I finish on an optimistic note. When I was declared a diabetic in 1969, they said, “You’ll get a medal after 40 years if you survive that period”. I can now report that I have long been past the 40-year mark, but an 88 year-old type 1 diabetic has recently received the HG Wells medal—he was a diabetic—for surviving for 80 years.

1.57 pm

Lord Bew (CB): My Lords, like other noble Lords I thank the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, for securing this debate and for the wise speech which he gave in introduction. I will address one issue only: the cost to the NHS of litigation arising out of cases of alleged medical negligence. Of course this is not a new problem. For at least five years, those who seek to join the UK Register of Expert Witnesses have been told that alternative dispute resolution—ADR—is becoming an increasingly important adjunct to litigation, and in significant parts of the UK this idea has taken grip. None the less, it is hard to believe today that all opportunities for early resolution are being taken in the NHS. There are still cases on treatment issues that may have lasted over decades, which involve hundreds of documents that cover several years. This is obviously

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very difficult for the patients and inevitably involves a drift of financial resources out of the NHS toward the legal profession.

Finally, in the same context it is important to draw attention to a change in the guidance for experts in such cases. In 2007 there was a total ban on payments to experts that depend on the outcome of the case. This was softened in 2014 but is still greatly discouraged. This is a surprising development and not consonant with the need to protect at all cost the resources of the NHS financial position, which, as every speech in this House today has indicated, is inevitably difficult, and is likely to be for some time to come.

1.59 pm

Lord Mitchell (Lab): My Lords, first, I thank my noble friend Lord Turnberg for securing this debate. He is not only my noble friend but a personal friend. Few have committed more to the NHS than him. To the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, I can say, “It’s over. You can relax, and you did really well”.

I speak as a parent of a junior doctor who qualified at the University of Nottingham and now is a resident doctor at NYU medical centre in New York. It might be interesting if I were to compare and contrast aspects of the two systems as seen through his eyes.

The first aspect is the teaching. At NYU each resident receives around 14 hours of high-powered classroom teaching each week. The regime is free food, phones off, high concentration. Lectures are given by specialist consultants. As he puts it, “Every day I lunch with giants”. At Nottingham he was lucky to get two hours per week.

As for attitude, at NYU he feels a valued member of the team; in the east Midlands he and all his colleagues felt underappreciated. Most NHS medical staff were disgruntled and demotivated. Of his colleagues in Nottingham, a third either left the profession or went to work abroad. Each one had cost the NHS £300,000 to train but, when they left to go elsewhere, no one noticed, no one took responsibility, there was no exit interview and no one cared.

Then there is the pay. In his final year in Nottingham, he earned about £40,000. It is true that his basic pay was £23,000 but, with unsocial hours banding, the pay soon mounted. At NYU he earns $60,000—exactly the same amount—but in the United States almost all junior doctors carry student loans in the region of a quarter of a million dollars, and repayment starts immediately.

Finally, there are the hours. Last month in New York, he worked 80 hours per week, as he has done every month. He works six days every week, including many weeks on night shift. Even on daytime shifts, he leaves home at 5 am and often gets home at 8 pm.

The American junior doctors are the ones with really unsocial working hours. They are the ones who struggle to make ends meet and the ones who should be complaining, but there are no picket lines to be seen on First Avenue and 32nd Street. The question is why? Let me hazard a guess. In much of the UK, junior doctors—indeed, even senior doctors—are treated as objects: cogs in the wheel or items on the spreadsheet to be moved here and there at will. There seems to be

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little realisation that to get the best out of people you have to encourage them, you have to integrate them as part of the team and, most of all, you have to make them feel valued. It is called leadership. Looking at this junior doctor crisis, there seems to be little of that in evidence in our NHS but it is what we really need.

2.02 pm

Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, we are on the last lap. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, for telling us about the enlightened approach of Salford Royal Hospital. It has obviously made great progress since I worked in Manchester and it was known as the “No Hope Hospital”.

It is no coincidence that the London Olympics highlighted the NHS in its very creative opening ceremony. We are all very proud of it, particularly the staff, but it would be stating the obvious to say that it has numerous problems. At a time when it faces unprecedented increases in demand, the NHS has been given its most challenging funding envelope ever. The future of the health service is in jeopardy unless we do something radical. As the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said, it cannot get out of this hole by itself.

That is why my right honourable friend and former Health Minister Norman Lamb introduced a Private Member’s Bill in another place a week ago. He called for the establishment of an independent commission to examine the future of the NHS and social care system, to take evidence and to report its conclusions to Parliament. I pay tribute to those on the Conservative Benches who have called for something similar, but I think that a royal commission may take too long and that something quicker is required.

Norman Lamb was supported by two former Secretaries of State for Health, Members from all parties and the chief executives of more than 40 organisations in the sector. I join with his call today in this debate, along with many of your Lordships. When you get agreement from so many from all sides of health and social care, it is clear that you are reflecting a real need. The purpose of the commission would be to consult widely to find solutions to the massive challenges that face the health and care services, and to establish a sustainable—a crucial word—new settlement which takes into account present and future demands.

In order to calculate future demand, we need no crystal ball—we have a lot of evidence to help us. We know that since the Second World War demand has gone up by about 4% every year. For example, thanks to successful new diagnostics, treatments, drugs and surgical procedures, half of people diagnosed with cancer now survive the disease for 10 years or more compared with only a quarter 40 years ago. Other chronic conditions are also now managed better than ever. We should celebrate all this while being realistic about what it means.

We have heard about the predicted gap of £30 billion in NHS funding by 2020 unless something is done. The Government have committed to providing only £8 billion of this and expect the NHS to find the other £22 billion through efficiencies and new models of care. However, experts involved in the process are unconvinced that this can be done.

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The King’s Fund’s Quarterly Monitoring Report, published in October 2015, included a survey of NHS finance directors’ views on their ability to achieve 2% to 3% productivity gains per year, which would be needed to achieve that saving. The vast majority were sceptical to say the least. Eighty-four per cent of NHS trust finance directors and 88% of CCG finance leads felt that there was a “high” or “very high” risk of failing to achieve the target. Here are a few respondent comments:

“I feel strongly that the low-hanging fruit has been taken. The modus operandi needs to change fundamentally”.

“When plans are not credible then it is impossible to enthuse people”.

“Increased national pressures/tying of hands … make it difficult to achieve big savings”.

“The £22 billion challenge requires productivity gains significantly over what has been achieved over the past few years”.

“Unless there is a national debate about what the NHS can provide then there is no way that the NHS can deliver within the financial envelope”.

Jim Mackey, chief executive of the hospital regulator, NHS Improvement, put it in colourful language—and I quote him verbatim—saying that the efficiency targets set by the Government are,

“unachievable and, frankly, bloody stupid”.

That is what he said, my Lords.

Given that the recently announced increases in funding will be swallowed up mostly by paying for the £2.2 billion of deficits in NHS and foundation trusts, increases in payments to pension funds, apprenticeship levies and the new minimum wage, it is pretty clear that this extra money will do nothing to address future increases in demand. Meanwhile, social care funding has been cut in real terms and faces a funding gap of £6 billion by 2020 according to the Health Foundation, but this does not take into account the effect of the new minimum wage in a sector where so many workers are on the minimum wage. The LGA estimates that this will add a further £1 billion to the gap. Now Ministers have decided to stop the £1 billion payment-for-performance element of the better care fund and, instead, have mandated local targets for the reduction of delayed transfers of care. So the Government give with one hand and take away with the other.

Did the Chancellor provide the answer to these problems in the autumn spending review? I think not. The new provision for councils to raise a 2% social care precept would provide only an extra £1.7 billion by 2020 if every single council did it. In poor areas the ability to raise significant extra funds in this way is in inverse proportion to the need—not a very clever solution.

The increase in the better care fund will not come until 2019. Sadly, this will mean that the better-off will be able to pay for good care and the poor will get either no care at all or a substandard package—the best their poor stretched local authority can manage—adding further to our appalling health inequalities. The inevitable pressure that these cuts to social care will put on the NHS is obvious and has been clearly outlined by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England. So current and projected NHS funding does not allow the service any chance of fulfilling the mandate, mentioned

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by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, put upon it for the next five years by the Government themselves. Beyond 2020, it will just get worse if nothing is done, and our precious NHS will no longer be the envy of the world. Mention of the mandate reminds me to endorse the call of my noble friend Lady Tyler and the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, on mental health. We need to find new answers.

All Governments pledge themselves to protect the NHS, yet our spending as a proportion of GDP is low, as we have heard, compared to that of other developed countries. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, it will decline further by 2020. The position of social care is even more dramatic.

What is the point of growing our economy if we do not spend the money on the things that most of the population would like it spent on—and what they vote for? Given what we know about rising demand, it makes no sense at all. The consequences of the Government’s failure to address this are very serious and completely contrary to what they say they want according to the latest mandate. Standards will not rise, new technologies will be unaffordable and services will not be able to address our health inequalities—an absolutely top priority in my book.

The silly thing is that nobody really believes in the ability of the system to fill the gap through efficient savings and new models of working, desirable though they may be. Money is so tight at the moment that many parts of the system are struggling with crisis management, let alone improvements. To make things worse, there are numerous financial disincentives. For example, where is the incentive for acute hospitals to work with local services to keep patients out of hospital when they rely on the payments for activity when they come in?

The social care system is living on borrowed time. Eligibility criteria are getting tighter every day. Will the Government face this crisis head-on, take politics out of it and support my right honourable friend’s call for a commission to bring together all the evidence, the brains and the expertise available?

I think it boils down to five simple questions. How much should we be spending as a country and how should it be raised? How can we spend it better and have all services reach the standard of the best? How can we end the artificial divide and conflicting incentives between health and social care? How can we minimise future demand by avoiding preventable diseases? How can we reduce health inequalities? It is time for a new Beveridge commission.

2.12 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, if the Minister is going to have any time at all, I should cut my contribution short. First, I declare an interest as president of the Health Care Supply Association and the barcoding association GS1, because I want to comment on the remarks of my noble friend Lord Carter on efficiency.

I very much welcome this debate. I was very taken with my noble friend’s description of the ideal world. I wonder if noble Lords think, as my noble friend Lord

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Carter does, that elements of that are in existence in the NHS at the moment, and that the issue is how to get that going in every part of the NHS. That is one of the essential conundrums.

I will focus also on the very important contribution of my noble friend Lord Winston, who talked about the risks to our medical research. Our medical research has always been one of the best in the world. On it our whole life science sector has depended. The fact is that we in this country have always had a very strong, innovative pharmaceutical and diagnostic industry. When my noble friend says that all of that is at risk, we need to listen.

There is no doubt—I pick this up consistently—that there is a hostility in the NHS to the kind of time that is needed for doctors to practise in research, and even to take part in Royal College activities. This has really got to stop. Seeing the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, here, I have to say that the introduction of NHS England does not help, because, for all the fine words that are in both the mandate and what NHS England says, I do not see any commitment in NHS England to these kinds of issues.

I will raise one further issue in aid of that. Our record on the introduction of new, innovative medicines in this country is a disgrace. We have some fantastic inventions, but the NHS is pathetically slow in introducing them. The noble Lord probably knows very well that we have an accelerated access review under the chairmanship of Sir Hugh Taylor. The word on the street is that it is simply not going to get anywhere because the NHS is not going to play ball and is not going to insist that NHS bodies invest in these medicines. A whole sector of our economy is at risk because of this. I know that the Minister is as concerned as I am and I hope that he might say something.

I come to the issue of junior doctors—not to talk about the dispute but because both my noble friends Lord Winston and Lord Mitchell raised the issue of why junior doctors are so disengaged. Anyone who has met them will know how angry they feel. It is partly about the Secretary of State’s manipulation of statistics—which, frankly, given the brightness of junior doctors, was always going to be very unwise. It is also about their distrust of management. Part of the problem is that they just do not believe that, locally, NHS employers will do the right thing.

My noble friend is right. Why are junior doctors treated so abominably by NHS employers? Why can they not get access to decent hot food at night? Why are the junior messes not in places where they can go and meet? I do not know what can be done to get this home to the NHS. Anyone who meets our juniors knows that they are the brightest of the bright and are hugely committed—yet, somehow, we seem to have made them wholly disenchanted with the NHS. It is a very serious issue.

This brings me to the issue of leadership, which my noble friend mentioned. In June last year, the noble Lord, Lord Rose, produced an excellent report on how to enhance and improve leadership in the NHS. He asked the Government three questions. How do we get better leadership? How to we recognise it? How do we find and mature the people who are needed to lead the

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NHS? I am afraid that there has been virtually no response to this from the Government. That is very disappointing. In fact, all that has happened is that the turnover of chief executive officers has continued at an alarming rate. Again, as one of my noble friends said, we have got to get rid of leadership by bullying. There is a bullying culture throughout the system and it is having a corrosive impact on the ability of people locally to lead organisations.

Of course, funding is very important. I do not need to repeat all the arguments that noble Lords have put forward. Essentially, they concern growing population and demographic pressures. We in this country spend less on health than any comparable country. The OECD figures that came out just before Christmas were very convincing on this. The Government’s claims in the Autumn Statement frankly do not ring true. We know that they are front-loading some of the money for the next five years, but the annual increase from here to 2020 will be 0.85%— even less than the average increase from 2010 to 2015.

At the same time, we know that half of that extra money has come from raiding the budgets of Health Education England and Public Health England, from capital funds and from the cost of pension payments. At the same time, what do Ministers do? They pile on more pressure. Not a week goes by without another press release from the Department of Health or an announcement by the Secretary of State that something else has got to be done. No wonder his credibility is shot in the NHS.

