New Clause 3 — Disclosure from the Register: Unlawful Activities

Identity Cards Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:59 pm on 10th February 2005.

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'(1) This section shall have effect in relation to any disclosure from the Register which is authorised by provisions in sections 19 to 23.

(2) It shall be unlawful for any person who obtains information about an individual from the Register to retain copies of that information for the purpose of duplicating the Register or part of the Register.

(3) It shall be unlawful for any person who obtains information about a particular individual from the Register to disclose that information about that individual to another public authority unless an entry relating to that disclosure is recorded in the Register for that individual.

(4) It shall be unlawful for any person who obtains information about a particular individual from the Register to disclose that information about that individual to another person for his (the second person's) purpose where the other person is not authorised to obtain that information directly from the Register.

(5) The term "connected with" shall not be construed as meaning that the connection with a particular event is remote or unlikely, but to the contrary, that the connection with an event is significant or that failure to obtain the information from the Register could prejudice an investigation into that event.

(6) The phrase "in the interests of national security" shall be construed as meaning that failure to obtain the information from the Register would cause prejudice to the objective of safeguarding national security.

(7) Any person who obtains information from the Register shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that any obtaining, use or disclosure of the information is consistent with the requirements of the Human Rights Act 1998 (c. 42).'.—[Patrick Mercer.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Shadow Minister (Homeland Security), Home Affairs

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 6—The Register and CCTV Systems—

'Use of the National Identity Register in conjunction with CCTV systems shall be considered to be directed surveillance for the purposes of Part 2 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (c. 23).'.

Government amendment No. 53.

Amendment No. 46, in clause 22, page 19, line 43, after 'information', insert

'not falling within paragraph 9 of Schedule 1'.

Government amendments Nos. 54 and 55.

Amendment No. 47, in clause 22, page 20, line 1, after 'person', insert 'in the United Kingdom'.

Amendment No. 30, in clause 23, page 20, line 13, leave out 'reasonably practicable' and insert 'possible'.

Amendment No. 32, in clause 23, page 20, line 26, leave out from 'person' to end of line 28.

Amendment No. 31, in clause 23, page 20, line 47, at end insert—

'(6) The Secretary of State must not make any regulations under this section unless a draft of such regulations has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House.'.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Shadow Minister (Homeland Security), Home Affairs

I am conscious that we have a lot to get through in a very short space of time. Certainly, Conservative Members feel that we did not have enough time to cover as many clauses as we would have liked in Committee, where we constantly ran out of time, although I hope that I spoke with great brevity. I will try to do so again today, so that Members who are interested in speaking to their amendments in the available 15 minutes or so will have the opportunity to take part in the debate.

I will speak briefly to new clause 3, as well as amendments Nos. 30 to 32. It is designed to address the issue of disclosure from the register in terms of unlawful activities. First and foremost, I am extremely concerned about the wide powers in clause 19(1), which, to remind the House, says:

"The Secretary of State may, without the individual's consent, provide a person with information recorded in an individual's entry in the Register if . . . the provision of the information is authorised by this section; and . . . there is compliance with any requirements imposed by or under section 23 in relation to the provision of the information."

I am concerned about such wide powers to disclose information held on the register without the consent of registered individuals. The range of eligible authorities under clause 19(2)—the director general of the Security Service, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, the director of the Government Communications Headquarters and the director general of the Serious Organised Crime Agency—means that far too wide a register of individuals can be concerned with this. Moreover, the test on what information can be disclosed to such bodies—in other words, "for purposes connected with"—is insufficient. That is why new clause 3 would provide that the

"term 'connected with' shall not be construed as meaning that the connection with a particular event is remote or unlikely, but to the contrary, that the connection with an event is significant or that failure to obtain the information from the Register could prejudice an investigation into that event."

Similarly, the authorisation to disclose information that does not fall within paragraph 9 of schedule 1 to a chief officer of police for the prevention and detection of crime under clause 19(4) is far too wide. I shall not bore hon. Members by talking about that in great detail except to underline that subsection (4) specifies

"in the interests of national security".

New clause 3 tries to redefine that by stating:

"The phrase 'in the interests of national security' shall be construed as meaning that failure to obtain the information from the Register would cause prejudice to the objective of safeguarding national security."

I am concerned that the police could conceivably have information routinely disclosed through the powers of the clause. I also view the disclosure of information that does not fall within paragraph 9 of schedule 1 to a prescribed Department

"for purposes connected with the carrying out of any prescribed functions of that department or of a Minister in charge of it" in clause 19(5) as not tight enough. The provisions need to be much more clearly focused and new clause 3 achieves that.

I am worried about the powers of disclosure in clause 21(2), which would allow disclosure to a person who provides "inaccurate or incomplete information" of the discrepancies between it and the information recorded on the register. Regardless of whether the person who provides the information is an individual who represents himself or herself to an organisation for entitlement or an organisation that requests information to check against what an individual provides, disclosing the discrepancies would be most unwise.

