My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
The amendment would ensure that the only people or organisations to which proof of one's registrable facts may be given will be those who reasonably require proof of one's identity.
Noble Lords will recall from yesterday's debate that Clause 1 establishes the national identity register for the identity cards scheme. The facts must be registered compulsorily. The Government argue that that will provide a benefit because we can then prove our identity in a convenient manner.
My amendment is eminently reasonable. What possible objection can the Government have to a requirement that only those who reasonably require proof should be entitled to ask for verification of identity? If the term "convenient method" in Clause 1(3)(a) means anything, surely it means convenient to the individual registered on the database. Should it really also mean anybody else who decides he wants to ask for identity even when he does not have a bona fide reason for so doing? Surely not.
The problem is that right from the start of what the Government refer to as a period of voluntary participation, an increasing number of people will either think it necessary to ask for proof of identity or think that they need to offer ID by way of validation to access their registrable facts. The pretext for demanding proof will be extended as time goes on. Opportunities for demanding proof of identity will multiply as the system becomes further embedded. We already know from debates here and in another place that there are concerns about validation creep. The amendment should help to guard against that happening. I beg to move.
I understand from Amendment No. 9 that the eminently reasonable noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, wants to ensure that no one is asked to produce an ID card unreasonably. However we can see no reason to be concerned about that. First, there is already a significant safeguard in Clause 18, which means that no one will be required to produce an ID card as the only method of proving identity until it has become a requirement to register and be issued with an ID card, or unless a requirement is imposed under Clause 15 in relation to public services or under another legislative power. Once it becomes a requirement to register and to hold an identity card, it is surely a matter for personal judgment rather than government regulation for an individual to decide whether it is reasonable in the circumstances to be asked to produce an identity card. The wording suggested in the amendment would be difficult to enforce, so I see little point in including it.
This limb of the statutory purposes for the national identity register is there to provide a convenient method for individuals to prove their identity. We think that individuals are the best judge of their own convenience. If there is no legal requirement to produce an identity card, it is surely for the individual to decide what is reasonable and what is not, just as people already decide for themselves whether they consider it reasonable if licensed premises require proof of age or even standards of dress to obtain entry. A bank or building society already requires proof of identity before a new account can be opened. Again, it will help in everyday transactions for people to be able to use identity cards to prove their identity.
In the case of public services, any requirement to produce a card is governed by regulations made under Clause 15. Strict conditions apply to those regulations, which would require consultation with those likely to be affected, as well as parliamentary approval under the affirmative resolution procedure. The purpose of those regulations is not only the convenience of the individual by making it easier to prove identity but also the wider public interest in ensuring the efficient and effective provision of public services.
The role of the new commissioner should be considered alongside the other safeguards. The newly created post of national identity scheme commissioner will have oversight of the whole scheme, including as set out in Clause 24(2)(d):
"the uses to which ID cards are being put".
If the commissioner believes that identity cards are being requested unreasonably, he can bring that to the attention of the Secretary of State and Parliament.
So, although I understand the concerns of the noble Baroness, I hope that I have reassured the Committee that there are already adequate safeguards in place and that where the public interest is not engaged, we should essentially leave it to individuals to decide for themselves when they wish to produce an identity card. For that reason, I suggest to the noble Baroness that the amendment is unnecessary and invite her to withdraw it.
I hope that she will do nothing of the kind. If this were the first time that the business of information had come up, I would not be so interested in the amendment, but there is a background. The Minister referred to the fact that banks require certain information. Why? For two reasons. First, they were too feeble to stand up to the Financial Services Authority and, secondly, because the Financial Services Authority is constantly asking intrusive questions. The Government seem to forget at their convenience that this country, this economy, this society is increasingly fettered by them with ridiculous regulations.
So the reason for these identity cards—I do not wish to puzzle the noble Lord—is that the Government, on so many occasions, with no regard to individuals' convenience or freedom, ask for every kind of information. Usually it is to stop something such as money laundering. That is used as a blanket excuse for asking questions which are quite intolerable, a real nuisance, and a serious impediment to business. I hope the noble Lord will not dismiss the amendment as lightly as he appeared to do.
I do not have difficulty with the principle that if you are opening a bank account you have to identify yourself. But in considering this matter and the safeguards that the Minister says exist in the Bill, I noted the advice he gave me firmly yesterday that I should read the assessment of awareness and demand for the identity cards scheme that his department has undertaken and which has been conveniently placed in the Library. It is a long document, and some of it is fairly heavy weather—no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Gould, who is a great expert and enthusiast for this kind of survey is familiar with it. I noted one paragraph that seems relevant.
A great deal of the evidence is not simply concerned with the convenience of individuals but addresses the convenience of service users. One paragraph reads:
"Identity Service Users strongly support the Identity Cards Scheme and will be endorsing this support, by verifying identities predominantly through "front offices" such as a bank branch, a retail outlet etc (59 % of all verification transactions), combining a number of different types of verifications when the card-holder presents him/herself with the ID card, 87% anticipate undertaking visual card inspection, 41% anticipate visual card inspection in combination with a PIN; 45% anticipate visual card inspection in combination with biometrics and 25% anticipate visual card inspection with the added option of a digitally enlarged photograph of the card-holder appearing on a computer screen".
If I go to a bank to open an account for the first time, I have no difficulty going through those sorts of procedures. But I am a little shaken by the idea that every time I go into Marks & Spencer on Oxford Street, or some other retail outlet, someone may ask me to produce my identity card, and that it may appear on a screen in this way, that every visit I make to a retail outlet will then be recorded, and the fact that the inquiry has been made will be available to others. It seems to me that while there are certain transactions for which people may reasonably seek this kind of identification, we need to be a little concerned at the thought that apparently it will not be personal convenience that is considered a priority but the convenience of retail outlets and other users.
We ought to be clear about what we are talking about. Surely every time a body obtains access to the register without the subject's consent, or with the subject's consent only because he knows he will not get a service unless he does give consent, there is an invasion of privacy and a diminution of the freedom of that person to live without interference by the state or other authority. That is what we are talking about here.
I was astonished by some words used by the noble Lord, Lord Gould, yesterday. They reminded me of the slogan above the gates of Auschwitz, "Work is freedom". He said that people wanted recognition and that recognition came in the form of an identity card. He added:
"This is their kind of freedom . . . A new kind of freedom and a new kind of identity".—[Hansard, 15/11/05; col. 1012.]
There is something terribly Orwellian about that. The noble Lord apparently thinks that surveillance is liberty; that is the motto that he would like over the gates to this place.
Do the Government share those views of the noble Lord, Lord Gould? Do they think that requiring people to have identity cards will extend their freedom? I should very much like to know whether they agree with those bizarre remarks. I do not think that many people outside this place, whatever they think of identity cards, believe that requiring someone to have an identity card or any other piece of paper that the state thrusts upon him extends his liberty.
I thank the noble Lord for his courtesy in giving way. Is he aware that many women from our ethnic minority communities in this country, particularly Asian women, see an identity card as a badge of freedom because they are not allowed to have a bank account, a building society account, a library card or any of the things that many Members of this Committee take for granted? They have said to me that an identity card would enable them to say to their husbands and fathers, "This is something that I can have so that I can prove who I am". The noble Lord takes that freedom for granted.
I certainly do not think that when the state bestows upon somebody an identity card that that person gets an identity for the first time. We all know perfectly well that there are all sorts of ways of telling somebody who you are. I am talking about an aspect of the Bill that allows people to have access to details about you on a register. I do not understand how on earth anybody in his right mind could say that that extends a person's freedom. I should like the Government to make plain that they certainly do not subscribe to the view that you extend somebody's freedom by intruding on his private life.
I think that the noble Lord misunderstands the nature of the lives that most people live: how they work hard; how tough it is to get by; how they often do not have a fair deal; and how they feel that other people often get a fairer deal than they do. They think that having an identity card says, "I belong in my community, I have a place in my community, I am recognised in my community and I have freedom in my community". That is because not all people have privileged lives or congenial clubs where they are recognised through contact and whatever. They have hard lives and they want to have identity cards. They see no problem with civil liberties in relation to identity cards; all they see is an affirmation of their identity. In today's politics, as I keep saying, affirmation of identity is vital. Times have changed: we do not live in the world of 50 years ago—would that we could—we live today, in a world where identity is a central, troubling, disturbing issue, and where an identity card helps not hinders.
We are talking not only about an identity card but about a register. In this amendment we are talking about the circumstances in which other people can get access to that register and to information about an individual. It is very important that, at an early stage of the Bill, we ensure that the right to obtain access to a person's entry in the register is properly circumscribed. That is why I support the amendment.