Of course, the gap between the money that is going in and the £30 billion per annum that it is generally believed will be required by 2020 is huge. I pay great tribute to my noble friend Lord Carter, because obviously he is helping the NHS to see if it can close part of that gap. I am sure that is right and that, on procurement in particular, a much more cohesive national approach is needed—but at the end of the day, there is still going to be a gap.

Should there be a royal commission? I cannot help repeating Harold Wilson’s famous diktat that royal commissions take minutes and waste years. That is, of course, when they are used simply to postpone a decision. I understand why noble Lords want some kind of neutral and impartial commission to look into those issues. However, we have already had the Barker commission, and I doubt whether anyone is going to improve on that. In the end, it is a matter of political will. I say to the Minister that, at the very least, what we seek is some honesty from the Government: admit that the financial gap is not going to be met and stop piling on the pressure.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: I apologise to the noble Lord, but there is a question that is central to this: would he and his party be prepared to take part in an all-party commission, possibly a parliamentary one, in order to get the quickest possible effective answer for the terrible crisis that has been outlined in this debate?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, this is a time-limited debate and I want to leave the Minister a little time to respond. I would certainly be very happy

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to discuss the issues with noble Lords here—I like the idea of a group of politicians in this House looking at it. On the subject of a royal commission, I do not think I can go as far. In the end, we sometimes have to have the courage of our convictions and come up with proposals to sort this out.

2.21 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con): My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, for bringing this debate, and I thank the 45 people who have contributed to it. That shows that the noble Lord has touched an important nerve. The future of the health service and of social care in this country is hugely important.

The noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, talked about his experience at Salford, where they have a fantastic hospital with a joined-up system. This shows that it can be done. Around the country, there are hospitals and healthcare systems that are doing it; they are doing a fantastic job by good standards. Of course, that requires great leadership, and leadership is not something that can be cloned; there just are not that number of great leaders in any system. However, in Salford, under David Dalton, they have a great leader.

The fact that it can be done lies behind the work that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, has done. Hospitals around the country are achieving great performance. However, the noble Lord, Lord Carter, has uncovered a huge amount of what he would call “unwarranted variation”; that could be unwarranted clinical variation, operating variation or any other kind of variation. That has to be addressed, and the noble Lord, Lord Carter, has given us a methodology for doing that. He, along with other noble Lords in this debate, points out that unless we can crack delayed discharges in hospitals and delayed transfers of care, many of our hospitals are going to struggle.

I also pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins. In her maiden speech she very properly reminded us of the importance of training and community-based services. Her mentor, the noble Lord, Lord Patel, who was watching as she gave her address, is no doubt watching me from India as I speak to the debate.

I want to mention two particular contributions. The first is the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Winston. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, picked up on his point about academic medicine. That is a crucial issue and one that I cannot address head-on today, but perhaps we might have a meeting involving others, including Hugh Taylor, to talk about it further. The second is the contribution by the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, about the contrast between his son, who is a junior doctor, working in England compared to working in New York. I thought that that was a very revealing contribution, if I may say so.

I want to preface all my remarks by paying tribute to not just junior doctors but to all those who work for the NHS and in social care. They do an extraordinary job and have a true vocation, and many noble Lords have experienced the benefit.

This is the third general debate that we have had on the NHS since the election. The first was introduced by the noble Lord, Patel, and the second by the noble

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Lord, Lord Crisp. In that debate, we talked very much about prevention. We could be here for many hours talking about prevention. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, talked about the importance of housing and employment, and there are so many other issues that we could talk about in the context of prevention. Therefore, I hope that noble Lords will excuse me if I do not address prevention as much as they might like me to.

I want to go back to June 1948 for a minute, and to Nye Bevan talking to the Royal College of Nursing. He said:

“We shall never have all we need. Expectations will always exceed capacity. The service must always be changing, growing and improving—it must always appear inadequate”.

The noble Lord, Lord Desai, made the point that when you have a service that is free, demand will always exceed what we can provide. Nye Bevan saw that back in 1948, and it is important to hold on to that when we look at our funding situation at the moment.

We do have a plan: the NHS Plan. The NHS Five Year Forward View was produced by Simon Stevens of NHS England and supported by all the arm’s-length bodies. It is not the Prime Minister’s plan, it is not my plan and it is not the Secretary of State for Health’s plan. It is the NHS’s plan. It called for £8 billion of real investment over that five-year period, and the Government have given the NHS that amount of money: it is £16 billion in cash terms and £8 billion, or arguably £10 billion, in real terms. This is broadly what the NHS wanted.

The NHS is actually doing quite well. I will come back to some areas where it is not doing as well as we would like but, broadly speaking, it is doing quite well. The Commonwealth Fund said that it is first overall compared with other OECD countries, scoring highest on quality, access and efficiency and second on equity. In the recent Economist review looking at end-of-life care, we came out top. However, that is not perfect. The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, pointed out that our cancer outcomes are not as good as they should be. The noble Lord, Lord Bradley, talked about mental health, and clearly we can do better there and in other areas too. There is too much variation in what we do. However, if we look at medical research, the quality of our education in most of our medical schools, medical publications and clinical outcomes, the NHS can still be regarded as a world-class health service.

Other noble Lords have already made the point that we do this at very low cost. In America, they spend 16% of GDP on healthcare; we spend around 8% and most of Europe spends around 10% or 11%. We do it at very low cost and we get very good results. On that basis, when people say that it is not affordable—an issue my noble friend Lord Fowler and others have raised in this debate—I say that it is affordable. We are doing it at 8% of GDP at the moment but we could choose to spend 10% or 11%: the country can afford good healthcare. I would argue that we are providing good healthcare at the current level of spending.

There is no evidence that a tax-funded system is any less efficient or effective than other systems of funding healthcare. Indeed, I would argue that, on the contrary,

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the NHS, for the reasons that I have given, is an efficient system. The OECD made a more neutral comment, saying that,

“no broad type of health care system performs systematically better than another in improving the population health status in a cost-effective manner”.

Therefore, I do not think there is an argument for questioning whether we can afford a good healthcare system in this country.

I turn to the various questions that were raised. Is it affordable? Yes, it is affordable, and we are demonstrating that. Is a tax-funded system viable? Yes, it is viable, and I will go further and say that there is evidence to suggest that it is more viable than any other way of funding a healthcare system. Do we have a viable plan in this country? Yes we do, and I will come to that in a minute. Do we need another plan or another commission? I do not think we do. It would be an enormous distraction at a time when we have a five-year forward view. At a time when the whole of the health service is committed to that view, there would be immense concern if we embarked on yet another review or commission of any kind. We would go through a two-year hiatus waiting for that report and would not be able to get on and deliver what we have at the moment.

What is that plan? It falls into two parts. First, can we make the existing system more efficient? The answer is: of course we can. We have some of the best hospitals, wards, clinics, laboratories and specialties in the world in the NHS. Our problem is that there is so much variation across the system—clinical variations, staffing variations, property utilisation variations, procurement variations, pharmacy and medicines utilisation variations and back office costs variations—all of which have been identified, as shown by the extremely important work done by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, assisted by clinicians such as Professors Tim Briggs and Tim Evans. They have given us an improvement methodology based on transparency which will deliver huge improvements over the next five years. A great deal of their work is mirrored on commissioning through the use of the Right Care programme and the Atlas of Variation that has been developed largely by Dartmouth in the USA.

The second part of our plan concerns the new models of care—an issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg—and we have already seen these operating effectively in Salford.

This is a move from institutions to systems. We are now trying to develop a place-based care, a population-based care. Although there were many benefits from foundation trusts—I believe wholly in the principle of earned autonomy—one of their unintended consequences is that they have created a fortress mentality in some parts of the country. The King’s Fund has used the analogy of the tragedy of the commons, where everyone is looking after their own interests rather than the interests of the wider system. It has also left patients having to navigate a complex, unjoined-up series of different organisations. We will see over the next four or five years the emergence of new systems of care, including PACS and MCPs, and the Accountable Care Organisation, ACO, will become increasingly familiar to us.

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We will also see different outcome-based payment systems and incentives as we move to integrate with social care. There will be many cynics and sceptics because some people, as the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, said, have seen all this before. We have been talking about integrated care for 20 odd years. I think it is different this time—but I would say that, wouldn’t I?

We have to ask why change is so difficult in healthcare—and not only in the NHS. Why has there been such dramatic change in car manufacturing and retailing across the world, when healthcare systems have proven much more difficult to change? Interestingly, in the 2000 NHS plan, echoed in the five-year forward view, were two comments: that we have a 1940s system delivering care to a 2016 population with entirely different needs to the population of 1948; and that healthcare has been slow to move, not only in the NHS but around the world. Changing that system will be difficult but very important.

Why am I optimistic about it? First, we have a narrative. The five-year forward view gives the whole service a very powerful narrative around which it can combine and work together. Secondly, the architecture of the system is not perfect—I know that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, is sitting behind me—but it is serviceable. We do not need another top-down reorganisation. We can work with the bodies created through the last reorganisations, and NHS England is now building resources and a team of people who can truly deliver on its plan. The new purpose of the NHS is based around improvement and learning rather than regulation, which is important, and the independent CQC.

There are two other reasons for optimism. Transparency will be a much better improvement mechanism than targets, regulation, competition and the command and control structures that we have had in the past. The financial crisis we have gone through has made hospitals look more radically at how they can change their models of care. Finally, we have not spoken in the debate today about the huge impact that technology will bring in empowering patients to look after themselves and take greater personal responsibility, as other noble Lords have mentioned.

I have to conclude. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, for introducing this fascinating debate, which has raised important issues. I look forward to reading it in the cold light of day over the weekend.

2.35 pm

Lord Turnberg: My Lords, it has been a fascinating debate and I am grateful to all speakers who have participated in it. It is amazing how much information people can pack into three minutes. It has been very helpful. I was bowled over by the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins.

There is no way in which I can summarise the debate in no time at all but one or two themes have emerged. Everyone agrees that we should focus to a greater extent on prevention. That makes it seem even more ridiculous that we are cutting funding for public health at this time. Most people agree that there is a need to integrate services across the social care/hospital divide, and most people feel that we should begin to

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appreciate our staff to a much greater extent than we do. To alienate them at a time when we need them so desperately is counterproductive.

On the point that we are seeing a rise in demand and the costs of healthcare, I detected more than a hint from the noble Lord, Lord Prior, that he might believe that the spreading of good practice—there is all sorts of good practice around—and increasing efficiency will solve the funding crisis. I suspect he is the only speaker in the debate, on either side of the House, who believes that. It focused the minds of most people on how we fund the gap.

If one thing has come out of this debate it is that we have begun to think about how—

The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Stedman-Scott) (Con): My Lords, the time allotted for this debate has now elapsed. I must now put the question that this Motion be agreed to.

Motion agreed.

Flood Management

Question for Short Debate

2.37 pm

Asked by The Lord Bishop of Leeds

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to review their long term strategy for flood management, particularly in rural areas that do not qualify for large-scale flood defences.

The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to put to the Government the Question before us. If there was a sound track to this debate it would probably include Phil Collins’s “In Too Deep”.

It is important to note the destructiveness of the recent flooding, given that the news agenda moves on very quickly and communities which found themselves at the heart of a sympathetic nation quickly feel themselves to be forgotten. For some of the communities in my diocese, the recent floods come in the wake—almost literally—of other occurrences in recent years. For them the need for longer-term and more joined-up measures is obvious.

I pay tribute to civic leaders, emergency services, public service workers, members of the Armed Forces, the Environment Agency and local volunteers, many of whom sacrificed holidays and family time over Christmas to support victims of this appallingly destructive flooding. Churches in many of the affected communities offered refuge, sanctuary and practical support in providing meals, clothing and the distribution of emergency resources. In places such as Kirkstall in Leeds, Bingley, Ilkley, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge and Sowerby, people got stuck in. The Sikh charity Khalsa Aid helped in Hebden Bridge, and I know that Muslims worked hard to provide relief and help in Cumbria as well as affected parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire. These impressive stories demonstrate that perhaps the parable of the Good Samaritan still echoes through this generation in the costly and practical support of one’s neighbour. It is also appropriate here

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to salute the insurance companies, many of which have been praised for the speed and nature of their response to those flooded. Affected churches have greatly valued the service of the Ecclesiastical Insurance group in particular during recent weeks.

The Government’s response to the latest flooding in Yorkshire and Lancashire has involved repeated use of the word “unprecedented”. Of course, by definition a unique event is unprecedented, but it is of no comfort to people who have lost their homes or businesses that an event is unprecedented, nor does it help when the enormity of the immediate flooding happens to be greater than the last time, which also ruined homes and businesses and in some cases left people uninsurable—hence the Question in this debate.

I shall give some numbers. Around 16,000 properties have been affected in northern England and Scotland. At the end of December, KPMG estimated that the total cost of flood damage would exceed £5 billion. The Association of British Insurers estimates that claims will total £1.3 billion. The average domestic claim will amount to £50,000, up from an average of £31,000 in 2013-14. Around 3,000 families are now living in alternative accommodation while their homes are being repaired. In Calderdale alone, flooding hit 2,500 homes, nine schools and 1,250 businesses, and as many as 40% of those businesses could be uninsured. Infrastructure damage is estimated to be at least £20 million. Damage to homes and businesses also has a knock-on impact on the wider ability of the local economy to recover and function.

