My Lords, the current best estimate of the average annual operating costs of issuing biometric passports and ID cards to UK nationals and operating identity verification services is £584 million, which was published on
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply. However, if someone of my age does not want to renew a passport but does want a card, how much will it cost, and how will the shortfall between what everyone is paying and the total cost of the cards—£584 million as of last Wednesday—be covered?
My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity to answer the noble Lord's Question, as I will the next Question—just to reassure noble Lords that I will be here for a while.
The figure, as I said, will be made up primarily—70 per cent—from biometric passports. Concessions for age or lack of ability to pay will be considered nearer the time.
My Lords, does the Minister understand why someone such as me, who is fully in support of having foolproof biometric identity cards for the 50 million-plus people in this country, has absolutely no confidence in the capability of the Home Office to introduce it? That is for the simple reason that, after the seven years since Parliament required it, the Home Office has not even succeeded in introducing the electronic register of firearm certificates for a few hundred thousand people.
My Lords, I know why the noble Lord has a particular anxiety in that regard, but I reassure him that the Passport Office, in its new form, will be responsible for dealing with identity cards. It has an exemplary record. It produces and delivers a very high quality service. I hear noble Lords opposite saying that they do not believe it, but I invite them to remember that the Passport Office is the only organisation that has now received two international awards for its superb service.
My Lords, I wholeheartedly thank the noble Viscount for that most helpful and erudite intervention.
Will the Minister thank the Home Secretary, who has confirmed that the introduction of ID cards would have done nothing to stop the terrorist attack last week in London? However, has she had an opportunity to revisit and reconsider the London School of Economics report on the costing of ID cards? Will she now confirm that the estimate given by the LSE is correct? If those estimates were converted into police officer appointments, how many new police officers could we employ?
My Lords, we do not accept the LSE figures; we have had the opportunity to consider them. Our figures are robust and are based on our data from operations that have been undertaken before. A number of the premises on which the LSE appears to have founded its assessment appear to be flawed. I will make a full response in due course, but that is certainly our initial view.
I can also confirm that we do not suggest that ID cards of themselves would have stopped what happened so terribly on the 7th. What we say—and it is confirmed by our colleagues in Madrid and elsewhere—is that identity cards are a very valuable tool and can certainly assist us in relation to false identity. I remind the House that we do not yet know whether false identity played a part in that most disgraceful incident.
My Lords, I am aware that the figure is high. In fact, the preliminary findings of a Taylor Nelson Sofres survey were published on
My Lords, as citizens of the Republic of Ireland have freedom of access into the United Kingdom and freedom of movement within it, can the Minister comment on press reports that Her Majesty's Government are now in discussions with the Dublin Government to have ID cards introduced into the Republic of Ireland as well?
My Lords, I cannot comment on that. I hear what the noble Lord says. If there is information about it, I am afraid that I do not have it.