Identity Cards Bill

– in the House of Lords at 3:05 pm on 15 November 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [The National Identity Register]:

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers)

moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 3, after "State" insert "to review annually—

(a) whether the costs and measures needed to establish an identity card scheme are proportionate to the benefits such a system would bring;

(b) whether his department, or any agency or person instructed by him, has the technical capacity to devise and deliver an identity card scheme that meets the criteria of being—

(i) fully secure;

(ii) fully accurate;

(iii) fully reliable;

(iv) affordable in the light of other charges to public funds;

(v) sustainable in the light of anticipated technological developments; and

(c) whether, if in his view it meets the criteria set out in paragraph (b), it is the most effective means of achieving the purpose set out in subsection (4), and, having conducted that review, to lay an annual report before Parliament, explaining the reasons for his conclusions, before incurring any additional public expenditure or issuing any new order under this Act.

(1A) The Secretary of State must have regard at all times to any resolution of, or any consideration by, each House of Parliament in relation to his report under subsection (1).

(1B) Having regard to subsections (1) and (1A), it shall be the responsibility of the Secretary of State"

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers)

In moving Amendment No. 1, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 10 and 12. At last, we have the opportunity—our first in this House—to debate in detail the Bill which adjusts the fundamental relationship between the individual and the state.

The bedrock of this Government's plans for ID cards is the construction and maintenance of the national identity register. So we have tabled amendments to give the Government the opportunity to answer a diverse number of questions about the operation of that register. Examples of the issues raised are as follows. Who should be given the opportunity and duty to maintain the register? Why have the Government chosen this particular model of ID card? What will the purposes of the register be and what will the Government's priorities be in determining them? How will individual citizens be able easily and freely to verify the information held on them? How will the Government ensure the security of information on the register? In addition, of course, they will need to justify the inclusion of certain data on the register, and we will need to question the manner in which the register is maintained.

I have listed but a few of the issues raised in Clause 1 before we have the delight of going on to later clauses. I outline those issues because I appreciate that Members of the Committee will have seen that a large number of amendments has been tabled. Throughout, instead of just seeking to leave out a particular subsection, I have tried to write in what I am challenging the Government to explain. I appreciate that if I did not do so it would be particularly difficult for those who work so hard on the Back Benches to work out what on earth I am trying to get at. Of course, the Minister has the advantage of professional civil servants behind her, who can plot my every move and thought.

I now turn to the issue in my first group of amendments. These are probing amendments, and I say that to reassure the noble Baroness's friends on the Benches behind her. They are probing not least because, as I speak, the Home Secretary is addressing a meeting of Conservative Peers within the House to explain to them his proposals on the Terrorism Bill. In those circumstances, I feel that it would be most inappropriate to table anything other than a series of probing amendments.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way and for the constructive way in which she is approaching the Bill. Can I ask her to confirm that it is the Opposition's view that the Bill should be dealt with constructively clause by clause and that no attempt should be made to undermine or torpedo something that was in the Government's manifesto at the last election?

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers)

The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, has done me a great favour in referring to the manifesto. On these Benches, we recognise the Salisbury convention—we live with it and work with it. We also saw the precise wording of the Labour Party manifesto. In another place, the noble Lord's previous colleague, Mr Neil Gerrard, a Labour Member of Parliament, also read those words carefully. He brought forward a vital element for constructive debate and I hope we shall be able to achieve resolution on that point, and on others, during the course of our very constructive proceedings.

I shall return to my first group of amendments. After three minutes, noble Lords will be glad that we have got that far. The amendments ask the Government to set out their reasons for believing that the scheme is technically deliverable in a way that can be guaranteed to be fully accurate, secure, reliable, affordable in the light of other public spending requirements and sustainable into the future. Amendment No. 1 requires the Government to review the efficacy of the scheme annually—I shall deal with efficiency later—and to set out whether the costs and measures that they have used to establish the scheme are proportionate to the alleged benefits that the Government say will be enjoyed. It also requires the Government to set out annually the reasons why their objectives could not more effectively be achieved by other means. We believe that the amendment will act as a continual duty on the Government to be accountable to Parliament for the operation of the scheme.

Do the Government agree with the Home Affairs Select Committee of another place when it concluded in paragraph 197 of its report published in July 2004 that,

"The type of card to be used is a decision of the same order of importance as the architecture of the database, since it has consequences for issues such as how the card will be used and the number of readers and the infrastructure needed"?

The Select Committee of another place also observed that some of the Government's choices, such as the nature of the chip, follow on from the decision to use the passport as the basis for an ID card rather than any independent assessment of what will be the most appropriate for an ID card itself. It was concerned that the Home Office has taken key decisions without any external reference, technical assessment or public debate. How will the Government seek to avoid the problems of other major procurement projects by reflecting those different requirements in the design from an early stage? Given the Government's often repeated claims about the security of using ID cards, what consideration have the Government given to protecting the ID card system, should access to the central database be disabled for whatever reason?

Amendment No. 10 raises questions about the security of the system. The rewards for a successful attack would be enormous—let us be under no illusions about that. People will try to gain access to the system. Can the Minister say what decisions have been taken about what will happen to a corrupted database? Anyone who uses a computer, as noble Lords do, will know that an IT system can crash. A network can slow down at peak-load periods. If an ID system is dependent solely on checks being made online—that is that the card cannot be relied on to be authentic in itself—the system will be hugely vulnerable. Do the Government accept that it should be possible to check the card securely offline? If not, how do they propose that cards can be used securely offline?

What process will there be for making reliable visual checks? Surely, the reality is that many checks will have to be visual, whether by a shop assistant, a police officer or others. If the card is to be useful for the police, how do the Government propose to ensure that a forensic, non-erasable record of the card's history is maintained so that it can be useful in criminal cases involving attempts to alter the card fraudulently? What steps are the Government taking to ensure that the design of ID cards is flexible enough to accommodate future requirements, such as the storage capacity, which perhaps cannot be anticipated at the start of what has to be a 10-year programme?

We shall have the opportunity under future amendments to examine more closely the Government's projections of the costs of setting up the scheme. It is not appropriate for me to go down that path on this amendment, which considers an annual assessment of how far the benefits are worth the costs. By the time we come to debate the thorny issue of costs, I hope that the Government will have provided a more detailed version of the KPMG report than was tabled in the Library last week in response to my request to the Minister's office. I am grateful to her for the steps that she has taken so far, but I believe that we need to flesh out some of the detail more thoroughly.

My amendment would require the Government to be accountable annually to Parliament, justifying their expenditure against sensible criteria. Surely that is sensible and necessary. These amendments were originally grouped by the Government. I tried to ungroup them but decided that, to help the Committee, they should be regrouped. Therefore, I apologise for the length of my speech.

Amendment No. 12 considers the reliability of the recording of biometrics and asks how reliable they are, both individually and combined. The Minister's colleague, Mr McNulty, recently admitted that there are problems in capturing accurately the biometrics of certain people—for example, those with brown eyes and those who are bald. The Cabinet Office stated in its report that,

"around 10 to 15 per cent of genuine people fail the biometric tests set at the highest level of corroboration".

That study was published in July 2002—some while ago. Do the Government intend to operate at the "highest level of corroboration"? What assessment have the Government made of the categories of people who are likely to present particular difficulty in relation to the capturing of biometrics? What estimate has been made of the number of people in those categories? How do the Government intend to overcome those difficulties, and what is the estimated cost of doing so?

What is the latest advice that the Government have received about their possible liability where negligence is established in relation to an inaccurate entry in the National Identity Register, and loss is suffered by an individual as a result of misidentification? The noble Baroness's reply to that final question—noble Lords will be pleased to hear—will help to inform our later important debate on Amendment No. 70 to Clause 3, which is tabled in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord Phillips of Sudbury. With that raft of questions, I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Barnett Lord Barnett Labour 3:15, 15 November 2005

The noble Baroness said that she did not propose to go into the question of costs at this stage. However, I am not sure how the amendment could be accepted without knowing what the costs are, because its paragraph (a) states,

"whether the costs and measures needed to establish an identity card scheme are proportionate to the benefits such a system would bring".

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers)

I hope that I may assist the noble Lord immediately. I made it clear that these are probing amendments. The fact that the Home Secretary is addressing a meeting on the Terrorism Bill constitutes only one factor in the matter. These probing amendments provide the Government with their first opportunity to discuss this raft of provisions.

Photo of Lord Barnett Lord Barnett Labour

I appreciate that and I appreciate why the noble Baroness said it. However, under the terms of her amendment the costs are an essential point. The amendment also states in paragraph (b)(iv) that the Secretary of State should review annually whether the costs are "affordable". However, we need to know what the costs are now, not what they will be in a year's time. That is the question I have to put to my noble friend. I am sure that she is aware of it. If she does not have the answer in her brief, she will get it somehow or other from somewhere. However, I hope that she can give it to us today because, if we do not know what the costs are, we cannot answer the questions posed in the very first amendment. I hope that my noble friend will be able to give us the actual costs, and the assumptions underlying the figures.

I am bound to express some misgivings about all the figures bandied about by various university research teams and, indeed, by the Government themselves. I should like to read what my noble friend says today and to have it placed in the Library for all of us to see. I want to see both the way in which the Government have calculated the costs and the assumptions underlying them. It seems to me that the costs could be hugely in excess of anything that the Government have yet mentioned. That is not unimportant for whether we approve the whole idea of identity cards, to which I am not personally opposed. I should make that quite clear. However, if the costs are to be as astronomical as we have been led to believe, we need to know not only whether they are affordable, but whether they constitute value for money in relation to many other questions that will arise. If my noble friend does not have all those answers available this afternoon, I certainly hope that she will be able to satisfy us by making everything available to us later, so that we can make a proper assessment of this amendment and many others that may arise later.

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative

I put my name to this amendment and I want to follow the helpful remarks that have just been made on the subject of costs. I note that the amendment probes future annual costs, but there are important issues that we need to face right at the outset. The question of costs is intimately related to the question of security, for reasons that I shall come to.

I have a basic question to ask the Minister right at the start of my speech. At Second Reading, she gave us an estimate of costs. Was it for the total costs that will fall on Her Majesty's Government, the taxpayer or those who are forced to pay the fees for these services? Or was it simply the costs to the Home Office or one particular department? Have all the departmental costs been included in the estimates that have been given? Some of the costs for other departments will be very substantial. For example, the Foreign Office issues passports around the world and will have to be equipped with the apparatus to get into and deal with biometric assessment. On one occasion, I was unfortunate enough to have a passport stolen in a remote part of Venezuela and I now have a passport issued very efficiently in the embassy in Caracas. For the embassy to do that in future, it will have to have the equipment to deal with biometric assessment. Do the costs that we have been given include the costs for the Foreign Office, or for the Department of Health, which we are told will be a major user of this system?

I now come to an area that is slightly painful to me. I have to declare that as the chairman of a public company I had the most unpleasant experience—the most unpleasant of my business career—of dealing with a major government IT contract that did not go very well. I shall not say more about the detail, but one of the reasons why the costs rose by a very substantial amount was that the security requirements from government were repeatedly altered and tightened. Within the past 48 hours, we have read in the newspapers that exactly the same process has been going on in the hugely important contracts to provide for the National Health Service. We have been told that they are running enormously over the original estimates and behind time because the requirements of government have repeatedly been altered. So when we turn to the question of security, we will want to know whether we are completely satisfied that the security requirements have been firmly established and are not going to be substantially altered, and what the impact on costs will be if they have to be altered.

In this context, I shall make one other point about the question of charges falling on other departments. In the case of the contract to which I have referred, which never came to completion, one of the problems was that it was sponsored by one part of government and was going to be used by another. The part of government that was undertaking the work was reasonably happy with the costs that it would have to pay for the services. But the other departments that were going to come in on the whole business were increasingly unhappy about the charges that would be made to them for the use of the central service. For that reason alone it is essential that the Government tell us not only the total estimate of costs, but the impact and the anticipated charges for the departments which will have access to the system.

I make another brief point about security; we shall turn later to the whole question of security. On listening to some of the speeches at Second Reading, I gained the impression that many people thought we were entering a new and marvellous era in which there was going to be a huge improvement in security. We heard many stories about the shortcomings of the present arrangements and the scope for fraud. It is true that with this kind of system some sorts of fraud will be much more difficult to execute. But, as my noble friend pointed out, there will be an enormous incentive for some organisations and some individuals to find ways of getting into the system. We know from experience that, however tight security is, brilliant individuals—often very young individuals—have an ability to hack into highly secure systems. For example, a young man living in a council house in south Wales hacked into the Pentagon's main defence system in the United States. One can be quite certain that attempts will be made.

The point I want to make about security is that one has to understand that we are no longer dealing with fingerprints in the traditional sense. I turn to the advice given by the Home Office's chief scientific officer. We are dealing with a fingerprint translated into information based on a series of what are called algorithms, and those are digital. When we talk about a threat from getting at information in the register, we are talking about the ability to get at not only someone's age, residence or other information of that kind, but biometric information, and it will be digital information. If one can hack into a system, not only can one extract the digital information containing the biometric material but one can probably alter it. Therefore these are central issues and—I return in a circular way to costs—I suspect that as the systems develop more and more money will have to be spent on dealing with these problems.

In a very interesting article on this subject, the chief scientific adviser to the Home Office said:

"The proper application of biometric technologies is at least as important as choosing the correct technology—or mix of technologies. For example, a high quality user interface and an optimised capture environment is necessary to put the person at ease to ensure that the best image is obtained. Security issues need to be addressed so that the biometric system will not accept plastic fingers with an impressed fingerprint or a photograph of a face. Of course, the needs of the elderly and disabled have to be taken into account as well".

One begins to see the difficulties when one considers the whole question of accuracy and reliability. The chief scientific adviser, Professor Paul Wiles, finishes his article with the words:

"The key, however, will be to ensure that these are introduced in a standards-compliant system, which is secure, easily used by the vast majority of the population and in applications that provide clear benefits to the citizen, the foreign visitor and public and commercial organisations".

I do not believe that it is at all clear that those conditions can yet be met. One thing of which I am quite certain is that we need to have much more information than we have so far been given about the costs, how they have been arrived at and the assumptions on security.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 3:30, 15 November 2005

I again congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, on the constructive way in which she introduced her probing amendments. If our debates go along those lines, we will certainly make sensible progress.

In Committee on another Bill, I made a speech on which one or two of my colleagues chided me as being a little political, so I shall be careful not to be too party-political on this occasion. In my short time since June here, I have noticed that there seems to be an understandable pattern. Those who disagree with what the Government are proposing get up, make speeches, attack it, criticise it, make comments and ask sensible questions, such as the ones that we have just heard. However, those of us who think that this is a great advance have often sat on our hands and allowed the debate to run and our good friends on the Front Bench to deal with it. It is incumbent on those of us who think that this is a good idea to get up and say so from time to time and enter the debate.

My first point is that, having come relatively recently from the other place—as people here know—I can testify that this is a hugely popular proposal. It is one that we have been considering for some years now—I think that the first proposal was in 2002. In my constituency, I had people coming to me saying that it would help them in a number of ways. To be honest, those people who have most recently become British citizens are those who will welcome it most of all and be really pleased to receive something that testifies and proves to people that they are British citizens. Although the noble Baroness said that she would take account of the fact that the proposal was included in our manifesto, we all also need to take account of the fact that it is popular around the country, notwithstanding the problems that may arise. Our task is to try to overcome those problems, rather than to use them as excuses for not making progress.

It worries me that some things that have already been said, including by my noble friend the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, seem rather negative.

Photo of Lord Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative

Surely the noble Lord agrees that the degree of popularity of the proposal will depend on the cost. I see that he agrees. Therefore he will agree that, before we go any further, we must debate what is likely to be the cost.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour

I do not disagree with that, and shall come to it in a moment.

What worried me is that there was almost an assumption creeping into the debate that the whole scheme was bound to fail. That is a wrong assumption and we should not start with that. Of course there is potential for fraud, but there is at present with many other systems. I must say that I am more worried about my bank details being obtained by someone hacking into a system than I would be about my identity details being obtained by someone similarly. If we take the attitude that it is bound to fail, we will never advance or make any progress. There are understandable questions about reliability, but I understand that fingerprints, which are one of the elements in the biometric information, have been used for more than 100 years very successfully in fighting crime. We are adding to fingerprints a number of other pieces of biometric information.

My noble friend the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury is understandably concerned about costs. I am also concerned about savings and benefits that may accrue. Everyone has been asking what the costs may be. We should ask the Minister what might be the benefits and take the balance—do some kind of cost benefit analysis. We should also ask what might be the savings, because savings can be made by introducing an identity card.

Photo of Baroness Carnegy of Lour Baroness Carnegy of Lour Conservative

Has the noble Lord had the chance to read Amendment No. 21, which covers precisely that point?

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour

Yes, and I hope to participate in the debate on that amendment.

As my noble friend Lord Maxton asked at Second Reading, how will the system be funded? The assumption has been that each person getting an identity card would pay for it, but it could be funded in other ways, such as through general taxation. We need to discuss how it will be funded as well as the costs and benefits that might arise from it.

The noble Lord who spoke before me raised the issue of failed IT systems in government. We must also look at one of the most successful systems: the Passport Agency. As I understand it, we will build on the success of the Passport Agency, which is a very good exemplar.

I hope that, in her reply, the Minister will take account of some of the positive comments made in this debate as well as some of the questions and criticisms.

Photo of The Earl of Erroll The Earl of Erroll Crossbench

As this is not a Second Reading debate, I shall return to the substance of the amendment. The proposed subsection is very useful because ultimately if the costs are too great the scheme will not work and will not be worth while.

I am particularly interested in proposed paragraph (c), which refers to reviewing,

"whether . . . it is the most effective means of achieving the purpose set out in subsection (4)".

I have often thought that, to a certain extent, ID cards are being introduced as an answer to problems created in the first place by bad legislation. For instance, the simple answer to the problem of having to produce utility bills to open a bank account is to remove that requirement. It is not a very effective measure anyway because an individual could change address a week after producing a utility bill. The answer is to attack the international money-laundering committee and the FSA and get them to remove that requirement. You do not need an ID card to do that—not that I think it will help, anyway.