There is still the possibility that more flooding could be on the way because the winter is but young. Understandably, the Government are moving into recovery mode. Almost £200 million has been made available for investments in recovery, including money for repairs and upgrades to existing defences, money for local authorities to repair infrastructure, grants to home and business owners for the improvement of personal flood resilience, and grants for farmers whose land has been flooded and crops destroyed. All this is welcome. However, the much-publicised Flood Re scheme, which will help to provide flood insurance to at-risk homes, will be launched only in April. This will guarantee affordable premiums, as many homeowners cannot afford the current premium levels in high-risk areas. But Flood Re is not going to be available to small businesses or buy-to-let properties, meaning that they will almost certainly face an increase in premiums. The fact that Flood Re is not yet in force means that many people will not have been insured for damage caused by the December floods, potentially those who would have been waiting for Flood Re to come into effect before securing insurance. The Times reports that up to £1 billion of damage will have been sustained by uninsured people.

No rational person believes that all risk of flooding can or should be eliminated. But people do not always understand why, when following one disaster a case is made for enhanced protection, yet that protection is quickly scaled back once memories begin to fade. During the recent flooding in Leeds, the Lord Mayor of Leeds went as far as to question whether this would have been tolerated in London, and whether England’s

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third city deserves the same level of investment as its first. Furthermore, in this context it is clear that swingeing cuts to local authority funding must inevitably diminish the ability of such authorities to respond effectively to local disasters and recovery from them. It is claimed that northern metropolitan councils have faced disproportionate cuts which have then had an impact on the maintenance of bridges, drains and other essential infrastructure. We are also seeing the threatened closure of local front-line services at the same time as emergency response needs are evident.

Two immediate points must be addressed by all parties to the debate about planning for future flood protection: first, the amounts that have already been spent, and which might have to be spent in the future in reactive recovery, should not be counted against the resources needed for long-term protection planning; and secondly, the insurance costs and access to adequate insurance by people and businesses in what are now vulnerable areas must be managed in a way that allows both recovery and a future for those affected. Surely the changes to weather patterns in recent years indicate that similar events can be expected in the future and we need to be building resilience to address them. Prevention might be financially expensive, but it will certainly be cheaper than the cumulative costs of non-prevention over, say, a decade or two.

However, the finances only hide the human costs: businesses closed or lost, homes ruined, families and children forced into temporary homes with all the consequent disruption to schooling and the best circumstances for learning and growing. These costs go beyond pounds and pence. So questions remain about how the Government will address these challenges in the longer term, and no doubt other speakers will touch on other aspects of this matter. But noble Lords might well seek reassurance that the recently instigated national flood resilience review, chaired by Oliver Letwin, will pay serious attention to the strengths and weaknesses of current worst-case-scenario planning in the light of the future impact of climate change, recent substantial cuts to the Environment Agency in the form of a 15% funding cut and the loss of 1,500 staff, along with the need for whole-catchment approaches to flood prevention and water management.

Rural communities are particularly vulnerable where funding decisions are driven by a return-on-investment calculation which means that many schemes will not be considered cost-effective on paper. I hope that this debate will touch on such challenges and urge Government to take long-term views in future planning. I look forward to hearing how the Government intend to review their long-term strategy for flood management, particularly in rural areas that do not qualify for large-scale flood defences.

2.46 pm

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con): My Lords, I congratulate the right reverend Prelate on securing this debate and I echo his thanks to all concerned in the recent floods which particularly affected North Yorkshire, rural areas in Cumbria, and parts of Leeds and Lancashire. I refer to my interests in the register, in particular that I am a vice-president of the Association of Drainage Authorities. I would like to answer the

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right reverend Prelate’s question directly by saying that to tackle the long-term strategy, we should simply work more with nature. I shall draw on the example of a project that I was particularly closely associated with while in another place as the Member of Parliament for the constituency that includes Pickering.

I believe that the Pickering pilot project was a partnership approach that could be used in other places, particularly those that feed into catchment areas around Leeds, Cumbria, Lancashire and York. We have to accept that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so we have to adopt a mix-and-match attitude to land management. We should drain where drainage is appropriate, dredge where dredging is appropriate, desilt and clear away weeds where that is appropriate. Working with nature is less capital intensive and less physically engineered. It allows water either to slow down, as we did in the Pickering scheme, or speed up so that it moves away from flooded areas, whichever is appropriate. In adopting a full catchment management system, or in the case of Pickering a sub-catchment management system, that is precisely what we did. We took a smaller reservoir, which was less engineered and therefore less costly, and I am delighted to say that the scheme really stood the test of the recent floods in North Yorkshire.

Farmers have a role to play in this by temporarily storing water on their land but hopefully without falling foul of the reservoir safety Act. I believe that the European Commissioner in Brussels, Phil Hogan, is keen to reward farmers through the new system of basic farm payments for the public good that farmers provide by retaining water upstream and taking it away from areas downstream, be they farmland, towns and villages, or even cities like Leeds and York, thus keeping them safe.

The key is to work with nature and to adopt a full capital management system. As regards funding, perhaps I may say that there is no bottomless pit. We have to lever in private sector funding. The Pickering approach was exemplary. It was a partnership approach involving the county council, Ryedale District Council, the town council of Pickering, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission, all planting new trees and cutting down existing ones, creating dams and, indeed, taking 200 years to create a new peat bog. I believe that Pickering shows the way forward. It does so also by merging the total spending budget and having a capital spend that is the equal of £2.3 billion and matching that with maintenance. I think that that answers the right reverend Prelate’s question.

2.49 pm

Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab): My Lords, I declare an interest as a former chief executive of the Environment Agency who did, along with my chairman, turn up when there were floods. I am also chairman-designate of the Woodland Trust. Flood prevention, of course, is not about flood defences or inappropriate development in the flood plain: it is much wider than that.

I want to make two points. First, to echo the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, it is about managing land at a catchment scale for resilience against the increasingly frequent warmer and wetter winters, and more extreme

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events, that we are likely to see. It means better soil management by land managers to avoid compaction, bare ground and run-off. It also means appropriate planting of trees in the upland upstream areas to help alleviate flows.

I commend the Environment Agency in working with the natural processes programme, which is looking, among other things, at the right trees in the right place and on the right scale; tree cover in the flood plains in riparian woodlands; cross-slope woodland; tree shelterbelts; gully woodlands; and the restoration and creation of increasing numbers of wet woodlands. We cannot say that this is a single-bullet solution—planting trees will not solve the entire problem. But tree cover in the appropriate place can reduce flood peaks by up to 40%. Infiltration of water on the ground is 60 times more effective in treed areas than in grazed areas.

I urge the Minister to ensure that all regional flood and coastal committees consider how natural flood risk management can best be deployed in their areas. The Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission opportunity maps showing where trees and woods are most likely to reduce flood risk in England should be promoted more widely to help projects use them across the country. I also urge that the new Countryside Stewardship scheme’s first-year arrangements are closely watched to make sure that they are having an impact in supporting woodland planting in areas where it is likely to reduce flood risk. I also commend to the Minister the Woodland Trust’s report, Stemming the Flow, about the role of trees and woodland in flood protection. Indeed, I commend the Pickering experiment, which the noble Baroness clearly described.

Secondly, floods do not just happen in flood plains. Surface water flooding is becoming an increasing problem. We need to build resilience into new buildings and to retrofit property-level protection measures in existing buildings, which means waterproof surfaces, resilient electricity supplies and individual housing flood defence remedies. The measures are known to pay for themselves after simply one flood. In flood-risk management, the cost of remediation of floods is almost directly proportionate to the degree of heartache. Such measures are the least we can do for those recently flooded and those who, without such measures, will be flooded again in the future.

2.52 pm

Lord Greaves (LD): My Lords, I remind the House of my registered council interests. This is a tale of two small towns and what happened on Boxing Day. Barnoldswick and Earby are twin towns in that part of the Lancashire district of Pendle which used to be in Yorkshire. They are both prone to flooding. Water rushes down from the surrounding moorlands on to a glacial plain where they are built and the two towns straddle the Pennine watershed at its lowest point. Both have suffered from periodic, catastrophic flooding over the past 150 years. This year, on Boxing Day, the heavens opened.

Barnoldswick, which is locally known as Barlick, escaped this time for two reasons. The first is a series of local works over the past 20 years and more which were mainly the initiative of the local district council

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and local people. I pay tribute particularly over that time to the work of my colleague, Councillor David Whipp, whose decades of work in this area have been heroic. At the danger point, when it happened, a small estate called Ghyll Meadows turned out to be the most vulnerable point. Early on Boxing Day morning, David went out to inspect the defences and decided that they were not going to hold. He called on what I can only call a heroic local community to turn out, particularly using social media, networks and contacts which had been built up for this purpose over the years. More than 200 people turned out. They built a new barrier with sandbags provided by the district council. Improvised sandbags came from all sorts of places. A local builder’s yard opened to provide material and a local farmer provided machinery. Legions of people swept away the water that was seeping through the new improvised barrier.

Unfortunately, they were not so successful in Earby. They managed to withstand Storm Desmond but then came Storm Eva. Earby had the same history and the same storms in December. On Boxing Day, the local becks overflowed. More than 50 houses and local businesses were badly flooded. Earby has a local scheme ready and waiting to go. It has been agreed by staff at the Environment Agency but is waiting for funding. It is not the district’s responsibility but the district council has £168,000 in the bank account towards it but it is waiting for the rest.

The problem of Earby is unique. It is part of Lancashire. Therefore, it is part of the north-west Environment Agency. In all ways, its administration and representation of councillors and others is with Lancashire and the north-west. But, unlike the rest of Lancashire, the water in Earby drains eastwards. It joins the great River Aire and flows through Leeds. No doubt, some of the Earby water joined the rest of the water to flood Leeds this year. It is part of the Environment Agency in Yorkshire. It comes under the Yorkshire Regional Flood and Coastal Committee and is in direct competition with the rest of Yorkshire and the horrific events that happened there.

But east is east and west is west. Earby is stuck between the two on the Pennine watershed. Will the Minister spend a little time looking at Earby and working out how its problems can please be funded?

2.56 pm

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I thank my right reverend colleague for today’s debate. Due to the shortage of time, straightaway I shall focus a little more on whole-catchment flood management. A renewed focus on this approach has been one of the notable outcomes of the current flood crisis, helped of course by the exemplary work of the Pickering slow-the-flow scheme, which the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, described so eloquently.

The potential of whole-catchment approaches—for example, using meandering rivers, planting trees and building permeable dams to slow water in upland areas and reduce peak flow further downstream—is enormous. In the long term, it provides a cheaper, more environmentally friendly method of flood management, which works, as a number of people

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have already said, with natural processes rather than constantly trying to hold back the tide. Such approaches also have the benefit of being effective across a catchment, rather than simply focusing on one or two high-value areas, and so can help to lower the flood risk in rural hamlets and villages that might otherwise not qualify for flood protection.

Yet, generally, Governments and local authorities have been slow to embrace such proactive approaches, for a number of reasons. First, the whole-catchment approach will help to mitigate the risk of small and medium-sized floods but there is little evidence that they will protect homes from floods with the highest levels of water. For towns and villages to be protected from the heaviest flooding, some form of flood defence barrier is usually needed. It would generally be cheaper for the Environment Agency to build that barrier a bit higher than to invest in both a barrier and a whole-catchment approach to flood management.

If the Government are serious about a whole-catchment approach, Defra and the Treasury need to look again at how they value those projects and be willing to take into account a wider range of factors—for example, environmental benefits—when they make those valuations. Will the Minister assure the House that a review of how the Government value measures such as this will be included in the national resilience review?

Secondly, a proper whole-catchment approach to flood management will require reconsideration of how we currently approach planning and development, not just on flood plains but in upland areas, too, where increased run-off can raise flood levels further downriver. According to the CEO of the Environment Agency, 13% of housebuilding is currently being undertaken in flood plains and that percentage is increasing. Will the Minister inform the House whether the Government will consider giving the Environment Agency new powers to properly regulate developments across at-risk catchment areas?

Finally, dialogue with farmers is vital if we want to take more proactive approaches to slowing the flow of water off upstream land. Redirecting subsidies to incentivise farmers to plant more trees in key areas, to build temporary reservoirs that can hold floodwater back, and even to allow their land to flood in instances of high flood risk, are all things that I hope the Government will look at closely.

3 pm

Lord Patten (Con): My Lords, to people who have recently suffered flooding, as we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, or who are fearful that they may well experience flooding in future, it is no consolation at all to know that the science of flood prevention is not wholly agreed on or resolved in every area all of the time. That is a very important point. Secondly, many of the ideas that will lead to flood mitigation over the years, which both right reverend Prelates have highlighted—it is good to see the Anglicans here en masse this afternoon talking about flooding issues—will take many years to take effect.

On the first point, if you put a bunch of hydrologists, geologists, geomorphologists, soil engineers, arboriculturalists and others into a room and ask them what can be done to mitigate flood problems in

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different areas, such as both right reverend Prelates have pointed out so clearly, you will sometimes find very different answers coming forward. Mr Rory Stewart, the responsible Minister in another place, who is very far-sighted and has great clarity of mind, has pointed out that we do not have a settled scientific agreement in some areas. We need to work very hard to bring that about. We have to be open about that to flood-prone and flood-threatened areas.

The second point is that many suggestions can be made about how we can get rid of or stabilise water flow. My noble friend Lady McIntosh pointed out that we can reinstate bogs, but also that that can take a century or more to have an effect. Even reinstating peat bogs where there are some remnants of them can take many decades. While it is a very good piece of rural housekeeping to ensure, whether it is local authorities or farmers with their bridges and culverts, that pinch points are clear on a regular basis on a very local scale, it is also clear that we need to look at longer-term suggestions, such as letting rivers meander more once riparian interests are taken into account. You cannot just tell a river to get meandering: it takes 10, 20 or 30 years before meandering takes any effect.