I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Gould, that I do not think he should consider that people who are worried about the liberty of all our citizens, and most of all about the liberty of the least privileged—particularly women and ethnic minorities, who feel that they need a card in order to affirm their identity—do not understand the way the world works. We understand very well. A lot of us have been elected at local level, we do a great deal of social work, and we know just as much, I suggest, as he does about such things. He must not think that because we are worried about underprivileged people's liberty in relation to this Bill that we do not know what we are talking about. I hope he will stop saying that.
I wonder if I could ask a question of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, because I am not perfectly clear as to the impact of Amendment No. 9, which, as we know, adds to the subsection that there must be reasonable proof that the person requesting information needs it. As I see it, those who have given consent to banks and building societies, for example, to access the record of the individual who gave that consent, are obviously not required to give reasonable proof because consent has been given in advance. Therefore, is the amendment addressed to the police and public authorities who have rights under this Bill to have access to the register? If the answer to that is "yes", I wonder how that will work in practice and how, as a matter of day to day reality, a police force, for example, will be able to establish that it reasonably requires access.
Finally—I hope that this is helping the Committee; it is certainly helping me—would the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, say that her laudable aim, and I absolutely see what she is getting at, will be a touch better contended with in those parts of the Bill that give public authorities and so on, the right to access the register?
Perhaps it might assist the Committee if I respond to that now, since we are in Committee; it might inform further debate and the Minister may want to respond. I was going to address this issue in my winding-up speech. I think it is commonly misunderstood that this amendment might have that effect. I do not believe that it does and it certainly is not the intention. The intention is to make it clear, at the very beginning of the Bill, to every member of the public who will be compulsorily registered, what their rights are when they apply for a new passport or renew a passport. It is to give them security about whether they are able to refuse agreement or validation to be accessed; that very freedom that the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, has rightly wanted to focus on. I do not believe that my amendment has the negative results that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, believes. There is certainly scope for further amendments, later in the Bill, which may well reflect his concerns. I do not think mine cuts the Bill off at the knees.
May I support my noble friend Lady Anelay, who said that this was a probing amendment, and probe a point that worries me in this context? We are reading about the provision of a convenient method for such individuals to prove registrable facts about themselves to others. The amendment would add,
"others who reasonably require proof".
The Bill is very broad, and when one goes to Schedule 1, paragraph 17—and I mentioned this yesterday—one sees that some of the things that can be registered include,
"particulars of any other information obtained for ensuring that there is an accurate entry about that individual in the register".
This means that, presumably, public officials will make inquiries, perhaps at the person's home, about who else is living with them and the circumstances in which they are living. It appears that all that can be written down and recorded in the register.
It may well be that, in practice, those who want something from someone else—perhaps a mortgage or something less dramatic—find themselves forced to agree. However, if the words "who reasonably require proof" are added to the Bill, it will be a little easier to say, "No, you are asking for something that is unreasonable"; "You do not reasonably need this"; "I'm sorry you can't have it"; and "You can't legitimately refuse me a service if you don't get it". That would tie in with other discriminatory legislation that the Government are introducing. Could we have a little clarification about what I believe is a genuine worry in a potentially highly intrusive Bill?
I thank the noble Baroness for tabling the amendment in particular because it has enabled some Members of the Committee to give voice to their concerns about the use to which cards will be put by commercial organisations, public service organisations and so on. The protections that the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, seeks will not be greatly helped by this amendment. The kind of situation that he and perhaps the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell, envisage is not intended to be covered by the proposal. The noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, alluded to what the amendment would do, but I do not believe it does anything.
It is important to remember that ultimately it will be a personal judgment on whether it is reasonable for a particular organisation—public service or commercial—to ask for some form of proof of identity. I do not think that these words add anything. For instance, in the situation described by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell, it is extremely unlikely that people will be wandering around wanting to check information on an ID that they might have been able to access as a public service.
We must remember what the ID card does. Primarily, it provides visual proof that you are who you say you are when you are standing in front of the person asking you to identify yourself. I do not believe that the amendment does what it says it does—I do not believe that it offers that extra measure of reassurance. Most people will understand that having the card is valuable to them and is a very convenient way of saying to their bank, their Post Office, or their council tax office, "Yes, I am who I say I am and I have a national identity card with visual recognition which tells you next to my name that I am who I say I am".
I do not see the reason for the amendment and I do not think that it adds—
The Minister is making a good point that prima facie the card may be helpful. But, after all, access to the card and its number will in many circumstances give access to the register. It is what is written on the register which is causing some people, including me, worry.
In most cases, it will not give access to the register. Most organisations which are seeking proof of identity will not, in most circumstances, have access to the register—particularly commercial organisations, as I explained yesterday to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, when he raised that very question.
As I was trying to explain before the noble and learned Lord's intervention, it will be a document of immense value to people. It will provide the easy, visual facility on the card to show that you are who you say you are. The card contains an ID number and the person seeking the information will be able readily and easily to identify you.
If the individual finds that intrusive and thinks that an excessive request is being made, he will have a choice, particularly if he is dealing with a commercial organisation, whether he wishes to take his trade elsewhere. If he is dealing with a public service, and that public service body is authorised to have access to the register, the card and the number will enable his identity to be verified very easily indeed.
So while I understand the concern behind the amendment, we do not share it. We see the card as having a value to individuals, and it will help them in their everyday lives.
The reason is that they would not provide the protection that noble Baroness suggests, nor would they add anything to the Bill. We have to assume, as we do in law generally, that information requested is in most circumstances reasonably requested. It will be up to the individual to make a judgment whether that request is reasonable.
So while I understand the amendment, it does not add anything. In some senses, it would offer people a false reassurance. For those reasons, we do not find it acceptable.
I very much doubt whether the Minister's explanation has helped anyone in the Chamber, and certainly not on this side of it. I wish to make one point and I would be obliged if he responded: this Government are quite unnaturally and unprecedentedly inquisitive. To balance that, and in order to make the process of inquisition easier, they are going to make everybody carry a card which contains information which will make it easier for them to answer.
I make it clear to the noble Lord that we are not going to oblige people to carry the card. That needs to be understood. We have made it very clear on a number of occasions. The noble Lord said that we are an inquisitive government. This card will offer people a very important freedom: the freedom from having their security and their personal details invaded by those who seek to commit crimes against them. Personal identity fraud is a growing issue in this country. The card will provide for many people a guarantee against that. That is why many people in this country think that ID cards are of great value.
Following on from what the Minister has just said, what provisions do the Government propose to make for people who choose not to reveal their face in public for religious or other reasons? Are they going to find that their full-face image is none the less flashed up on computer screens at every bank that they visit? Or will specific arrangements be made to exempt them from that requirement? If the Minister has in mind an identity card which essentially relies on visual identification and does not refer back to the register in any particular way, that will be the only way which a bank will have of being sure that the card it sees is being used by the person who should be using it.
Perhaps we are struggling to get the point over. Perhaps the noble Lord has not heard or read all the previous debates and questions on this issue. His question is based on an assumption; that is, that banks up and down the country will have access to the ID cards database so that they will be in a position to read that card and then bring up that individual's picture on their screens. That will not be the case. That is not how the system is intended to operate. It does not work in that way.
I am grateful to all noble Lords who have participated in the debate. I think that my amendment would provide some protection which currently is not available, but perhaps should be provided. I should like to refer to one or two of the comments the Minister made in his initial response. I know that he has been as helpful as he can in setting out clearly the Government's position. He said that one should not be concerned because of other protections contained in the Bill. To that end he referred to Clause 18, but that provision offers only a partial protection at a particular stage in the process. He also remarked that after compulsion, there will be personal judgments to be made, and that is for some time in the future.
He also said that it would be difficult to enforce. I have to say with all due diffidence that that does not seem to stop the Government legislating in every part of our lives where enforcement is also difficult but where perhaps it is, on some occasions, proper to do so. I do not think that that is a strong argument.
It would be enforced in the way that the rest of the Bill is to operate; that is, to offer the same kind of protections as the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, prays in aid with regard to women living in communities and societies where their rights as women are not treated as equal. My amendment would give people the confidence to say, "No. I have a choice". That is the strength of the amendment.
The Minister also referred to proof of age and said that my amendment would prevent people who operate licensed premises being able to require validation. Having sat as a licensing magistrate, it is my understanding of the law that it is a legal requirement for a premises to operate a lawful house.