It is argued that the ID card will improve access to health. A health card is to be introduced, and I would have thought that it was the most effective way of giving access to health rather than requiring the production of an ID card also. Therefore, this is a particularly important subsection. I do not think that people have really thought out what the purposes are and the most effective way of achieving them.

Given technological developments, the card will probably become irrelevant after a short while. It is anticipated that there will be fast enough fingerprint and iris readers in the street so that you are the card. It all goes back to the central database anyway, so the authorities will simply need to take two fingerprints—I do not know how many fingers you want to give the Government—which will get sent up-line. If they compare okay, more of them will not be needed and the individual will not need to carry a card. But what you have got is a central registry of everyone's data. That, I think, is the current plan.

Another aspect of proving citizenship that we need to knock on the head is the proposal that everyone resident in this country for more than three months should have an ID card. That would not imply citizenship or belonging at all.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

This is the first of 279 amendments on the Marshalled List and many more to come—

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

That is indeed what I intend to do. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, that although, as she well knows from Second Reading, we would not have the Bill and are very circumspect about its provisions, we will none the less make the best of it and do our utmost to deal with matters as succinctly as possible. But, as she realises from the amendments, there is huge anxiety about how the legislation will pan out.

My first point relates to the cost of the system. I want to piggyback firmly on the shoulders of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, who said precisely what I said at Second Reading, as reported at col. 26 of Hansard, as did the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. I was cheered that the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, also focused on the issue of cost as underpinning the viability of the whole Bill. If the London School of Economics is even half right, the Bill is not a runner. I hope that the noble Baroness will take the invitation that she has had from all sides to really go into the issue in a way that appears not to have been done so far, so that we can proceed on the basis of a Bill that is in the land of reality.

We will view the Bill on the basis that we want to get the best outcome that we can, but the sticking points that we have on this side—which I think we share with the Conservative Front Bench—are that we are not prepared to see any compulsion of an ID card without primary legislation; nor are we prepared to see fundamental amendments to the Bill without primary legislation. For me, those are matters of principle—a dangerous word, but I use it advisedly.

As regards the amendment, I appreciate that it is a probing amendment, but it is an important probing amendment for all the reasons that have been mentioned. It is a good idea to require the Secretary of State to have a thoroughgoing annual review. If the need for primary legislation to make the provisions compulsory is written into the Bill, it will be hugely helpful for the Government—no less than the rest of us—to know just how the whole thing is panning out in a detailed way, so as to see whether our fears are well founded or misguided. The only way to do that is through a thoroughgoing annual objective report of the sort anticipated by Amendment No. 1.

I put two thoughts to the two noble Baronesses and the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. First, I do not see why the Secretary of State, in reviewing his department's capacity, should confine himself to technical capacity. Human capacity is—as often as technical capacity—at the root of malfunctioning. Secondly, under the Bill we rightly have a national identity scheme commissioner, which is a very good idea. Why not involve the commissioner in this report? He or she will surely have more to say about security, accuracy and reliability than anyone because he or she will be poring over those issues during the previous year. Finally, in dealing with affordability, surely it is affordability to the citizen quite as much as affordability in the light of other charges to public funds.

Photo of Lord Selsdon Lord Selsdon Conservative

I have a feeling that the title of the Bill is wrong. It should not be called the Identity Cards Bill, but the title as effectively it appears in the Bill—a National Identity Register, which is the principle that we come to. I spoke in the first Second Reading debate. Two issues concern me—bureaucracy and cost. I ask the Government to revisit a Question for Written Answer that I asked in June 2004. I asked Her Majesty's Government which documents issued by which government departments were proof of identity for which purposes? It was an extraordinarily long list, which is in Hansard. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, was kind enough to reply—it took two months—with something that caused me considerable concern. Like the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, that led me to believe that we should have an ability to prove our national identity.

That ultimate proof—as I have put down in Amendment No. 269—is, of course, the passport issued by the Secretary of State by royal prerogative. It is the only accepted proof of identity worldwide. Therefore, the Secretary of State responsible for issuing passports should be responsible for ensuring that passports are issued only to bona fide people. Members of the Committee will be aware that in this country more than 80 per cent of British citizens have passports, which are adequate proof of identity and, probably, are the only acceptable proof of identity. Should your Lordships wish to have a new driving licence, a passport must be produced. A new driving licence is not classified as a full driving licence, which is, of course, the proof of identity required by the department with responsibility for social security. I take that as proof of identity being the vital criterion. How much should it cost to prove our identity?

Noble Lords may well be aware that those of us who suffer the advantage or disadvantage of being hereditary Peers with a different name have a tremendous problem proving our identity. Our father's name does not appear on our birth certificates because he was not ennobled at the time. Therefore all my life I have suffered the difficulty and indignity of having to produce a birth certificate, a marriage certificate and my passport on which, on the continent of Europe, only two names may be accepted by the computer. I should be "Selsdon Malcolm", but my passport begins with "The Right", and sometimes I am "Mr Right The", possibly from Vietnam. At the other end of my name, rather embarrassingly I happen to be "of Croydon". So I am "Monsieur Croydon Of", since "Of" apparently is a Norwegian Christian name. Somewhere in the middle of that I am "Selsdon Malcolm". These are minor issues, but I feel that proof of identity is absolutely vital.

I turn now to the frustration I endured when I went to the box down the road to have my identity confirmed. I thought that I was a reasonably ordinary looking person. The camera taking my photograph gave instructions in a synthesised Japanese voice: "Move forward, move back, move sideways". It then clicked. When the camera came to my eyes, the process took some 20 minutes. Apparently I suffer from hooded eyes. I was asked to open my eyes wide so that they could be seen. But then the wide-open eyes made the face look like some lunatic so that it did not relate to the original photograph. That failed. In the mean time the image was sent down the line electronically to the passport headquarters somewhere near Winchester, but there was a slight fault on the line.

More exciting were my fingerprints. I have used them on many occasions as a proof of identity, and from time to time on various cards now. But because I had been working in the agricultural sector, pruning vines fairly heavily for several weeks, the ridges on my fingers had gone so that the prints were not recognisable. I then discovered that the technology, advanced though it is, probably cannot pick up four fingers and two thumbs on two hands. Furthermore, biometrically it could not absorb the data of one's face. So it was unreliable.

I spent quite some time discussing with officials at the Home Office the following question: what proof do we need to establish our identity? What will fingerprints show? Fingerprints work well if the ridges are not worn out, which happens with age. But they will not reveal what sex you are, or what your sexual orientation might be. They do not reveal that list of things that the Government, in the spirit of freedom of information, expect to be detailed. The question then was: could fingerprints reveal your sex or any other information? The answer is yes, but only if the DNA is taken from them. How long will it be before we turn to that procedure? The Home Office is quite keen for everyone to supply a sample of their DNA, as are the police, because they think that such a database might help to solve crimes. I believe that DNA was a help in some 70,000 cases last year.

My worry is that as we consider the list of information to be included on the identity card, I do not believe that the technology is sufficiently advanced to be able either to absorb all the information or to regurgitate it. A further worry is that under freedom of information legislation everyone may gain access to DNA details. Think of the number of paternity suits which may arise around the world brought by those born on the wrong side of the blanket.

The Government are seeking to achieve an extraordinarily difficult objective here. I believe in using an identity card to prove identity, but equally the information we are seeking to include means that, as technological developments progress, by the time it is introduced the card will already be out of date. Moreover, we do not know what the cost will be. Given that, I support strongly the probing amendment tabled by my noble friend. First, how much is it going to cost us and, secondly, why do we not keep on reviewing it as progress is made?

Photo of Lord Campbell-Savours Lord Campbell-Savours Labour 3:45, 15 November 2005

I want to intervene only briefly to bring to the debate a little balance on the issue of costs, a matter raised by my noble friend Lord Barnett and others. During the Second Reading debate, my noble friend on the Front Bench said that,

"it [the card] will not include medical records, financial or tax records, criminal records or driving records".—[Hansard, 31/10/05; col. 115.]

I want to look at the specific issue of tax records.

I understand that tax records material will not be included on the national database. However, the fact that a person's identity can be established from the existence of a card must have implications for the tax system. Indeed, I would hope that it would do. I draw my noble friend's attention to the fact that if we are to review whether the costs are,

"proportionate to the benefits such a system would bring", then we must take into account the effect of the introduction of the card on the tax system in terms of receipts. What will the additional revenue be to the Exchequer arising out of these cards when we know that we have a black economy in this country which some people estimate to be in the region of £10 billion in lost revenue? I believe that the figure is far higher.

I draw to the Committee's attention a list of those areas which, if we are to go down the route of this amendment, we might wish to take into account in evaluating the net financial benefit to the state rather than the cost to the state from the introduction of these cards. There would be a substantial windfall in national insurance contributions. The avoidance of capital gains tax on share transactions at the moment costs the Revenue a fortune. The avoidance of tax on share dividends costs the Revenue a lot of money. There is also a loss to the Revenue from those who trade above the VAT threshold to avoid registration within the United Kingdom. What about the vast amount of money lost to the Treasury every year because people use illegitimate means of avoiding capital transfer tax? What about the loss to the Revenue annually on rental income; the large amount of property that is owned by people overseas who do not pay tax within the United Kingdom on their rental income? I see that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, is shaking his head.

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative

How will the legislation in force at the moment—not limited, as some would wish by further amendment, but as it exists in its present form—enable the Revenue to avoid all these abuses?

Photo of Lord Campbell-Savours Lord Campbell-Savours Labour

I do not rest my case on it but the very identification of the individual through a national registration card system in itself would give the Revenue some means of identifying those people who should be paying taxes. Clause 1(4) (b) states:

"for the purposes of the prevention or detection of crime".

That in itself partially answers the noble Lord.

The fact that some people are able to trade outside the tax system has implications for corporation tax. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Barnett, who is a very experienced accountant, could speak for many hours on the implications for corporation tax arising from the introduction of this system.

There are also the savings to the Exchequer with regard to the unauthorised use of public services. If my noble friend the Minister is driven down the road of producing highly accurate figures of the cost to the state of this scheme, I hope that we will have some evaluation of the benefits to the state in terms of a windfall to the Inland Revenue.

Photo of Lord Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative

The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, perhaps rather rashly started his remarks by saying that this is a hugely popular proposal in the country. However, I think that on reflection he came round to agreeing with me that it certainly will not be hugely popular if individual citizens are required to pay hundreds of pounds for an identity card.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour

I find it astonishing—and perhaps my noble friend Lord Gould will explain this—that the identity card will be equally popular even if it is quite expensive. My noble friend Lord Gould can give the Committee all the polling information which explains this. As I say, I find it astounding that the polling data reveal that even if it is quite expensive it will still be quite popular. It is astonishing.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

Before the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, sits down, what polling data is he talking about? Some of the MORI data do not show anything of the kind.

Photo of Lord Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative

I do not think we can have interruptions. I had the Floor and I was interrupted by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes. I have the greatest sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. I cannot think of any polling which has taken place where people have been asked, "Whatever this is going to cost, will you be absolutely happy with it?". Of course they have not been asked that. Quite clearly people's affection for the scheme will be conditioned to a very large extent by the cost.

Photo of Lord Gould of Brookwood Lord Gould of Brookwood Labour

No polling of any kind has been conducted which has shown that a majority of people do not favour identity cards. Sometimes the lead is larger, sometimes it is smaller, but always identity cards are favoured. The Government's own polling makes it clear that at a cost of, say, £93 or so, 73 per cent of people support identity cards. At £250, this falls to 63 per cent. The British public want identity cards and are prepared to pay for them. They mandated the Government in the election to introduce them. Not only have they mandated the Government to introduce them, but they are popular; people really want them. I know the noble Lord finds that hard to believe, but they do.

Photo of Lord Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative

Without wishing to sound discourteous, I have to say to the noble Lord that I do not believe a word of it. If you really were to go and ask people in this country whether they would be happy to pay £200 or £300 a shot for an identity card, they will look at you as if you were completely crackers.

Photo of The Earl of Northesk The Earl of Northesk Conservative

It may help my noble friend if I alert him to the fact that Home Office research, dating from 2003, indicated that support for ID cards dropped to only 7 per cent if the card was going to cost more than £20.

Photo of Lord Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative

I am grateful to my noble friend for making that point but I should proceed with my own speech.

Photo of Lord Marsh Lord Marsh Crossbench

I am totally puzzled. I thought we were discussing page 1 of the Marshalled List and the first amendment, but what I am listening to, I think—it may be an illusion—is a series of Second Reading speeches. I do not know whether anyone in the House has the authority to say, "Can we go back to dealing with the amendment", in the faint hope that we might before midnight hear the Minister's answer to the mover of the amendment.

Photo of Lord Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative

I acquit myself of all blame in this matter because I was interrupted in my very first remarks when I was beginning to lay the foundations of the argument I am now about to deploy. If it is going to cost anything like £200 or £300, a question will arise as to whether the cost is proportional to the benefits that the system will bring. That is what we are considering in the amendment we are discussing.

All kinds of figures have been bandied about. The Government have said that the cost to the Home Office will be £5.8 billion. A study put forward by some IT consultants, who said it would cost £15 billion, was pooh-poohed by the Government. Then along came the people from the LSE, who now say that it would cost up to £30 billion. Those kinds of figures do not live in the same world as the figures put forward by the Government. The explanation for that may lie in the fact that the Government are talking about something entirely different from what the people at the LSE are talking about.

I should like to put some very straightforward questions to the Government. When they put forward a figure of £5.8 billion, are they talking purely about the launching costs for the Home Office? Are they excluding all the other costs involved for the scheme to have any use at all? Those other costs will clearly involve adapting the computer systems in other government departments so that they may have access to the Home Office computer and to the information on the register. What will be the cost of adapting all those computer systems so that others may use the information kept on the National Identity Register? Am I right in saying that those costs are not included in the figure of £5.8 billion put forward by the Government? If I am, what is the total figure?

Nobody has begun to answer, on behalf of the Government, these crucial questions, and I hope that if the Minister cannot answer us today she will give a firm undertaking to give a detailed statement of these costs as soon as possible and before we proceed very much further with the Bill. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, that it is very difficult to debate any of these matters when the costs may be so astronomical as not to equate with any benefits that will accrue from the scheme.

Photo of Lord Tordoff Lord Tordoff Liberal Democrat 4:00, 15 November 2005

Before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him, and perhaps others, to define what they mean by a "billion"? Do they mean a million million, or do they mean a thousand million? In my young days, a thousand million was called a milliard; a billion was a million million.

Photo of Lord Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative

I am no expert on this, but I think they are talking about a thousand million.

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

This seems a very reasonable amendment and I should not have thought that the Minister would have any difficulty in accepting it. It simply asks for what the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked for—a cost-benefit analysis, keeping the matter under review while it is being set up. I should have thought that any decent organisation, and especially a government, would want to do exactly that. Indeed, if it had been done in many other instances, we would be far better off.

It would be interesting to know just how many schemes have gone above estimate—indeed, well above estimate. I think I have mentioned this before, but I can remember debating the Child Support Bill day and night in this House. At the beginning, we were told that it was a marvellous Bill that would catch out errant fathers and save £400 million for the Treasury. As it turns out, far from getting £400 million a year as a result of the Child Support Agency operation, the Treasury has lost some billions of pounds, if I am not mistaken. It would be useful if the House could be told exactly how much the Child Support Agency has cost so that we can see the difference between the promise, when an item is being debated, and the reality.

I hate to mention the Scottish Parliament building, because the cost is too dreadful to contemplate. It was estimated to cost £40 million. The last estimate I heard of the final cost was £450 million. So you can see how cost estimates can run ahead of themselves. That is why this is a good amendment, which the Government ought to accept.

I agree with those who say that you cannot really think about dealing with this amendment unless you know some of the costs. As the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, has just pointed out, the estimates between the Government's proposed costs and that of the LSE vary between £5.2 billion and £38 billion. So quite obviously a lot of work needs to be done on the whole project.

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

Have we not just been told by the Minister that the cost will be something like £500 million? There seems to be an even bigger leap between £38,000 million and £580 million—or am I just being my normal totally mathematically illiterate self?

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

We must not get mixed up between the set-up costs and the running costs. The running costs are £500 million a year and the set-up costs are £5.2 billion. I believe that I am right in saying that. The LSE may have taken into account both the set-up costs and the running costs over a period of 10 or more years. That is probably the answer to the noble Lord's question, but I am sure that the Minister will tell me if I am wrong.

The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, must welcome this amendment, as I say. But he has not been in this House long, and I am afraid that he has the wrong impression. He says that we do not get political in this House, but I can assure him that that is entirely erroneous. Indeed, if party politics did not come into our discussions, this would be a very dull place. So I appeal to him—I implore him—not to deny us his undoubted debating skills, which made the House of Commons a very pleasant place to be when I was sitting on the same Benches with him. Please—I was going to call him George, but I mean the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes—do not worry about having the occasional political sally.

My final point is that we are told that because the Government put this proposal in the manifesto, they have a mandate. Indeed, I can hardly believe that I did, but I thought that I heard the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, say that it was a manifesto commitment, and that therefore—

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers)

I hate to interrupt the noble Lord in full flow, but he has touched on an absolutely vital point. I believe that I can assist and reassure him at the same time, in that I have looked at the precise wording of what was said in the Labour Party manifesto, and I hope to persuade the Government to follow what they said that they were going to do, not what they have done in this Bill.

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

I am obliged to the noble Baroness, and I shall listen to her throughout the debates on this Bill. I have to say that I did not speak on Second Reading, but I am totally opposed to the Bill; I say that in case noble Lords have not got that idea by now.

The Government claim that they have a mandate that is a majority for the Bill, but I have to point out that they got only 37 per cent of the vote. If you look at the totality of the people, they got only 20 per cent, which means that 63 per cent of voters did not vote for this Bill. You have to be very careful when you say that you have a mandate for something when 63 per cent of the population has voted against it.

Please do not get up and lecture me about the arguments about mandates and what have you. I have been around, locally and nationally, for a lot longer than some people in this House. I understand that mandates and such have their importance. On the other hand, they have to be put in perspective when we are dealing with such a Bill as this, which reduces the freedom that people enjoy in this country.

The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, referred to proving that one is a British subject. I am 79, and I have not yet had to prove that I am a British subject with an identity card except during the last war, and that was very different from what is being proposed now. This Bill is taking us not forward but a long way back. I want to return to the freedom that we enjoyed some years ago before both parties began undermining the freedoms that are so valuable and make this country what it is.