Lastly, I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that tree planting is very good at anchoring the soil, as it also is when you can persuade farmers not to plough or plant uphill or downhill in rows. There is great debate about tree planting: what sort of trees should be planted, their effects on the landscape, and the interrelationships with natural habitat. There is no doubt at all about it: whatever else, whether you plant little whips or bigger standards, it takes a while—sometimes decades again—to get the trees coming up to the right height to do this.

It is very important that we are honest and open as a Chamber and across the party-political divides that these things cannot just be fixed overnight and that we need long-term, integrated strategies, as was again pointed out by both right reverend Prelates. I am absolutely sure that my friend Mr Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Minister responsible, will take that fully into account in his far-sighted review that is coming down the track towards us.

3.03 pm

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, I believe that the House should be deeply grateful to the right reverend Prelate for having had this debate. I can say with practical experience of some years as director of Oxfam that the real challenge is to keep the focus when the reality of the long-term consequences of what has happened are being felt by the people in the front line. That is when our support and interest becomes vital.

We are faced with an immediate, immense humanitarian economic and social crisis, but also with another example of an inescapable wake-up call of the relevance and importance of what happened at Paris. We must not allow that to become empty rhetoric or a self-congratulatory exercise in successful diplomacy. We have to make a reality of the aspirations of Paris and we should be judged by what happens and how soon it happens.

Meanwhile, we cannot ignore the size of the problem. I live in Cumbria. Bridges are down all over the

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county and communications disrupted. Yes, mountains, at least in part, actually shifted. Families are broken and incomes ruined for individual families and for communities. All this must, of course, have immediate remedial action, but immediate remedial action cannot be allowed to become the enemy of the strategic priorities. I mentioned Paris, but more practically on the ground—I am glad to note that some of these points have been mentioned in the debate—is the attention to tax structures that encourage flood defence work by all those who want to undertake it.

This means recognising the inescapable link between the uplands, the flood-plains and those in the front line. I live on a fell-side. I look down on the flood-plain below me. It fills with water. Of course, we in the local community say, “Where does all this water go?”. It does not get rid of the water. That is why a far greater range of upland activity is necessary. Tree planting, upland reservoirs, farm reservoirs, the rest: all this must be looked at.

I conclude simply by saying that, in this situation, amelioration can become the enemy of strategy. We have to be as firm on the strategy as we are on the practical immediate action. Paris could too quickly become a gigantic historical irrelevance.

3.07 pm

Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB): My Lords, I declare an interest in this debate as a trustee of the Tyne River Trust. I know that I speak for us all when I say that our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this dreadful flooding. I am very grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds for proposing the debate. I firmly endorse his comments on Flood Re.

We would be naive to think that this will not happen again or that it is as bad as it gets. We need to ensure that the UK has a long-term flood management strategy in place to prevent damage to property, farmland, roads and disruption of people’s lives. I recognise and commend the swift action taken by the Government in response to the flooding crisis, but the problem is that we need to cease being reactive and instead put in place a long-term strategy that will help prevent events such as this.

The floods that affected Cumbria also affected Northumbria, where I live. Here, the flood barriers that were reinforced and rebuilt 10 years ago were not breached; the water just overflowed. To build ever higher flood defences is not the solution. We would simply demolish the bridges if we did that.

I stress the seriousness of the situation for the farmers who have been affected by this. While it is very welcome that funds have been made available—the charity sector in particular has been very helpful and made significant impact; as a trustee of the Prince’s Countryside Fund we have been delighted to help in this crisis—my deep concern is how difficult it may prove to be to access these funds. The application for funds during the Somerset flooding proved to be too arduous and complex for many farmers to benefit. For busy farmers trying to clear their land and cope with the stress of the experience, this was far from helpful. Will the Minister ensure that the system is as simple as possible, while still of course adhering to public sector requirements?

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A further issue is that farmers can claim the support only after the funds have been spent. This policy fails to recognise the massive cash-flow problems that farmers will experience off the back of this bad winter. The fact that some have still not received their BPS payments is a major concern. Some have had stock losses. Therefore, the cash-flow issues are serious. I hope that the Government will look at changing this policy to consider advancing payments—either 50% or 75% of the payment—to allow farmers to carry out the work and invest as proposed. What we need—this has been reinforced this afternoon—is a policy for flood risk management that is integrated with other land use. Reliable and evidence-based policy is needed to inform both the practitioners and the policymakers to design appropriate solutions.

A balance needs to be struck between the interests of environmentalists while not being detrimental to the livelihoods of farmers. It is clearly inappropriate to dredge every ditch, stream and river. Precious environment would be lost if we did so. Neither should we rule out carefully selected targeted dredging where it is appropriate. We need to see much more integration between the range of bodies that have responsibilities within individual river catchments, not just the Environment Agency but Natural England, the river trusts, national parks, local authorities and so on—the LEPs and others. One size does not fit all. Not for the first time we often see individual bodies operating within silos. Farmers need to be compensated for the work they do in holding water to protect urban areas downstream. At present this service is unrewarded and comes with great costs. Clearly, we need to include that within integrated solutions.

3.11 pm

Lord Inglewood (Con): My Lords, as I think many of your Lordships may know, I am a Cumbrian. At the outset, I declare the interest that I am making a claim in respect of flood damage. Somebody put it to me: do you think you have to declare property currently under water? I have also been a member of the North West Water Authority’s regional land drainage committee. However, I must emphasise at the outset that I am a great deal less badly affected than many of my neighbours. I pay tribute to my local MP, friend, neighbour and Floods Minister, Rory Stewart, for the way he has led the Government’s response.

In thinking about flooding, it is terribly important that we all recognise that, despite being within the national jurisdiction, the British weather does not recognise parliamentary sovereignty. If it is getting wetter for whatever reason, and regardless of those reasons, we have to deal with the consequences of that. Against that background and what seems to be the likelihood of future flooding, we need as a country to be absolutely clear about what is a public responsibility, and what flows from that both administratively and financially, and what is a private responsibility and the same consequences that might flow from that.

I was very pleased that the right reverend Prelate talked about insurance, because it seems to me that the role of insurance in this area is of considerable importance. For example, I heard tell locally—this may be apocryphal

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for all I know—of a person who has been flooded more than once. His insurance company said, “Yes, we shall certainly give you some more insurance but, of course, the first loss is half a million”.

Something very important that has not been touched on is the attitude and role of the banks in the context of their corporate and social responsibility when their customers get into financial difficulties because of this kind of thing. As an individual, I believe that it is important that we respond to these general problems by working with nature, but there is a whole series of nuts-and-bolts issues that need to be thought about and clarified. Do you canalise water or let it spill out over open land? How should we deal with, and respond to, problems directly caused by earlier mitigation flood defence works? How do we respond to problems caused by people constructing buildings, living in houses or working in premises that are known to be liable to flooding? In extreme cases, should we approach these premises as we approached slums in the old days and simply demolish them? Reference has been made to future building on the flood plain. Should we allow it and, if so, under what conditions to mitigate any possible disaster that may ensure?

It is of paramount importance that we are clear about all these things, because unless and until we are clear, we will never have a sensible, long-term policy about flooding and all we can do is do what we have done recently, which is clear up the mess. In the longer term, the only way of making sure that we do not have a mess is to have a good long-term policy.

3.14 pm

Lord Stone of Blackheath (Lab): My Lords, in July I spoke in the Moses Room, warning of imminent flooding. The right reverend Prelates might be amused that I joked that my Hebrew name, Abram, should be changed to Noah. In biblical times, it seems that he was the only human who knew what was coming. Today, we all know that the changes in climate mean that floods are more likely. I shall not talk about this global effect of human activity now. I want to bring to the notice of the Minister the causes of flood damage resulting from our inability in this country to apply proven community methods of river management, working with the water cycle to manage rivers so that they do not flood.

As the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said, many recent trials have shown the success, affordability and financial effectiveness of natural catchment measures in the UK. For this to happen on a larger scale, we need to encourage the buy-in and engagement of the whole river community, develop financial support for these projects from bottom up and arrange long-term financial backing, and we need to allocate a small proportion of land, both private and public, to create natural interventions. The Flow Partnership is a social enterprise and charity that is known and respected by the Government and has long-term experience in India, Sweden, Slovakia and here in the UK in dealing with both floods and droughts in this manner. It can help Her Majesty’s Government, first, to create practical examples of what works at low cost and then to form a long-term strategy that would address these difficulties and save millions of pounds in future damage liabilities.

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Employing natural catchment measures has multiple benefits. As well as climate change mitigation, it involves the whole community working together, increases biodiversity, improves river quality and, of course, prevents flood damage. Her Majesty’s Government ought to see the diversity of landscapes—wetlands, forests and ponds—as an interconnected system of the whole water cycle. Working with it communally could build for us a resilient future and make the population safer from floods.

In December, I wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office about the way flood defences are mistakenly financed and contracted by the Government and fall into the trap whereby the construction companies are judged by output, not outcome. A huge structure is built. Yes, it is on cost and on time, but it does not work. That is why the Flow Partnership is developing a strategy of community-funded natural catchment measures. These measures are effective and relatively easy to put in at a 10th of the cost. They increase the storage capacity of the river catchments and can be implemented widely. Its methods have been successfully trialled in Belford, Northumberland, and three other catchments by the Environment Agency. Despite the success that such trials evidence, the work is at the moment stalled due to the lack of appropriate funding sources. A river and landscape bond—an enterprise bond—which could be created if backed by the Government, would attract local and business investment and would reduce flood risk in the riparian areas of the UK at a fraction of the cost, time and effort than is now the case. I suggest that the Government should meet the people involved, allocate a small budget for them to work, say, on the River Dearne, and enable them to put the river and landscape bond into place. This would be a way for us to make safe 100 rivers in the UK, and perhaps even to export this methodology in future as a benefit to the world and, of course, to the UK. Thank you.

3.18 pm

Baroness Parminter (LD): My Lords, I, too, pay tribute to those who have assisted those who have been devastated by the recent floods and commend the Government for the level of financial assistance supplied so far to those local authorities. However, on that point, is the Minister now in a position to answer the question I asked in this House on 7 December—namely, given that it is a time-limited application, will the Government be applying to the European Union Solidarity Fund for assistance that can be given to local authorities to invest in new infrastructure?

It is clear from what colleagues have said that we need a comprehensive review of our ability to manage flood risk in the future, first because of our need to adapt to climate change. We need only consider the extremes of weather in December and the fact that already nearly 2.5 million homes are at between one to 100 years’ risk in the UK. On that point, it is disturbing to note that in Defra recently the staff of the climate change adaptation team have been reduced from 38 to six. That is an extremely worrying indication of the Government’s priorities in this area. I hope that the review looks at staffing levels as well as overall resources elsewhere.

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I wanted to briefly cover two points. First, the current conventional approach to flooding that has been taken by both the Environment Agency and the Treasury focuses very much on project-specific approaches and, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds said in his opening remarks, on a cost-benefit ratio, which does not help those in rural areas in particular, where the numbers are far less than in urban areas. We have therefore seen political pressures from Members down the other end, and rightly so, for more concrete measures to be put in places where they can be seen. While it is welcome that £2.3 billion has been spent on concrete proposals and flood defences, we cannot see that there has been any real forward movement to ensure that natural capital is taken into consideration in the decisions about where flood defences can be put, particularly, as others have said, around the upper catchment areas.

Under the coalition Government, the Natural Capital Committee was established, which made it quite clear that although, as the noble Lord, Lord Patten, said, there is underlying uncertainty over some areas of the science, in three areas there was a clear economic rationale for where money could be spent and benefits could be seen: woodland planting, peat and restoration, and wetland restoration. At the moment, the national infrastructure plan seems to stand in splendid isolation, with no consideration of any forms of natural capital. It merely looks at hard, concrete forms of roads, flood defences and other infrastructure. I would hope that the review would look at the national infrastructure plan.

Secondly, as other noble Lords have said, the scale of housing that this Government are looking to move is incredible. I do not doubt their commitment to achieving that, but we have to ensure that the review also looks at the planning implications of this massive increase in housing and infrastructure.

3.21 pm

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab): My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds for promoting this debate and to all noble Lords who have taken the opportunity to look beyond the short term. I apologise that I cannot refer to all the excellent contributions but, in the limited time that I have, I would like to raise the following points.

First, it would be helpful if the Secretary of State would acknowledge, unequivocally, that the unprecedented rain and flooding we are confronting today is the result of climate change. It is not an unusual freak of nature; it is part of a trend. It was predictable that climate change would make the UK warmer and wetter and that is exactly what has happened. This is why, as my noble friend says, the outcome of the Paris talks is so important.

Secondly, we welcome the Government’s announcement of a national flooding review. It is crucial, however, that it is based on the best independent research and evidence about river flows and catchment management—I take the point, of course, that this is a developing science. We know, for example, the advantages of reafforestation in upland areas in absorbing excess

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water, but we need better scientific advice on where to locate new plantations of trees and woods to maximise their impact. Equally, sustainable drainage systems have a role to play, for example, in reinstating lost wetlands and providing essential flood relief. They also have the added advantage of providing social and environmental benefits.

