-sharing clause. We feel that this provision brings back wide-ranging interdepartmental information-sharing in a new guise. In other words, the NIR can create a detailed profile of every citizen accessed by a range of agencies.
What is the register meant to do? According to the Home Office website, it will help to protect people from identity fraud and theft and to ensure that people are who they say they are. Those are big claims, but it is not clear whether either of them is achievable. The team at the LSE, including top privacy experts such as Simon Davies, investigated the Government's claims about savings on identity fraud and found that they could not be backed up. Prominent technology experts such as Jerry Fishenden, the national technology officer at Microsoft, have warned for a long time that the scheme could trigger massive identity fraud. It may-we believe that it will-create far more problems than it will solve.
Finally, we return to cost. The Government say that the scheme will cost about £5 billion over the next 10 years. The LSE estimated that it would be more like £20 billion, but we feel that the real cost, besides all the money, will be to our privacy. The national ID scheme is not voluntary, and the database is the clearest indication of that. After the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, has moved her Motion, I will move mine.
Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, linking the identity card with the passport interview offices clearly shows that a network is being set up with the long-term aim of being used for ID purposes and building a national database. We know that every new passport applicant over 16 years of age will have a face-to-face interview. We know that until about 10 months ago-I am waiting for the Government's updated figures-216,000 people had gone through the personal passport interview procedure. Not a single one was refused a passport. If you add that to the estimate of about 600,000 people a year who apply for passports, probably half a million people who applied for a passport had a face-to-face interview. It will be interesting to see exactly how many of these people have been accepted and whether any have been refused.
We know that the interviews were established for this network. In an Answer to a Written Question last December, the Minister in the other place said:
Clearly the passport interview offices were part of the network to be set up to provide the necessary administration for identity cards. I think that 68 out of the 69 offices are already operational and that about 468 officers are in place. We also know that these interviews are going ahead day by day. If not one applicant has been refused, does that make the scheme a white elephant? If the scheme is not to proceed, does that mean that we have spent scores of millions of pounds on a scheme that is of no use whatever? Will the Minister enlighten us as to whether the passport interview scheme is to continue-as I said, the long-term aim was to provide procedures for the identity card-if identity cards are not going ahead? What has been the cost? Perhaps the Minister will be able to give me the updated figures on these 68 offices.
As part of the scheme, the 30 or 40 remote places that did not really justify a full-time, or even a part-time, office were to have video links. If biometrics such as fingerprints are to be collected, will the Minister say how you can process fingerprints by video link? Not only are ID cards ill thought out but the very structure on which they are to be based does not meet the demands of biometrics in any way. Will the Minister say how many of these remote video links have been established and are operational? The whole scheme is a condemnation of an ill-thought-out, half-baked white elephant.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I have to admit that I have spoken more on identity cards in my time in your Lordships' House than on any other subject except trying to save the shipbuilding industry from nationalisation. I will not inflict what I have said on the Minister, but I can send it to him; it is all in the Library. I have a very simple question for him. As someone who has had an identity crisis all his life, I have to ask myself-and I have been asked-"What is your name? Nomen nomini". What is the Minister's name, what is his full name, and what is his legal name? I doubt whether one is entitled to have a legal name in the United Kingdom, and in my identity crisis I have suffered from having a long name and having 25 numbers in my alphanumeric code on my passport. I thought the best thing that I could do would be to take a colour photograph of my passport. I was then told that that is not legal in this country, so someone else did it for me to prove who I was. If the Minister will answer my simple question, I will feel very happy.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|