Photo of Baroness Henig Baroness Henig Labour

I make a brief intervention to surprise the noble Lord opposite. Some research was done under the auspices of the Home Office, not in 2003 but this year. A representative sample of 1,000 adults was polled about how much they would be prepared to pay for these cards. Some 63 per cent said that they would be prepared to pay £250 for a combined passport and identity card, or £100 for a stand-alone card. Those who did the polling were extremely surprised by that level of support. That up-to-date research gives us some indication of the strength of feeling that lies behind this proposal.

Photo of Lord Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative

Does the noble Baroness realise that if the LSE figures for the cost are anything like right, the cost for an identity card alone will not be £100, but between £200 and £300?

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

What interests me about the noble Baroness's intervention is what benefits these people were told would come with the card. Her colleague has produced a most fantastical list of benefits that have nothing whatever to do with the identity card—or if they do, perhaps the Minister will tell us how.

Photo of Baroness Henig Baroness Henig Labour

The individuals themselves came forward with how they would want the card to be used. The biggest benefit they saw, and they all cited this, was the ability to prove their identities. That was central. At the moment, when people are asked to prove their identity, many have to come up with a wide range of documentation. These people found that to be the major benefit that would accrue. There were other benefits relating to accessing services and the like, but it was this ability to prove identity that people wanted. The noble Lord should not underestimate that.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

If that has been done, I would be delighted if the noble Baroness could track it down and get it put in the Library of the House. I would very much like to read that. The matter of benefits is important. The fact that her colleague has been so misled on the benefits of these cards suggests that there is a great deal of misinformation around.

It is not impossible that an identity card does have benefits. There is an interesting experiment being run in Bracknell by the local authority, where an ID system is being built up on the back of benefits. At the moment, though, we have not been offered any benefits with this card, as I understand it, although people have fantasised about them. The noble Lord, Lord Stevens, said on Second Reading that the cards would be useful for stop and search. Will we have policemen going around like Judge Dredd with fingerprint- and iris-checking equipment and something to photograph the face? No, all they will have to look at is the card, which is just the same as any other card when it comes to checking it and saying: "Oh, that looks like him. Yes, I'll believe you".

We need to go into the practical benefits of this system, because the acceptability of this card will depend enormously on how good those benefits are. It will also depend enormously, as my noble friend said in her speech, on what happens when things go wrong, because, with such a complex system, things will. If I find myself coming back from holiday with my young daughter and I fail my checks at the airport because something has happened with one of my fingers, or the machine is on the blink, or I am developing some disease that means I am full of water and everything is out of size, what happens to me? Will I then be made to wait in the airport for two weeks while they identify me, or will I get sent back to Tenerife?

How are we to deal with the many occasions when the identity checks will fail? That is crucial in the acceptance of the system and we need a much clearer statement from the Government on the practical problems. As the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, will learn, this House is about dealing with the practical problems—whether this system will actually work—and we need much more data and understanding than we have been getting from the Government.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 4:15, 15 November 2005

Has the noble Lord read some of the papers produced by the Home Office in relation to this? If he reads the assessment of awareness and demand for the identity card scheme, he will find out that 73 per cent of those polled are in favour of it. He will also find a list of all the advantages that those polled believe an identity card has. I recommend that he obtain copies of some of these documents.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

I am in favour of identity cards and I know what benefits I would like them to have. However, I am very unclear that the system we are being sold by the Government offers these benefits. It seems to me to be far too centralised, cumbersome and complicated to offer them in practice. That is why I am interested to hear much more from the Government on how they see the scheme working.

Perhaps I may pick up a comment made by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. The system fundamentally cannot be secure because the security services need it to be insecure. They will need to hide identities to protect witnesses and to infiltrate people into al-Qaeda. The system will have to have built into it a way in which it can be subverted. If that is the case, there will always be the possibility of someone getting at it.

Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Labour

Members of the Committee know that I am not in favour of identity cards because I have made that very clear in this House. I certainly believe that we should be strengthening the passport and I am happy about the development of that as a stronger means of identity.

I am unhappy about the creation of an internal passport—the idea that as we move about in our daily lives we should be required and at times expected to prove our identity to authority.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour

Can the noble Baroness tell us where in the Bill it says that we are required to produce the card?

Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Labour

As soon as we enter into real discussion, it becomes clear that if your justification for the Bill is that it can be used, for example, in stop and search, it will become a requirement to carry it with you. If you are going to be stopped, there is no point in saying, "I haven't got it. It's back in the house". You are going to be required to show it if you are to show that you are not an unlawful immigrant. There is therefore a bit of deception around the purposes and the intention in the longer term. I think that we must be honest about the nature of this debate.

My concern is about where that takes us. We have seen the business in France of les marginaux—the people who recently demonstrated the extent to which they feel excluded. Those who work in the area of rights in France have found that the use of the identity card as a way of harassing minorities has been one of the ways in which people have become alienated. But that is not what I want to talk about: I want to talk about the sense of the amendment, which is surely not demanding too much. If we are to introduce something as serious as this—a change in the relationship between the citizen and the state—to review it annually does not actually demand very much.

I, too, have concerns about security and the security of the centralised database. For many who object to the scheme, the issue is not the need to have an identity card but the creation of an extraordinary central database, its potential for expanding and the uses to which it could be put. I chair the Human Genetics Commission, which had to deal with the whole issue of databases. It is important that in developing our ideas about the epidemiology of disease, we bear in mind that taking DNA from people could be useful for longer-term studies. In fact, a database is currently being created of 500,000 people in Britain, with their consent, for long-term studies using their DNA.

For people to be prepared to enter into those studies, there had to be a consideration of the extent to which the database could be secure. It was interesting to receive evidence on that, because what became clear from those who really understand the issue of encryption is that making databases secure is impossible. I see noble Lords nodding. Have the Government taken evidence on that? Anyone who works in this field on huge databases will tell them that such databases cannot be made secure so that they cannot be penetrated; it is impossible.

Once we know that making databases totally secure is impossible, we have to be honest with the citizens of this country. They say, "Yes, we would love to have an identification card, because we think it will make it easier to open a bank account or to get an account at a video store". Of course it would be highly convenient, but once you mention to them that there are security issues—as has become the case in giving DNA for databases—people are much more concerned. In the polling that takes place people can look at the benefits that could come from having an ID card, but have we ever spelt out the risks and possibilities for abuse that could occur if that information were held in a central database? Links can easily be created between one database and another database.

An exemption has been created for medical information, and people are being reassured that it will not be in the database. A noble Lord has already mentioned that if you give your fingerprint nowadays more often than not your DNA is available, because the quantities involved are so minute that you get the DNA too. As a lawyer working in the criminal courts, I assure noble Lords that fingerprints are only one small bit of it.

While we are considering the issue of DNA, people should know that there are important issues coming down the turnpike for us. One of those issues is that as we reform the welfare state many are interested in knowing more about the citizens of this country. Employers, insurers and pension fund operators will all be interested in knowing about your longevity, your potential for disease, the way in which your lifestyle might affect your health chances, and so on. The people of this country deserve to know that as that reform is happening, many people will be keen to have information and access to databases. We have to be honest about the fact that those databases cannot be held totally secure. So before we embark on this, people should realise that we are at a moment in time when technology can be harnessed to both good and damaging ends.

We have not talked enough about the serious issues around DNA. We have never had a public debate about where we are going with DNA. Will it be protected? Will it be possible for insurers, pension providers, or employers to have access to genetic tests? Since none of that has ever been properly debated in our public fora or in Parliament—

Noble Lords:

Oh!

Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Labour

No, we have not in any way done so. At the moment, we have a moratorium that does not allow insurers to have access to genetic tests, which will be up in 2008. At some point we will have to legislate on whether people should have access to that genetic information. Until we know where that is going, with identity cards that have a central database which, linked to another database, could create an incredible source of information about which the general public know nothing about the future intentions, we should be circumspect.

When we talk about polling, did we ask our citizens whether they knew or thought that it could be used in the ways in which it could be used? I suspect not. That is why I would like at the very least to have this kind of review built into the system; but I would really like a proper public debate about where we are going at this important moment in time in our development of technology.

Photo of Lord Lyell of Markyate Lord Lyell of Markyate Conservative

This is a probing amendment and, in my view, it is extremely helpful. At this early stage, the suggestion of an annual review on what is a very difficult subject has a great deal of merit. However, in this discussion on the costs and benefits, I should like to probe for a moment the issue of the benefits. Many serious points have been raised about the costs and I shall listen carefully to what the noble Baroness says in answer, but when we come to the benefits, we should consider carefully what the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, said about how the legislation would assist the police. My first parliamentary excursion was to try to be elected as a Conservative MP for Brixton. I am afraid that it failed, but I lived on the edge of Brixton and my question comes from that.

Let us suppose that a police officer in Brixton or any similar community stops a young man or woman of whatever ethnicity—it does not matter what it is—to try to find out who they are and what they are doing. At present, it does not seem that the provisions of the Bill will help in the slightest. The likely outcome of the Bill is that all of us who want passports and driving licences will have to apply for a card in a semi-compulsory way, but a very large number of the younger people in, say, the Brixton area will not apply for a card. They are not obliged to carry a card, so what is the police officer going to do? How many years will it be before this legislation is of the slightest assistance to the police, the security services or anyone else? As people will not have applied for a card, they will not have registered, and their fingerprints and other biometric information will be available only if they happen to have a criminal record, which is the current position. So, at present, there seems to be a massive hole in the supposed benefits of the Bill, whether one is talking about national security, the detection of crime or the other points listed in subsection (4). I much look forward to the answer.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

We have had a very interesting debate lasting one hour and 20 minutes. I shall turn my attention primarily to the amendment and shall seek to answer many of the questions raised.

We have the advantage of having at least three days in Committee—the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, tells me that it is five, so there will be even greater pleasure for us. It would be helpful if we could approach these issues item by item and seek to debate each difficult and knotty problem as it arises in its place. I am aware that a number of issues which will come up in debate on later amendments have been conflated within this, the first, amendment. I shall try to answer the issues which seem to me to spring primarily from Amendment No. 1 and, if the Committee will permit me, I shall touch lightly on the issues which we shall have the delight of exploring more fully later.

Before I start, perhaps I may put to rest a few myths. The first—I hope that this will reassure my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws—is that the subject of DNA will be raised in a later amendment but it does not appear in this Bill. It is not included in Schedule 1 to the Bill and there are no powers in the Bill to take DNA samples. I hear my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours saying "unfortunately" but I want to lay that to rest now. The Government have decided to put limits on the Bill. Secondly—again in response to my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws—I can say that there are no general powers for the police to stop and search people for an unspecified reason and demand that they provide proof of ID. That is not contained in this Bill and the situation will not change following the introduction of ID cards.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs 4:30, 15 November 2005

The Minister has just said that there are no powers in the Bill to change what is in Schedule 1. However, there is such a power in Clause 3(5).

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

Members of the Committee will know that Clause 1(5) sets out the parameters of matters that can subsequently be changed in Schedule 1. Nothing that is outside Clause 1(5) can form part of those matters that can be changed in Schedule 1. I anticipate that there will be a debate about whether Clause 1(5) is sufficiently tightly drawn, but for the purpose of this general discussion, those are the parameters. The police already have powers to stop and search individuals, such as where there are reasonable grounds—

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

Reading the Bill as it is, it is clear that identity comes under Clause 1(5) and identity is physical characteristics that are capable of being used for identifying someone. What else is DNA?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

I have been absolutely clear about this. If Members look at the way in which these matters are clarified, they will see that we have set out the issues that can be so identified. For the purpose of clarity, and so that there can be no misunderstanding, DNA does not fall within the parameters of the Bill.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Shadow Attorney General, Law Officers (Constitutional Affairs), Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Non-Departmental & Cross Departmental Responsibilities

Does the Minister expect that if a DNA sample were taken from someone, after the Bill comes into force, the top of the file would have a person's identity number on it? If that is the case, it could be cross-referenced with ease.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

It is clear that the biometric identifiers that will be used, as I said at Second Reading, are the face, two eyes and 10 fingers. I almost feel as though I am talking about a child's game—"hands, knees and face". That biometric data will be available and could be checked against other data that the police may obtain to verify the identity of an individual. If, for example, the noble Lord were to pretend to be me, and if he gave my name but had his facial characteristics and size, they would be able to check that he did not have the terrible burden of being me, but was in fact his delightful own self. Those details can be checked for verification, but that is what one will be able to do—checking and verifying.

The noble Baroness rightly says that this is a probing amendment. She does not wish me to look too closely at the way in which the amendment is phrased and I do not propose to make any proper or improper criticisms of it. I take it on the basis on which she has put it forward. It seeks to establish an annual review process for the Secretary of State on the costs and technical capacity of the identity cards scheme. I am afraid I do not accept that this is the best or most proportionate way to provide assurance about the development and delivery of the identity cards scheme.

First, even 12 months after the Bill is passed the scheme would not be in operation and it is difficult to see how such a report could be laid before Parliament without going into detail about how the costs and technical aspects of the scheme are being developed and considered. That could affect the Government's ability to get best value from the procurement process if early reports gave too much information prematurely. Secondly, there are already safeguards in place to ensure that the scheme develops in a cost-effective way and that the technology is robust enough to deliver the scheme. The programme is already subject to regular OGC Gateway Reviews. The OGC Gateway process is being improved to reduce the risk of failure by identifying omissions, making recommendations, and viewing the whole life cycle, thus ensuring the project is on track to deliver. In addition, within the Home Office there is a new centre of excellence in programme and project management. We have also—

Photo of The Earl of Northesk The Earl of Northesk Conservative

I hope that the noble Baroness can clarify a point on the Gateway process. Is it not the case that a number of IT projects, despite having received a red light at various stages of the Gateway process, have none the less gone forward?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

The whole purpose of the Gateway process is that if issues are identified as needing to be dealt with, they are dealt with appropriately before the relevant project continues. That gives an opportunity for reflection, change and improved delivery. We understand the process and the need for care, not least because—my noble friends have mentioned this—the Passport Office has been subject to criticism in the past. Those criticisms were taken seriously and were dealt with. The service that we now have from the Passport Office is supposed to be, and is acknowledged to be, excellent. It is second to none and is secure. I remind the Committee that it is proposed—as the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, indicated—that passports with biometric data contained therein will be available next year. Much of the work that we had to do to prepare for the delivery of that project has been done, and will continue to be done, as it has to be delivered whether or not we have an ID card scheme. We have also recruited experienced individuals from the public and private sectors to deliver the identity cards scheme.

The Government's Biometrics Advisory Group will review biometric aspects of the identity cards programme. Sir David King, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, will chair the Biometrics Advisory Group, which is being established as a panel of internationally eminent specialists in biometrics and related technologies. The Home Office also has its own Centre of Expertise in Biometrics led by the recently appointed Home Office chief biometric officer.

To complement all this, an independent assurance panel will cover project management, finance, procurement and the other aspects of the programme not covered by the Biometric Assurance Group. It will be chaired by Alan Hughes, a former chief executive of First Direct Bank. The rest of the panel will be made up of people with a similar level of expertise and experience in their field.

My noble friend Lord Foulkes, among others including noble Lords opposite, asked me to speak of the benefits of the Bill. We have always maintained that the benefits of the scheme outweigh the costs and that, if that situation changed, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said:

"No government is going to be introducing ID cards if the cost to the public is seen by them as unreasonable".

On the public and their interests, I affirm what has been said by a number of my noble friends regarding the way in which the public view this matter. We produced in October a document entitled Identity Cards: an assessment of awareness and demand for the Identity Cards Scheme. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will get his very own copy of it after this debate. I am more than happy to ensure that a number of copies of the document are put in the Library or in the relevant office so that they can be collected. I affirm that that document contains an indication that, as a number of my noble friends have indicated, there is a thirst for ID cards, notwithstanding the concern that some have raised about costs.

The national identity register will provide a secure, reliable method by which—

Photo of Lord Barnett Lord Barnett Labour

The Minister is apparently going off the question of costs. I well understand the point she makes about the difficulty of an annual review when the scheme has not yet been properly implemented. However, as I understand it, she said that costs would be evolving before the scheme comes into operation and the Prime Minister would not want to go ahead if the costs were excessively high. So surely the Government must have made—and must be continually making—estimates of what the cost will be, both now and on an annual basis hereafter. Can the Minister give us those figures now? I will perfectly understand if she cannot, but will she make sure that we have that information?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

I gave those costs at Second Reading but I am very happy to reiterate the comments that I made then for my noble friend Lord Barnett, and I shall indicate how the costs are made up. We have estimated that the annual running cost is £584 million per year. A number of commentators have aggregated those sums and given a 10-year estimate, and they say that over 10 years the cost would be £5.8 billion. But that is a 10-year figure, not an annual figure. We have produced the annual figure. I hope that I indicated it clearly at Second Reading. The KPMG report, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has already made reference, looks at the robustness of the calculations that we have made. I hear what the noble Baroness said about—

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative

I have in front of me the remarks the Minister made at Second Reading. She has said again that the estimate of the annual running costs—basically for issuing the passport and the identity card, which is very much the service we have at present—will be £584 million. I understand that. But she has not given us the capital cost of establishing the registry and the whole system registry. Furthermore, at Second Reading she went on to note that there is a range of other services for which charges will be made under Clause 37, and I suspect that she could also have mentioned Clause 38, which deals with consular fees. To get the whole picture, we need to have the total costs for all government departments, which was the question I posed earlier this afternoon.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

First, I have already sought to deal with the issue of developmental costs and commercial confidentiality, and why we have difficulties in relation to those matters. Secondly, the cost for the identity card is £584 million. Thirdly, the costs for other government departments will be for those departments. We would not expect Home Office costs for manning immigration controls, for instance, to be paid for from the passport fee, nor should the cost, if any, of checking identity cards be paid for from the identity card fee. So the figures that we are giving are those that we have estimated as the annual cost of issuing identity cards and passports.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

Is the Minister saying that she cannot give the House the establishment costs—the capital costs—on grounds of commercial secrecy? If so, it seems bizarre.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

While we are tendering, we cannot do that. One of the purposes of bringing these provisions before Parliament is so that this House and the other place can determine the final shape that these identity cards will take. Once determined, that shape will affect the way the tender or otherwise goes and what happens to it. While those negotiations are continuing, we cannot release data which would cause the Government unnecessary difficulties in relation to the tendering process. But we have been able, using the information we currently have from the Passport Agency together with the hard information for how those costs would be put together, to make what we believe is a sound assessment on how much these cards would cost if they were issued together with passports.

