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Lord Pannick: My Lords, I agree with the powerful case made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Hanham and Lady Miller. If obtaining an identity card is to be entirely voluntary, and if the purposes of the card are in essence the same as the purposes of a passport, how can the Government begin to justify the cost that it will involve and the real risk of the contents of the

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database being accessed by unauthorised persons or by a disk being lost in transmission from one place to another? I entirely understand the case for a compulsory ID card system, although I disagree with it, but surely a voluntary ID card makes no more sense than a voluntary income tax or a voluntary sentence of imprisonment.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I should be grateful if the Minister could help me out of a fog. I am sure that when he was in the Navy he got into intense fogs and managed to find his way out of them. I find the whole business of identity cards enormously complicated. As my noble friend Lady Hanham said, you can prove who you are quite easily in lots of different ways, including credit cards, driving licences and so forth. Therefore, why do we have to have another one? That seems to me to be a fairly fundamental thing.

I think that the Minister said that it will not be compulsory and that it will be voluntary. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. What is the point of that? About 20 years ago, I had the privilege of being an ornament in the Home Office. At that time a lot of people said that we should have voluntary identity cards. I said that I could not see any point in it being voluntary because all it would mean was that all the goodies would get the voluntary card and all the baddies would not bother. Therefore, from the point of view of catching the baddies, there would be no purpose.

The same applies with this: what is the point of it being voluntary? Why should people be obliged to buy something which will not be of much help to them, unless you come to a point where you say, "If you have not got an ID card, you cannot have a passport, a driving licence or whatever else"? But in that case it becomes compulsory. Will the Minister be good enough to explain whether it is voluntary or compulsory? If so, what is the reason for saying which it is?

I fear also that this will create more penalties. The Government-bless their heart-think that the best way to run the country now is to create more penalties for everything that you do. We really do not want to have a new identity card produced and have a range of penalties, including one whereby if you forget to say you have changed your house, you get done for £1,000 or whatever it is. In fact, I thought that it was £5,000, so I suppose we can be grateful for small mercies.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said that this is supposed to protect the individual. It rather looks as if it is giving more information to the Government, which is a major worry because they want more information on everything and we are rapidly becoming a police state. The Minister should heed this. It is not just a passing flippant remark. It is a fact that the Government want more information and if you do not provide it, you are a baddie and you will get caught for it.

My noble friend Lord Selsdon was interested in knowing the names of people. Perhaps I may offer the Minister this advice: again, when I was in the Home Office, we had problems over the new computerised passport. I said, "My name is Ferrers and therefore it must say Ferrers". I was told, "No, no, the computer does not work that way. It has got to have Shirley

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written on it". I said, "If I go to a place overseas and ask to cash a cheque and I am asked my name-Ferrers-and my card says Shirley, that will not marry up". I was told, "But then it will say on the bottom, if you look at page 13A it will say that the proper name of the person is Earl Ferrers". It took two years to get that sorted out, but I warn the Minister that he is opening a big elephant trap.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I find the introduction of these orders is a sad occasion because they reveal once again the unreconstructed and, certainly, unenlightened, muddled thinking of the government machine on this issue. I will put it as simply as I possibly can in the hope that even at this late stage the Government might take on only what is really needed. I recognise that what I am going to say is not universally agreed.

Ever since I have been a Member of your Lordships' House, I have believed that it is necessary to have a national identity database, which should include biometrics. I have always been opposed to identity cards for all sorts of reasons, including, first, the fact that it is culturally unattractive for people to have to carry cards; secondly, they are pretty useless; and, thirdly, if they include biometric details they are dangerous because if the object of the card is to identify a particular person, you can be sure that any serious criminal or terrorist will ensure that the biometrics on the card coincide with his or her own biometrics. That is technologically possible and I would not accept the Government saying that it is not. On the other hand, if there is a central identity register database and it becomes necessary to discover whether someone is who they say they are, the biometrics of that person can be taken and they can be compared with the biometrics on the central national identity base. I therefore reject the need for any identity card.