Perhaps I may finish my point. A licensee has the right to ask for proof of identity and therefore he would not be precluded from asking for such proof. If I am wrong, I shall gladly give way to the noble Lord.
I have not provided for penalties because I adopt the same approach as that of the noble Baroness, Lady Corston. Individuals should be given the power to say no and to have that power stated clearly in the Bill. Enforcement in that respect is not required unless the Government are saying that nothing in the Bill needs to be enforced. We will come to civil penalties in that regard later on.
I am very glad to give way to the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, because I have used her name on two occasions. It is perfectly proper that she may wish to respond.
I shall read very carefully indeed what the noble Baroness said when I have the opportunity to do so tomorrow.
The Minister also referred to the protection offered by the commissioner, which I think comes too late in the day since it would be available only long after the event. I return to my original words. This is intended to be a constructive amendment and one that does not damage the Bill. I noticed with some alarm that my noble and learned friend Lord Lyell of Markyate thought that I opened my remarks by saying that this is a probing amendment. I was careful not to do so because I never intentionally mislead the Committee and I hope that I have never misled noble Lords on these matters. Certainly I would not do so on this occasion.
This amendment comes fresh to us but has tested the Government in another place on at least three occasions. The Government's answer at that stage was the same. It did not persuade my colleagues in another place and it has not persuaded me now. I do not wish to seek a further response before the Report stage and therefore it is right on this occasion to test the opinion of the Committee.
Before calling Amendment No. 11 standing in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, I should point out that if the amendment is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 12.
I return to territory similar to that which we covered in our debate yesterday on Amendment No. 8. That said, I assure the Minister that I find the use of "secure and reliable" rather less provocative than "convenient".
Evidently none of us would question the critical necessity that the ID register be both secure and reliable. As with "convenience", functions of both "security" and "reliability" should be built in from the outset as a key component of the scheme's IT architecture. To that extent it would be wholly appropriate that the Bill requires the operation of the scheme to be secure and reliable, as envisaged in Amendment No. 15, which we will debate in due course. On my reading of the Bill, however, that is not what the words do in their context. As with the use of "convenient" in paragraph (a), they assert without qualification that the register will be secure and reliable. I repeat that I do not question the desirability of this, but simply to say it is so does not make it so. Indeed it might be more accurate to infer that, as things stand, the scheme is showing distinct signs of insecurity and unreliability.
Clearly the evidence to date in respect of biometric identifiers is mixed. Here I do not question the Government's strenuous efforts to develop reliability within the process of biometric data capture. The Minister referred to them in detail in our debates yesterday. There are some important points here, though. The threshold of accuracy for a whole-of-population database is extremely high. As I understand it, failure-to-enrol rates as low as 1 per cent could render the scheme almost unworkable.
More importantly, data capture and data verification are two disparate processes. In respect of the latter, the available evidence, some of which I referred to yesterday, suggests error rates running at in excess of 30 per cent in a situation where, as with data capture, figures of around 1 per cent could render the scheme inoperable. This is exceedingly important. It is all very well to establish a system of collection of biometric data that accords with adequate thresholds of accuracy; indeed, it might even be technologically possible so to do, although there is a fair amount of scepticism on that point within the IT industry. In turn, that threshold of accuracy has to be carried through to the separate process of end-user applications.
Worryingly, our debates yesterday suggested to me that an assumption exists that if data capture can be developed to an appropriate level of accuracy, data verification will, as a matter of course, be equally reliable. This is simply not so. In effect, the case for the reliability of the scheme across the whole range of its processes has yet to be proved.
As to the security aspect of the scheme, the proposition was advanced yesterday that, because of the scope and character of the database, it will be impossible to make it wholly secure. The Minister referred to the issue in these terms:
"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".—[Hansard, 15/11/05; col. 989.]
In response, I simply say that there is a first time for everything. In fact, if I consider the psychology of the IT community, I suspect that this will act as a red rag to a bull. Hackers and crackers are just as likely to perceive this as a challenge for them to test their computing skills. To that extent, we had better hope that our debates on this point are not particularly widely read by such individuals. Quite apart from that, as my noble friend Lord Crickhowell pointed out yesterday, the Pentagon's main defence system—where presumably IT security is just as robust, if not more so, than that envisaged for the register—was breached with relative ease by a young man living in a council house in south Wales.
Moreover, the IT industry, pretty much across the board, is increasingly strident in its criticism of a centralised database for the storage of biometric data, because of the grave security issues it gives rise to—the so-called honeypot effect. In so far as it may currently be fashionable within Government to adhere to the principle that, in determining policy, the advice of professionals should be heeded, what prospect is there that the Home Office will accept this counsel? I beg to move.
I have tabled Amendment No. 175, which stands in my name and those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Anelay and Lady Seccombe, and my noble friend Lord Dholakia, and is grouped with Amendment No. 11. Amendment No. 175 seeks to amend Clause 13, which is headed, Invalidity and surrender of ID cards. Clause 13 provides that the Secretary of State may cancel an ID card in certain circumstances, for example, if it has been stolen, lost or damaged.
My amendment is a probing one in the real sense of the word. I seek to add to Clause 13 the proviso that the Secretary of State will supply another card if,
"there has been unauthorised access to the record of registrable facts on the Register about the individual concerned".
In Clause 13 there is already provision for the Secretary of State to cancel and replace an ID card if it has been tampered with. Clause 13(8) states that,
"references to a card having been tampered with include references to information in or on it having been modified for an unlawful purpose, or copied or otherwise extracted for such a purpose".
If, as my amendment states, that formulation covers,
"unauthorised access to the record of registrable facts", my amendment is redundant, and I shall be a happy man. No doubt the noble Baroness will tell me if that is the case. If it is not the case, it is worth including the measure as there will, unfortunately, be cases of unauthorised access.
No doubt we shall be told that the requirement contained in the amendment is unnecessary as there are already obligations on government to provide maximum security in this area, and no doubt the Government will do their best. However, when I reread the detailed comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, I was a little surprised as clearly she had been given a brief that seemed to go rather further than I would have been comfortable with had I been the Minister concerned. I do not pretend to be a great expert in this matter. I was chairman of an IT company for a number of years and one thing I learnt was that I really was not an expert. However, I gained enormous admiration for the technical ability of the experts to develop new techniques. Yesterday, the noble Baroness described the safeguards which were being,
"designed to provide a 'defence in depth'".
I am sure they are. She went on to say,
"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".
That seems to me a pretty bold statement. She added:
"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".—[Hansard, 15/11/05; col. 989.]
I hope that events prove her right and that her optimism is justified, but I want to make one other point.
The Government may be successful in making the actual register pretty secure, but we know—indeed, this clause deals with the fact—that a number of organisations, the police and others, will have to have access to registrable information. No doubt they will do so through encrypted communications links. But once they have the information, it will be on other systems, and there will be quite a lot of those systems. I very much doubt that all those systems will have been developed in the same way to the same level of security. If I am wrong and if all the other users who will be able to get the information out have systems of this kind, and it will be a requirement that they should have, we ought to be told. We should also be told the cost implications.
We shall return later to the question of cost—it delayed us for well over two hours yesterday and I do not wish to say any more about it now. But if these and other systems have to be made secure, I suspect that—as we are finding in the health service—costs will continue to mount. When my IT company was engaged on a central government project, the Government came back again and again and again with changes to the specification to try to tighten security, because they discovered that the requirements altered almost week by week. I fear that that will happen in this case.
I wish to express some surprise at the points that have been made about security. I heard what the noble Earl said about there being a first time for everything, but I am surprised that he is directing his concerns at the register, which is not yet in existence, when databases such as the Police National Computer and that of the Criminal Records Bureau already exist. If the noble Earl is so concerned about security, why is he not asking questions about the possibility of criminals hacking into the national police records, gaining access to those records and excising them? I would expect such criminals would want to do that to these records if it were possible. So there is no point in the noble Earl being concerned that this has not happened but might in future—massive databases exist at the moment. The whole issue of police records and procedures rests on the fact that that national computer is secure and that the records put on there cannot be accessed by criminals. So I am surprised to hear points made about a database that is not yet in place. We have such databases and, as far as I am aware, their records are totally secure and no one has questioned that.
I must declare an interest as secretary of the Parliamentary Space Committee. Many of the members of the United Kingdom Industrial Space Committee are probably involved at a high technological level with the type of the data that may move through space or elsewhere. Nothing these days is fully secure; certainly nothing that goes through the air, down a line or a wire is secure. So the word, "fully" is perhaps over-optimistic. We know that the Government will use their best endeavours to ensure that things are secure. But once information and access to it is known to someone, and even if it is not, the available technology is advancing so rapidly these days that we must not assume that any database anywhere in the world is secure.