Photo of Lord Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative 4:45, 15 November 2005

I appreciate that when the noble Baroness talks about £580 million she is talking about the running costs of the scheme for the Home Office, but surely Parliament is entitled to know the total costs, which include the costs of other departments that are going to use the scheme. Surely she is not saying that she will remain silent about those costs. We are interested in the total costs—the costs for the Home Office and the costs for other government departments.

Photo of The Countess of Mar The Countess of Mar Crossbench

The noble Baroness has said that the biometric passport will be issued next year. An identity card will come with that biometric passport. Is she saying that the contract has not yet gone out to tender for those passports?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

As Members of the Committee will know, the Passport Agency will now be dealing with the biometric data which need to be included in the new biometric passports. But it is right to say, as I understand it—and I am sure I will be corrected if I have misunderstood it—that the biometric data in the new biometric passports will not necessarily include all 13 identifiers that we propose should be included in what we are discussing under the Bill.

We have also to bear in mind that much of the technology is changing rapidly and beneficially. In fact, problems previously identified are being eased and changed. As an example, I shall respond directly to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, about brown eyes being difficult. Having had the pleasure of having my eyes scanned in Committee Room 4 yesterday—as many of your Lordships will have also—I understand that brown eyes now cause no difficulty because a new filter has been put in. I am told that, contrary to the assertion, my brown eyes are now incredibly easy to scan—and I was told that they were preferable to some differently coloured eyes. I, of course, could not possibly comment on that. We bear in mind the rapidity of the improvements, but technological improvements so far appear to be making it easier, more effective and more efficient. What is happening with the biometric—

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

Can we go back to a question that I find difficult to get my mind around? The noble Baroness says that she cannot give a cost because that will impede getting a quote for doing the job. This is the first time I have ever heard such a thing advanced. If the Ministry of Defence is buying a battleship or an aircraft carrier, it will say, "We estimate it will cost about X". For any proposed programme the Chancellor of the Exchequer will say, "We estimate that it will cost about Y". Surely the Government must have an estimate of what the cost will be. Having estimates of costs before contracts are given is not a new idea.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Shadow Attorney General, Law Officers (Constitutional Affairs), Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Non-Departmental & Cross Departmental Responsibilities

Before the noble Baroness answers that, I must say that I had not appreciated that the capital costs of equipment were not included in government estimates. For an identity card of this nature to be of any use it has to be scanned, just as passports are scanned. That has to be compared with some other form of scanning. If the noble Baroness were still in practice, she would encounter that in Belmarsh prison all the time. Do I understand that the costs of scanning the identity card and the person, the mechanisms for which would presumably be at least in every police station and every benefit office—

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

As I have now said repeatedly, we have given the estimate of the annual cost. Those estimates include how much we think that it will cost to run the scheme and how much we think that it will cost to issue the cards. Those are costs that we have been able to verify to the best of our ability; they are sound. We have been unable to give all the details of the other costs, for the reasons that I have given.

Photo of Lord Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative

The noble Baroness has not answered my question, because there were other interventions. Surely, before we go any further, she will give us an estimate of the costs that will be incurred by other departments if they are to be able to make any use of the system. It is perfectly simple. All that the Home Office must do is go around the other departments that will use the new system, and ask how much it will cost them to adjust their computer systems so that they can key into the Home Office system. Surely we are entitled to that information.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

I have sought to answer that question. I have told the Committee that the figures for other departments are a matter for them; that they will have to find that money from their budgets; and that I am unable to tell the Committee the figures that other government departments will need to find for that.

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative

I sympathise with the Minister's position, but she sits on that Bench answering not just for the Home Office but for the Government. When she is asked questions about the total cost for the Government, with great respect, she should not reply that that is not a matter for her. The questions being asked are perfectly legitimate. The question just asked from the Liberal Democrat Benches about what will be the cost for reading these passports should be answered. She said herself at Second Reading and again today that the cost that she keeps giving of £584 million is only for issuing passports and identity cards to UK nationals. It does not include anything else.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Shadow Attorney General, Law Officers (Constitutional Affairs), Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Non-Departmental & Cross Departmental Responsibilities

Can the noble Baroness at least tell us from a Home Office perspective exactly the cost to equip one prison with the biometric scanning devices? We can then multiply that by the number of benefit offices, hospitals, and police stations and get some idea of the capital costs that we can expect.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

First, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, that I absolutely understand that when I answer from this Dispatch Box, I answer for the whole Government. I make clear that when I was discussing both costs and benefits, if we limit the benefit of the cards only to the home department, under the Home Office criteria, the benefits to us, and therefore the Government, already outweigh the costs.

Let me help the Committee a little on the benefits, because my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours, among others, asked about the quantitative benefits by type. I shall not deal with the benefits to Her Majesty's taxes, but in more efficient administration, we estimate the benefits at between £265 million and £385 million; in fraud prevention, at between £310 million and £575 million; in immigration control, between £30 million and £40 million; and in reduction in the cost of crime, between £45 million and £85 million. That does not include conducting work to identify and quantify further benefits with other government stakeholders. So the benefits that the scheme will bring to the Home Office's agenda alone already outweigh the cost that we intend to expend. There are many other qualitative benefits that demonstrate that those savings outweigh the cost. Of course other departments will want to look energetically to see whether they, too, can derive those benefits, and it will be worth their while to do so.

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

The noble Baroness has persistently refused to indicate the costs. She has just outlined the benefits. Why can she not give us the costs if she knows what the notional benefit is? That is what we are all asking. After all, it is Parliament, although admittedly not this House, that votes supply and provides the money from people's taxes to pay for such plans. If she does not know the answer—she jolly well ought to, having tabled an amendment on costs—can she give it to us later, and, if she knows it, can she tell us?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

Obviously, I am being rather obtuse today and lack the clarity that I had hitherto thought I could be relied upon to give. The Government believe that £584 million will need to be expended on the Home Office agenda. The benefits to which I have just referred accrue in relation to that part of the agenda. So even if we put all other government departments aside and asked whether the system inured to the benefit of the citizen and was a cost-effective way of dealing with some fairly difficult and intractable issues, the Government would say that, looking at this one area alone, it would be justified and have real cost benefits.

Other noble Lords say—I hope, rightly—that looking at the Government's burden across the piece, additional benefits could accrue to many other departments that wished to avail of it within their individual identified budgets. I do not have those estimates for other departments because, so far as I am aware, there are no publishable figures on that, so I am not in a position today to assist noble Lords on that. I hope that I have made that as clear as possible. If the situation changes and I can give noble Lords further information, I would be only too happy to do so. But I would not advise noble Lords to hold their breath.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

The noble Baroness is comparing the total benefits of owning a car with the cost of the petrol. You have to include capital costs, particularly of electronic equipment. The rough annual cost of electronic equipment is about 30 per cent of its capital value in replacement, refurbishment and necessary improvements. Unless we have a clue what the capital cost is, neither we nor the Government can have an idea of whether it is worth while.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

I rise to my feet because it is Committee stage, this is a self-regulating House and it is normal, if there are questions and interventions, for us to answer them and move on. We have been on this one amendment for one hour and 52 minutes. We will have the same sort of debates on many amendments to come. I would be very grateful if, in very short order, I could complete my response to this amendment.

Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Labour 5:00, 15 November 2005

At some stage, would the noble Baroness be able to give the basis on which one reaches a figure on, for example, a reduction in the cost of crime? How does one reach such a figure in working out a cost/benefit analysis or in immigration control? We have just been told that the card will not be used for stop and search. Probably everyone in this Committee would concede the importance of strengthening the passport. But surely the only way in which the ID card could be useful for immigration purposes is if you were able to stop someone and insist they produce a card. If they were unable to do so, you would then have a power to arrest. I would like to know how those figures will be reached in order for us to asses whether this is a benefit to which we can put a financial figure.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

I understand the import of what the noble Baroness asks. Of course we have figures on how much it costs to prosecute and go through the courts system. A quantifiable cost would have to be made in relation to the pain and suffering to the victims. It is possible to quantify those costs, which are considerable. Members of the Committee have repeatedly asked about capital costs. I must make it clear that those are the most commercially confidential costs. They cannot be revealed because the purchase of the database and software will be dealt with extremely competitively. Information of that sort would put us in a position where we would be less advantaged than we should like. Looking over a 10 to 15-year period, the operational costs, which I have tried to offer to the Committee, are far greater—I repeat, far greater—than the capital cost of initially setting up the system. These operational costs are the most significant and we have revealed the overall operational costs. They are the major part of it.

Amendments Nos. 10 and 12 focus on the security of the national identity register and are, in these instances, unnecessary, as I am sure Members of the Committee are aware. The fact that security of the register will be of paramount importance does not need to be set out in primary legislation. It stands to reason that that should be the case. Furthermore, the Data Protection Act—in particular the seventh data protection principle—imposes a statutory obligation to ensure that appropriate technical measures are taken in order to secure the safety of the register.

The NIR is not physically connected to the Internet or any publicly available network. The security control procedures designed to connect the NIR to application handling and identity verification systems are among the most sophisticated currently available. Those safeguards are designed to provide a "defence in depth" and distributed security architecture, and are considered unlikely to be vulnerable to external attack while under appropriate management, audit and security operating procedures.

The content of the national identity register will never be stored in a manner that would leave it exposed to the risk of data extraction. There will be a very small number of encrypted communications links serving the database, with no direct PC access to the register. It goes without saying that the register will be developed to be a fully secure method for storing and verifying registrable facts. The scheme will not serve the purpose envisaged if it provides only a partially secure method. It is also important to note that to date there has not been a recorded security breach or compromise of a government database which is protected in the same manner as that designed to protect the national identity register.

I turn now to some of the other points that have been raised. I shall deal with liability for negligence, a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, when we come to the amendment to Clause 3(3) tabled in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord Phillips. I hope that the noble Baroness will be content to wait until we reach that amendment. I have already dealt with some of the savings, but perhaps I may say globally that we have already quantified the estimated financial benefits as ranging from £650 million to £1.1 billion per annum once the scheme has been rolled out. I gave the breakdown earlier and noble Lords can study this in greater detail in the benefits overview which we published in June. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, will be delighted to review that document.

The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, asked about information concerning citizenship being included on the card. I note that the noble Earl is not in his place, but I shall do him the courtesy of answering. British citizens will be entitled to a card that does show their citizenship. It will be valid as a travel document for use throughout Europe. So there is a purpose behind it.

I have already sought to deal with the issues surrounding DNA, but I know that the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, has tabled a later amendment addressing the matter. Finally, I turn to the mandate. I say this only with the greatest of delicacy, but we have to take into account the fact that this Bill has been passed to us from the other place. On the question of the manifesto, I think that the noble Baroness should look carefully at this. She will understand what the word "initially" means.

Photo of Lord Lyell of Markyate Lord Lyell of Markyate Conservative

Would the noble Baroness be kind enough to answer my question, which was a point also raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws? How will this scheme help the police in Brixton, for example?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

The scheme will help because we will be able to verify the identity of those not currently on the computer. For instance, if someone goes to the police station and says that they are "Mr Brown", it will be possible to check the fingerprints against the register to see whether those prints correlate with the name contained therein. So the register will have a use. However, it is not proposed that people should have to carry these cards.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

I too should like to raise a point with the noble Baroness before she finishes her remarks. One of her final comments was that there are ID cards in use across Europe, or words to that effect. Is she aware that no national databases are held in many of those countries? Germany, Italy and Holland do not have national databases. Most cards do not use biometrics, and there are other significant differences from the scheme being proposed here. At Second Reading the noble Baroness mentioned comparability with Europe, but she may find that our scheme will be quite the most—how shall I put it?—severe system existing in Europe.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

I would not use the word "severe". I hope that the words, "the most effective, dynamic and successful", come more readily to mind. Furthermore, as the noble Lord knows, biometric data will have to be included on passports for those wanting to travel to America. So we in Europe now need to look into this carefully. Whatever is the current position, many European countries now have to look at these issues. We are seeking to consider them together to ensure that the schemes are compatible with one another so that they can be read easily across the European Union.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers)

At the end of two hours of debate, I am sure of only three things in this world. First, this has been a very well informed and detailed debate kicking off what may be up to five days of consideration in Committee—unlike the BBC website today that said we would have only two days in Committee; we take more care over legislation than that. Secondly, I am sure that we will have a chance to return to many of these issues in more detail at the proper time. Thirdly, I will be lynched if I take too much time withdrawing an amendment that I said was probing in the first place.

One thing that I am not sure about at the end of this debate is whether the Government have any idea about the real costs overall. I can see a geographical colleague here; the noble Lord, Lord Gould of Brookwood, whose title comes from somewhere a stone's throw away from mine. I know about his great expertise in polling, but what the Government have come up with here is a resounding "don't know".

The Minister must have a cadre of civil servants behind her who know my every move and thought, and I got even more worried about that because although we are not allowed to refer to any of those who attend these debates, I had intended to quote the words of the Minister, Mr Andy Burnham, and will continue to do so. He was kind enough to attend a meeting in the House last week. He was very courteous and came along to a meeting about costs that I chaired along with the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, that was also attended by representatives from the LSE. I was struck by one of his remarks to us. He said:

"Please do not take into account integration costs"— that is, the costs to other departments. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has asked the Government to state clearly the benefits to the Treasury. The whole thrust of the debate today is to say, "be clear and honest". If the Government are telling us not to take integration costs into account, we must say "Why, what are you hiding?" The Government now have five days to show us that there is benefit after all. At the moment, we still "don't know". I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers)

In moving this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 6 and 97. This group of amendments has been tabled to give the Committee the opportunity to debate some of the recommendations of the Select Committee on the Constitution in its Third report published on 24 October. My amendments focus on the question of who should maintain the register.

The Select Committee recommends that,

"because of the scale, complexity and sensitivity of the enterprise now proposed, Parliament should consider the case for amending the Bill to provide for the creation of a new entity (whether registrar, commissioner, commission or other agency), with the duty to maintain the Register in accordance with the primary legislation made by Parliament and the secondary legislation made by the Secretary of State".

Furthermore, the committee also recommends that:

"The Secretary of State's duties in relation to the appointment and funding of such an entity should also be stated in the Bill".

I tabled these probing amendments in direct response to the committee's recommendations, and I am grateful to the Public Bill Office for taking such care in drafting them.

The Bill's primary significance lies in the creation of a national scheme for registering the identities of everybody over the age of 16 in the UK, other than foreign nationals who are here for less than three months. The creation of the national identity register is therefore the foundation for the Government's proposal to roll out identity cards until everybody over 16 is compulsorily registered for an ID card. In responding to my previous amendment, the Minister said that she was sure that I understood what "initially" meant in the Labour Party manifesto. I do, and I know what the rest of that quote from the manifesto meant and should mean in the context of the Bill. I am also aware that Labour MPs in another place realise what it should mean in the context of the Bill, but we will return to that.

The Bill puts the duty to maintain the National Identity Register firmly in the hands of the Secretary of State. The Government have said that they intend that the register should be maintained by an executive agency, reporting to the Secretary of State and with a remit entrusted to it by him. The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, confirmed that intention in her letter dated 19 September addressed to the Select Committee on the Constitution. The problem is that the Bill fails to include that proposal in its current form. There is no provision to require the Secretary of State to establish such an agency. There is no provision summarising the essential features of the proposed relationship between the agency and the Secretary of State. It would therefore be possible for a future government to replace the executive agency with a different structure by executive action alone, with no reference to the view of Parliament. For example, a government could adopt the model of administration by civil servants working directly to the instructions of the Secretary of State. The amendments in this group therefore make it clear that the registrar would be independent of government.

The new Schedule 1A sets out the proposals as to appointments, remuneration, staff and funding. It is purely a probing amendment. The proposals are not meant to be the end product but are there to prompt a response from the Government. We invite the Government to tell the Committee how they expect the system to operate. If they object to the proposals in the new schedule, will they say why they object and what they intend to put in its place? I believe that we should keep trying to get some clarity in the Bill. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs 5:15, 15 November 2005

I support the tenor of these amendments. They are extremely helpful in focusing the mind of the Committee on how we should order the crucial role of the National Identity Scheme Commissioner. I look forward to hearing the Government's response.

I would raise only one point with the noble Baroness. There is no provision in the amendment for the removal of the commissioner. Obviously that issue will need to be addressed in due course.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

I hope we have always made clear that the scheme will be delivered by a new agency, which will incorporate the functions of the United Kingdom Passport Service and will be accountable to the Secretary of State. We believe that this is a sensible approach, offering value for money and simpler administration. It must be right that we build this new agency on the experience and sound practice of the United Kingdom Passport Service so that we are able to take advantage of the skills and expertise already available within it.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has recognised on a number of occasions, the United Kingdom Passport Service has rightly won praise and, indeed, has topped customer satisfaction surveys across the public and—this is very important—the private sectors for its efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of services to members of the public. Last year the service was the only United Kingdom organisation nominated for the prestigious international Carl Bertelsman award for public sector efficiency, and it won a record fifth charter mark.

The United Kingdom Passport Service issued more than 6 million passports last year and 97 per cent of customers surveyed were satisfied or very satisfied with the service. It has also taken the top place for the second year running in a customer satisfaction bench-marking exercise across more than 30 major public and private sector organisations, this year beating organisations such as Asda, Tesco, DVLA, Amazon and eBay—a feat to which many aspire but few achieve. I feel confident that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, will recognise the logic in utilising this expertise in the delivery of the ID card scheme.

In addition, the introduction of biometric passports and strengthened procedures—such as interviews for adults applying for their first passport—means that the processes and technologies utilised will be common for both passports and ID cards. It would not provide any value for money or make sense financially for the Government to procure separate infrastructures and separate sets of the requisite similar technology for both schemes to operate. This is not unprecedented. The Office for National Statistics has the same proposed structure and level of independence as the new agency. The ONS is an executive agency of Her Majesty's Treasury, and its chief executive director is, quite rightly, fully accountable to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Establishing a corporation sole for maintaining the register would result in ministerial responsibility for issuing ID cards being greatly reduced. Is it not prudent to ensure that Ministers rather than a registrar should do this? It must be right that ministerial responsibility for doing this should be retained, as opposed to a registrar having that responsibility. The Secretary of State will be accountable to Parliament for ensuring that ID cards and passports are issued to the standards that the public and Parliament expect. I know from other debates that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord have emphasised the importance of having that transparency and accountability.