Every time we add something new to the landscape, or interfere with natural water flows, we risk unforeseen ecological consequences and potential conflicts. All the evidence so far suggests that leaving rivers and streams to meander—with wood and vegetation accumulating as natural obstructions—will slow the river flow and limit flooding. Yet the Secretary of State announced last week that farmers are to be given greater powers to dredge and clear water courses to prevent their fields from flooding. Apart from the adverse impact of speeding up rivers and streams, this seems to contradict a previous Environment Agency report, which concluded that rivers that are artificially dredged silt up more frequently and the only real solution is to tackle the creation of silt upstream. What independent advice was received before this announcement?

I do not pretend that managing the sometimes conflicting interests of farmers and urban communities is easy. Flooding fields may be necessary; farmers need to be properly compensated and we need to properly evaluate the effects on food production. Surely, though, we also need to take a stronger stance on clearing land, for example, for grouse shooting, which has little public benefit and has been identified as one of the sources of the recent flooding above Hebden Bridge.

Finally, these conflicts underline why the Government resilience review needs to be free from the influences of vested interests, transparent in its work and authoritative in its recommendations. I hope that the Minister can reassure me on these issues in his response.

3.25 pm

Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): My Lords, I am most grateful to the right reverend Prelate for securing this debate. Across the United Kingdom, many people have endured their homes and businesses being flooded and devastated. I echo what other noble Lords have said today in expressing my deepest sympathies to all affected. December last year was the wettest on record and the wettest calendar month since records began in 1910. In relation to what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said about climate change, the view is that the recent heavy rainfall is consistent with this general picture, but it is not possible—and many scientists will say it is not possible—to say that any individual event is directly caused by climate change.

The impacts were, undoubtedly, particularly severe in Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and, more recently, in Scotland. Our thoughts are with all those who suffered and we must now use all our energies to help them to recover from this dreadful experience. We clearly owe an enormous debt of gratitude to all those who served during this extremely difficult time, including the fire and rescue service, police,

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military, Environment Agency, and local authority workers. I also echo what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds said about what churches and other faith groups did and what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said about the many volunteers in his part of the world. It shows that we have a great country where the good Samaritan is at large.

Recognising the threatening weather forecasts, the Government held daily COBRA meetings, allowing all necessary resources to be deployed early and ahead of the flooding. The emergency services, Environment Agency, and military were on the ground and able to provide immediate help. Supporting assets, including high-volume pumps and rescue boats, were made available to local commanders in all areas. Indeed, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds has referred to this. The Government have committed almost £200 million for recovery in addition to our significant, ongoing investment. This funding includes £50 million to rebuild and improve damaged flood defences and £40 million for transport infrastructure. A community recovery scheme for councils to spend on local priorities will provide grants of up to £5,000 for resilient repairs to properties and funding will provide help through rebates on council tax and business rates. Farmers will be able to claim up to £20,000 to restore damaged agricultural land. The noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, spoke of his support and, clearly, we need to ensure that support is engaged in a user-friendly manner.

The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, asked about the EU Solidarity Fund and I will write more fully to her on that. However, the UK taxpayer would still pay for the majority of the funds received, because we would pay more into the EU budget and it would reduce our rebate. We feel that we needed to act quickly; the support packages we have already announced are designed to deal with the urgent needs of those affected.

In terms of investment in flood infrastructure, the Government have committed to spend £2.3 billion on a six-year capital programme to 2021. That means that we will be investing £2 billion in flood defences over this Parliament—a real-terms increase on the £1.7 billion invested in the last Parliament and a real-terms increase on the £1.5 billion spent between 2005 and 2010. Our six-year capital programme gives communities a much clearer view of when schemes will be built. It is intended to reduce the flood risk for over 300,000 households and around 420,000 acres of agricultural land, while avoiding more than £1.5 billion worth of direct economic damages to farmland and securing 205 miles of railway and 340 miles of roads. In addition, government investment will be supported by a further £600 million of partnership funding—£250 million has already been secured, with sources for the other £350 million identified.

The right reverend Prelate’s Question is about how we can help rural areas which may not qualify for large-scale interventions. My noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering referred to partnership funding, an approach which means that some rural locations that previously had little prospect of any government funding could now be eligible for a share. The Stroud rural sustainable drainage project is an example of successful rural

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schemes going ahead with partnership funding. While capital schemes increase the number of people protected by flooding, we know it is also vital that we keep our existing flood defences in good condition. That is why the Government have also committed to protecting the £171 million per year spend on maintenance in real terms over this Parliament.

Partnership working is a key part of flood risk management. I welcome the work of the 118 internal drainage boards, or IDBs. These locally-funded and operated public bodies, based predominantly in rural areas, manage water levels and reduce flood risk for local communities. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about dredging and the noble Lord, Lord Curry, also referred to this matter. Dredging will be effective in some areas and inappropriate in others. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State’s announcement about making it easier for landowners to dredge relates to agricultural ditches in low-lying areas, where maintaining the flow of water is important to lowering flood risk in the local area. This bears out the fact that different scenarios will work in different parts of the country by having, for example, different trees and uses of contours, as has been said. It is all about the flexibility that we now need to have.

In many places, however, the IDBs are now working on behalf of the Environment Agency to the benefit of the local community. There are numerous examples where this approach is working well. In Lincolnshire, for instance, the excellent partnership of the Environment Agency, IDBs, local authorities and others has produced a strategy for flood risk management across the county. After the dreadful flooding in Somerset, moreover, the Somerset Rivers Authority was established to give local people much more control and power over flood risk.

In Cumbria, my honourable friend Rory Stewart has worked tirelessly as Flooding Minister—that is an absolutely non-partisan thing to say. Those in the locality have echoed this. My noble friends Lord Inglewood and Lord Patten also referred to it. My honourable friend will chair a new floods partnership, bringing together local expertise to publish an action plan this summer. The partnership will consider improvements to flood defences, review upstream options for slowing tributaries to key rivers and build stronger links with the local community. My honourable friend Robert Goodwill is also acting as flood envoy to Yorkshire. Such partnerships are to be encouraged across the country, led by groups of local people who know the flood risk in their area and what should be done about it, with government playing a key role in strengthening and facilitating them.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and other noble Lords asked how we intend to review flood risk management. Recent events represent an important opportunity to assess our approach and there are undoubtedly lessons to be learned from what has happened. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has announced the national flood resilience review, to which my noble friends Lord Patten and Lord Inglewood referred. This is to be set up to ensure that the country can deal with its increasingly extreme weather events. Work to consider forecasting and

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modelling, the resilience of key infrastructure and the way that we make decisions about expenditure has already begun. It is expected to conclude this summer.

That review’s work complements the Natural Capital Committee; I think this was the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, was taking us towards. The committee is already developing the catchment-based approach, including slowing the flow upstream. Many of your Lordships referred to this. I listened very carefully to the points that the noble Lord, Lord Stone of Blackheath, made. My noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering spoke of the Slow the Flow project in Pickering, which is working with the natural environment to reduce flood risk. The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, spoke of the range of opportunities for working with and enhancing the natural environment. That is a way forward for us to ensure that we are in a much better position and was echoed by the right reverend prelate the Bishop of St Albans.

We all have an extremely interesting and valuable range of reviews in prospect. I very much hope that we are now into a period of recovery, where we can look to help those affected back into their homes and businesses—although, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds said, we are clearly in a position where the winter and its floods could continue. We should all be very grateful for what the emergency services, the military, the fire service and volunteers may have to do. However, our aim in government is to ensure that long-term investment will help to make our country more resilient. Partnership funding has already made many more rural schemes viable and through working in partnership, and with the active engagement of local communities, we can help to manage flood risk. I assure your Lordships that I will take all the comments made today and share them with my ministerial colleagues, and that the Government and Ministers will be using all the energies that we have to ensure that the whole country is as well protected as possible.

Identity Documentation

Motion to Take Note

3.36 pm

Moved by Lord Campbell-Savours

That this House takes note of the potential use of identity documentation in dealing with the challenges of assuring the identity of individuals.

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): My Lords, it being a Thursday afternoon, I have received many apologies from Members unable to attend this debate, for which we are all grateful. The issue of identity cards is the issue in British politics that refuses to go away; it haunts political debate. It is not that it is the unique preserve of any political party. Identity cards have wide support in both Houses of Parliament, across the political divide and in the electorate.

The Labour Government did at least try to develop a scheme. They started in 2002 with a national consultation under the heading Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud: a Consultation Document but, following legislation, the whole programme was plagued with arguments

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over whether it should be a national identity card or an entitlement card. This finally led to a climbdown as it was moved from a compulsory to a voluntary scheme. The 2010 election then killed the whole programme. The national identity register, a crucial component in the scheme, was then destroyed on 10 February 2011. The personal details of everyone issued with a card under the pilots were also destroyed. We are now left with biometric residence permits for non-EEA foreign nationals, but only because Europe requires them and the system of national insurance cards is completely out of control. The coalition effectively destroyed the whole programme, leaving us exposed to an explosion in identity fraud and crime that permeates every aspect of our national life.

Nevertheless, to be fair to the Government, they have recognised the need to tackle the issue, in particular on the internet. With that in mind, the Government’s identity assurance programme, IDAP, was launched. Under the IDAP model, people assert their identities to government via a series of private sector identity providers. I understand that PayPal, Cassidian, Experian, Verizon and a number of others have at some stage been in the frame. However, although they build relationships with HMRC, PAYE, the DVLA and other departments or agencies, they lack access to the necessary biometric data such as fingerprints, digital iris recognition and facial digital photographs. Their programmes are undermined, despite the “hub”, by the lack of a national identity register to underpin the process of identity assurance. I sense that this approach is born of the mistaken assumption that it will save money. What it fails to heed is that public confidence in identity assurance cannot rely on private provider systems preoccupied with profit and shareholder value. Such identity assurance programmes will fall down as disastrously as did Vodafone, PA Consulting, EDS and others, all of which have lost data over recent years.

Card opponents tell you that the state equally stands accused of sloppy data handling. They quote HMRC’s loss of two CDs in 2007, leaving millions at risk, along with other examples. They did happen. But Germany has built a secure system with a reputation for impenetrability based on a range of biometrics. The system leads the way in Europe, and if they can do it, we can do it. Germany is leading a whole group of European nations, including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Gibraltar, France, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Spain, Slovenia, Portugal, Poland and Holland. Most of those regimes require a passport or a card holding data which we refuse to hold. They are all building systems of identity assurance in which their publics can have confidence. Why can we not do the same? That is the background to the debate.

What do we want? Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary, summed it up perfectly in 2006 when he said that we want,

“a universal scheme for everyone legally resident in the UK”.

His scheme required a fingerprint, a photograph and a signature. I would go further, with iris recognition or even DNA added. If whatever data are finally approved

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were not to be stored on the card itself, the card could secure, through a protocol and a strong process of authentication and tiered authorisation, access to data, perhaps under three headings: “generally available”, “sensitive” and “highly sensitive”. The accessible information on the chip would relate to information held on the national identity register. The chip would have different layers of defence against physical attack, fault attack and side-channel attack. To compromise a properly designed system, you would have to manipulate the national identity register, which I would say is an impossible task. Again, the German system shows the way. I understand that EU passports are already common criteria evaluated, which means they already achieve best practice for attack resistance.

At this point, I thank Professor Keith Mayes of the Information Security Group at Royal Holloway University for helping me to understand the complexity of such systems. The issue for many of us is whether you hold the data on the card or whether the card authorises access to the national identity register. I believe that the cards should be an access tool to a server, enabling the card to establish basic ID as simply as possible.

What is the purpose of the card? We know that the CBI believes that a single source authenticating personal data would be the best protection against fraud. It foresees reduced costs in maintaining back-up systems. A recent government report entitled Future Identities highlighted that people often have several identities, on and offline. We are told that this, among other factors, is now costing us nearly £30 billion a year in fraud. National identity cards with sophisticated biometrics would help combat that fraud. You might compromise a photograph or a signature, but digitised information is hard to replicate. You certainly cannot have two iris patterns on one eye, two different fingerprints on one finger, or even two different types of DNA.

The purposes of a national identity card fall under four headings: to reduce fraud; to establish entitlement to services; to provide security assurance; and to check identity more generally. In defining the benefits, I have consolidated all three tiers and levels of access I previously referred to—generally available, sensitive and highly sensitive. I see the benefits coming as follows: when using banking or financial services, including credit or debit cards; when buying or selling property and vehicles; when making mortgage applications; when making credit transfers; when entering credit, rental, hire or leasing agreements; when boarding aircraft and other forms of public transport; when accessing public buildings and the workplace; when sitting exams and driving tests; when seeking to reduce HMRC’s tax collection costs; when voting; when establishing identity during police enquiries; when tracing the identity of someone who is deceased; when verifying “fit and proper” in the professions; when carrying out checks on workers at airports and in the caring professions, in particular when early decisions are required; when establishing proof of identity; when tackling impersonation, whether in examinations or, as I have said, driving tests; when tracking the background of false accusers; when tracing bail abscondees; when tracing persons engaged in road traffic offences; when dealing with illegal subletting; when accessing public services, public benefits and pensions; when challenging disability fraud; when dealing

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with council tax and housing benefit fraud; when establishing on-street identity—if I had longer, I would go into that in much greater detail; when establishing entitlements to concessionary travel and relief from congestion charges; and when investigating organised crime, including money-laundering and trafficking.

The card would be of particular benefit to the Government in checking entitlement to European Union health cards and access to national health services, including hospital treatment. It would give the Government the opportunity to sort out the disaster over the allocation of national insurance cards, and the problem of multiple passport irregularities. It would also bring us into line with other states whose cards already substitute for a passport.