If there is a statutory duty that the database be secure and reliable, what will the position be if that turns out not to be the case? Will Her Majesty's Government be liable in law? Maybe it is not safe for them to promise that it will be secure, given that I suspect it may not be.
First, I shall pick up two points made by my noble friend Lord Selsdon and by the noble Earl, Lord Erroll. I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend Lord Selsdon that we expect and understand that the Government intend to provide as secure a system as is humanly possible in a technological world in which we know the ground is shifting all the time. As humans, we are all trying to keep up with those changes. The noble Baroness referred on a couple of occasions to the improvements in the recording of biometrics. She said that she took part in Monday's trial, in which she found the recording of the colour of her eyes swift and straightforward.
I recognise that things have moved on since I took part in the Government's helpful system of offering peers a chance to get their ID card registered with biometrics in Black Rod's Garden. I went there last summer—along with Andy Burnham by the sound of it, the Minister from another place—but my experience was not quite as fortuitous as his. The uplink collapsed twice during the process of that transfer of data. It took nearly 45 minutes to capture my data. I have problems with my fingerprints because over the years I learnt from my mother—a dressmaker—how to do dressmaking and I have obviously damaged some of my fingerprints. I also have what those who were trying to capture my facial biometrics called, "a bland facial structure". But I will live with that—I have no choice.
I was told at the time that the technology was advancing and would continue to do so. We understand that the Government are trying to achieve the best and that technology is changing and will try to capture information and store it securely. But my noble friend Lord Northesk is right to direct us to the central question: how is that being done and what reassurances can the Government give us about the way in which they are going to set up secure systems?
I appreciate that this is the beginning of a long debate in Committee and we will have the chance to refer to this but we will need to ensure that we do probe all these issues. All of us on this side of the House want to help the Government—the Minister may say that we always say we try to help them, but we genuinely want to help them here—to ensure that if they insist upon the national identity register as a way forward, it is the safest that it can possibly be for the people of this country to have such a vital range of information held upon them.
The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, asked what happens if it goes wrong. Will the Government be held liable for damages? I raised the question briefly yesterday, and perhaps it will assist the Minister to know that I accepted then that there is a later amendment which is specifically targeted at this issue. I believe it is in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, but it certainly comes from the Liberal Democrat Benches. I anticipate that the Government will give us a full answer at that stage.
The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is right. I indicated yesterday that we will come to that issue in its proper place. Rather than repeat the debate now I hope that the noble Lord will feel content for us to do so there.
Many of the issues that have been raised this afternoon under this amendment were dealt with in part during our rather long and interesting debate on Amendment No. 1 yesterday and I do not intend to repeat all that I said then. But there are some specific issues with which it is important for us to deal.
When the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, was dealing with the biometric data and the difficulties that he indicated, he concentrated on error rates of 30 per cent and inaccuracies of 1 per cent. Since those figures seem to have a remarkable similarity to the report issued by the London School of Economics, they probably come from the Italian study which was mentioned in that report. I am sure that the noble Earl will correct me if I am wrong.
Biometric systems were designed for academic study not wide-scale industrial use. It would be better, as I indicated yesterday, to look at the US National Institute of Standards & Technology data, which were not referred to at any time in the London School of Economics report, as far as I am aware. It is highly unusual for an academic report from an institution of that standard to avoid or fail to identify this very important work. It is the world's leading institute for biometric trials. It has conducted a study with six million fingerprints and confirmed that biometrics was suitable for large-scale use. Indeed, the United States VISIT system uses biometrics for border control and it does not have a 30 per cent failure rate. So I think that we need to put these things into their proper context.
We have some confidence that the kind of rigour with which we are approaching this issue is correct. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that the Government will use their best endeavours to ensure that the system that they put in place is the very best that can be provided and that it comes within our knowledge and expertise and the data currently available. However, my noble friend Lady Henig is right to remind the Committee that we already have a number of very complex systems where security is an issue—the national criminal records office being but one.
I heard what the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, said about three police officers improperly using information obtained from the register. But it is important to bear in mind that, if they were officers, they would have used the very nature of their office to give them legitimate access and then they would have abused it. It does not mean that the national criminal records are themselves thereby corrupted; it means that impropriety of use has occurred and has been identified and those held responsible for it have been appropriately and properly arrested, dealt with and convicted. Of course, if anyone were responsible for a breach of duty, we would expect them to be dealt with similarly.
The statutory purposes of the register are twofold. First, it will provide a convenient method by which individuals can prove registrable facts about themselves—that is, they will be able to prove their identity—and, secondly, it will provide a secure and reliable method by which registrable facts about individuals can be ascertained or verified.
The amendments focus on the reliability of the national identity register. As I am sure noble Lords are aware, they are unnecessary as 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 everything that we are doing is predicated on the need for that security. Furthermore, the Data Protection Act—in particular, the seventh data protection principle—imposes a statutory obligation to ensure that the appropriate technical measures are taken to secure the safety of the register.
I come to Amendment No. 175 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, which he has kindly indicated is a probing amendment. It would give the Secretary of State the power to cancel an ID card if there had been unauthorised access to the record of an individual. If a card has been lost or stolen and is used to access the register, the Secretary of State already has the power to cancel the card under Clause 13(2)(b). There is also a power under Clause 13(2)(e) to cancel a card of a description that the Secretary of State has decided should be re-issued—for example, cards where there is reason to suspect that the register has been interfered with. As soon as the cardholder reports his ID card either lost or stolen, it will be cancelled. Therefore it is unlikely that unauthorised access to the record will occur and, in our view, the noble Lord's amendment is unnecessary.
The noble Lord also asked whether Clause 13(7) covers tampering with the register. The answer is that it does not—the provision is limited to interference with a card. But the Secretary of State will have the power to cancel and replace a card in those circumstances under, I think, Clause 13(2)(c). If noble Lords will give me a moment, I will check in the Bill whether that is correct.
While my noble friend is finding the appropriate place, perhaps I may comment on something she said earlier. I have been very dismayed at the degree to which noble Lords have referred to a particular report as the "LSE report". It was actually written by a Mr Simon Davies, who works for Privacy International, which is an international organisation that is violently opposed to identity card Bills and has opposed them in many countries. Mr Davies came to a meeting in the other place chaired by me a couple of years ago when the Government first mentioned identity cards.
It is true that Mr Davies is a visiting fellow of the LSE, but that is a different matter. Indeed, the present director of the LSE, Howard Davies, has confirmed that the document itself is not an official corporate document of the LSE. Perhaps we should start calling it the "Davies report".
My noble friend is absolutely right: it is the Davies report. I am perhaps in error in calling it the London School of Economics report. That is how it has been referred to in the debate. It is an inaccurate reference. I do not want to cast any aspersions on the London School of Economics. I will certainly take my noble friend's stricture and from henceforth I will refer to it only as the "Davies report". So we have that clarity.
For further clarification, at the beginning of the report there is a list of the members of an advisory group. Every one is associated with the London School of Economics: Professor Ian Angell, Professor Christine Chinkin, Professor Frank Cowell, Professor Keith Dowding, Professor Patrick Dunleavy, Professor George Gaskell, Professor Christopher Greenwood, Professor Christopher Hood, Professor Mary Kaldor, Professor Frank Land, Professor Robin Mansell, Professor Tim Newburn, Professor David Piachaud and Professor Robert Reiner. I understand what the noble Baroness says but, looking at the report and those who advised on it, I do not think that the Minister should be chided for her shorthand reference to the report as the "LSE report".
Whether or not I should have been, I am quite happy to take the chastisement and will do as my noble friend has indicated.
Clause 13(2)(c) indicates that an ID card may be cancelled if it appears,
"that there has been a modification of information recorded in the entry in the Register of the holder of the card", and subsection (e),
"that it is an ID card of a description of cards that the Secretary of State has decided should be re-issued".
I hope that that helps the noble Lord. We do not think that it will cause confusion.
I should add a word or two in response to the comments made the noble Lords, Lord Crickhowell and Lord Selsdon, about hacking into the system. I at no stage underestimate the ingenuity of the hacker. All I say, as a statement of fact and not an incitement for them to hack more successfully, is that to date the systems we have put in place appear to have been effective.
How does the Minister know that? The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, referred to criminal records and the person hacking in to the system and expunging his criminal record. The fact that nobody has been caught doing it does not mean to say that it is not done every day of the week.