A new agency incorporating and building on the UK Passport Service's successes is the most prudent and efficient way to deliver this scheme. We also believe that the issue of national identity cards is a core piece of government business that, in principle, should be for a government agency to deliver, accountable through Ministers to Parliament and the public. We think it would not be right to create an arms-length quango to take on this role. For that reason, we think that the responsibility should properly lie with the Secretary of State of the day.

Photo of Baroness Carnegy of Lour Baroness Carnegy of Lour Conservative

Does the noble Baroness think that because this will eventually be a compulsory scheme, it will be very different from obtaining a passport or driving licence, which people choose to do? Of course the vast majority of people have driving licences, and more and more have passports, but getting them is voluntary rather than compulsory. To have a Home Secretary forcing one to do this or face a considerable penalty is very different. Have the Government considered that?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

We have considered it. The issue of compulsion has been part of the debates we have had on passports for at least the past three years. There was an argument that we should simply have introduced the biometric passport, made it voluntary and, in effect, through the passport being the main delivery item, deliver what is a compulsory scheme by any other name, without clearly saying to people, "We intend this to be a compulsory scheme and we need to have a debate about it". We talked about that very issue in past debates. The Government took the view that if, in the final analysis, we wanted to have a compulsory scheme, it was only right and proper to make that plain from the inception so we could have that debate.

If we restrict the scheme to the 85 per cent of people in this country, approximately, who have a passport—probably more than 45 million—questions arise about the other 15 per cent who do not and whether there is a disparity between the two. All those issues have been carefully considered. That is why this is the primary legislation; we are saying to the House that, in the final analysis, we believe a compulsory scheme is the right way forward, although initially the proposal is that it should be voluntary.

Photo of Baroness Carnegy of Lour Baroness Carnegy of Lour Conservative

The Minister is having a very trying time, but that is not my point. My point is that this is clearly going to be a compulsory scheme, and everyone appreciates the fact that that is clear. But because it is a compulsory scheme, as I believe I am right in saying the Constitution Committee pointed out, it then becomes very different from the issue of passports or driving licences. Is that not an argument for having a separate registrar in whose hands all this is placed, so that the compulsion is not made by the Secretary of State but by a separate independent person?

(8)

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

I understand the purport of the noble Baroness's comments, but we conversely believe that it should be the Government who are held responsible, because it is they who will be held accountable at the ballot box—and, just as importantly, through Ministers appearing in your Lordships' House and in the other place, they will be able to be accountable to Parliament in a very direct way, which would be far more difficult for a registrar. That is why we believe that it is important to retain that as a safeguard.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

I found much of what the Minister said persuasive, but I should like to explore a little further what the noble Baroness was asking about. One can imagine a situation in which there was an elected second Chamber and a Government of an authoritarian hue had a significant majority in both Chambers. Unfortunately, with legislation such as this, we have to look to circumstances beyond our own and to times that might be much less propitious. Given the extremely political nature of the commissioner's role, is there not some sense in insulating him or her from the sort of political pressure that could prevail?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

I absolutely understand the concern that has been expressed, but we have to consider the practicality of whether that is likely. Also, that presupposes that the people of this country would be minded to vote in large numbers for a serially repressive government, in the name of democracy. In this Bill, we have tried to put within the system itself sufficient checks and balances to constrain the way in which the system operates, so that it will itself be capable of maintaining the sort of openness, integrity and clarity that would enable Members of your Lordships' House and the other place to bring those responsible for delivering this scheme to book and properly to interrogate these issues. If your Lordships' House has demonstrated anything in the past few hours, it is your innate ability to do just that.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

The Minister's remarks have worried me. She uses too often the words "integrity" and "clarity", both of which are absent in this Bill, for reasons that we have already gone into at very great length—because of the amount of money involved and the technology, which is still developing. Those are two very good reasons for postponing these proposals until they become clearer. The Minister said that she had heard that she had a reputation for clarity, and that she valued it; and she is entitled to say that. She has done her best today, in very difficult circumstances, to sustain her reputation for clarity; but the difficulties that she is up against are not of her making.

I do not want to make a long speech, but this whole thing bothers me, because nothing erases the suspicion in my mind that the present Government do not take as seriously as I do the issues of personal freedom. The dangers of intolerable intrusion as a result of this Bill are very much in my mind—and I hope that they will be in the Minister's.

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour 5:30, 15 November 2005

I wonder whether the Minister wants to answer each point as it is made, or whether we are going to have a normal Committee stage.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

Postponing these issues will not assist. I say that for the reasons I have already partly outlined. First, we will soon have biometric passports. Secondly, the whole process we are going through cannot be delivered speedily. We are looking at a long-term project. It will be a number of years before we are able to have a compulsory scheme. The noble Lord is right: the biometrics will develop, and our ability to deliver this will be enhanced thereby.

Postponing the decision will not make it any easier. We have to plan, which is why we are bringing forward this Bill, having started discussions about it in 2002, as the noble Lord will remember. We have already been discussing the whole issue for about three years.

I reassure the noble Lord that we have issues of personal freedom very much in mind, and it is for that reason that I know we will spend considerable time debating this Bill for the next five Committee sittings; indeed, we will also have debates on Report and Third Reading. Your Lordships will know that these issues were tightly debated in the other place too. The Bill has had a lot of scrutiny, and rightly so, and that will continue.

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

This Bill is becoming a little confusing, at least for me, and perhaps for the general public as well. I understood, and still do, that the Bill is at present about a voluntary card scheme and voluntary registration on a national register. However, and it is the Minister who has brought this up, we are now talking about a compulsory scheme. That is something quite different. It will be postponed, apparently, but we do not know until when, nor what sort of government or even Parliament we will have in a few years' time. We do not know what the composition of the House of Commons will be. For all we know, this House may be changed out of all recognition, so that the circumstances of compulsion will be quite different from the circumstances at present for the voluntary scheme.

If a person over 16 does not wish to have an ID card and go on to the register voluntarily, he or she need not do so. But if someone goes on to the register, thinking having their name on it is a good idea, but then decides it is not in their interest, will they be able to remove their name from the register? Or is it that, once they have applied to go on to the register, they are on there for good and their fingerprints, eye scan and biometrics are there for all time? If this is a voluntary scheme, they ought to be able to withdraw from the scheme if they find it is not to their advantage and it does not suit them. I hope the Minister will be able to answer this important question.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

I shall try to answer as best I can. I just want to make clear the procedure we have been adopting. As your Lordships know, I have already stood up to answer the debate, and then we have had a number of people who say: "Before the Minister sits down". But "before I sit down" tends to last quite a long time. So—in answering the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart—for the remainder of the time I propose not to stand up until I am relatively sure that everyone has had their say. I will then stand up and reply. But will the Committee forgive me if I then do sit down, and do not do this "Before the Minister sits down" business? I am trying to think about how we can best manage the time. I do want to answer all noble Lords, but I do not want us to extend this in a way that may not be entirely helpful.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

I am most grateful. In response to that suggestion—and I think it was a suggestion—it is often the case with a Bill like this that an awful lot of stuff is raised in the early sets of amendments, and then it all goes away, and later amendments are dealt with very quickly. I would be sad if the Committee were to agree with that suggestion, honourably though it was advanced, because this system gives the opportunity for everyone to get things off their chests, and to try and tease crucial points out of the Minister. It will be difficult to do that if we are not allowed to come back at the Minister while she is responding to the particular set of amendments.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

Perhaps I may say something on this point. I was rather puzzled when so many noble Lords got to their feet and said "Before the Minister sits down" and all that sort of dodge, when the Minister had in fact firmly sat down. But it is quite unnecessary. We are in Committee, not on Report, and therefore it is perfectly open to any noble Lord to get to his or her feet at any time after the Minister has spoken. I usually find it much more convenient and sensible in Committee to speak after the Minister rather than before, because I have no idea what they will say. When we discussed the previous amendment, it seemed to me that the Minister missed an opportunity to say: "Of course I accept this amendment, because all the Secretary of State would be asked to do are things that he would be bound to do anyhow". In fact my noble friend on the Front Bench was more than reasonable, and I would have had great difficulty in supporting such a flabby amendment.

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

When I rose to my feet, I asked whether the Minister was going to answer each point as it is made. We are in Committee, and it is the right of the Minister to get up when he or she wants to do so, in exactly the same way as it is the right of every other Member of the Committee to get up as and when. If the Minister gets up and answers a given number of points, it is, unlike on Report, quite in order for others to get up and follow her with other points. That is what Committee is all about. The Minister is right to say that she will enter the debate when she feels it is necessary for her to do so, not after each intervention by noble Lords.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

I agree. This is Committee, which is why I thought we would get an agreement on how we would deal with this. I did not want to appear discourteous, or not to be giving people the opportunity to ask whatever they wish. I hope that I can take the consensus and say that I will remain seated until I feel that there is a flavour in the Committee as to what the issues are, and then seek to reply. I hope that that will help our speedy expedition. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, that I agree with him. Quite often at the beginning of Bills in Committee we have a plethora of issues, but they settle down after a while and we become more disciplined, if I can put it that way, about dealing with each issue as it arises.

I turn to answer the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and do him the courtesy of giving him an answer, because he has now waited for quite some time. First, regarding implementation of the compulsory nature, we can adopt the super-affirmative resolution procedure. The principle of compulsion is what we deal with in this Bill. As to when that comes in, that will be subject to the super-affirmative procedure. We have indications from the Delegated Powers Committee that this is an appropriate way of dealing with that matter, bearing in mind that we will have the opportunity to debate the principle in this primary legislation.

The noble Lord asked about removal from the register. The Bill provides a route to compulsion through designated documents and through an order under Clause 6. A voluntary application to go on the register will lead to an entry being made. The entry will be voluntary and will stay on the register, but there will be no need to keep a card on record or to update the details unless and until it becomes compulsory for that person to register. If a number of years were to go by, it would not be necessary to give updated details in relation to addresses, moves and so forth. That would arise only when compulsion comes in.

We will have an opportunity to debate the principle behind the proposals and then an opportunity to discuss whether the super-affirmative procedure is appropriate to introduce compulsion in due course. At that stage, the benefit of the super-affirmative procedure is that Members of the Committee will have not only the opportunity to accept or reject, but a greater opportunity to interrogate the proposal in a way that will make sense.

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

That means that if a person voluntarily puts his name on the register it will remain there permanently. He cannot voluntarily remove it. That is the point I am getting at. Is that the case?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

I believe that it is the case. There is no need for any person who does not wish to put his name on the register to so register unless and until it becomes compulsory. If someone volunteers to put his name on the register, those details will be contained on the register, but any updating before compulsion will be nothing other than voluntarily undertaken. There will be no way of compelling that person to keep those details updated.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers)

I am grateful to the Minister for her full response. I am not sure that she has answered my questions fully, but she has certainly had a jolly good go and answered as many questions as possible from those who have contributed to the debate.

I am always most grateful to my noble friend Lord Peyton for all his contributions, even though he seemed to find my first amendment flabby. I promise that I will serve up to him something with more muscle later on.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

I beg my noble friend's pardon. If I say "gentle" rather than "flabby", the meaning would not be all that different but one would sound better than the other.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers)

Whatever my noble friend says sounds gentle on the ears to me. I welcome his contributions.

I agree with my noble friend that we need clarity. That is why I brought the amendment forward. The Select Committee on the Constitution tried to assist the House in debating how that clarity can be achieved. I agree that whatever one's views on the merits or faults of the Bill, it is vital that the scheme should be conducted on a strong legal basis and that adequate safeguards should be in place to protect individuals from excessive intrusion into their affairs by institutions of the state or indeed by others. That has underpinned our discussions today.

The Minister specifically and repeatedly mentioned in answer to this amendment the role of the Passport Agency in rolling out the scheme. The more she talks in that vein, the more it sounds as though the Government have assumed that the Passport Agency will run the whole ID system. It will not merely roll out passport biometrics with an ID register, but it will get the golden plum—the Oscar at the end of the red carpet—to run the scheme. In future amendments, we will need to consider whether it is appropriate for the agency to roll out the scheme or to run it.

The noble, Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, has tabled Amendment No. 151 to which I have added my name. It gently probes whether there should be competitive tendering and again that is an issue to which we must return. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Seccombe Baroness Seccombe Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers), Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assist the Home Affairs Team)

In moving Amendment No. 3, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 58, 91, 220, 230, 243, 244, 245, 271 and 273.

The purpose of these amendments is to probe what exactly is envisaged as regards the ambit of the legislation. It seems to me that there are many odd things about it. First, it is styled as a national identity register and a national identity card. But where, can the Minister explain, does Scotland fit in? Is she aware of the resolution passed by the Scottish Parliament which states that the proposal in this Bill is,

"flawed on political, technical and financial grounds"?

It stated that ID cards,

"offer an ineffective response to problems of security and fraud and pose an unacceptable threat to civil liberties".

It,

"rejects the Prime Minister's belief [stated in the House of Commons] that it is legitimate and right in this day and age to ask people to carry identity cards", which appears to go far beyond the current scope of the Bill and would require the consent of the Scottish Executive. By the way, what did the Prime Minister mean by that? Finally, it reminds us that the Scottish Executive have said that ID cards will not be required to allow access to public services in Scotland.

It does not sound as though there is much enthusiasm for the Government's position on ID cards or for the Prime Minister's belief that it is right to ask people to carry them in Scotland. So how can this scheme be called "national" if the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive want no part of it? We will have an opportunity to look at these issues in more detail when we get to Clause 44, to which we intend to lay amendments, but it would be very helpful if the Minister could make the general position clear now.

Is it correct that, whatever the view of their Parliament, any Scottish person wanting to leave Scotland to go abroad will be registered and made to buy an identity card when they apply for a passport? That does not seem very respectful of the spirit of devolution, or of the Scottish Executive and Parliament. Who will pay for the cost of establishing and maintaining an ID card regime for the Scots and enabling public service outlets in Scottish hospitals, surgeries and benefit offices to have card readers? Clearly, it will not be the Scottish Executive. Will English and Welsh citizens have to cross-subsidise policing the system in Scotland?

The noble Baroness made it quite clear at Second Reading that the Government want to move to compulsion and she has said so again today. Indeed, the whole Bill is about compulsory volunteering. When that happens and, as the Government intend, it becomes necessary to show an ID card to get NHS treatment in England, will it be the case that a Scot visiting his mother in Carlisle would have to show an ID card before being able to go to her local hospital, but that his mother visiting him in Dumfries will be able to go to his hospital without a card? Meanwhile, his aunt, married and living in Denmark, would not have to get an ID card and could walk into both surgeries whenever she liked. How does that all add up? We will need to look very carefully into all this when we get to Clause 15.

Can the Minister give us an idea of how it will all work? What would happen if a Scottish pensioner wanted to get a freedom pass in London to get access to free public transport? Would they have to show an ID card, notwithstanding the resolution of the Scottish Executive that access to no public service should be subject to the production of a card? And what if someone in Carlisle has a damaged ID card and has not handed it in because they cannot afford a new one or are frightened that they might be fined £1,000 for not having given the information? Are they not likely to go over the Border where they will not be asked for their card to get public services? Maybe it would be wise to build an A&E hospital at Gretna Green.

What freedom will the Scottish Parliament really have? Does the Sewel convention apply here? Is the meaning of "national" in the title of the scheme that the Government will find ways to impose ID cards on the people of Scotland even if they do not want them? What about non-British citizens? The Government say that a purpose of the card is to be a jolly convenient bit of plastic to get around other regulations such as the ridiculous money-laundering regulations. Can anyone play? Clause 2 says that anyone turning up at Dover can have one. They do not have to be a UK citizen; so that is not much of a national card.

My amendment would restrict the right to apply for a card to UK citizens and so ease the administration of a major potential burden. Will the Government accept the amendment? The Bill talks about anyone who proposes to enter the UK being able to register. There are roughly 25 million visits to this country each year, among them a likely pool of potential terrorists. There is talk of a prescribed period for which you have to stay to qualify for a card. Is the Government's long-term aim that all those visitors be registered? What if many want to be registered? You can just imagine travel agents in Toulouse or Tampa Bay telling their customers, "Get one of those English ID cards if you are proposing to enter the UK. It makes it more convenient to deal with banks or to get out a library book". If they all applied for a card, it would no longer be national, and the whole system would surely be overwhelmed.

The head of the Passport Service has already declared that he intends to process 4.5 million people in the interrogation centres that he is building. The mind boggles about how the thing would operate if even a quarter of tourists wanted to be on the system. Ministers have obviously thought about it; or else we would not have Clause 2(3) as a gatekeeper. Will the Minister tell the House precisely on whom the gate will be closed? If foreign visitors are unregistered, do we not risk ignoring some of the very people who most pose a threat?

The question of Scotland and the question of foreign nationals are two different things, but if it really is a national scheme Scots should be forced in and foreigners frozen out. What precisely is the Minister's vision of the make-up of the register by, say, 2010? It would certainly help us to know that now, and it will enlighten our later discussions. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Maxton Lord Maxton Labour

I did not intend to speak in this debate, but I found the interpretation of devolution as expressed by the noble Baroness rather strange, to say the least. Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, and large numbers of government departments, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the immigration authorities, the Home Office, the social security system and the pensions system are all administered nationally across the whole of the United Kingdom. Certain aspects of the lives of those of us who live in Scotland are now—in my view rightly since I was a staunch supporter of devolution—covered by the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament. They are the health service, education, local government and other services. Given what the noble Baroness was suggesting, it seems to me that there is only one service where the identity card issue would arise; the health service. It would be up to each local government area in Scotland to decide whether its services would be dependent on having an ID card. Every Scot who wishes one would be entitled to an ID card. The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive cannot stop that happening, because they will require it for a passport.

People forget the enormous social and commercial advantages of having an ID card. I have one son who is 30, but on occasion he looks about 17. There are occasions when he goes to have a drink in the pub that he is turned away because he cannot prove that he is over 18. An ID card would allow him to do that.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

The card is available at 16, so that would not help, would it?