The seventh data protection principle requires data controllers to take appropriate technical and organisational measures against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss, destruction or damage to personal data. Given the importance of the national register and its security and the number of linking organisations, that will be tremendously difficult and technical. Above all, the managerial task, which includes staff vetting, and dealing with the rules and different cultures across the many organisations, will be difficult. To ensure that the principle is met, there should be clear information for users about how their data will be used, processed and transferred. We need unambiguous consent—that is essential—and I believe that new clause 3 would cover that.

I am concerned about the extended powers of disclosure without consent in clause 22. Previous clauses provide an extensive list of personnel, some of whom we have covered, who may get access to an individual's information. However, clause 22 provides the Home Secretary with an opportunity to add people and purposes by order. Again, it is far too slackly defined and bestows far too much power.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham 4:15 pm, 10th February 2005

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important in highlighting to the public the scope and dangers of the Bill that we should underline what secondary legislation means? As my hon. Friend well knows, it means that, subsequently, the Government will set up delegated legislation Committees to sit upstairs and consider proposed extensions of power for an hour and a half at most. The Government are contemplating that, and they hope that the public will either not notice or understand and cannot therefore complain.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Shadow Minister (Homeland Security), Home Affairs

As usual, my hon. Friend makes a clear and unambiguous point, which we are trying to achieve in new clause 3. We made that point consistently in Committee. I hope that the Government have listened, but I take my hon. Friend's point. If we try to tighten the clause and explain it in unambiguous language, we will get some way towards tackling my hon. Friend's point.

I shall speak briefly to amendments Nos. 30, 31 and 32, which deal with the rules for using information without an individual's consent. Amendment No. 30 would substitute the word "possible" for "reasonably practicable" in clause 23(1). Amendment No. 32 would delete clause 23(3)(c), and amendment No. 31 would add to the clause the sentence:

"The Secretary of State must not make any regulations under this section unless a draft of such regulations has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House."

That addresses the point that my hon. Friend Mr. Bercow has just made.

New clause 3 and our other amendments in this group would considerably clarify what is going on, and considerably narrow the scope of the provisions, making them much less likely to be abused.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

I rise to speak to new clause 6 and amendments Nos. 46 and 47. I shall deal with the amendments briefly, because Government amendments Nos. 54 and 55 seem to deal with the issues involved, which came out of our considerations in Committee. Amendment No. 46 identifies a particular kind of data that Committee veterans will know as "schedule 1, paragraph 9 data". These are the audit data, the trial of information on every time the national identity database has been checked. Significant invasions of privacy could occur as a result of its use, because it could be shown that someone had accessed a public service in a particular place, or been abroad at a certain time, for example. The gathering of this kind of data is most intrusive, and I am pleased that amendment No. 54 seems to accept that it should not be available to be given out under the powers in clause 22.

Amendment No. 47 was important. I asked the Minister in Committee whether he could introduce an order under clause 22 to allow the FBI, Europol or any other external, foreign agency access to the entirety of our national identity database without our consent. He replied in his usual forthright manner that, yes, the existing wording would allow that. I hope that he will now confirm that amendment No. 55—which changes the word "person" to "public authority"—will achieve what we were trying to achieve, namely, that the authority in question would have to be a UK public authority. People are interested to know who will be using the national identity register database, and their legitimate concerns are motivated not by xenophobia but by an interest in whether the bodies that will have access to the data will be accountable under the British constitution and jurisdiction, or whether the provision will extend to external bodies. I hope that the Minister will be able to clarify what is meant by "public authority".

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

I can give the hon. Gentleman the reassurance that he seeks. If I have a chance later, I will expand on that, but I can give him that reassurance now.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

I am grateful to the Minister.

New clause 6 merits a much longer debate, but I shall spend just a few minutes on it now. It springs from a question that arose in my mind as I was reading Jane's Police Review—my normal bedtime reading—which is a police product review that describes the products that are available to the police. It talks about the use of biometric technology in combination with technology such as closed-circuit TV cameras. This country has more CCTV cameras per head of population than anywhere else. There are 4 million of them out there, and they have their uses. However, one use to which they had not been able to be put, because the technology was not there, was the real-time monitoring of people as they go round the streets. They are used for evidence gathering and deterrence, but if we were to move to such monitoring, it would be a significant change.

Tim Lott writes in the Evening Standard tonight:

"For most of us, liberty is a feeling rather than the difference between jail and freedom—but it is a feeling I value tremendously. The idea of being able to go about my private business without being stopped by a policeman, or observed by a secret camera, strikes me as something many of us so take for granted that we can't imagine what it would be like to lose it."