We have no evidence. As the noble Lord knows only too well as a criminal lawyer, one has to have evidence before one is entitled to make those comments. So, at the moment there is no evidence which would entitle me to say that this has been done. Therefore, I am not in a position to do so. The noble Earl, Lord Northesk, suggested that we might be throwing down the gauntlet, but of course, we have no intention of doing that. I am confident that we can be relatively sure that the hackers of the United Kingdom tend not to pore over the conversations reported in Hansard. I look forward to being proved wrong, but we should not hold our breath on that being the reality.
On the information in relation to national insurance records, I gave a full response yesterday. I do not propose to respond again on those matters, as I would simply be repeating all that I said for a considerable period when we last debated the issue.
I thank the Minister for her response, and thank all Members of the Committee who have contributed to this short debate. As the Minister said, many of the issues implicit in the amendment were addressed yesterday, although I am rather less sanguine about whether they have been dealt with.
To reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and indeed, the Minister, much of my time in the House has been spent probing the very issues to which they referred. The noble Baronesses may be aware that doubts exist about whether the Computer Misuse Act is an effective measure against denial of service attacks on IT infrastructure and databases. I introduced a Private Member's Bill to attend to the problem a few years ago, which unfortunately did not receive the Government's blessing.
I focus as much of my energy on existing databases as I do on the national identity register. I do not doubt the Government's intention to have the very best system, but I am concerned that the very best may fall short of appropriate and adequate thresholds of security and reliability. It is eminently sensible to attempt to probe those parameters, and unfortunately I am not sure that this debate has managed to do so to any great effect. Perhaps we shall have more success with Amendment No. 15.
I ought to make the point about the LSE report—I shall continue to call it that—that while it has informed my knowledge of the Bill, it is only one of a multitude of sources to which I have resorted to determine my views. The 36 per cent or so of data verification is quoted directly from research in the US and has nothing to do with Italian research. The other thing that I find strange about the LSE report is that it seems extraordinary that rather than dealing with the substance of the report the Government have often aimed to shoot the messenger.
All those issues aside, I have been unable to progress this aspect of the debate too much, so I am content to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 1, line 11, leave out "registrable facts about such"
In moving Amendment No. 13 I shall also speak to Amendment No. 14. They are probing amendments designed to explore the kind of information that the Government intend to be recordable on and accessible through the ID register. We must remember that we are talking not about matters relating to national security but to what an organisation or a person can ask or be told about another. If it were limited to the single purpose of identification, as my amendment suggests, that would be one thing, but the clause is drafted in such a way that it will allow people to record—and by that token others to access or be given via the register—any registrable fact that they want to about themselves.
Those facts, as set out in Clause 1(5), are potentially far-reaching. They might include where a person lived in 1999; his national insurance number or insurance policy number; certainly a driving licence number, and perhaps even his car number if the regulations say so. We simply do not know because we have not seen the regulations.
We know from subsection (6) that information could not include their race, religion or membership number of a political party or trade union. Criminal records are also excluded. Otherwise, pretty well anything goes. That will be a hacker's goldmine and provide instant access to a range of information that otherwise could be only laboriously ascertained. However, if the Government are peddling that as a convenient—how often that word seems to come up—means of information exchange, will there not be a tendency to encourage people to register more numbers than may be prudent in one place? We are always told to keep our numbers separately. Once a person has registered his numbers voluntarily under Clause 3(2), how exactly will access to them be controlled? Clause 19 onwards sets out areas in which information supplied can be used without a person's consent. However careful the original intent—when will we see the draft regulations?—there must be a risk of information creep if the register becomes used as a general identification service, voluntarily or otherwise.
It would be much wiser and the whole process more manageable if the scope of the register were limited to a narrow, circumscribed list of information that could be recorded and accessed. Does the Minister have examples of any personal identification numbers that it would not be permitted for an individual to record? If I want to put my bank account number on it, will I be allowed to and will it be secure? The present wording is far too wide for comfort and should be narrowed. Does the Minister have any reasonable objection to that? I beg to move.
As the noble Baroness knows, the statutory purposes of the identity card scheme and the national identity register that will support the scheme are twofold. The second limb of the statutory purposes in Clause 1(3)(b) is to provide the means of identification where that is in the public interest—I emphasise the public interest test. Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 address that second public interest limb of the statutory purposes. Registrable facts are set out clearly in Clause 1(5). As well as the name, date of birth and physical characteristics that could be used to identify someone, they include address, nationality or immigration status. Those are all highly relevant factors when someone needs to prove his or her identity and in meeting the public interest purposes for which the register will be established.
For many transactions, it is as important to know your address—that is, where you live now—as it is to know where you were born. For a foreign national, it will be as important to know whether you are free to work here as to know your date of birth. So the reference to "registrable facts" in both limbs of the statutory purposes is not unnecessary verbiage but defines the ambit, the outline, of the sort of facts that we would be entitled to ask for.
As the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee acknowledged in its report, which I very much welcome, the reference to "registrable facts" in the statutory purposes sets the outer limits of the information that may be recorded under the Bill. Many of the subsequent powers in the Bill are linked to those statutory purposes and the limitation in those purposes to the registrable facts is an important safeguard.
So all those items in Schedule 1 have to fit within the framework of Clause 1(5). If we were to remove Clause 1(5), and retain the order-making power in the Bill, it would be possible for anything outwith Clause 1(5) now to be included by way of order. The Government believe that that would be wrong. As a result, it was proper to outline in Clause 1(5) the outer limits of anything that we could subsequently bring forward and to invite the House to add to those issues in Schedule 1. The noble Baroness will know that any addition to those issues would have to be done by affirmative order. The beauty of the use of the affirmative order—I think my noble friend mentioned this at Second Reading—is that we now have the powerful instrument of the committee which looks at statutory instruments; and we can scrutinise whether they are within the ambit, proper, and so on, before they even come to the House. So we have this extra safeguard. It would mean that, together with the other place, we have a proper opportunity to see whether any new additional matter which the Government chose to bring forward under Schedule 1 fits within the outline ambit which is set by Clause 1(5). That is why we think Clause 1(5) is an additional safeguard and it would be proper to keep it in place.
This debate has started me thinking about this. Clause 1(5)(g) refers to,
"information about numbers allocated to him for identification purposes and about the documents to which they relate;—"
One of the things that came out of, for instance, the inquiry about Huntley, is that if people had checked with the credit reference agencies they could have found out the truth about things such as addresses. I think I am right about that. It may be easiest to use such things as credit reference agencies for proving addresses and other identification purposes. I do not see any reason against it if you are willing to use that to prove your identity when you first register. Would credit card numbers be kept on the register if someone had chosen to use that information? It may be a perfectly valid thing to do. I just raise that for future debate.
I might as well flag this up now. It relates to the immigration issue in Schedule 1. I do not want the Minister to reply to it, it is really for the noble Lords on the Back Benches. Paragraph (4)(1)(i) of the schedule refers to,
"any reference number allocated by the Secretary of State in connection with an application made by him for permission to enter or to remain in the United Kingdom".
You have the ACID number, the Home Office reference number, the port of entry number and the immigration number for starters. I think there are about another four identifiers used internally by IND and, if it concerns children, NASS as well, for trying to track immigrants.
The Home Office talks about banks, and it has been said that ID cards will remove the need to produce utility bills when opening an account, so some of this information will be released to organisations such as banks. That is presumably in the public interest, because it is in the interest of the citizen to have this information available. This will not all be internal to the Government, where there is a banking system looking at the information to prove identity. However, some of this stuff should not be released outside government circles and should be used internally by government for the more efficient delivery of public services. I flag that up for debate, I do not want a huge reply now.
"where he resides in the United Kingdom".
That is fine. Of course, most of the people who apply for a card will give accurate information.
But the likelihood, particularly among some sections of society that are more vulnerable or less aware of the importance of always telling the truth, is that some inaccurate, possibly mendacious, information will be given.
My intention is simply to probe what will, and will not, be recorded on the register. I make clear immediately my belief that it is quite possible, if my understanding of the Bill is correct, that a number of vulnerable people will have recorded answers about where they were living that turn out to be untrue. Indeed, there may be a succession of them. Schedule 1(7) states:
"The following may be recorded in the entry in the Register for an individual".
Sub-paragraph (a) refers to,
"the information provided in connection with every application by him to be entered in the Register", and, leaving out the irrelevant words, sub-paragraph (d) refers to,
"particulars of any other steps taken or information obtained . . . for ensuring that there is [an] . . . accurate entry about that individual in the Register".