Photo of Lord Maxton Lord Maxton Labour

Between 16 and 18 it would have the reverse effect, because it would stop those people being able to buy drink. Over 18 they would be allowed to do so. There are large social advantages for proving your identity when you produce a bank card or other card or want some service. It would be to the advantage of the vast majority of people in this country to carry an ID card of some sort.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Shadow Attorney General, Law Officers (Constitutional Affairs), Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Non-Departmental & Cross Departmental Responsibilities

Would the noble Lord suggest that a publican should have the equipment to scan the iris of an underage drinker? Is that what he is suggesting? How much would that cost? Would the publican have to pay for the equipment? That is unrealistic. Someone could produce any photo of himself on a driving licence or whatever to fulfil the task to which the noble Lord referred.

Photo of Lord Maxton Lord Maxton Labour

Large numbers of youngsters at present do not carry a photo ID.

Photo of The Earl of Erroll The Earl of Erroll Crossbench

The noble Lord is slightly out of date. Most local authorities are now issuing proof of age cards. There are widely held cards. There are smart cards where the authorisation of identity checking is done properly via schools, and the Portman Group and various others also issue such cards. I am afraid that the noble Lord is out of date.

Photo of Lord Gould of Brookwood Lord Gould of Brookwood Labour

I am afraid the noble Earl is out of date. If he thinks that is happening and that kids in London are going round the place with neat little ID cards and it is all working perfectly; of course it is not. They are making them up all over the place. He is out of date.

Photo of Lord Maxton Lord Maxton Labour

It rather proves my point in that now instead of each local authority issuing its own card we will have one card that everyone will carry that will be of enormous benefit to them. Those are the facts. People in Scotland will wish this card as much as people elsewhere, because they will see the advantages of it. I am sorry to see the Front Bench opposite putting an argument that came very close to suggesting that people in Scotland should have a Scottish passport. That is a dangerous route for the party opposite to go down.

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

Has the noble Lord ever had any difficulty proving his identity? I think it unlikely.

Photo of Lord Maxton Lord Maxton Labour

I had the misfortune when I was 18 of looking 25, and now at the age of 69 I am never asked to prove my age.

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative

It happens that I used to be chairman of a public body that called itself the National Rivers Authority, which had no authority in Scotland at all. That caused a certain amount of debate when it was set up. There were those who argued that we should not call ourselves national, but we did and somehow it worked.

When I saw the amendment, I asked myself what the position in Scotland was, and I was uncertain. The noble Lord who has just spoken said that Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, which is perfectly correct, but certain aspects of the legislation are covered by the Scottish Parliament. My first question is simple; are there any aspects of the legislation covered by the Scottish Parliament that in any way impinge in an adverse way on this scheme or would cause difficulties? My second question is about the requirements that we will debate in later amendments to attend at a specified place and time to register biometric details. Is it the intention of the Government to ensure that suitably equipped places will be provided as much in Scotland as they are in the rest of the United Kingdom?

Photo of Baroness Carnegy of Lour Baroness Carnegy of Lour Conservative

I support the noble Lord, Lord Maxton. The debate in the Scots Parliament was initiated by the Greens. In the course of the debate, Members said, "We cannot stop this scheme, although we do not like it". The Scots will have identity cards. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Maxton, that, when the time comes, they will want them.

But the Scots Parliament—not the Executive but the Parliament—voted that the cards should not be used to access services such as the health service, and it had the right to do that. So I agree with the noble Lord up to a point. I do not think that anything in the Bill prevents that happening. Personally, I do not think that it will happen when the time comes because people will gradually see the point of the legislation. So, to an extent, I cannot agree with my noble friend on the Front Bench, and I am sorry about that. That is my understanding of the debate that took place—I do not know whether the Minister has the debate in front of her. I cannot see any record of the vote but I thought that there had been one. I have read the debate and that is what was said.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs 6:00, 15 November 2005

But for the nimbleness of the noble Lord, Lord Maxton, I had hoped to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, a question before she sat down. That was a long time ago but I hope that at this stage I am still allowed to ask her whether it would be helpful for the word "National" to be replaced by the words "United Kingdom"? Would that not resolve many of the questions that she raised?

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

The amendment before us is interesting and was well moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe. But there would be a great danger in removing the word "National". I understand "national" to mean Great Britain and Northern Ireland—the United Kingdom. It seems to me that if we remove that word, we remove the protection of a European-wide identity card.

Noble Lords:

Oh!

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

Of course, I notice these things. I am always looking for intrusions into the sovereignty of this nation—our United Kingdom. I raise this matter because on 24 February this year in a speech to the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels, the Home Secretary envisaged that we might have a European Union identity card. On those grounds, we have to be careful that we are talking about a national identity card and not a semi or regional international identity card. For that reason, I would prefer either that a reference to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is included or that the word "National" is allowed to remain in the Bill. Therefore, I do not think that I can support the amendment.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Work & Pensions & Welfare Reform

I understand exactly what my noble friend on the Front Bench is getting at in seeking to remove the word "National". But the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, will remember that it is the United Kingdom passport authority that will operate this scheme. Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, to consider that aspect of the matter.

Photo of Lord Selsdon Lord Selsdon Conservative

My noble friend's amendment intrigues me because it takes me back to nationality Acts. The business of defining people is strange. I believe that under the law you can be a British citizen but not a British national. I am not sure of all the ingredients.

First, we should begin to determine how many British nationals there are. Members of the Committee will remember that only a few moments ago I reminded them that 80 per cent of the British population have passports. But the Committee will be intrigued to know that the most recent information I have from the Home Office is that 13 million British subjects are living abroad. I think that if we asked each other how many British subjects lived abroad the figure would probably be between 1 million and 3 million. But when one takes into account that at the general election 19 million people did not vote and that 13 million British subjects are living abroad, we can possibly suggest that the majority of British nationals have not been sufficiently consulted through the parliamentary process.

I like the idea of replacing the word "National" with "British" because that is what we are talking about—protecting British nationals and giving them the right to prove who they are wherever they may be. I explained earlier that I have difficulty in proving who I am, and therefore I have issued my own identity cards. They are in a plasticised envelope so that they may not be worn out or damaged when I swim. I have a photocopy of the coloured page of my passport and of my signature. I have a colour copy of my driving licence and, believe it or not, I have a colour copy of my House of Lords pass.

Some time ago, I asked the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, whether the House of Lords pass was proof of identity. He said that it was not as it was not an official document. Yet the noble Lord opposite will see that the pass—he is wearing it round his neck with pride—states: "This pass is an official document". If it is an official document and is not proof of identity when an official document held by a member of the Armed Forces or the police is proof of identity, then what is it and why are we required to wear it around our necks? The only real proof of identity in life is recognition.

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

Will the noble Lord give way? The answer is that the noble Lord is not required to wear it around his neck.

Photo of Lord Selsdon Lord Selsdon Conservative

The noble Lord knows that he and I share that view, and I do not wear it around my neck. As I was about to say, the only real proof of identity is recognition. When I first came to the House, I was told that you could not get up and say "the noble Lord opposite"; you had to use his name, even if you had to whisper to colleagues on the Back Benches to find out what it was. You had a duty to recognise him. All the staff in the Palace of Westminster used to recognise us. Not so long ago in this recognition game, Black Rod was kind enough to give me the numbers of all those working in the Palace so that when they said "My Lord" and were not sure who you were, you could look at the number on their sleeve, look down at your crib and say, "Well, Mr X. how's your wife?", because ultimately recognition is important. Therefore, if we are talking about protecting British nationals, which we are, I would prefer that we used the word "British" rather than "National".

Photo of Baroness Henig Baroness Henig Labour

Does the noble Lord feel the same about the national insurance scheme and the National Health Service? Why does he just have a problem with the word "national" when it relates to identity cards?

Photo of Lord Selsdon Lord Selsdon Conservative

I was not referring to nationals. I was saying that under the law you can only be a British citizen; I am not sure whether you can be a British national.

Photo of Baroness Henig Baroness Henig Labour

But the amendment relates to identity cards.

Photo of Lord Selsdon Lord Selsdon Conservative

I think that it applies to everything because we have had national identity cards in the past and I still have one of mine from the early days. I am proud of being a British national—more proud than I am of being just a "national".

Photo of The Earl of Erroll The Earl of Erroll Crossbench

First, obviously it is a "national" and not a "British" identity card. Many people who are not British nationals will be carrying these cards, but that is not its purpose. With regard to the amendment and the extension to Scotland, public service access and so on, I suspect that for the card to be useful for some of the purposes stated—I do not believe that it will be useful for many of them—it will have to cover Scotland as well. I should be interested to know whether a loophole will be formed by not including Scotland in the provision of public services compulsorily or whether the market will be distorted because people will suddenly find that it is easier and more convenient to go over the Border for the services because they do not have to produce the card and so on. I am not certain on that point.

Just to get the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, really worried, the CEN work group on TC 224 will soon finalise the specification for a European-wide citizen card. It will be the specification for the things issued by local authorities and will be interoperable throughout Europe.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

What a pleasure it is, for the second time in my experience, to be able to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. I presume that by removing from the Bill all references to the word "national", the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, wished merely to probe whether this was truly a national scheme, given that identity cards could be utilised in different parts of the country. I agree with the comments made and I am quite confident that the noble Baroness was not suggesting that we separate Scotland off or that the Scottish nationalists have it right and that there should be a Scottish passport. I wholeheartedly endorse the comments made by my noble friend Lord Maxton on this matter, ably supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, who can always be relied upon to know all things Scottish.

The issue of identity cards is, of course, a reserved matter, as my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, made clear. Therefore, it will be a matter for the United Kingdom Government to decide that identity cards, just like passports, should be issued throughout the United Kingdom, including Scotland. The Scottish Executive have responsibility for devolved services, and access to state benefits or other reserved services are matters for the United Kingdom Government, so it will be for the UK Government to decide whether an ID card can be issued or needs to be provided for.

I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, was correct—I do not have the actual decision—in saying that health, unlike immigration and identity cards, is a devolved matter. Entitlement to a service will depend on the rules in the individual jurisdiction. That is a consequence of the devolution settlement and not of this Bill. The noble Baroness is right to say that the Scottish Parliament is entitled to say that. That does not mean that we seek in any way to change the arrangement that was made on devolution. These issues will have to be dealt with.

Visitors will not be entitled to register; only residents in the United Kingdom will be eligible to register and only if they have been resident for the prescribed period, which will probably be about three months. These are issues for discussion under Clause 2. The importance of making this a national identity card system is plain. I agree with comments made by my noble friend Lady Henig and the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. It is important to deal with that.

The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, asked whether the system will cause difficulty and, if so, how. I hope I have dealt with that point. We do not believe that it will cause difficulty. He also asked whether there will be suitably equipped places where such data can be taken in Scotland. Certainly, there should be. We want a fair distribution of such places throughout the country so that they are easily accessible for citizens in the various parts of the country to give such data. I do not know whether many noble Lords took advantage of the opportunity to see, in Committee Room 4, how easily and quickly that can be done. I took that opportunity and I was surprised that it took only a matter of seconds to do the iris, only a matter of seconds to do the fingerprints, and the facial recognition was very quick too. We hope that such facilities will be available for those who will need them. The legislation will apply throughout the United Kingdom because it relates to issues that are within the competence of the Westminster Parliament.

Photo of Lord Selsdon Lord Selsdon Conservative

My passport, which I carry with me for about 40 weeks of the year, says at the top "European Union" and then it says, "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". Other members of the European Union—most of the Schengen states—have the right to have an identity card. If foreign citizens or European Union citizens who are not United Kingdom nationals come to this country, they surrender their national identity cards within a certain period. It runs out of date. Does that mean they would have the right to replace that national identity card with a British national identity card, which would give them rights of travel, or have I been misled? My passport mentions "Secretary of State", does that mean Secretary of State for the Home Office? I always used to presume it was the Secretary of State for foreign affairs.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management) 6:15, 15 November 2005

"Secretary of State" is a generic term. It can refer to all or any Secretary of State, not least because in extremis it is often necessary for one Secretary of State to discharge the duty in an Act. It is rare indeed for the Secretary of State to be identified. It merely refers to the status.

Photo of Lord Selsdon Lord Selsdon Conservative

On several occasions, in rather beaten-up parts of the world, which I shall not name, I have used my passport to demonstrate how important I was and how I could get out of the country. On two occasions I was asked, "What is the name of the Secretary of State?". I said, "Ah, that is a secret; he is there by Royal Prerogative". I was then asked, "Is he a subject of the Queen?". The Minister is saying that it refers to any Secretary of State.

Photo of Lord Gould of Brookwood Lord Gould of Brookwood Labour

If the noble Lord had had an identity card he would have been all right.

Photo of Lord Bridges Lord Bridges Crossbench

In such a situation, I believe there has been a change of usage. I remember in my youth having a passport which began with the words "We, Ernest Bevin".

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

The short answer is that the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, could take his pick. The term "Secretary of State" will do. I have to confess that I have entirely forgotten the first question asked by the noble Lord.

Photo of Lord Selsdon Lord Selsdon Conservative

I was asking about foreign nationals within the European Union having to surrender their identity cards, as I believe they have to under their domestic legislation, when they become residents of the United Kingdom. Does that mean that they would be entitled to a British national identity card and would that replace their own identity card?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

I thank the noble Lord. The truth is that EU citizens do not have to surrender their own national cards when they come here. However, they will be eligible for a UK card if they are resident here, but it will not show nationality. They will have an ID card that they can use; it will identify them and it will have the ability to contain their addresses, but it will not show their nationality.

Photo of Baroness Seccombe Baroness Seccombe Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers), Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assist the Home Affairs Team)

I thank the Minister for her answer. We have raised only issues that reflect parliamentary views in Scotland. We wanted Members of the Committee to have the opportunity to debate the matter. I am grateful for the interest of noble Lords and the suggestions that have been made. I shall consult with colleagues, but at this stage—

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

Before the noble Baroness withdraws the amendment perhaps I can ask the Minister a question. The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, has just said that foreign nationals would not have to put their nationality on an ID card, so why does subsection (8) state:

"In this section 'residential status', in relation to an individual, means—

"(a) his nationality;

"(b) his entitlement to remain in the United Kingdom; and

"(c) where that entitlement derives from a grant of leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, the terms and conditions of that leave"?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

The question related to the position of an EU national. An EU national would not have to have his individual nationality recorded.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Shadow Attorney General, Law Officers (Constitutional Affairs), Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Non-Departmental & Cross Departmental Responsibilities

The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, urged the Government to be clear and honest. My entirely constructive and amiable purpose is to give a proper nomenclature to the register. Perhaps the Committee will forgive a short historical perspective which will help to support my argument for the change because it demonstrates how safeguards have in the past been set aside and how one thing leads to another. On 5 July 1915, in the middle of the Great War, the National Registration Bill was before the House of Commons, requiring every person between the ages of 15 and 65 to register in a national register for the purposes, so it was said, of using the workforce to the best effect. The Labour Party was against the Bill in principle. Philip Snowden, later to be Chancellor of the Exchequer in the first two Labour governments, said that the hidden purpose was to aid conscription. He said:

"I submit that the ulterior purpose of this Bill has not been disclosed, because if there was no motive behind the Bill than that which is disclosed in it, then such a Bill could not possibly have emanated from any other source than Bedlam".

Of course, the Government denied that the register was to aid conscription. Six months later it was used to aid conscription. They denied that identity certificates had to be carried and produced. In early 1918 the Act was amended to permit a constable to demand sight of the identity certificate on pain of criminal sanctions. But at least the sun set on the 1915 Act when hostilities ceased in November 1918.

On 5 September 1939, on the outbreak of the war against Hitler, another emergency registration Act was passed. It was passed for three stated reasons: first, the dislocation of the population caused by mobilisation and mass evacuation; secondly, the likelihood of rationing; and, thirdly, the need for recent statistics because there had been no census since 1931. That Act did not cease at the end of that war. By the time of its abolition in 1952 it was used not for three purposes but for 32, the most bizarre of which was to trace who was guilty of bigamy. Nye Bevan said of it,

"I believe the requirement of an internal passport is more objectionable than an external passport, and that citizens ought to be allowed to move about freely, without running the risks of being accosted by a policeman or anyone else, and asked to produce proof of identity".

I wonder what those giants of the Labour movement, Philip Snowden and Nye Bevan, would make of this new Labour identity register. The Bill is not about preserving the citizen's identity—this Government have not in eight years taken any step to enhance or to protect personal privacy—it is about surveillance, and it should say so.

Supporters of the Bill will say that carrying a card is not compulsory, but it is intended to be. They say that there is nothing which enables a policeman to inspect your card. How, then, could the compulsory nature of an identity card be enforced? Of course, it will happen, and it will happen shortly. On 1 January of this year carrying ID cards became compulsory in the Netherlands as a response to the killing of the film-maker, Theo van Gogh. So far 46,500 people have been fined €50 each for failing to carry an identity card—4,000 of that number were children aged 14 and 15—and a batch of 250 people were put on trial in Utrecht a few weeks ago on 28 September last for positively refusing to carry one. That is the Netherlands experience of ID cards.

The Bill puts into the hands of the Government a central database containing direct and indirect access to everything known about an individual. As the Bill is drafted, the database will contain a person's national insurance number, his passport number and his driving licence details, and it will be necessary to have his movements and his addresses recorded. Is it to be thought that bank accounts, credit card accounts, tax records, medical records and criminal records will not contain at their head a person's identity number? Your personal identity number will be on file in the tax office. It will easily be cross-referenced at some future date.

When coming to and going from this country will there not be a form, as there are in many countries, to inquire who you are, on which you will register your identity card number? If that is not going to happen, how else are identity cards to be used to control immigration? When coming to and going from the UK we will all be required to fill in forms and to put on them our identity numbers, which no doubt will be fed back into the central database to find out who we are.

Will the Bill stop identity fraud? The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, said that he was afraid of losing his credit card because it would give people access to his credit. That is a limited access although it may be very unfortunate to have your credit card account interfered with. However, if a hacker—the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, referred to this—gains access to the proposed central database, he can steal every aspect of one's identity.

Will the Bill stop terrorists? Suppose that every person were to swipe their identity card on entering a Tube train and that train were to be blown apart by a suicide bomber, you would know who the British citizens were who were on that train, but you would not know who the foreign visitors were, and you would not know which of the passengers was the suicide bomber anyway. How is an identity card supposed to protect the citizens of this country from a suicide bomber? In Spain 40 years ago under General Franco identity cards were introduced—that was a fascist dictatorship, of course—but that did not prevent the Madrid bombings that occurred a year or two ago.