However, we have-and have had for generations-a need for passports, which have, for international reasons, become more and more complicated. I say to the noble Lord and to the Government that any purpose for which an identity card under these orders is alleged to be necessary can be met by a passport. Let those people who have particular jobs, posts or accesses, and for whom it is necessary that the government machine should be able to ensure their identity, be issued with a passport-if necessary, as is proposed under this scheme, with a free passport. We would not then have a new national identity database. I agree with the noble Baroness from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench that if there is to be a national identity database it should be the same one as the national identity passport base; we do not need another one. It should be a national identity database, neither more nor less, and should not be used to store other information. If the Government were to focus their thinking in the direction that I have suggested, they could achieve both the needs of fighting crime and terrorism, and preventing fraud-which is a huge cost to the taxpayer that we can ill afford at the present time-without having an identity card. They would then save all the costs involved in that.

The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, I declare an interest as an unpaid adviser to the Enterprise Privacy Group, Privacy International and 80/20 Thinking. I

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have little to add to what has already been said but I invite the Minister to comment on three points. First, can he confirm that the ICAO standard requires no more than a digitised impression of a biometric fingerprint-that is to say, that the whole of the ID Cards Bill is a glorious piece of gold plating?

Secondly, can he comment on the way in which the grandiose ambitions of the source Act have been substantially scaled back? I have in mind, in particular, the complete abandonment of the principle of a clean database, which is very important to the reliability of the data that sit on it, and of the collection and recording of iris and facial biometrics. At the very least, this has to call into question the utility of the whole scheme which, to be fair, was decidedly suspect in the first instance for technological reasons.

Thirdly, would the noble Lord care to comment on why it is deliberately legislated to entrench inequity in fees? I cannot see why any individual would wish to apply for an ID card but, for those who do, why is it that airside workers at Manchester and London City airports, in these straitened financial times, are exempt from fees, whereas the rest of those in the pilot area are expected to pay £30? I look forward to the Minister's answers.

Lord Elton: My Lords, my remarks are not really directed at the Minister at the Dispatch Box but at the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This scheme is hugely unpopular, hugely expensive and will quite possibly be very short-lived. The Government are desperate to cap their expenditure. They are already spending money that they do not have. Should not this scheme be the first one to be axed?

8.30 pm

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for the various important points they have raised and for the 47 questions that have been asked. I shall try my best to answer them.

I certainly will be getting an identity card. On my way back here in a car tonight, I started counting all the various documents that I have to have to say who I am. I thought about my last visit to a prison to see some prisoners and what I was asked for there; about my last visit to Buckingham Palace, where I was asked for all kinds of things, including a passport, a photo and God knows what; and about my last visit to an event at St Paul's, where I was asked to prove my identity with a whole raft of different things. I thought to myself, "How jolly nice it will be to have one simple document to do this".

The National Identity Service is a major undertaking which will eventually provide us with a secure and reliable means of proving our identity whenever we wish to do so. There will be significant benefits to individuals from holding an ID card. There will not be a plethora of different ways of having to prove who you are. As to whether this was introduced for the purposes of counterterrorism, I have been in government for only two years, but when I was asked about this in my first week, I said that its prime role was not as a counterterrorist measure but that it would stop people having lots of different identities. We know very well

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that al-Qaeda, for example, has at least 30 identities for their people. They will not be able to do this when biometrics are attached. It will be the most convenient, secure and, at £30, the most affordable way of asserting one's identity in everyday life. They will be valid for travel throughout the European economic area instead of a British passport, just as our neighbours in Europe are able to use their identity cards to travel here. I am sure that those in this House who have gone through the various controls will have noticed lots of our colleagues in the European Union using their ID card to do exactly that-to go backwards and forwards.

