Identity Documents Bill
Baroness Neville-Jones (Conservative)
Two separate issues seem to have been debated under this amendment. The first was whether one needs the extraordinary amount of information that would have been contained on the national identity register as a means of establishing ID cards, and whether that is the kind of thing that we want to see reintroduced, which I certainly do not believe to be the case. The second issue, which is the proper intention of the amendment, is about ensuring that information retained by the Government is properly governed and accountable. On that second point, I share absolutely the preoccupations of those who have proposed the amendment, but I have reservations about the method that they have chosen to achieve the end. In effect, the amendment establishes a new individual-some sort of passport commissioner-who would have the job of overseeing how the data were used and retained by the IPS. That would also be the case in connection with information received by third parties for the validation of passport applications.
In our view, the Information Commissioner has significant powers, and we would regard them as sufficient to examine and consider or scrutinise any of the data processed within the IPS. I think that the noble Lord has had a conversation with the Information Commissioner to that effect. My impression of the Information Commissioner is that he takes a considerable interest in the operation of the Act and has powers to serve the IPS with a notice to allow him, or his staff, to find out whether the IPS is complying with the Data Protection Act, which is the governing Act here. He is able to oblige the IPS to allow himself or his staff to enter any premises and to show any of the specified documents or to see any of the information of the specified descriptions that he wishes to inspect.
Those are very considerable powers. I share the preoccupation of the House in ensuring that Government retain information for the purposes only for which it is genuinely needed and they are governed in ways which ensure that that is the case-that it is not used for purposes for which it was not specified and for which the Government are not entitled to use it. It is important for us to ensure that this is the case, and to talk to the Information Commissioner to ensure that he is able and willing to exercise his powers in this way, which I believe to be the case. I ask the noble Lord if on that basis, and with an assurance from the Government that we will take the intent of this amendment seriously, he is willing to withdraw his amendment?