Like the rest of the Committee I have nothing to hide, but that does not mean to say that I am happy to carry an identity card. If I have nothing to hide, why should government departments and authorities have access to all this information about me? Why should this or any future government have in their hands the means of surveillance of the whole of my life? Certainly, privacy must be balanced against security and the interests of the individual have to be balanced against the interests of the state, but we run the risk of losing the right balance and of letting fear rule our lives for this moment, with the danger of allowing government—a favourable government or a malign one—to rule our lives in the future. Let us call this identity card and the database behind it what they are—tools for the personal surveillance of every citizen in this country. I beg to move.

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

My father fought from 1941 until he was captured in 1944 at the age of 31 commanding a regiment of yeomanry cavalry in Normandy. What he fought for was not that we should all be forced to carry identity cards; he fought so that people in silly hats should not have the right to stop us in the street and ask, "Ihre papieren, bitte". The list of what is registrable comprises the list of those facts which any tyrannical government would want. The Bill should not be called the national Identity Cards Bill; it should be called the National Control of the Subject Bill. With it one can interfere, see and discover every single piece of information about people.

The noble Lord opposite says that people like the idea of identity cards. However, I bet that they will not when they realise their implications. I bet they will not want them when they realise that everyone is allowed to interfere in and know about their affairs. There is no point in having the thing unless you can be stopped by a policeman with exactly the same result as in Holland—people will be fined for not carrying their identity cards. People like me will probably be locked up for refusing to carry an identity card. When I am going about my lawful business, it is no one's business to stop me and say, "Where are you going?". That is what my ancestors fought for Parliament for and why they have been in Parliament solidly since the 14th century. That is why I believe passionately in the importance of the liberty of the individual and of the subject. This clause regarding a register goes too far. It is the instrument of bossyboots and tyrants.

The trouble with the present Administration is that they have introduced Bill after Bill attacking our various liberties. They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. I hope that when—and I mean "when" advisedly—there is a Conservative government, the first thing they will have is a list of the Acts passed by this Government, and they will remove the tyrannical aspects of that legislation about which the present Government seem to be so self-satisfied and smugly happy.

Photo of Lord Gould of Brookwood Lord Gould of Brookwood Labour 6:30, 15 November 2005

Both the previous speakers—the latter with great emotion—were arguing for freedom. We have to ask what greater freedom is there than the freedom to place a vote for a political party in a ballot box upon the basis of a mandate and a manifesto. That is the crux of it: the people have supported this measure. That is what the noble Earl's father fought for. But that is too trivial an answer. I know that. The fundamental argument is that the truth is that people believe that these identity cards will affirm their identity. The noble Lord opposite said that he likes to be in this House and how he is recognised in this House because it is a community that recognises him. That is how the people of this nation feel. They feel that they are part of communities, and they want recognition. For them, recognition comes in the form of this identity card. Noble Lords may think that that is strange, but it is what they feel. This is their kind of freedom. They want their good, hard work and determination to be recognised, rewarded and respected. That is what this does.

Of course it is right and honourable for noble Lords to have their views, but I say there is another view, and it is the view of the majority of this country. They want to have the respect, recognition and freedom that this card will give them. Times have changed. Politics have changed. What would not work 50 years ago, works now. It is not just me. I have the words of the leader of your party:

"I have listened to the police and security service chiefs. They have told me that ID cards can and will help their efforts to protect the lives of British citizens against terrorist acts. How can I disregard that?".

This is not some silly idea of the phoney left. It is a mainstream idea of modern times. It is a new kind of identity and a new kind of freedom. I respect the noble Lords' views, but it would help if they respected the fact that the Bill and the identity cards represent the future: a new kind of freedom and a new kind of identity.

Photo of The Earl of Northesk The Earl of Northesk Conservative

Would the noble Lord accept that there is a very important distinction to be drawn between ID cards, which many of us who find the Bill objectionable would potentially be prepared to support, and the national identity register? The fiction keeps on being trotted out that the public are in support of the Bill because they support ID cards. But the Bill is not fundamentally about ID cards. It is about the national identity register. I concur with all my noble friends who have intimated that their judgment is that the population of the country would be much less inclined to support the Bill if they properly understood its parameters.

Photo of Lord Gould of Brookwood Lord Gould of Brookwood Labour

My understanding is that the public want more compulsion, not less, and they want this done quickly, not slowly. The noble Lord is out of step with the public. They want it done because they know the world is changing and that there is fraud, terror and identity theft. They want this done quickly and compulsion cannot come too quickly for them. The noble Lord is in the wrong place.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Shadow Attorney General, Law Officers (Constitutional Affairs), Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Non-Departmental & Cross Departmental Responsibilities

The noble Lord will know from his profession that opinion polls in Australia were in favour of identity cards until the proposals were put under parliamentary scrutiny. Then the public mood changed completely and there was a majority against the Bill. Surely the noble Lord is not going to be part of a Government who simply govern in accordance with what opinion polls say at one particular moment and accepts that debate and scrutiny over a period of time, such as we are doing tonight, is a very important part of our democracy.

Photo of Lord Gould of Brookwood Lord Gould of Brookwood Labour

The most important part of our democracy is the fact that this is mandated by the manifesto. There are two parts to this: the manifesto commitment, which we must adhere to, and the issue of opinion polls, which I did not raise. Other noble Lords raised them and I am delighted to discuss them. I believe that the public will continue to support ID cards. I think that the support will not fade away. But it is also the case that this measure was part of the Labour Party manifesto. That is a mark of freedom too.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

I have great respect for the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Gould, on these matters, and I find myself agreeing with him much of the time. I would be the first to say that this House is the inferior House and must ultimately subject itself to the other place. That is what the Parliament Act and the notion of manifesto obligations are about. But I urge the noble Lord not to press his case in relation to the manifesto too hard.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, made the point—and this is not a trick arithmetic point—that the Government got the support of only 37 per cent of those who voted. That is to say, 63 per cent of those who voted did not support the manifesto with this commitment in it. It is also germane to point out that in terms of the electorate the Government got the support of only one in four. I go further; it is dangerous to say that everything in a 100-page manifesto is somehow imprinted with the will of the British people. That seems to be—I do not want to use too strong a word—just not sensible. Frankly, I do not know anybody who read the Labour manifesto. I would be interested to know whether the noble Lord, Lord Gould, did—he probably wrote it, so I withdraw that argument. But how many noble Lords read the Labour manifesto, or the Tory or Liberal Democrat manifestos? I ask the noble Lord to temper his understandable democratic zeal with a bit of reality.

I want to make two other points. The first is that my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford—who has moved a Second Reading debate with his subtle amendment, and God bless him—talked about Holland. I was very interested to hear what is going on in Utrecht, and the case is much stronger than the noble Lord realises because the Dutch have no national database. The thing that most of us are most concerned about is a national database with all the cross-referrals to every government department that ever existed and the cross-referral under Section 17 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, which extends to public authorities abroad as well as here. That is what we dislike. That is the big brother. That is the managerialism that has become the dominant feature of British life and, Heaven help us, is becoming the dominant feature of British politics. I, for one, say that that is not my idea of democracy or freedom. It is not my idea of why this place exists. In Holland, there is no national database or biometrics and there is a choice between an ID card and some other recognised card of identification, such as a driving licence. It is a stronger case than my noble friend makes.

I shall make the point that my noble friend Lord Thomas uses the word "surveillance". That is a sinister word and that is why he chose it. The problem with this debate is that nobody sitting on the Government Benches is sinister. That really is a problem because you are dealing with reasonable, decent, freedom-loving people. I come back to the point: it is not our job to assume that governments for all time are going to be of that ilk and it behoves us on an issue such as this to be a touch cynical about the potential of future governments and authoritarianism.

Finally, my noble friend Lord Thomas said that this Bill is not honest because it does not talk about surveillance. It does not use that word, but Clause 1(3)—I almost defy any Member of the Committee to get his head around it, as it seems to be written by somebody actually setting out to bamboozle the lot of us—states:

"The statutory purposes are to facilitate . . . the provision of a . . . method", for ascertaining facts about us. If you gut it, that is what it says. "Surveillance" is a loaded word and I therefore would not use it, but the provision comes close. I am supporting my noble friend but undermining him.

Photo of Baroness Carnegy of Lour Baroness Carnegy of Lour Conservative

I respect enormously the point of view of the noble Lord, Lord Gould. He holds it passionately, and so do many other people. Perhaps he should have another poll and publish Schedule 1 and ask the public whether they want that. I think that what is in Schedule 1 is the problem, not the question of whether people should have identity cards.

Photo of The Earl of Erroll The Earl of Erroll Crossbench

I shall not make another Second Reading speech as a lot of other noble Lords have; I merely refer to my own Second Reading speech when I quoted Benjamin Franklin, which I think is very relevant to this issue. I support the amendment in the interests of honesty, clarity and not being hypocritical. I should be very interested to see a rerun of the Home Office research with the register so renamed.

Photo of Lord Maxton Lord Maxton Labour

I am loath to rise again but my noble friend Lord Gould said that the world had changed politically, certainly since the 1940s when of course the noble Earl's father—even though he may have been a serving officer in the Army—had to carry an identity card. The fact is that the world has not just changed politically and socially, but dramatically in terms of technology. We live in a world of information, most of which is good. It has freed up the world and freed up people in a way that has not happened in the past.

That information and technology means that, yes, the Government will have information, but large numbers of other organisations will also have all sorts of information about us. Every time you use a bank card in a machine, or every time I use my freedom card on a bus or the Underground—whatever it might be—information is stored and collected somewhere. If I buy a book or a record on Amazon or bid for something on eBay on the Internet, that information is collected. If I want to operate my bank account on the Internet, I have to give my bank large amounts of information, including a password and so on, in order to do so. Why are Members so opposed to the Government having information on them when they are apparently quite happy for all sorts of other organisations to have information about them?

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

The world has changed since 1941, in this country infinitely for the better. The reason I am not happy about the matter is because the information is being collected centrally by government, rather than by individuals to whom I voluntarily give it. That is the fundamental difference.

Photo of Lord Maxton Lord Maxton Labour

People already give that information in terms of their passports. I do not understand what the argument is on this. In the modern information world all sorts of organisations will have information about us, given by people voluntarily and to some extent compulsorily. I do not see why we have this enormous objection to governments, who are elected by the people of this country, having that information as well.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

Is there not a terrific difference between, first, the system of Barclays Bank having all sorts of information about you, which the noble Earl said is voluntarily given and confined to Barclays Bank—unless of course it is improperly accessed, which it is—and, secondly, the state collecting it and, under the Bill, having wide powers to share that information and to sell it commercially? Surely there is a big difference.

Photo of Lord Maxton Lord Maxton Labour 6:45, 15 November 2005

I do not see the big difference. I have no problem in giving all sorts of information to organisations voluntarily, and I have no objection to the Government holding information as well.

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

I support the amendment because it really says what this is all about—surveillance. It is about not identity cards or registers, but the surveillance of the individual by the Executive. The noble Lord, Lord Maxton, says that the world has changed. In many respects it has, but the concepts of democracy and individual liberty have not changed, I hope. They still exist. Individual freedom means that there is no state surveillance surveying everything that you do and having all sorts of information about you, some of which you may not know about. That is what the argument is all about. I really am so surprised that one by one Labour Members of this House have risen to support a proposition which is so anti-Labour. I know for certain that if the Labour Party had been in opposition and the Tories or even the Liberal Democrats had been in government, there would have been hell to pay about this Bill. There would not just have been debates in Parliament but marches up and down the country against this concept.

I am so disappointed that, as I say, one Member after another has risen from the Labour Benches to support what is nearly fascist legislation. Hitler in 1933 did exactly the same. As soon as he came to power he introduced a national register which enabled him to define who were Jews and who were non-Jews, and we know what that gave rise to. As the noble Lord said, these are decent people. They do not want to use the information in an inappropriate or dangerous way, but they will not always be there—I know that Mr Blair thinks that he will always be there or the Labour Party will always be there. But it does not happen that way. There might well be circumstances in this country where the information, which is centrally registered, could be used for baleful purposes. That is the great argument against having this central register and eventually a compulsory identity card.

The noble Lord, Lord Gould, who is an expert in this, referred to opinion "out there". He says that people want more surveillance—that is what it is—and that they are all in favour of compulsory identity cards eventually. I have to say that I meet a fair number of people and nobody has come up to me and said, "Lord Stoddart, will you please get me an identity card because I want one? I want to be compelled to carry one". I have had a great many letters saying, "For God's sake, Stoddart, vote against this legislation because it is so dangerous to our democracy and freedoms".

Where does this opinion poll come from? Is it from four people? I understand that, often, legislation is based on the view of a few people. Or is it scientific? We simply do not know. In any event, if we are to be governed by opinion poll, let us take a lot more of them. Let us, in these dire times when so many horrific murders are taking place, take an opinion poll on whether we should restore capital punishment. I can tell the noble Lord the result straightaway. People would say, "Yes, bring it back. Why should we keep spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on keeping these monsters in prison?". So let us not go down the road of relying on opinion polls.

Photo of Lord Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative

The noble Lord expressed his opinion that the Bill is anti-Labour, but was he not understating the case? Did not Mr Blair himself at the Labour conference at Brighton in 1995 express the view that compulsory identity cards were anathema and that he would oppose them if the Conservative government proceeded with them? What has changed to make Labour so enthusiastic in government about something that it said that it was prepared to oppose root and branch when in opposition?

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

That is a very good point and I must confess that I had forgotten it. Those on the Labour Benches were my friends, colleagues and comrades until they threw me out, so I want to be as kind to them as I possibly can, but I have a duty in this House to express my opinion. My opinion is that the Bill is bad.

Once again, I want to have a go at the manifesto commitment. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, repeated what I said in an earlier debate, but there is more to it even than that. Sometimes, it is not only what is in a manifesto that counts but what is not. For example, Mr Smith told the Labour Party conference—I forget which year it was now:

"Our air is not for sale".

We all remember that. When, finally, we won the election—not we, but the Labour Party—we found that our air was for sale and was sold. Mr Blair himself—not in the manifesto but before the election—said that we had no intention of introducing university tuition fees. We have them. If you can do what is not in the manifesto, conversely, you can not do what is in the manifesto when you find that it is unacceptable and incorrect.

I support the amendment. I do not know whether it will be put to the vote—probably not—but it has enabled us to have a very good debate on some of the principles not only of the Bill but of new Labour.

Photo of Lord Lyell of Markyate Lord Lyell of Markyate Conservative

I agree that it has been a very good debate. The only way to understand the Bill is to try to consider in practice what it will and will not do, what it will and will not achieve, and what it will and will not do for individual citizens and residents of this country. I entirely understand why the noble Lord, Lord Gould, says what he does, because that is what quite a lot of opinion polls have shown. Most of us have been through a period—I certainly have—of thinking that identity cards were a very good idea. We thought that when we were in government for a bit— at least, we discussed it with favourable views—and then we drew back. As the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, reminded us, the Australians also drew back. However, just in the course of today's debates, we have sussed out from the Minister that, at present, they would be pretty well useless to the police unless and until they were compulsory and carried. The noble Baroness shakes her head.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

That is absolutely not what I said. Cards will be of considerable use to the police and, to get that utility, it will not be necessary to have them carried, as the noble and learned Lord suggests. I hope that I made it clear that it is because of their use that we are anxious to have them. That view is absolutely shared by the police, who know intimately the details of the Bill.

Photo of Lord Lyell of Markyate Lord Lyell of Markyate Conservative

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, but let me analyse her answer to me about half an hour ago. I asked expressly how the provision would help the police constable in Brixton. She said that the individual would be taken to the police station—I do not know how, because there is no power of arrest, but that is not the point—and would call himself Mr Brown. I am assuming that it is a Mr Brown sufficiently identified that he can be somebody who is on the register. Then, by entering his 13 biometric details—his 10 fingers, his eyes and the shape of his face—it can be shown that he is not that Mr Brown. That is all that can be shown. That is not much help and that assumes that he pretends to be someone that he is not.

Over and above that, the measure is completely useless. Roughly 20 per cent of the population will not have a card unless or until it becomes compulsory. Then it will still not be much use to the police, unless or until people carry it because there are serious social downsides not to do so or it becomes compulsory to do so, as it is in Holland, with all those things that cause people to worry. When it becomes compulsory, we must look carefully at the detail of what can be required—what information must be given. What the public think, which is where the noble Lord, Lord Gould, should start fashioning the question for his next opinion poll, is that the Bill will solve the problems of fraud, terrorism, immigration, illegal working, and—something that no one but a bureaucrat would think of—efficient and effective public services. That is what the Bill tells the public is its purpose. Let us leave the problems of public services out—that is just a mop-up. The proposal will be of very limited benefit to fraud, terrorism, immigration and illegal working unless and until it becomes extraordinarily detailed and assertive. Then, as my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour said, the devil is in the detail, which is in Schedule 1. We need to work out all those details. Even when we have worked them all out, towards the end of our debates—when we have really scrutinised the Bill—we must decide whether we have a Bill the benefits of which are worth the costs.

The noble Baroness may not believe me, but I genuinely keep an open mind on that. I hope that she will be provided with more information with which to persuade us.

Photo of Baroness Henig Baroness Henig Labour

We have now been debating this amendment for 40 minutes. At the beginning of our debates this afternoon, all parts of the Committee agreed that we would have a constructive debate. I do not think that anyone could honestly say that the past 40 minutes have been full of constructive debate. We have had some long historical lectures, to which I listened with interest. Many points have been made for effect. Spending 40 minutes on this amendment does not suggest to me that we are going to have a focused debate. Some people might use "filibuster" to describe some of what we have heard during the past few minutes.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Shadow Attorney General, Law Officers (Constitutional Affairs), Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Non-Departmental & Cross Departmental Responsibilities 7:00, 15 November 2005

Does the noble Baroness not accept that this amendment goes to the root of the Bill? It asks whether the legislation is completely helpful to everybody or whether we should be wary about it and resist it if possible. I do not think that that has been a waste of the past 40 minutes.