Following the Government’s decision to legislate on illegal working, we should also not underestimate the benefit of the card for the private sector—for landlords checking on illegal tenancies, and for insurance companies in dealing with insurance fraud. The scheme should be tailored to allow them sufficient access at the lowest tiers to establish basic identity in carrying out both statutory and non-statutory duties. The scheme would be particularly helpful to the Director of Labour Market Enforcement proposed in the Immigration Bill. It would underpin his work. Most interestingly, the card would be useful in the enforcement of human rights, particularly for that group of women—invariably in the ethnic minorities—who, with tightly controlled family conditions, are denied basic human rights and even their identity.

I now come to the final benefit, which is crucial. Income tax collection in the UK is not without its problems. It is not helped by the system of self-assessment and reductions in revenue and personnel. Many people in the UK live outside or on the margins of the tax system. They pay no or little tax, yet they often earn substantial incomes while drawing extensively on public services. We who pay our taxes resent the freeloaders, be they foreign or UK nationals. We believe that the state should act to stop this abuse. It is costing the country billions. A national identity card with relevant biometric data would be a powerful tool in ensuring that people pay the state for the services they receive.

I recognise that at first glance, the list of benefits I have identified may appear onerous or perhaps even intrusive, but it is a pick-and-choose agenda which can be tailored to conditions nationally at any particular time. It is an agenda whereby identity today is verified with bank cards, passports, driving licences, utility bills, bank statements, council tax demands, national insurance cards and even marriage certificates—all sources of identity information today. We have all been asked for them at some stage in our private lives. All of them have their weaknesses, causing public concern.

The consultation originally carried out by the Labour Government not only recorded a majority in favour of national identity cards but, astonishingly, found that 75% were in favour of providing all three types of biometric data—fingerprints, a facial digital photograph and an iris digital photograph—such was the level of concern at the time. Today, the cry for reform is greater than ever, and I want this whole debate reopened.

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3.51 pm

Lord Ramsbotham (CB): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, on initiating this debate and salute him for his persistence in pursuing the issue. I also thank Mary Santo for her typically helpful and informative Library Note.

My strong support for the introduction and general use of identity cards stems from my time on active service in Northern Ireland when commanding my battalion in west Belfast in 1974 and the Belfast brigade from 1978 to 1980. In 1974, whenever we wanted to prove the identity of someone we had stopped, we had to carry out what was called a P-check, which meant contacting the company base in the area in which the person stopped claimed to live and asking for their identity to be confirmed by checking the P-cards that were held on everyone known in the area. Often, this took some time, and I well remember being increasingly nervous when having to wait for 45 minutes for a check to be carried out in another battalion’s area while standing on a street on which the IRA was very active.

In 1979, it was decided that the whole system should be automated, all the old P-card data being transferred to a computer database. This process proved the inefficiency of the old system, one person being found to have 13 different spellings of his name on 13 different cards. Within days, the operational value of almost instant response had proved the spend-to-save value of the cost of automation.

In 1974, it was almost impossible to persuade members of the public to talk to us, largely because of their resentment of internment without trial, which, fortunately, was ended in 1975. When I returned in 1978, that situation had changed somewhat, with more people being prepared to talk, but the overt presence of armed troops on the streets was an impediment to normality, many people citing frequent P-checking, particularly when newly arrived regiments were getting to know their areas, as a particular irritant. My RUC opposite number often used to say how much easier it would be, for both police and Army, if everyone had to carry an identity card, not least in countering false identity—which sentiment I note with interest quoted in the Library Note as being felt by many policemen today. In consequence, I have always thought that human rights are more likely to be protected than breached by identity cards, because they can be used to prove both who someone is, or is not.

I am not going to go into the technicalities of how this can be done with an identity card, because I know that the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, will discuss biometrics for example. Instead, because time is limited, I want to mention another practical use of identity cards of which I have long been in favour, not least because of its value in countering false identity. Every time someone is received into prison, they are given a new prison number, which is inefficient because it denies automatic access to previous records without a considerable amount of checking and comparing data. After prisoners are released, they have to apply to a Jobcentre for any benefits to which they may be entitled, which takes time, during which they have to try to live on their £46 discharge grant.

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When I inspected the prisons in the UAE for an extradition case, I found that prisoners were given identity cards, using the same number as their national identity card, which they could then use for many purposes such as access to medical provision, use of the library, or to record canteen purchases. But staff told me of the immense value of no longer having to carry out much time-consuming bureaucracy. How much simpler it would be on our prisons if an identity card number could also be used as a prison number, an NHS number and a national insurance number, all of which is perfectly possible given the power of current computer systems. Not only would this make life easier for the overstretched staffs of our overcrowded prisons but it would enable automatic access to medical records and transfer of records of treatment during imprisonment. A prisoner’s entitlement to benefits could be processed in prison, obviating avoidable temptation to reoffend in order to survive.

I dispute the Government’s continual refusal to consider the introduction of identity cards—largely, it would appear, on grounds of cost. I invite the Minister to consider that, from the point of view of many public servants, their introduction would be a spend-to-save measure.

3.57 pm

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): My Lords, I too am grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours for giving us the opportunity to debate this extremely important topic. I was shocked to discover the other day that it is slightly more than 40 years since the first episode of “Fawlty Towers” was broadcast on television. I am sure that many remember that first episode, which introduced Basil Fawlty to the nation; he was a hotel owner, as many probably remember. He comes across a person describing himself as Lord Melbury, with whom he naturally forms a sort of fawning relationship, believing everything that he says. Lord Melbury, of course, as those who have seen the episode will know, is a con man. Because Basil Fawlty has no means of verifying the identity, he gets taken for a ride with all the ensuing consequences.

The principle of enabling citizens to verify each other’s identity is actually an extremely important one, and has become more important in the 40 years since then. It is a matter of considerable regret to me that the last Labour Government attempted to mis-sell the concept of identity cards and identity assurance in that way. I am quite clear that identity cards would not have been a magic bullet against terrorism, or serious or organised crime, but it would have been an assistance; it would have made things easier for the police and security services, and would have saved time in verifying, but it would not have solved those fundamental problems. But that simple idea of having an identity register and connecting oneself to it would have enabled citizens to prove who they were and—as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has just told us—who they were not, very quickly. It would have been tremendously easy. At the moment, when we have to verify our identity, we are required to produce a passport or driving licence. I do not have a driving licence, simply a passport, which I have to find and not lose. You are

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then required to produce a recent utility bill, sometimes two, at a time when the utilities are trying to get us all to manage our accounts online, so we do not have that piece of paper which signifies our name and address. In my case, at least one utility has my name wrong. It is mis-spelt. That does not matter in the provision of the service concerned, but it is a pain in the neck when I am trying to prove I am who I think I am.

We are now increasingly reliant on being able to demonstrate who we are and to satisfy other people about that. It is more necessary than it ever was. It is becoming increasingly important online, so some mechanism which would span this and enable us to identify ourselves online is crucial. It is a protection for business—as in the case of Basil Fawlty—and for the public. Who am I dealing with online? Who am I dealing with face to face?

Concerns expressed about the idea of a state-run identity system are either about cost—and as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has already indicated, they are not very convincing—or are something to do with civil liberties. Let us be clear that if the state does not take on this function, others will. In fact, I am surprised that we have not yet got a series of major commercial operations offering us an identity service of this sort. Some of them do so on a fringe basis, but there is nothing that is comprehensive and effective. Would that be any less scary if you are worried about your personal privacy than the Government providing the service?

We already give out an enormous amount of information, such as via supermarket loyalty cards. One such scheme identified that a woman was pregnant before her family knew and started sending her material about pregnancy, which caused a certain degree of embarrassment. There are phone data and payment cards. Until I switched it off, my mobile phone, in a rather obscure location, produced a map of my favourite places. For all I know, it still does. Certainly, that data may well reside or be updated on a regular basis on a Californian server. It tells them—or me, if I did not know it already—where I spend a large amount of my time. If you looked at the map, you would find I spend a large amount of time at this end of the parliamentary complex. I try to confuse it by spending a lot of time in Portcullis House, but it was still clear. That gave one marker, as far as I was concerned. It demonstrated that I spend most nights in north London on the borders of Haringey and Islington, another marker. When I was heavily involved in the Metropolitan Police, it would demonstrate that I spent a lot of time just opposite St James’s Park Tube station. You are beginning to get a pattern, but what is the significance of being told where I go for my morning coffee on my way to work? We already have all sorts of things managing our identity and intruding on our privacy. Would it not be better if we had a simple system on which everyone could rely that was run on our behalf by our nation state?

4.03 pm

Lord Marlesford (Con): My Lords, I am basically on the same side as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, on this matter. However, I approach it from a slightly different point of view. The key words in the Motion are,

“assuring the identity of individuals”.

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Why is this Motion so opportune and sensible at the moment? It is because the Government of this country are faced with a huge challenge to their most basic responsibility: to assure the safety of individuals. That is of course a challenge faced by all EU Governments. The threat of Islamist terrorism, although quite different, is as great as that which the West faced during the Cold War, and certainly far greater than that which the UK faced during the Irish Troubles. This is a moment when the acceptance of the balance between privacy and national security has shifted, and must shift, dramatically.

“Identity documentation” is no longer the key phrase; rather, it is “identity verification”. There has been a tendency to assume that the value of identity documents, whether passports, driving licences or ID cards, can be enhanced by the inclusion in them of biometric data. Indeed, that may be the case in the majority of instances. Where it really matters, though, in serious crime and above all in terrorism, it is a dangerous illusion. For the sophisticated criminal or terrorist, it is not a problem to replace on any document the biometrics of the legitimate holder with those of the person who is carrying the document. The biometrics will match so that when you produce the document, yes, it matches and you are who you say you are, but you will not be.

The only secure method of identification is for the biometrics of the person to whom an identity document has been issued to be matched online with biometrics stored centrally at the time of issue. For that, what we need is not a secure document but merely a secure number. What is urgently needed in the UK is the abolition—the abandonment—of the chaotic multiplicity of identity numbers and the introduction of a single identity number. This should be used for passports, national insurance and tax, driving licences and other state permits, as well as for the National Health Service. It would of course be the primary number used for the security, police and prison services, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said. It would be possible for the standard number that everybody had to have an added prefix, or something added on after it, to separate it according to its use, and of course to build in all the necessary safeguards so that access to the fundamental data could be restricted according to the authorisation of the person applying to get the information, so it would all be stored and very safe.

Over the years I have asked Parliamentary Questions on what I have just described as the chaos, and, frankly, I have had the most absurd answers. With regard to travel documents, the Government still lack records of what other passports a British passport holder possesses. Not surprisingly, we have had the dangerous absurdity in increasingly numerous cases of terrorist suspects on bail skipping out of the country, either because they have failed to surrender their passports or because they have had second or third passports that no one knew about. I am putting down an amendment to the Immigration Bill once again, for the third time, to deal with this. It should of course be standard practice to cancel any passport electronically so that the actual document is unusable.

The Government do not even know how many national insurance numbers there are in use and say that it would be too expensive to find out. Non-British

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nationals can obtain our national insurance numbers even if they only have time-limited visas. The Department for Work and Pensions does not cancel the numbers when they expire; it just keeps them, so there must be millions more than the entire population. To give the House an example of that, there are approximately 72 million live NHS numbers in England and Wales, while the population of those two countries is 56 million. Presumably, some 16 million non-residents are on the books of the NHS. Can we really afford this?

I believe that the survival of European civilisation, which historically has been based on democracy, Christianity and the nation state, is today under challenge from the jihadists of Islamic State. We must act to defend it, and I hope that the Government take this debate as a starting point for urgent action.

4.09 pm

Lord Maxton (Lab): My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours for obtaining this debate and for the excellent way he introduced it. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, will not mind if I do not follow him directly down that route, but I can inform him that I believe his suggestion is very close to what the Government intend to propose at some point in the near future.

I will take this debate one stage if not several stages further. We are living through a technological and scientific revolution that has changed the world more in the last 50 years, and will increasingly do so in the next five or 10 years, than has ever happened before in the history of mankind. That is the world we live in. I want to move from the idea of an ID card to what I would call a smart card for all. Such a card would of course do all the things my noble friend said as regards introducing security, giving people the right to know what is on it, and so on. However, I want that to be a smart card which enables people to put on to it all the information we hold.

Every one of us in this Chamber and probably in the Houses of Parliament as a whole has a form of identification. I hang it around my neck, because I do not assume that the policemen at the gate automatically know who I am. At the end of the day, that is an ID card. It opens doors—I have only to put that on to a door and I can open it. I have a driving licence in my wallet, a passport at home, bank cards and a whole series of membership cards for different organisations. Why should I not just have one card, with some form of identification on it—a fingerprint or an eye scan, or whatever it might be, or even DNA, as my noble friend suggested? That would mean that I could get rid of all the various forms of ID I have at present because I would have one card. I accept that people might say, “But you might lose it, so maybe we should have three or four cards”. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, says, people will not find it easy to reproduce it, so even if you lose it, it will become just a piece of detritus that you can leave. Eventually, however, there will be a chip in the back of your hand, all the information will go on to that, and you will put that on to things.

Turning to the commercial aspect, the Government are talking to the banks about the idea of them paying for some of this. Banks and those who deal online,

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such as travel agents, or people who sell online on Amazon, will increasingly want some form of ID—a way in which they can establish the identity of the person who buys their goods or who goes to the bank machine, and know that that person is who they claim to be. Therefore, the banks may in the first instance put an extra slot in the bank machine so you can put in your ID card and then your bank card. It would be even better if the bank could put its banking services on to that single card, so you put one card in the machine, put your fingerprint on it or let it scan your eye, and then the bank could say you are the right person.