In other words, it may be recorded that a third party—probably a government official—has tried to check certain information. They may build up a picture of the individual who has made the application that shows that a good deal of the information given on separate occasions is either inconsistent or incorrect.
I am not saying whether it is right or wrong that that information should be obtained and recorded. I want to know whether under the scheme of the Act it will be lawful to do so.
It is important to understand the differences between Clause 1(5) and the schedule, so I shall make those clear. Not all of the 55 items listed in Schedule 1 will have to be provided by the individual. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell, has indicated, for example, several parts of Schedule 1 refer to purely administrative information, such as the date on which the individual applied to be registered, particulars of every ID card issued to him and particulars of the steps taken to confirm the individual's identity when he applied to be registered. Those details will not be provided by individuals; they are administrative details concerned with the application process and will place no burden on them.
The initial investigations will be to verify that the person who wishes to be registered is the person they purport to be. For instance, the most important address is likely to be that to which the person asserted they had access as their residence immediately prior to registration. As I indicated yesterday, we will look at regulations on how many previous addresses may be necessary, but I must make clear that it will be in order to verify that the person initially registered is who they say they are for that first registration, which will be of the utmost importance. Thereafter, noble Lords know, the registration of the updated address will be of additional import.
In response to the issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, and others, no number that constitutes or tends to reveal sensitive data can be included. For that, one need only look at Clause 1(6), which makes clear that,
"the registrable facts falling within subsection (5)(g) do not include any sensitive personal data (within the meaning of the Data Protection Act 1998 (c.29)) or anything the disclosure of which would tend to reveal such data".
So, for example, the police national computer number could not be added. Voluntary information can only be added under Clause 3(2), if it is within a category set out by the Secretary of State in regulations. That is why, in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, I talked about those things that we may add.
I cannot imagine what purposes would be served by keeping them on the register, but they would first have to be identified by the Secretary of State as being an appropriate group to add. They would then have to fall clearly within Clause 1(5) and we would then have an opportunity to vote on them. If they were then so added, someone could, voluntarily, add any information to the register which was contained within that new format.
I think the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, said that the key to this part of the Bill, which is at its heart, is that if not included within Clause 1(5), which defines "registrable fact", there is nothing in Clause 3 and Schedule 1 that can go into the register. In other words, Schedule 1 and Clause 3, are delimited by Clause 1(5). Is that correct? The noble Baroness nodded and I thank her.
I want to point out that if that is so, it seems to me that Schedule 1 is already in breach of that principle. That is partly why I, among others no doubt, have been misled by this. For example, Clause 1(5) (b) says:
"where he resides in the United Kingdom".
Schedule 1, sub-paragraphs (f) and (g) say:
"(f) the address of his principal place of residence in the United Kingdom;
(g) the address of every other place in the United Kingdom where he has a place of residence".
That actually gives more information than is permitted by Clause 1(5)(b), because although I concede that,
"where he resides in the United Kingdom", could include multiple places, it does not require him to specify which among his residences is his principal place of residence. I put it to the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland of Asthal, that by having two long lists we have a real danger here. I suggest that there is one inconsistency.
"particulars of any other steps taken or information obtained (otherwise than in connection with an application mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b)) for ensuring that there is a complete, up-to-date and accurate entry about that individual in the Register".
That suggests to me that you will record any information and that that catch-all overrides all these other bits and pieces that we say are protections. This is probably not for full debate now, but all these intermesh and I am not quite sure where we should debate that issue. Like the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, I think there is a conflict between these two parts of the Bill.
Can I assist as to why I do not, respectfully, agree? If we look at the totality of Clause 1(5), we have in relation to subsection (5)(f) "residential statuses previously held by him," which are not necessarily referable to residences in the United Kingdom. If we then look at paragraph (i), there is, in terms of residence or any other information,
"information recorded in the Register at his request".
In relation to residence we have at paragraph (b),
"where he resides in the United Kingdom".
That could catch all places at which he resides. I think many of us have the advantage of having more than one home.
I am sorry, I did not make myself clear. I accept that point, but my point was that the schedule goes further. If you are lucky enough to have more than one current residence—I am not talking about previous residences in Clause 1(5)(f)—there is nothing in Clause 1(5) that requires you to specify which among them is your principal residence. However, the schedule does require that and so it clearly goes beyond what is in Clause 1(5).
I do not believe that it does. Clause 1(5) is the outer limit, so you could interpret it to demand that you register all residences irrespective of major or minor. That is the outer limit, but the schedule can provide regulation in relation to what you are invited to register. It can therefore say, "You don't have to register all, just register the one where you are primarily resident". That would not be contrary to the ambit already provided because Clause 1(5) is greater than that which is requested under the schedule.
We are in Committee but we cannot go on with this argument. I am sorry, but I persist in saying that if Schedule 1 states that you must specify which among your residences is your principal one, that is an extra demand on the citizen and it is not sanctioned by Clause 1(5). Perhaps we should pursue this outside the Committee.
Presumably that will have capital gains tax implications for householders. Perhaps the Government should put out a warning that it is important for people to get it right, looking forward to when they might sell a house. If they accidentally get it wrong, I am sure that it will be used as evidence by the Inland Revenue.
The Minister was kindly answering me, but I began to think that I had not put my question clearly. It may be right that we should be able to do this following the passing of this Bill, but I am concerned in part about how the provision is likely to be used, for example, by the police or the security services to question someone who has come into the police station at their request. That person might very well have given many inconsistent answers which might have been recorded under Schedule 1, paragraph 7(a): For example,
"the information provided in connection with every application by him to be entered in the Register" might include addresses suggesting that he was living at a particular time in London when he knew perfectly well that he was living in Norfolk because he was working without a work permit doing something in relation to the vegetable industry, which is one of the Government's proper concerns.
I am asking: are we not in a position where a huge amount of information may be built up and kept on this register not only as to the accurate answers, which all seem perfectly straightforward and bland when one looks at Clause 1(5), but all the other things that were said perhaps by unreliable individuals in response or as part of their efforts to obtain an identity card or in relation to other things which were discovered by those who were properly, as permitted by the Bill, checking up on the validity of this information under paragraph 7(d) of Schedule 1? It seems to me that in relation to an individual who is being less than candid or is making some foolish mistakes, a substantial dossier might be built up which would subsequently be used by, or might seem to be valuable to, those who are seeking to cross-question the individual about something else.
I am not saying it is right and I am not saying that it is wrong. I am asking: is this what we are creating?
I understand what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell, is advocating and I can see why he is expressing an element of concern. The use to which the security services and others would put this information is in verifying the identity of the individual. I am by no means clear—I will therefore seek to obtain the information—about whether the security services, which as the noble and learned Lord will know will be dealing primarily with terrorism and such, will have total access to all information on the database. As noble Lords will know, Clause 11 creates the power to require information from other databases, and information provided may be cross-checked. This may include a wide range of checks, but the whole issue of the extent to which the security services may have access to the register is quite complex. The noble Lord has therefore raised an interesting and important point. I will certainly write to him. We may need to come back to this issue and clarify the position.
I thank my noble and learned friend Lord Lyell of Markyate, the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, and the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, for raising other important points. I am grateful to the Minister for her explanation, which I will study very carefully. No doubt, as she suggested, debate on these matters will take place later in the Bill, but, for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
I raise this amendment for the commendation of the Committee because it is essential that flat on the face of the Bill is a clause which tells us what is required in respect of the maintenance of the register. The register, after all, is at the heart of all this, and there has been, and I am sure will remain, persistent concern on all sides of the Committee—this is as much a concern of the Government as it is of the Opposition—that this whole new world of a national identity card with a national database should be maintained with full integrity.
Many speeches at Second Reading, and comments made since, referred to the dangers to which the register will be subject by reason of those who want to subvert it. We live in an age unfortunately where there are many such people and the information on the register will be of value to them. The Minister said—she said it both today and yesterday—that it stands to reason that security is paramount and that we do not need to state it in the Bill because it is so obvious. In any event, said she, the seventh data protection principle states as much. That may be true as a matter of psychology, but I really believe that the duty to maintain a secure register should be slap-bang in Clause 1. Let us compare this Bill with the Charities Bill, which we have just finished debating. Most of the duties which are imposed on the Charity Commission in that Bill could similarly be said to stand to reason and no doubt they do, but we want them on the face of the Bill.
This amendment is pretty modest. It states:
"The Register shall be established and maintained so as to be secure against any unauthorised use or access".