That is at the heart of this issue: the idea that we could be monitored everywhere we went changes the feeling that we have as we go about our business. We are trying to test that in our proposals, and to understand whether the protections that Parliament has rightly put in place—including the legal safeguards under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which establish who authorises any surveillance, what suspicion has to be shown and what thresholds apply—will apply under the new regime if the Government have their way. Questioning that is justified. Jane's Police Review provides some lovely quotes—for example:

"The co-ordinated national use of intelligent tracking systems . . . which can piggyback onto the CCTV network is viewed within the service as something of a holy grail."

I accept that it may be a holy grail for law enforcement purposes, but it is not necessarily a holy grail for privacy. Throughout this debate, we have tried to argue that law enforcement measures are necessary, but they must always be necessary and proportionate in respect of the invasion of privacy that takes place. It is a delicate balance to strike, and we are trying to establish whether it has gone too far.

Photo of Mr Bill Tynan Mr Bill Tynan Labour, Hamilton South

If one of the hon. Gentleman's or my constituents were attacked by a group of youths, and were they to find themselves recorded on CCTV cameras, is he saying that we should not use that for identification, along with national identity cards?

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

The hon. Gentleman has described the kind of circumstances in which, under normal policing procedures, it would be acceptable. I am not seeking to rule out the use of the technology where appropriate; I am trying to establish the bounds of that technology. What would be inappropriate, for example, would be people outside the police service who monitor CCTV cameras having access to the database to monitor everybody going past. There would be temptations for people to seek to abuse that. What I am trying to do, and what the amendment specifically tries to do, is to ask: will the strict legal safeguards that would be in place were the police doing it be applied universally? If the hon. Gentleman is in favour of the cards, as I believe that he is, he needs to assure his constituents that they will be used for the purposes that he intends, and not abused.

Photo of Frank Roy Frank Roy Labour, Motherwell and Wishaw

On the question of priority, would the hon. Gentleman's priority be the privacy of someone walking the streets or the fact that CCTV cameras would enable them to walk the streets safely?

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

The hon. Gentleman has highlighted the balance that we must always strike. We want both, and the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. A clear principle is established in the Human Rights Act 1998, which he and his Government support, whereby breaches of privacy can take place if they are necessary and proportionate to that which we are seeking achieve. Throughout discussion of the Bill, we have tried to establish where that boundary is. It is possible to have a complete surveillance state. It is possible for CCTV cameras to scan everybody, with a record of where everybody in the country is at any particular moment. The technology will enable that. The decision for us is whether the benefit of being able to catch additional criminals outweighs the potential loss of privacy and freedom. We are approaching that debate with an open mind, and we are seeking to establish those boundaries in the new clause.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

With an eye to the clock, I want to assure the hon. Gentleman that my view is that the proper interpretation of the Bill, should it become an Act, in relation to its specific purposes and the issue of proportionality, would rule out the very use of CCTV cameras and such images that he fears. They could not be used under the Act in the way that he fears, whereas they could be used in the way that my hon. Friend Mr. Tynan suggests, as he agrees that they should be.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that is precisely the kind of issue that we should have discussed in full, so that we would understand the answers? Those of us who are in favour of identity cards now find ourselves progressively wanting to vote against the Bill, simply because we have not had the time to discuss these issues, and our constituents deserve an answer to those questions.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

I encourage the right hon. Gentleman to continue progressing towards wanting to vote against this Bill. He is right in saying that, as that is precisely what we have found. As we have explored these issues, we have found more and more implications that have not necessarily been considered. We are asking people to buy into this scheme with their own money—for a family to take part in the scheme, they will have to put their hands in their pockets and pay several hundred pounds. With all the promises made, we do not really understand the full implications. That is what we have been trying to tease out, and we still do not have all the answers. The Minister has given some kind of assurance.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

I suspect that the hon. Gentleman will agree that we welcome what the Minister has said, but is this a Pepper v. Hart situation? The Minister, who commands considerable respect in all parts of the House, has said something helpful, but I am not sure that what he has said is in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

It would be useful to have a further 20 minutes to discuss this issue of fundamental importance, about which a number of us feel strongly. Instead, we have 20 seconds, which I will give to the Minister to allow him to do his best or worst.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

I feel that I must speak to the Government amendments, which are responsive to issues raised in Committee. When clause 22 was debated, I undertook further to consider some of the issues and I have proposed three Government amendments, two of which would make amendment No. 47, tabled by Mr. Allan, redundant. Government amendments Nos. 53 and 55 restrict the bodies to whom information can be provided without consent to public authorities, as defined in section 6 of the Human Rights Act—

It being half-past Four o'clock Madam Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [this day].

New clause 3 disagreed to.

It being after half-past Four o'clock, Madam Deputy Speaker put the remaining Questions required to be put at that hour.