That is the world we live in. The technology is already there. I am sorry to have to say this to my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey, but the fact is that the Apple iPhone 6 is available with a fingerprint control, and you can bank with it and buy almost any goods with it. So we already have the technology. You have to use some form of card—although, I accept, not an ID card—on London Transport buses because they will not allow you to use cash any more. Cash will be a thing of the past—in the next 10 or 15 years it will have gone. Cheques are already going and cash will go next.

That is the world in which we live. If this place does not keep pace with that technology, we will be in very grave danger of not keeping up with what is going on in the world outside, and if that happens, we will start to lose democracy itself.

Lord Marlesford: Perhaps I may tell the noble Lord that in York, none of the machines taking cards would work because of the awful floods, and people could not buy food from the supermarkets. They needed cash.

4.15 pm

Lord Scriven (LD): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for initiating this debate. However, I am going to break the cosy coalition of those who believe that the state is the sole, and safe, guardian of my identity. I say that because I have listened to the debate and am still not clear what the problem is. It is not for me, as somebody who does not believe in ID cards, to defend the status quo; it is for those who want a change to prove that there is a problem and that ID cards are the effective solution.

Let us look at the real world outside this cosy Chamber and see what is happening in the countries that have ID cards. Many noble Lords have mentioned different countries, such as Germany, Spain, Italy and France, in talking about crime. Can any of those noble Lords or those yet to speak who wish to have ID cards point to a direct correlation between a reduction in crime levels and the citizens having ID cards? We need proof, not general statements. Those who suggest that ID cards will reduce the incidence of crime should give the statistics that show a correlation between ID cards and a reduction in crime in Germany, Spain and France.

It is also said that ID cards will somehow be effective in reducing terrorism. I remind noble Lords of the horrific attack and terrorist atrocities in Jakarta this

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morning and the appalling attacks that we have seen just across the water in France. Indonesian citizens carry ID cards, as do the citizens of France. Have those cards made them any safer? If noble Lords can show me a correlation between identity cards and a reduction in terrorism in those countries, I will support them.

We also hear about identity fraud. Again, I would like to see statistical evidence that there is more identity fraud in this country than in countries that have ID cards. I ask noble Lords to show me the facts. Most identity fraud now occurs online, and in the countries that I have just talked about national ID cards are not used to prove your identity in commercial transactions.

Benefit fraud and taxation fraud, which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, talked about, have been given as reasons for bringing in ID cards. Most people do not lie about their identity in such cases; they lie about their financial circumstances. So, again, I ask noble Lords who support the introduction of ID cards to give me the facts which show that in countries with ID cards there is less taxation fraud and less benefit fraud.

Lord Campbell-Savours: Perhaps I may put it to the noble Lord that, if the nature of the population of a particular country changes for whatever reason, his argument falls apart because one is not comparing like with like.

Lord Scriven: My Lords, I am comparing like with like, because those who argue that ID cards work are suggesting that somehow the problems that they have suggested will be reduced. The noble Lord next to me made it very clear that he did not believe that they would wipe out these problems, but I am asking for the evidence that shows that they will reduce them: that is all I am asking for. I accept that they will not wipe them out or get rid of them, but I wish to know whether there is scientific evidence in those countries that shows that these problems have been reduced—because if there is not, we do not have a problem and our system works in a comparable way to that of other nations.

The last thing I will say on this issue, because I do not have time to go into the civil liberties argument, is that it is really important for British civil liberties and freedom. Part of what makes us British—the British values that some go on about—is freedom, and the state not having overall control of our identity. In dealing with this issue—and particularly crime and terrorism, where recently this debate has come up most—we would be undermining the very British values of freedom and civil liberty, and the criminals and terrorists would have won, if we were forced to have compulsory ID cards.

4.20 pm

Viscount Simon (Lab): My Lords, a few days ago I listened to an interesting item that is a matter of concern to many people. So far in this debate, noble Lords have covered a number of subjects concerning identity cards. I will address just one problem. If somebody wishes to work with children or if they want to foster or adopt a child, there is a strict process

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that must to be completed, with a DBS certificate being issued. This involves the Disclosure and Barring Service—the DBS—which was previously the Criminal Records Bureau. A criminal record check is required for types of work known as “regulated activity with children”—and this covers people who do not even meet children frequently.

Having read a little about this matter, I have to say that I am astonished at the number of acts which are covered. An incredibly large number of people apply for a job for which the employer is required to request a DBS check and has to wait for a certificate. This is sent to the applicant, and the employer has to ask for visual confirmation of approval. The time it takes to complete the necessary check depends on the level of the check, the details provided by the applicant wanting to work with children and, finally, which police forces need to be involved in the check. Generally, it takes about eight weeks to get a DBS check. It must be remembered that a lot of people wanting to work with children are unemployed and might want to work as soon as possible.

However—this is why I am raising the matter—the current process that is meant to take eight weeks rarely achieves that, and there are those who are still waiting after three or four months. Why? The programme indicated that this delay was due to the number of applicants and to the police force involved, and it was said that there were approximately 120,000 people waiting in the Metropolitan Police area—which gives an idea of the number of people who want to work with children.

There has to be something that will overcome this problem. How about a special identification card for everybody to carry which can be updated when necessary, specifically for those who want to work with children? Would this not be an easy and cheap way out of these difficulties? It would be much cheaper than the current system.

4.23 pm

Lord Blair of Boughton (CB): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for introducing this debate. I take the view that ID cards are an idea whose time has come and I support exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said about an increasing number of people—a more and more rapidly increasing number of people—living a lot of their lives online and are quite prepared to give up information freely online. ID cards—state ID cards—are a natural extension of this process. My expertise, such as it is, is in security, and it will be on that aspect in the main that I will talk briefly.

False identities are an absolutely staple terrorist tactic. In answer to the questions from the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, in these troubled times it is not so much about the prevention of terrorism but its investigation. The police and the security services have an increasingly desperate concern in long-term inquiries, and sometimes in emergency inquiries, to establish the identity of individuals.

Lord Scriven: Is it not the case that, following the two major terrorist attacks in the UK, particularly the one in London, of the 99 recommendations given,

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quite a lot of those were about people already known and the security forces not acting on the data that they knew? It was not about a lack of data.

Lord Blair of Boughton: I am sure there were some recommendations like that, but perhaps when I have finished the noble Lord might see the opposite side of the coin.

It is this search for identity that lies behind the troubled development of the DNA database. The same reason lies behind the coming forward of the investigatory powers Bill and the question of ID cards.

I remind the House of two names: Kamel Bourgass and Manfo Asiedu. Bourgass was convicted in 2003 of the murder of Detective Constable Stephen Oake in Manchester. He was sentenced for that and other terrorist offences to 25 years in prison. Manfo Asiedu was the fifth bomber in the failed London attacks of 21 July 2005. He ran off across Wormwood Scrubs, throwing his device to the ground. He received 33 years’ imprisonment as a sentence. The things that connects these two men is that at the time of their conviction we did not know who they were. As far as I can accept, we still do not know who they are. We know that the names they have given are not their right names. This is simply absurd. The links that we might have been able to establish to other plots and other people had a system of ID cards been in place are pretty obvious.

I need to make one issue clear, and here I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham: nobody I know in the police or security services who has considered this seriously sees a need for people compulsorily to carry identity papers in the street. This is not a question of a police officer demanding papers from somebody walking down the road. However, in the case of serious crime and terrorism, the police need, as soon as possible, to establish identity. These days, it would not be difficult to create a system that would not be intrusive but would be of huge assistance in those inquiries.

As the Foreign Secretary said today, speaking about Jakarta, these are troubled times. These troubled times are on our very doorstep. I speak now to the Minister: I never understood why, as far back as the 2005 general election, the Conservative Party resisted the idea of ID cards. After Paris, after Istanbul, after Jakarta, I do not think the public will understand why the Conservative Party is still resisting the idea. It is an idea whose time has come.

4.28 pm

Lord Berkeley (Lab): My Lords, I want to focus on some of the issues that I have been investigating in my work to try to encourage more rail freight, passenger services and other traffic across the channel, the pretty disastrous camps that have been created in Calais and the pressure that is on many people who want to come to this country.

Before I do that, I would like to reflect on something. We have been talking about the different identification required for different events, including people going into buildings and so on. More and more, organisations require that but, on the other side, nobody is required to carry any ID at all. A couple of years ago, I was

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invited to go and visit Prince Charles in Clarence House to advise him on rail freight. I turned up on my bike and the security guard said, “Where’s your driving licence?”. I told him that I did not need a driving licence because I was on a bike—I did not have one anyway. “Where’s your passport?”, he said. I am afraid that I then said, “Are you a foreign country?”. I offered my House of Lords pass, but that was rejected out of hand. There needs to be some consistency. It is lovely being amateur like this but, given today’s problems, it is pretty ineffective.

I have talked to a lot of people about the problem in Calais. It is dramatically affecting cross-channel traffic, including businesses, passenger services, freight services, lorries, cars, trains and so on. It affects not only France but Germany, Italy and other countries.

As to what documentation people need to show the authorities, I agree with my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours that the Germans have got it right, for many reasons. They still have a terrible fear of what the Stasi did to them over 25 years ago and are keen to have data that do not leak everywhere. We should try to get all the different immigration and other services together and come up with a common approach which would allow you to go on a train from, say, Germany to London without getting off at Lille and wasting two hours while you have to go through security again. The fact that they cannot reach agreement means you have to go through this 19th century procedure.

One of the issues that arises in many discussions is: why do people want to come to this country? Clearly the Government do not want too many people here, unless they are going to be useful and work and so on, and so they are stuck in Calais. We have had many debates as to the reasons. Clearly one is that we speak English and, like most of the rest of the world, the country they come from probably speaks English as a second language. If they have family and friends here, one can understand why they want to come here.

The evidence I have gathered from talking to a lot of people is that one of the great attractions in getting here is that you can survive without any ID. You can work cashless. Whether that is in the restaurant or café trade, agriculture or anything else, there are a lot of places where you can get by without having to pay tax or declaring anything. You do not need any social security identification but you can probably still be treated in hospital if anything goes wrong. If you visit a hospital in France as an emergency, you will be treated. Otherwise you will have to show an ID, a passport, an insurance or something.

Having an identification requirement in this country—I am not expert but other noble Lords have provided good information about it—would reduce the pressure on us. We should not think that this problem will go away because, if the Calais situation is tightened up, which the Government are quite good at doing, all that will happen is that people will go round the coast, to the west and to the north, and choose other ways of getting in. As we saw in the press, one of the Paris bombers apparently came into this country and out again without being detected. So detection must be properly carried out.

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We need some form of identification in this country together with enforcement. I notice that there is a clause in the Immigration Bill that allows the Government to take away driving licences from people they do not like, but what else can they take away? It would be better if the system were co-ordinated because eventually the message would get back to people who are trying to come here that we are no better or more attractive than any other part of Europe. We hope that you will think carefully before trying to come to this country because you think you can work here on the cheap, without paying tax and without having any ID.

4.33 pm

Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for introducing this fabulous debate.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, the problem is that we do not have one clean, reliable identity database. Can any noble Lord, or anyone inside or outside the Chamber, tell me why we get so excited about DNA profiling? My DNA profile is a matter of fact: I cannot alter it; it will not change with my age; it is not a choice that I have made. One of its beauties is that it can be boiled down to 70 characters of 16 groups plus a gender marker. This could be put on to a computer database which can easily be searched.

To verify every citizen’s identity à la the old ID card system is an exceptionally time-consuming, intrusive and expensive process, which is why it was binned in a former Parliament. It is also a pointless exercise because most citizens are honest and have a driving licence that is reasonably accurate. We have similar problems with Criminal Records Bureau checks because essentially they are trying to establish identity. We could give every citizen access to the driving licence system, even if they do not have the ability to drive, and then put more effort into cleaning up the relevant database. I agree with much of what my noble friend Lord Marlesford said because the advantage of the driver number is that it is easily determined from one’s name and date of birth.

But I would go further. I would capture the DNA profile and fingerprints of every UK citizen and link them to what is currently the driver number. The DNA profile would be loaded into the national DNA database with its current very strict access controls. The fingerprint data would have broadly the same availability as the data collected for the biometric residence permit, with some facility for banks and building societies to verify a card. One’s DNA profile and fingerprints are both matters of fact, and of course there is no need to carry a card because authorities can test fingerprints with mobile equipment. Having a card is simply a convenience; it is about the underlying reliable identity system.

Much more sensitive, I think, is who a citizen has been communicating with and where in the UK he or she has been, a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. I will deal with some of the most obvious DNA worries. The first is genetics. My understanding is that the DNA profile does not have enough information in it to identify a genetic disorder or predisposition to a particular illness. In any case,

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my second point is that the national DNA database will check only if a profile from a crime scene matches a subject profile. It will not generally provide a subject profile to law enforcement authorities or anyone else, and there is no need to do so.

My third point is that an innocent British citizen abroad would be disadvantaged if he is matched to a crime scene profile because the local law enforcement agencies could become lazy and think that they have “got their man”. Actually, the current system has this weakness. Let us take as an example a 25 year-old British lad on holiday who had been involved in a punch-up in the UK five years previously. He would be in the same unfair situation. This would not happen if all UK citizens were on the database without any discrimination. In the event of a nasty incident with a crime scene DNA profile available, it would not be so remarkable if a Brit matched the crime scene profile.