I have to put it to the Government that it is rather odd to say that we do not need this amendment, which refers to security, when Clause 1(3)(b) refers to "a secure and reliable method". If it is not necessary to refer to having a secure register, I do not see why it is necessary to refer to "a secure and reliable method" in Clause 1(3)(b).
That aside, Clause 1(3) is hugely troublesome. It really is a conundrum within a conundrum. There has already been enough discussion for that to be apparent. I refer to the first amendment moved today, on which we voted. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, went as far as to say that she was not fully apprised of every ramification in the subsection. I am certain that the rest of us would say amen to that. As I read Clause 1(3), it says nothing about the establishment and maintenance of a secure register. The reference made to "secure and reliable" concerns, as I have said already, the method by which registrable facts are to be "ascertained or verified".
I come back to the point. For the life of me, I cannot see why the Government should resist what they say is so obvious as not to be needed, but which many will think as I do, that this should be plainly asserted at the start of the Bill. It would give a reassurance to any citizen who hereafter reads it—God help him or her if he or she does—and it should be a duty on the Government, the Secretary of State and the chief executive of the authority to maintain a secure register that is,
"secure against any unauthorised use or access".
I rest my case on that and I beg to move.
Noble Lords will be relieved to hear that I do not intend to repeat anything I have said about the security issues that we have now discussed on a number of occasions, in particular the issues of hacking or otherwise technical breaches. Rather I rise to make the point that this useful amendment, which I support, refers to "unauthorised use" as well as "access". I am reminded that we are dealing with what is going to be a very large organisation, along with other organisations, managing and using the register. In addition to the risk that outsiders will hack into the system, presumably there is a risk that from the inside, individuals for whatever reason—it might be a financial one in the form of an offer made by a newspaper to get at information—might seek to misuse.
I ask the Minister whether it would not be useful to include a further paragraph here which emphasises not only the importance of the technical matters we have already discussed but also the importance of ensuring that those responsible for the management of the system maintain the highest standards of probity and good management so as to ensure that there is no possibility of abuse. The Minister has given us full assurances on the technical aspects, which we all hope will prove to be justified, but I would be grateful if she made some comment about the management issues to avoid the kind of leakage or perversion of material that we have seen elsewhere. I cite, for example, leaks of material simply because individuals have a financial or other reason for abusing the system. We want to be assured that there is adequate provision for dealing with that circumstance.
While I think that on the one hand this provision ought to be unnecessary because it should go without saying, on the other hand, given that subsection (3)(b) refers to "secure and reliable", logically such a provision should go along with it. If you are going to say that, you may as well say this as well, simply to dot the i's and cross the t's. I feel that both provisions are aspirational rather than things to be put into legislation. This reminds me of a period in the 1960s. I recall my father's muttered response to a declaration made by Perth county council that the area around the house was a "rabbit-free zone": "They have as much hope of that succeeding as anything else". It is a good idea and perhaps it should be put in the Bill so that people can scream about it.
A lot can be done. The credit checking agencies which keep highly sensitive information on people have a good record of monitoring the behaviour of employees, firing them immediately if someone in the snooper division detects any malfeasance. I do not know whether in the public sector one can behave in such a draconian way. I hope that one would. It is good to have such a provision. We need to ensure that police within the police are policing the entire system.
I support the amendment. In doing so, perhaps I may express some doubt as to whether some noble Lords opposite have ever digested the report on the Bill from the Select Committee on the Constitution. It merits careful study. I think it appropriate to put on the record one specific sentence:
"But we nonetheless continue to believe that it is important to ensure, irrespective of the Bill's merits or the benefits claimed for it . . . that the scheme is conducted upon a strong legal basis and that adequate safeguards are in place to protect individuals from excessive intrusion into their affairs by institutions of the State or indeed by others—in other words, to 'future proof' it against the potential for abuse of the registration scheme by officials of the State claiming to act in the public interest".
That sentence underlies our deep-rooted and abiding objections to the Bill. Until I am satisfied that the Government understand it and have taken it on board, I shall continue to be extremely hostile to the Bill.
Perhaps I may quote another sentence from the report:
"This is all the more important when the scheme envisaged will record in a single data-base more information about the lives and characteristics of the entire adult population than has ever been considered necessary or attempted previously in the United Kingdom, or indeed in any other western country".
Since I have been in this House, the Constitution Committee has been regarded with great respect. It thoroughly deserves that respect to continue. I, for one, am not satisfied that the Government have given it the attention that it manifestly deserves. I warmly support the amendment.
I support the amendment. Like my noble friend Lord Crickhowell, I shall not repeat my earlier remarks. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, may be too modest in suggesting that the amendment is modest. As my noble friend Lord Crickhowell says, it extends to use as well as access. One of the most vulnerable parts of any secure IT system is internal: its potential unauthorised use by those with access to it. The amendment is useful in addressing that problem.
I support the amendment. I am concerned about authorised use and access. I had assumed that some such provision would have been in the Bill. Who will be authorised to have access and use? Many foreign powers would welcome the opportunity for access and use. Since the noble Baroness pointed out that the United States is the most advanced in that field, it would not surprise me if even today people at Langley and other parts of the world were planning how they might have access in due course.
I have added my name to the amendment. If I were to put forward any detailed reasons for why I support it I would be in danger of repeating speeches that I made earlier today and yesterday. That would not be appreciated by the Committee. It would be an abuse, even in Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, has made a very lucid case and I fully support him.
I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. I take the strictures of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, very seriously. He is right to draw our attention to those words and paragraphs from the report of the Constitution Committee. The Government take these issues very seriously indeed and we are absolutely determined to ensure that, in bringing forward the Bill, we reach the high thresholds expected of us in the way the legislation and the scheme will work once established in law.
We have debated this issue already in some of the earlier amendments. Clause 1 is at the heart of the identity card scheme. It establishes the national identity register and it sets out the statutory purposes for which the register is to be established and maintained. The amendment focuses on the security of the register but it is unnecessary. The security of the register, certainly in managerial terms—the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, referred to this issue—will be of paramount importance and, as such, does not need to be set out in primary legislation.
Furthermore—this is a very important point—the Data Protection Act, and in particular the seventh data protection principle, imposes already a statutory obligation on us to ensure that the appropriate technical measures are taken in order to secure the safety of the register. That is spelt out very clearly in the seventh data protection principle and is also made clear in Section 4(4) of the Data Protection Act 1998, which states:
"Subject to Section 27(1), it shall be the duty of a data controller to comply with the data protection principles in relation to all personal data with respect to which he is the data controller".
So it is implicit already in legislation that we should comply with that principle. The amendment adds no more to that obligation.
Perhaps I may go into some of the detail of the issues that have been raised—the question of hacking and so on. The national identity register 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 some of the most sophisticated currently available. These safeguards are designed to provide a defence in depth, as we have heard before, through distributed security architecture and are considered unlikely to be vulnerable to external attack while under appropriate management, audit and security operating procedures.
It should be noted that to date—I know we have made this point before but it is important that it should be recorded again—there has not been a single 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. No applicant or card holder information is ever transmitted in a manner that could expose it to the risk of interception or compromise. An advanced cryptographic and intrusion prevention scheme has already been designed to protect the supporting NIR communications infrastructure as part of the overall security architecture of the scheme. All security features designed to protect the NIR and supporting communications infrastructure have been developed in conjunction with the GCHQ's Communications-Electronics Security Group. The CESG, as it is known, is the Government's national technical authority for information assurance.
The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, referred to management issues. In essence, he drew our attention to the potential abuse that might occur by virtue of the activities of agency staff. The proposed scheme incorporates the design principle that no one individual can change details directly on the NIR. Verification service traffic is one way, and does not access the NIR directly.
It should be noted and understood that the content of the NIR is never stored in a manner that would leave it exposed to the risk of data extraction. A small number of communication links serve the database. These links are all encrypted using high-grade cryptography. There is no PC access to the NIR, and only a small number of operations staff with the highest level of government security clearance will be responsible for managing the uploading of information to the core database.
Additionally, Clause 31 creates the offence of tampering with the register. A person convicted on indictment can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison or a fine, or both, and on summary conviction to a prison sentence of up to 12 months. If we need reminding, employees would also be subject to normal employment law remedies. Disclosure would certainly amount to gross misconduct, and would be a dismissable offence by virtue of that.
