Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary 3:31 pm, 28th June 2005

I do not agree with the Information Commissioner, and I shall begin my remarks by explaining exactly why.

We live in a society where information is held about all of us—everyone in this House and everyone in this country—on a scale unfamiliar to our predecessors even as recently as 10 years ago. A vast range of information exists in our society today, including information on the internet that one can access simply by typing in a name, financial and bank details, health and medical information, police and law enforcement-related material, travel-related documentation and information about a person's telephone communications, driving licence, national insurance and tax. That range of information cannot be uninvented, nor can the globalised world in which crime is international but impacts on every community. Those are the realities with which we have to live.

We must address only two questions in considering how we deal with this so-called Big Brother society. First, in relation to each category of information that I have just set out, what protections currently exist for authorities to access data, for the right to see data, and for the right to use a service, whether it is a cash machine or a passport? In each of those areas there is a specific legal framework that regulates the information that exists about all of us. The first point that I want to make very strongly indeed is that nothing in the Bill changes any of those protections for any of those categories of data. There are issues about each of those categories of data that people can legitimately discuss and consider, but this Bill is not about those questions.

The second question is, can we verify that the information that exists about an individual is indeed about that individual? That is where identity cards come in and where the Bill is relevant. We need to protect our society in this globalised world, for the simple reason that, in many cases, identity can be stolen, whether it is a fraudster getting money from a bank account, a people trafficker providing false documents for a trafficked person, or a smuggler pretending to be their own father to deal with data. Such identity can be stolen. In other cases, complicated processes are now needed to check identity because it is not secure—there are examples as simple as opening a bank account, getting a pass from the Criminal Records Bureau or getting a passport or driving licence.