The regulations are based on the current tried, tested and familiar arrangements for application for a passport under the royal prerogative. The process for applying the information on the identity card and the data-sharing arrangements match very closely those already in place for passports. I understand the concern that introducing these cards is a major step. It is a major step; however, we will be appointing someone to the new post of identity commissioner to reassure the public that the way in which the National Identity Service is operated not only is lawful but also meets the needs of the public.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, why do the Government want to introduce a new identity commissioner? That is just another extra person, is it not?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, to ensure the safety and security of these data, as a number of noble Lords mentioned. We have said a number of times that in the past data have not been as well looked after as they should have been. Lots of data are needed to run life nowadays, I am afraid, and there is no doubt that we are better at looking after them than we have been over the past few years, and we need to get better. We cannot just ignore these data; we need them-

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord again, but he said that he is introducing the post of identity commissioner to make sure that everything works right. He cannot do it on his own, so presumably there will be a plethora of people underneath him, and that means more bureaucracy.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, there will be a mechanism to make sure that the database is run correctly. There will be an independent person to make sure that things are being done properly, which I think is appropriate. If we were not doing it, I imagine that I would be standing here and people would be saying, "Why the hell haven't we got someone doing this?", so it makes sense.

The debates on cost are very interesting. There is a lot of loose talk about how much money can be saved by not doing this. If anyone's plans are made on the basis that the amount of money this is in theory costing will suddenly be available for spending to bail out some other issue, they are living in cloud-cuckoo-land. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, mentioned take-up. I say again that these cards are voluntary in France, where there is a huge take-up because of the value and ease of using them. There will be a large take-up here, I am sure.

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Lord Pannick: My Lords, have the Government done any research on the likely take-up of a voluntary card in this country?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I am not aware of what that will be. I do not think that we have done any specific research on it. I am just quoting what has happened on the continent.

The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, I have it in mind that the latest cost summary projected over the 10-year period from when it was issued is that 95 million ID cards would be issued. That projection is whatever that projection is, but it is something like half as much again of the population of the UK. Therefore, what faith can we have in costs if they are based on a scenario where one and a half times the population of the UK will end up being issued with ID cards?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I do not recognise those statistics, just as I have not recognised a number of the other statistics. The cost of the service for a rolling 10-year period is reported to Parliament on a six-monthly basis. The latest estimated cost of the service for 10 years is £4.945 billion. That sum will be covered by the cost of the cards themselves over the 10-year period. The estimated cost of issuing identity cards to foreign nationals is £379 million in the same period.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the Minister's argument, but am I right in thinking that his response to the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, was that the Government have carried out absolutely no investigation into the extent to which a voluntary scheme might be taken up? In all events, if they have, he is not aware of it.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I am not aware of a specific poll having been done, but our assessment is that 60 per cent of the population have said that they support the introduction of identity cards and I am sure that that is the sort of number that we are looking at. However, there has not been a specific, Gallup-type poll on that statistic.

I go back to costs, where there is a lot of loose talk about people saving huge amounts of money. The setting-up costs so far are £245 million. That would be lost if we decided not to go ahead with the scheme. We will not make some vast saving. If people have worked on the basis that this is going to bail out something in budgetary terms, they have a rude awakening coming to them.

The debate has often overlooked the corresponding benefits of the service to the wider economy. They have not been addressed at all. The impact assessment, which was published with this legislation, forecast a current best estimate of net economic benefits of £6 billion arising from the National Identity Service. This was discussed in relation to the Merits Committee reports, in which the figures were slightly larger, but I think that £6 billion is more accurate over a 30-year period. That is to say nothing of the non-monetised benefits, such as better assurance of the identities

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of those working in sensitive positions, enhancing immigration control and contributing to wider public security.

