Identity Cards Bill
Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Shadow Minister, Home Affairs; Conservative)
My Lords, I strongly support my noble friend's amendment, to which I have added my name. The Constitution Committee's third report made a clear recommendation that the commissioner should be able to report directly to Parliament. The amendment would achieve that objective, while also ensuring that a filtering mechanism would enable material to be excluded from the public report where there was a good reason to believe it would be prejudicial to national security or to the prevention or detection of crime. Despite the fact that the commissioner is appointed by the Secretary of State—although, fortunately, if the Government accept the decision of the House, he will be appointed by the Crown—we believe that he is carrying out a public function for which he should be accountable directly to Parliament.
As we have remarked in the past, the Bill's provisions mark a completely new departure in the relationship between the state and the individual. Parliament has a vital role to play in the system of accountability for the oversight of the operation of the scheme. Amendments Nos. 85 and 85A broaden the commissioner's powers by ensuring that that reporting takes place directly to Parliament. They provide a filtering system; we believe that the way in which a filter is provided to ensure that sensitive information is not included in the report that goes to Parliament fully meets the arguments put by the Minister when we debated these matters in Committee. I hope that the Government are now able to accept the amendments.