Photo of Baroness Henig Baroness Henig Labour

I am not arguing with the points made, but noble Lords could make them in a focused and brief way, as I hope to do now. Noble Lords are going on for an inordinate length of time, making points that could be made more briefly. If we spin out arguments as some noble Lords are doing we will be here not just for five days but for 10 or more. Maybe that is the intention; I do not know. I raise that point because some noble Lords seem to be saying very few things in a very lengthy way.

I listened with great interest to the historical lecture by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, because he started with the First World War, a period with which I am very familiar, and conscription. It was over the conscription debates that the Liberal Party split very badly, some in favour of coercion and others against. It could be suggested that the party took a long time to recover from that.

I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and others are focusing on negatives. There is no room here for any positives. The public are not ignorant and it is not the case that if only they knew this, that or the other, they would realise this or that. They understand the issues. Like the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, I have spoken to many people, and they have a clear idea of the uses to which the legislation could be put. An example that has not been mentioned today but which many cite is that the legislation would be extremely useful in the area of employment, particularly work with children, because it would provide a much better way of checking whether people are who they say they are. There are other issues like that where individuals can see an obvious function for the legislation.

We should not be so negative. I understand the point of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, about an authoritarian government. However, authoritarian governments will find all sorts of ways of doing what they want to do. I cannot shape all the legislation of this year, next year or last year with the thought that some time in the future there will be an authoritarian government. It is not particularly helpful to accentuate the negative aspects all the time when looking at this legislation.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

I made the specific point—at the very least, it is the view of most noble Lords on this side of the House—that it is a very particular and special Bill and one is not talking about any old legislation. If I may say so, the noble Baroness is either unkind or too harsh in going on about negative debate. The whole point of tabling amendments to a Bill is that you think it could be better. That implies a negative in that you do not think that the Bill is as good as it could be. I am afraid that that is the nature of the process and there will be a lot more of that. Unless the noble Baroness understands the process, she will be very miserable.

Photo of Baroness Henig Baroness Henig Labour

I do understand the process. I am just looking forward to the noble Lord's constructive suggestions.

Photo of Baroness Park of Monmouth Baroness Park of Monmouth Conservative

With respect to the noble Baroness, it is constructive for us to discuss whether there is danger in a central register that not only will be used by any government—and some governments may be much worse than others—but is probably capable of being penetrated from within by people who would use that information in a very dangerous way. This issue is important because we are talking about a national organisation that will be completely comprehensive, and we do not know where that juggernaut might go. There is a great difference between discussing identity cards and discussing a national register of this kind.

Photo of Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Conservative

I share the implicit views of my noble friend Lady Park that the Bill would be better called the "National Identity Register Bill" than the Identity Cards Bill. I apologise that I was not present in the Chamber earlier. The Home Office is bringing three Bills through your Lordships' House, all of which are at different stages. I have spent part of the afternoon listening to the Home Secretary talk about the Terrorism Bill, and to the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Andy Hayman, in a "standing room only" meeting in Portcullis House, talking in a similar way about the police's view on the issue of 90 days. So I have been gainfully employed but I have not had the privilege of hearing the precise views of the noble Lord, Lord Gould, on opinion polls. I gather that that has played a large part in the matter that we are discussing.

I am speaking not as the man on the Clapham omnibus but temporarily as the famous man at a bus stop referred to in an intervention on "Any Questions?" many years ago. I gather that the noble Lord, Lord Gould, has prayed in aid the results of opinion polls, and I apologise that I will have to read his comments tomorrow to see precisely what he has said. My mind goes back to the occasion on "Any Questions?" when capital punishment was totally the vogue and the late Mr Enoch Powell, who was on the panel, was asked why he was an abolitionist when the opinion polls in the country were running at 83 per cent in favour of retention. Mr Powell said that those opinions had been gathered at places like bus stops. He added that if he happened to be in a queue at a bus stop when a man with a clipboard asked the only other person standing at that bus stop what he thought about capital punishment, and that person was one of the 83 per cent, he could guarantee that if the bus did not come along for another 15 minutes he could turn that person's opinion round. Therefore, although I acknowledge that I do not know the precise detail of what the noble Lord, Lord Gould, said, I am hesitant to take for granted what the opinion polls say. I have to remark in passing that my Labour colleagues in the other place paid no attention at all to opinion polls on capital punishment when it was debated in the Commons.

Photo of Baroness Seccombe Baroness Seccombe Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers), Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assist the Home Affairs Team)

I could say lots but I will confine my contribution to a few remarks. The amendment so ably and forcefully moved by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, changes the name of the register of individuals set up by this clause to the national surveillance register. By doing that he has simply set out many of the fears expressed about the scheme; namely, the Big Brother element. The thread of debate, evidenced at Second Reading and during the Bill's progress in the other place, follows concerns expressed by the Information Commissioner that the Government, without ever explaining what they are doing, are building a surveillance society. Why is it necessary to build up the audit trails of use of the ID card? How will the system operate? Does it not amount to passive surveillance and build a tool with which a later government could construct active surveillance?

We believe that it is essential to explore the opportunity to draw a clear line between the principles of biometric passports and border controls, which may have merit and deserve separate debate themselves, and the issue of compulsory or near-compulsory registration and the requirement to buy an identity card. I hope that the Minister will be fully clear in his reply about the intended scope of designation and the rollout, and about the intended operation and development of audit trails in future, thus enabling us and others to scrutinise the proposals seriously. I await his reply with great interest.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

I certainly agree that this has been a forthright and robust debate. In my own way I have greatly enjoyed it but I am not sure whether it has been as illuminating as I first thought. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, has made plain on several occasions, it is extremely important that Members of your Lordships' House as part of this process have the opportunity to ask the robust questions to which they seek answer. We all recognise that there is a degree of concern about ID cards and the creation of a national register.

I have not had the benefit of the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Gould, in testing opinion in such a scientific way or even of earwigging into focus groups. However, when I was campaigning during the general election—the general election has been raised in this debate—I confess that I probably raised the issue of ID cards on fewer than half a dozen occasions. I spent a lot of time speaking to many hundreds and probably thousands of electors during the run-up to the election. I cannot recall anyone challenging me or the Labour Party on the grounds that we would fundamentally infringe human liberty because we were considering introducing an ID card.

My most recent test of opinion on the subject was from a taxi driver who recently took me to the station. He said, "What are you off to the House of Lords to do today, Guv?". I said, "I am going to sit in on the Second Reading of the ID cards Bill". He said, "Oh, that's an interesting idea. I've got loads of ID on me. If you fancy, my Lord, I will go through them with you as we travel". I was quite intrigued by that. He got out his card relating to his ability to drive his taxi. He said, "I've got a credit card. I've got other cards, my Lord. I've got a card for me leisure club. I've got a card for me bank. I've got me Visa card. They've got loads of information on them. I've heard this argument about ID cards on Radio 4 and, frankly, I don't understand what it's about. I think it's a really good idea. I think it's very helpful".

I do not regularly patronise that taxi driver but I know him fairly well, and he reckons that ID cards are a good idea. They would help him to go about his business. And opinion polls seem to tell us that the majority of people feel the same. Members of the Committee are right to enter caveats about opinion polls—but they are not far wrong. They did not get the general election outcome very wrong; they got it pretty precisely right. I think that the public are behind this proposal. Like the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, they are concerned about the long-term implications of cards and they want to know how they will work. As the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, said, the public are not fools. They are genuinely interested in the implications of a national identity card and a register.

I am not sure that the debates in your Lordships' House will fundamentally shatter public confidence in the basic concept advanced today. My suspicion is that people will listen and take note and that they will in good measure be reassured by what the Government are attempting to achieve. I think that they will appreciate that we are spending time putting the proposition together and implementing it.

The issue of cost and all of those arguments have been raised. However, my contact with Home Office officials and those involved in the Bill suggests that, as with any Bill of this complexity, a great deal of careful thought and preparation has gone into it. No doubt that will develop and expand during the Bill's passage through Parliament and as we seek to introduce the ID card system.

I refute the argument that the national identity register will be a form of surveillance. One cannot see it as a form of surveillance in the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, has identified it. One has to understand that the information which may be held on the register is strictly limited by the Bill. As Members of the Committee have said, the information that will be required is listed very carefully in Schedule 1. It includes limited amounts of personal information, such as name and address and date and place of birth. Only Parliament will be able to amend the information that can be held under the scheme.

In a sense, as my taxi driver pointed out a week or two ago and Members of the Committee said today, a whole range of information about us is already held by private sector and voluntary organisations as wide-ranging as telephone companies, credit reference agencies and supermarkets. According to a survey, as of August 2004, 60 per cent of UK consumers—26.8 million people—hold loyalty cards. To apply, a customer has to satisfy a number of questions including marital status, size of household and type of car. When a purchase is made and completed, information about what the customer bought, the cost, and where and how he or she paid for it is registered on a databank profile of that person's purchase history. That information goes far beyond anything that the ID cards register would ever be allowed to hold by law.

Photo of Lord Lyell of Markyate Lord Lyell of Markyate Conservative 7:15, 15 November 2005

Is that information given voluntarily or compulsorily?

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

Of course it is given voluntarily. The noble and learned Lord made that point, as have other Members of the Committee.

Photo of Lord Maxton Lord Maxton Labour

Of course the information is voluntary. However, if you want a mortgage to buy a house or if you want to buy goods or to do a whole range of things, you will have to give that information. It is voluntary if you want to live a life in which you never use a credit card or any other card—then that is fine. But that is not how most of us live.

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

Does the noble Lord not agree that with these loyalty cards there is a reward at the end? You get points or money for being a member of a loyalty card scheme. That is the incentive for having a loyalty card. I do not think that there will be any such incentive from the national identity card. Is there? Perhaps there is.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

In the sense of a loyalty card, no, there is not. But I think that people will see benefits in a national identity card. I think that they already are. One of the primary benefits is that it will underpin and underline a person's sense of confidence and security in their identity, a point which has been ably made at different times by both sides of the Committee.

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

Is the noble Lord really saying that he will be more confident in his skin if he has an identity card? I can promise you that I will not. It will not make a blind bit of difference except for the irritation of having to carry it. Honestly, will you really be happier in your skin and feel jollier as you go round your work, and all this because you have been forced to have an identity card with a list of things on it as long as your arm? Come off it!

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

It is perhaps unfortunate that the noble Earl did not listen to the Second Reading debate and the speech of my noble friend Lady Corston, I think. To the benefit of the House, she recalled the experience of members of her local community who were first or second-generation immigrants to this country, women who did not have something that confirmed their sense of identity as it is envisaged that an ID card will. They saw benefit in that. They were extremely grateful to her for being part of a Government who were contemplating the introduction of an ID card. They felt that it helped to measure, reassure and give confidence to their sense of identity and place in their community. That was a very important contribution.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

I accept what the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, said last time. It is true. But that could be dealt with perfectly well by having a voluntary ID card.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

In part that is a fair point. It is also envisaged that individuals will be able to use their identity cards for high-value transactions such as opening bank accounts and applying for mortgages. Those are not transactions that will take place every day of the week. But I would argue that the national identity card register will—

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

The noble Lord just said that they would be able to use their national identity cards for opening bank accounts and mortgages. Is he quite sure that the mortgage companies and the banks will accept the production of an identity card for them to have a mortgage or open an account? Does he have such assurances?

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

Banks and credit agencies certainly like proof of identity—in fact they very much depend on them. I am confident that a national identity card will be one of those key documents, perhaps one of the most important documents, that banks, credit agencies and so on will make use of in confirming someone's identity. Currently they use the plastic and paper version of the driving licence or ask to see someone's passport for the verification of identity. We do not take exception to that, rather we celebrate it.

The identity card register will be of little use as a tool of surveillance. The ID cards Bill contains a number of safeguards that will preserve the privacy of individuals. Clause 14 enables checks to be made on the register with the consent of the individual in order to provide an identity verification service. This clause limits the information that may be provided to the organisation as part of the check. That includes information as set out in paragraphs 1, 3 and 4 of Schedule 1: photographs, the signature and information concerning whether the ID card is valid; voluntary information and security questions. This limitation on the information that may be checked means that information falling in other parts of Schedule 1, such as the records of provision of information, may not be provided to organisations verifying identity. In addition, the identity cards agency will be accrediting user organisations based on the type of information they are requesting provision of, as well as the justification of why they are requesting it. We will also reserve the right to audit any user organisation processes to ensure that they remain compliant with the ultimate sanction for those who misuse information; that is, the removal of accreditation.

The Government recognise the concerns of organisations and individuals who, for many reasons, might wish to limit the information that may be checked. We are examining the technical possibility of this as part of the work on considering how the verification service for identity cards might operate. Information may be disclosed without consent to security and intelligence agencies to ensure that the scheme benefits the work of those organisations by supporting their stated statutory purposes. The police, Customs and the Inland Revenue may also be provided with registrable facts held, minus the audit log of card use for law enforcement and related purposes. Provision of information regarding card usage to those bodies would apply only in cases of serious crimes. The Bill ensures that provision of information without consent will be properly regulated and subject to independent oversight. So I would argue that those safeguards have been put in place and will protect our wider society from the surveillance which the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, believes is the real purpose behind the introduction of an ID card scheme together with a register.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, made one assertion which it is only right that I deal with in a little more detail in order to make it clear. He said that commercial organisations would have access to the register. I think that that was his allegation. I want to reassure the Committee that there will be no open access to information held on the register. Private companies will not be able to access or buy national identity register entries. However, it is right to spell it out that only with the consent of the ID card holder will banks or other approved businesses be able to verify identity by checking an ID card against the national identity register. It is fair to say that this would involve confirming in the main that the card is valid, that it has not been reported lost or stolen, and that the information shown on the card is accurate. But it could also allow identity information not shown on the face of the card, such as a home address, to be provided—although again only with the consent of the cardholder. Information may not be provided without the cardholder's consent to any private sector organisation.

It is important that that is clearly understood; I hope that I have answered the point and thus dealt with the issue of open access. We do not want there to be any misunderstanding on the matter. Noble Lords have remarked throughout our debates that they want to see clarity and transparency. We are trying to approach these issues in exactly that spirit.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I do not disagree with what he has said, which is perfectly correct. But does he agree that, in practice, what this will mean is that every bank, building society and so forth will make it a condition of opening an account with them that they are given consent by the applicant to allow them access to the personal data held on the register? Of course the building society will pay the Government for such access. In effect it will equate what I have talked about: the sale of information held on the register to commerce, in particular the service industries.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

I do not see it in quite the terms described by the noble Lord. Yes, there will be access, but only on the basis of consent. However, I do not think that commercial organisations will necessarily want to approach this in the manner described by the noble Lord. He is right to say that they will have to pay for the information, but given that this will be a service provided by the state to a private-sector organisation, perhaps the noble Lord would agree that that is only right and proper. It is an honest transaction.

Photo of Lord Neill of Bladen Lord Neill of Bladen Crossbench

Does the noble Lord really believe that the information will be kept secure? We live in a world of leaked information. The most recent and glaring example which comes to mind is that of the opinion of the Attorney-General on the legality of the Iraq War, published in the national press within a matter of a year or so. If there is sufficient public interest in the contents of the register, it will be leaked, will it not?

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

I do not agree with the noble Lord that it will be leaked. The leak he has just described was really rather different in nature. Obviously through the process of the procurement regime, we will ensure that the system is leak-proof. If the noble Lord seeks to make the point that it is always possible for a leak to take place, one cannot deny absolutely that such a possibility does not exist.

Photo of The Earl of Erroll The Earl of Erroll Crossbench

Perhaps an example that is more in line with what we are discussing here is that of Operation Glade, where policemen were selling information taken off the police national computer to inquiry agents. They were not even locked up for doing so.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

I am grateful to the noble Earl for making the point.

In summary, perhaps to deal with the previous point put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Neill, no system that has been applied in the way we intend to apply the national identity card scheme with its security processes has failed in the manner being suggested. That is why we are confident that we can develop a robust national identity register and a safe ID card.

We have had a useful debate and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for giving us the benefit of his history lesson and trail through time, telling us that it was in good measure a Liberal government who were responsible for introducing the first national identity card. We can only hope that the Liberal Democrats will return to that position at some point in the future. We shall live with that faint hope in our hearts. Our debate has covered considerable ground and we can now move on to look at more of the important detail.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Shadow Attorney General, Law Officers (Constitutional Affairs), Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Non-Departmental & Cross Departmental Responsibilities

I hope that we never have another Great War in which we lose 50,000 men in one day, which was the position faced by the Liberal government and the Coalition government under Asquith and later Lloyd-George. Those were rather different circumstances from those we face here. In my opening remarks I said that I hoped to be constructive and amiable in my approach. I am always grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for his amiability when replying to our debates. He reminds me of an adjudicator at a national Eisteddfod who awards the points at the end of the competition. However, it should be remembered that the minimum points awarded are always 90 out of 100. It is those awarded 95 or 96 points who win.

I noted with interest that he replaced government by opinion poll as advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Gould, with government by taxi driver. From his accent, I detected that it was a London taxi driver. I do not object to that so long as I can have devolution in Wales. We can then have government by Welsh taxi driver in the Principality.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

Perhaps I may correct the noble Lord on that point. What he should appreciate is that Brighton is London-by-the-sea. It is terribly important that he understand that point about accents.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Shadow Attorney General, Law Officers (Constitutional Affairs), Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Non-Departmental & Cross Departmental Responsibilities 7:30, 15 November 2005

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for clinging to his native heath just as I cling to mine.

As for the manifesto commitment, we on the Liberal Democrat Benches have made clear our position on the Salisbury convention. I direct noble Lords who were not introduced into the Committee at the time to the response of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, to the Queen's Speech following the election. We were not a party to the Salisbury convention. At the time there was an overwhelming majority of Labour Members of Parliament in the lower House and an overwhelming majority of hereditary Conservative Peers in this House. Those circumstances no longer exist. Our position is that the Government can succeed only by argument and pressing a proper case, not simply because in some glossy manifesto which looks like an estate agent's brochure there was a sentence that referred to identity cards. We are concerned with the register—not the identity cards but the database. In the past, revolutionaries sought to seize the radio station. In the future they will seek to seize the database in which everybody's records are set down. That, not the radio station, will give them control.

This has been a very interesting debate and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part. It is a matter that we should properly return to at Report and we may very well do so. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

I beg to move that the House be resumed. In moving this Motion, I suggest that the Committee begin again not before 8.32 pm.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.