Governments are often accused of being short-sighted and short-termist, but with the national identity scheme we are building a better and more secure identity scheme that will have real benefits for individuals, for society as a whole and for the United Kingdom economy. In short, these statutory instruments are supported by some useful benefits when one looks at how they can be utilised in the long term, particularly in the way in which we are improving how government runs. There should be no doubt that this is a significant undertaking and a long-term investment, but it is one that is worth making. Any suggestion that we should cut the plans for identity cards would save very little but would waste much investment that we have already made and the benefits that we expect in the longer term.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, asked whether the purpose of identity cards has changed. The Identity Cards Act sets out the statutory purposes of identity cards as being,

These were the statutory purposes of the scheme established in 2006 and I believe that they remain the same today.

The noble Baroness asked when identity cards will break even. That clearly depends on the take-up. A lot of the cost relates to the central database, which will be required for passports anyway. Going down the other route will not be a large saving. She also asked why we need an ID card when other forms of identification are available. There is no uniform standard for proving ID. It is remarkable how many documents one has and can carry. Having something simple and straightforward such as this will be very attractive to people and I believe that they will like having it, because they want it.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, would the Minister agree that we have a sort of continental drift in this ID card system? We are now justifying it on the basis that it will be really convenient and all the rest of it, but that is not where we started. The Minister may say that that was where he started, but in 2005 the whole rationale for identity cards was that they would prevent terrorism. We are a long way from there.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Baroness refers to a period before I was here, but I said very shortly after my appearance in this House that that was not the major driver of the scheme. I believe, however, that being able to prove one's identity is extremely valuable-I think in terms of the cybersecurity strategy and the risks to people's identity through that medium. It is another area where people like to be able to prove their identity straightforwardly and easily.

The noble Baroness asked what safeguards are in place to protect the data. The data-holding organisation must be approved by Parliament or by a Secretary of State. Without the consent regulations set out, there are a number of safeguards. Additional obligations

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such as security requirements will be set out in an MoU or the contract and the scheme will be overseen by an independent commissioner.

The noble Baroness said that the provisions were not suitable for a voluntary scheme. The provisions for applying for a voluntary identity card are based on, and will be very similar to, the existing procedures for applying for a passport.

On encryption, the information to be encrypted is outlined in Regulation 5 of the prescribed information regulations. It is the information held on the face of the card-name, date of birth, gender, nationality where that is recorded on the card, facial image, expiry date and ID card number. In addition, two images of fingerprints will be recorded on the chip. The proposals align with the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, to which I think one speaker referred.

The noble Baroness asked why the details of referees have to be held. As now with passport applications, it is right that we hold information on referees in case we find that there has been a false or bogus application. Furthermore, fingerprints are not required from the referee-I think that the noble Baroness mentioned that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, referred to the passive nature of the passport database. Provision of information between departments will be no different from what occurs for passport records, to support public protection and service delivery. The passport database also, quite naturally, holds information on when someone changes their name or other details on their passport.

The noble Baroness also asked why we need such wide-ranging data-sharing powers. They are no more wide-ranging than existing powers for passports and there is no doubt that, in areas such as prevention and detection of crime or helping to combat illegal immigration, it is in the public interest to share information held on the national identity register.

The noble Baroness asked what information the register will hold. The information that can be held on the register is defined by category of registrable facts, defined in Section 1 of the Act. For example, there is core biographical information-I have mentioned already name, address, place and date of birth, gender et cetera-unique biometric records such as fingerprints, photographs and signature, administrative data, which will be a record of past core biographic details listed when you registered, and a record of your application. Most of the 50 items of data referred to by the noble Baroness are administrative and not personal.

The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, asked about passport interviews. The whole purpose of the interview for a first-time passport is to deter bogus or multiple applications for passports. In many other countries in the world, a personal interview is expected before a passport is issued. We believe it to be a safer and more secure method than relying on postal applications. The fact that few bogus applications have been picked up does not necessarily mean that the system is not working; it means that people are wary when they are making those applications. The noble Lord also asked why we should have the interviews at all. No one has

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been denied a passport because the interviews are pointless; they are a part of the process. As I said, the fact that no one has been arrested does not prove that they are not having an impact in deterring people from fraud.

8.45 pm

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