Finally, there is the argument that central government are incapable of managing a big IT system. The fact is that the Home Office is successfully managing the DNA database. As I understand it, only around 40 officials can actually access it, and presumably there is only one normal point of access, while the records hardly ever need to be edited or updated because of their nature; they are matters of fact that do not change. That is rather different from other records such as health records. In my view, public and political opinion on the use of DNA profiling is governed by fear and misunderstanding rather than logic. We should give all citizens a reliable system of identity rather than go for an intrusive and bureaucratic process of trying to verify everyone’s ID.

4.39 pm

Lord Desai (Lab): My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours for introducing this debate. I always thought that it was a great pity that the last attempt by the Labour Government to have identity cards was abandoned on the grounds of research by, I am ashamed to say, the LSE that it would be too expensive. As noble Lords know, India has just instituted an almost universal identity card system called Aadhaar, which 900 million people have already got.

The Aadhaar card has been extremely useful for transactions with banks, claiming subsidies and accessing the welfare state, especially for very poor people who normally do not have proof of identity. The fact that they have very easily provable identity—I think because of the biometric data—has not only liberated a lot of people but reduced costs across both private and public transactions. If we are going to have this, could we ask the Indians to do it for us? They would probably do it for one-tenth of the price of anyone else and they are very good at it.

Let us not demand too much of such a card. First, having a universal identity card in everyone’s possession shows universality of membership of a community. It is very important that we are all part of the same community. Secondly, in relation to what the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, said, everything about me is known. It is not possible for me to have my individuality hidden and under just my control. As many noble Lords have pointed out, Walmart and Google know it. Recently I was writing a book and I was told that my

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book had to be more interesting because someone reading a book on a Kindle reads only four paragraphs at a time. Therefore, every fifth paragraph has to be exciting. Any time I use a phone or a Kindle, or do anything, somebody has mapped me. So I am not a free citizen.

We need first of all to make quite sure that our different numbers—our national health number, our national insurance number and so on—are co-ordinated. If we are to use a driver’s licence, people like me who do not drive will have to get one. We need some form of identity with a photograph and biometric identity information. It should be universal, and be able to be used for all bank transactions and any purchases, including bus travel and so on. If we do that, the saving in transaction costs would be enormous. The World Bank has admitted that just having these cards is saving India $1 billion per year, which is a great saving.

There will be terrorism anyway. In terms of separating people, those who have identity cards might be easier to map and those who do not have them definitely can be treated as suspects. The use of ID cards will not get rid of terrorism but it will ease our lives in many other ways, which is why we should do it.

4.43 pm

Lord Oates (LD): My Lords, I am pleased to speak in this debate. If ever I wondered about the need for a Liberal party, I do not wonder after hearing the comments today. I was proud to be part of the coalition Government in 2010 who repealed the Identity Cards Act 2006 and who ordered the destruction of the national identity database. I am also proud that my party has been consistent throughout its history in opposing national identity card schemes. Indeed, it was the only party that opposed from the outset the Labour Government’s attempts to impose identity cards in 2004. I am also pleased to follow my noble friend Lord Scriven in opposing the suggestion again today.

There are many reasons, both of principle and practicality, why a national identity card scheme is a very bad idea. The most important issue of principle is that it would fundamentally alter the relationship between the state and its citizens. It violates the fundamental traditions of Britain that have kept our liberties safe.

We need to be really clear about what a national ID card system, with a national ID card database, actually means. For the first time in our peacetime history, the state would have the power to demand information from every person in the land, not in order for them to travel or gain an internationally recognised travel document—a passport—or to prove that they have complied with the driving test, or even to gain access to a public service, but simply because they exist. For the first time in peacetime, every person in this country would be compelled to attend a designated place, to be fingerprinted and to have their biometric data taken from them. On every occasion that a citizen moved house the state would have the right to know. More than that, every citizen would be under a duty to inform the state, and a penalty of severe fines, if they moved their premises.

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An ID scheme is being discussed here as if it is just some administrative system. It is a fundamental departure from the way we operate in this country. I can think of no other common-law country in the world that operates a national identity scheme—none. Indeed, we have heard comments from noble Lords telling us how popular a national identity system would be. I wonder about that, because there are two common-law countries that thought about introducing such a system: Australia and New Zealand. They backtracked pretty rapidly because as soon as the public actually knew what it meant they changed their views on it rather quickly. Indeed, I can think of no other democracy in the world that operates a national ID scheme that does not offer its citizens the protection of a written constitution and a Bill of Rights.

Lord Desai: Does the noble Lord not think that India is a democracy? Does it not have a written constitution? It has an identity card: 900 million people have such cards.

Lord Oates: I absolutely believe in a written constitution.

Lord Desai: But does the noble Lord not believe that India is a democracy? He said that no democracy has it, but India is a democracy.

Lord Oates: India has a written constitution. I said that no democracy in the world operates a national identity system that does not have and does not afford its citizens the protection of a written constitution, which India does, and a Bill of Rights, which India also does. The noble Lord makes my point rather clearly.

I will rapidly wind up my comments, but I want to address a couple of specific things. The noble Lord, Lord Blair, told the House about circumstances in which the police and the security services did not, and still do not, have information about who somebody actually is. He also said that the police would not need to stop people and demand papers from them, but in those circumstances it is not clear to me how he could be absolutely sure that the people he refers to would have had documents. If the police are not checking for them, it would certainly be possible for people to avoid that.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, had a lot of faith in biometric data, but as we have heard evidenced, 10% of French biometric passports have been found to be forged. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, spoke about illegal workers and tax evasion, but as we know, places such as Italy, France and other countries with ID cards still have to deal with those problems.

A national identity card system would not protect us from terrorism, or stop illegal immigration or illegal workers. But above all, it would violate the fundamental principle that, in this country, it is the state that accounts to the people; it is not the people who have to account to the state.

4.50 pm

Lord Hughes of Woodside (Lab): My Lords, I join those who have congratulated my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours on initiating this important debate and, indeed, on his powerful speech.

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I am one of the dwindling number in your Lordships’ House who carried my identity card during the war when I went to school. I had no problem with that: indeed, I was rather proud to have an identity card. Now, of course, the argument is made that that was wartime. Make no mistake, we are currently in a de facto war situation. Call it ISIS, call it Daesh, call it what you will, but the growing number of terrorist groups means that we are at war. In these circumstances, we have to use every instrument we can to try to protect ourselves.

The noble Lords, Lord Scriven and Lord Oates, have elevated the carrying of identity cards to some great principle and say that it is quite wrong that the state should be involved. They have argued that identity cards do no good at all. No one in this House has argued that the use of identity cards is a silver bullet and will solve the problems we are experiencing—of course, they will not. However, they are a necessary tool which I believe must be used.

The second argument is the civil liberties one. Again, the noble Lords, Lord Scriven and Lord Oates—perhaps according to the script—promote that argument. Civil liberties are not absolute; they cannot be absolute. No organised state can operate on the basis of vanity. The noble Lords say that the state does not demand this and does not demand that. How far do they take that argument? Are they saying, for example, that it is wrong for the state to say that, if someone wants to drive, they must have a driving licence? Is that the case? No, of course not. That is the trouble with taking things to ridiculous extremes. To say that identity cards pose all sorts of challenges is quite mistaken. It is the duty of a state to protect civil liberties. Indeed, I would be the last to allow the state to infringe my civil liberties. However, civil libertarians have a right and a duty to defend and nurture the state and the society which make those civil liberties available. That is where I part company with the Liberal Democrats in particular as they do not recognise that those of us who are involved in society in this country have a right to defend ourselves and, indeed, to make things better.

Of course, there are many different identity schemes around. For example, I carry a driving licence, as do many people. I also carry a bank card, two supermarket loyalty cards and my Automobile Association membership. I say “Automobile Association membership” in case saying AA membership is misunderstood. I also carry my Labour Party membership card and an organ donor card. People ask why it is necessary to carry anything else. It is vital that we understand that although these different cards cover a broad spectrum, it could be argued that the cards I carry are perfect cover for someone who is up to no good. It just depends how you look at it.

We have to understand that all cards currently in use are vulnerable to one extent or the other. Of course, the use of biometric passports is improving the situation. However, the fact is that there is concern about cards being used in counterfeiting. In the dangerous world in which we live, it is necessary to defend ourselves and at the same time protect our civil liberties. A discussion about identity cards is valuable. Today’s debate will not solve everything but I hope that it will reignite the campaign to introduce identity cards.

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4.55 pm

The Earl of Erroll (CB): My Lords, I want to look at this from a practical point of view. Will the ID cards or a national database work? The first thing I want to know is what is it for? People think that it will help with payments and with fraud but what I want to know is that someone has paid their bill, I do not really need to know who they are. With travel and passports, is this a great reliable thing with the Government issuing it? In 2007, it was admitted that there were 10,000 fraudulently obtained but real passports issued by the Passport Office, because even it cannot protect against everything.

In terms of access, we have House of Lords passes to get in here; we do not really need an ID card especially for that. On medical and NHS matters, we have a number for that. Could it be amalgamated with something else? The problem is that expatriates go abroad; that is why there are more NHS numbers than we have people. All those expatriates can come back here at any point and demand services.

You might want to prove your qualifications; you have a driving licence for that. I suppose you could try to amalgamate things into one card but would you have to change the card every time you got a different qualification? Actually, everything is online now—all they do is look you up. You are not even going to have the paper part any more that says what your speeding offences are and so on.

The other thing such a document could be for is collecting tax, with the NINO, or the national insurance number—but, “Oh, there are far too many of those”. Foreigners working here receive entitlements by paying in and if they come back here to work later on, they are entitled to benefits. If they come and retire here they are entitled to their past history. We have lots of people on the system who may come back. It is not one-to-one so we should not want it linked to ID cards.

So the ID card is going to identify the bad guys—great. Will it work? Does it say “terrorist” or “crook” on it? What does the CRB check, as it used to be called, tell you? What it says is that you have not been caught yet. This is the trouble with these things. The 2004 Madrid bombers, for instance, were stopped by the police, who had no idea that they were terrorists and let them go. Does a card tell you where the bail-jumper is? It does not have a special tracking device on it to tell you who is a bail-jumper; it does not do anything like that.

I point out that 35 million tourists come to this country every year, for eight days each on average—that is just the tourists; there are also all the businesspeople. That is an awful lot of foreign identity documents, issued by all sorts of places which I do not think I had better name; let us call them Ruritania in general, although I can tell you that an awful lot are issued by states that have no interest in helping us whatsoever. How do you check that a document belongs to a particular person, otherwise it is just a flash-and-go card; you look at the picture and maybe it looks sufficiently like the person: “You’ve grown a beard, okay, I won’t worry”? There are portable biometric readers but the trouble with biometrics is that they change with age; even DNA can change a bit but I do not know enough about it to know whether all or just

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a critical bit changes. What I do know is that, within the limited accuracy of laboratory test results—because they are always reduced to a set number of points that can be compared electronically—you will find that you have duplicate thumb or finger-prints, which, visually, you might be able to see are different. It is the same thing with a portion of DNA; usually it is said to be a one-in-6-million match. That means that, with that level of accuracy in the testing, there are 10 people in the UK with the same DNA as you. Given that most of the population are in the south-east, it means that quite a few of them are close to where you are. So, by coincidence, quite a few people could be stopped who might be mistaken for you.

Another big problem is false negatives. You stick your cash card into the wall to take out some money and you stick your ID card in alongside, you put your thumb on the reader and it then says you are not you. But you have a bill to pay or you have to pay a chap who is trying to do you for dropping litter on the ground—with all these new police powers or local authority powers we are getting. You cannot take out the money so you have to spend the night in jail because it has said that you are not you. The false negatives are very difficult; the moment you try to eliminate them, you lessen your biometric uniqueness. You have to blur it a bit more, because there are huge problems around that.

What I really worry about, which has been mentioned already, is the Gestapo/Stasi issue. Whenever the state has had a huge amount of knowledge about us, it has used it for its own ends. I will mention that at the very end.

It also helps fraud if you have a single number. The US experience of having a single tax number to link all your details makes it much easier. If you can get that off someone plus a couple of other bits, you get everything on them. It is much easier to impersonate them there. Here, it is much harder to get everything and there is therefore friction between the different silos, when something does not quite match if you catch the crooks. They have half your information but not all of it. Of course, if we link up all the databases it will be a magnet for the crooks and spies. The first thing I would do as a foreign agency would be to have someone in there to get the details so that I could put in implants, create identities and so on. It will only give us a false sense of security.

You can actually get a good feel for how someone is by building up a profile of what they do online. Their digital footprint is probably much more critical nowadays. With online feedback and references, you can discover whether people are good or bad by other people in the community telling you whether they are all right. That is how we do things in real life: we get references about people.

To finish off, I recommend a very good miniseries of “Doctor Zhivago” that was done in 2002. Interestingly, it was nothing like the old David Lean romance but all about how a powerful apparatchik with access to information can control a family for his own nefarious ends. We should just be careful that we do not end up with a J Edgar Hoover in the UK starting to control things because he has access to the databases. I am not

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entirely paranoid but, just because I am, it does not mean to say that they are not out to get me. Another thing I do not want to see is cordon and search to trawl for illegal immigrants or bail-jumpers, for example—how else are these people to be found?—because of the ID card. All I can say is that if you are eating your dinner and the waiters at your great occasion have all been hauled off for checking but did not have the right ID cards, you are going to be pretty cross.

5.01 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, first, I add my thanks to those expressed already by so many others to my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours for securing this debate. It provided us with a real trip down memory lane to be reminded by my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey of an early episode of “Fawlty Towers” and then to be fascinated by hearing about his favourite places.