So only a small number of authorised members of agency staff would have access to the register. It will not be connected to the Internet, and outside bodies will not have access. This is a highly secure system. It is designed that way by all other government databases. We do not believe that this amendment aids or assists that. It is already implicit by virtue of the seventh principle of the Data Protection Act. Our argument is that this unnecessary amendment adds nothing to the Bill, nor will it add any further protection.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he said about the quotation I used from the Select Committee's report. I hope that he will take the opportunity to draw the Minister's attention to it, as she was not in her place when I read it. This report is important, and I hope all Ministers will have it constantly in their minds. I should like to raise two points with the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, about the speech he just made.
First—I hope I heard him correctly—he said the intention of the amendment did not need to be set out in primary legislation. Did he mean that it was quite adequate to set it out in secondary legislation? That is the obvious meaning, but if that is not what he meant, perhaps he could tell me so.
I did not mean what the noble Lord inferred. I said that it was already there by virtue of the Data Protection Act, and referred, as noble Lord will recall, to the seventh data protection principle.
My noble friend Lady Scotland will be more aware of the report to which the noble Lord refers than I am. I am sure that, like all other Ministers, she takes seriously reports produced by the Constitution Committee, because we greatly value its work in your Lordships' House.
Very well. I accept with some doubt that the noble Lord did not in fact mean that it would be adequate to put this in secondary legislation, because that was the clear implication of what he said.
My second point is that the Minister said there had been no leak from a similar government database. There is a first time for everything, and this database is larger and more sensitive than any other. I really do not accept what has been said. Leaks from government sources are all too frequent. The noble Lord may not take that too seriously but I am serious about it.
The noble Lord makes a general comment about leaks. We are talking about secure data systems. I made the important point that there is no history of encrypted systems such as the one we are discussing being subject to hacking in the way in which some Members of the Committee, particularly noble Lords opposite, seem to believe will become a common occurrence. There is no history of that with any of the established databases which currently record national information. Measures, counter-measures, as it were, and more will be put in place to ensure that hacking does not occur with the new system.
There is justification for having a declaratory clause at the beginning of a Bill. When the Scotland Bill went through this House, many people argued that the very first clause was unnecessary. It said:
"There shall be a Scottish Parliament".
Of course, it was unnecessary because the whole Bill was about the fact that it would be established. However, that clause has been more quoted, and has given more pleasure to people in Scotland, than any other clause in the Bill.
This is a serious point and it seems to me that there is an argument for saying,
"The Register shall be established and maintained so as to be secure".
The Government believe that the register will be secure, although noble Lords argued about that point earlier. The noble Lord deployed many arguments to explain why it will be secure. However, a declaratory clause is a very good idea and would comfort those who have doubts about the Bill. It is a serious point and it was well made by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips.
I agree with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, and the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. The reason given for not including the measure is that it is covered under the Data Protection Act, and therefore it is unnecessary to include it. But, logically, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, should have supported Amendment No. 11 of the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, which sought to leave out the words "secure and reliable". That phrase is also otiose as it is covered under the same section of the Data Protection Act, so you do not need those words either.
I do not think that our arguments were different in that debate but I am grateful for the noble Earl's support on the matter that we are now discussing. The Government are often attacked for overloading Bills and legislation with far too many unnecessary words and excess verbiage. The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, frequently makes that point and is to be congratulated on encouraging us to keep things simple. However, if we were to accept the amendment suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, any other legislation that dealt with a similar process of data collection and retention would then have to have exactly the same formulation in it. The relevant measure is clear in the Data Protection Act and, as the Bill is drafted, the point that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, wants to ensure applies to this legislation is implied.
I have had some difficulty in trying to follow this argument. Noble Lords opposite seem to live in a rather different world from the one in which I live. In my world dealings are based, perhaps wrongly, largely on trust and the idea that most people obey the law most of the time.
As regards the technology, of course this will be an enormous database but that is now possible. In the technological world in which we now live it is possible to have such a database. In the past acres of accommodation would have been required to store the paper records. Incidentally, such a system would be considerably less secure than the computer storage of encrypted information. To my mind it would be much more profitable for people to hack into certain other government databases. Noble Lords seem to think that is a very easy process. I am no computer expert, but I know that hackers are clever people who can make a lot of money but do not break the law, because they are good computer experts who hack for fun and not for profit. But if it were possible, hacking into the passport database, the social security database or the income tax database would be much more profitable than trying to hack into the national register, for the simple reason that it would allow dishonest people to make money out of it—that is presumably a major reason why they would want to do it. I do not see how enormous sums of money could be made by taking information out of the national register, except by stealing someone's identity and then going through a long process.
I confess to being disappointed by the Minister's response. We were invited at the start of proceedings on the Bill to take part in a constructive debate in which the Government would listen to what was said. Everyone except the last speaker has spoken in simple and outright terms in favour of the amendment. It seems bizarre that the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, twice referred to the "paramount importance" of the security of the register, as did the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, yet we have nothing on the face of the Bill. This is only a two-line amendment and we are considering a 44-page Bill in which there is nothing to reflect that paramountcy.
In contrast to that, the Government included a paragraph in the same clause which mentions:,
"a secure and reliable method", for ascertaining facts. Yet, while resisting the removal of those words in Amendment No. 11, they are resisting the inclusion of those words in the much more important issue of the register itself.
I do not wish to detain the Committee any longer, but I assure the Government that the amendment will be brought back, although I might reword it, and at the next stage I will be minded to seek the view of the House. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 16:
Page 1, line 16, leave out paragraphs (a) to (e) and insert—
"(a) of assistance to the Secretary of State in preventing or detecting terrorist acts in the United Kingdom or elsewhere or otherwise in the interests of national security;
(b) of assistance to the Secretary of State in preventing or detecting serious crime;
(c) for the purposes of preventing illegal immigration and enforcing immigration controls; or
(d) for the purposes of securing proper provision of relevant public services.
( ) For the purpose of subsection (4)—
"relevant public services" means the provision of—
(c) education, and
(d) social security benefits;
"serious crime" means crime giving rise to an offence triable only on indictment."
In moving the amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 140 and 274 in this group. I should make it clear that these are probing amendments, for which the reason will become clear. They were divided upon by my honourable and right honourable friends in another place on more than one occasion, but I do not seek to do so just at this stage.
This group of amendments asks the Government to set out clearly the purposes that they intend to drive the setting up of the national identity register. Once there is clarity of purpose, manufacturers can design a card that is fit for that purpose. So, what do the Government see as the fundamental purpose of a card? Will it be an entitlement card for e-government services, a security card, or does it have some other primary use?
In the debate leading up to the Bill and during the consultation process, the Government have claimed a variety of reasons for introducing the national identity register and ID cards. They include protecting us against terrorism, clamping down on social security fraud, tightening their grip on money laundering, reducing illegal immigration and reducing crime—although I note that at Second Reading on
The first three amendments invite the Government to state their priorities and I will run through those very briefly. Amendment No. 16 would change subsection (4) of Clause 1 which lists matters that all might be in the public interest. Taken individually or collectively they could all be for the public good: we all want our national security to be enhanced, crime to be detected or prevented, the laws and regulations concerning immigration to this country to be enforced and illegal working to be prevented and the rules relating to it to be enforced. Everbody wants the provision of public services to be maintained securely, efficiently and effectively, but it does not necessarily mean that this Bill is the right or the only way to achieve those outcomes. Our amendment tries to tighten the definition of the statutory purposes of the Bill.
The Government's own Clause 1(4)(a) merely refers to national security. We say that national security should be described primarily in relation to terrorism. Our new subsection (1)(c) confines the purpose to preventing or detecting serious crime instead of leaving it open to all crime. I am simply making the Bill read in the way that it appeared the Minister herself construed it at Second Reading.
We then go on to the more challenging bit of our amendments—challenging to me, not to the Government I hasten to add—where we go on to define serious crime as one which gives rise to an offence triable only on indictment. I say my amendments are only probing because I realise that that amendment is seriously defective in respect of Scotland—I say that knowing that I have expert Scottish colleagues behind me as well as on the Benches opposite. I realise that that amendment would exclude serious fraud, serious theft and serious assault in Scotland from coming within the ambit of this provision. It is only there as a prompt to ask the Government to approach their definition of what crime is to be covered by this. I recognise that if I ever did seek to bring this back on Report I would certainly need to redraft the amendment.
I invite the Minister to explain how extensively the Government anticipate the use of ID card tracking to be used by the police in their work. Will card production be required from motorists who have been stopped for speeding? Will they in any way act as a deterrent to burglars and if so, how? Will the Minister explain what impact she expects 1(4)(c) to have on the prevention of illegal immigration? Are there not better ways of achieving that, for example, by increasing immigration controls at points of entry?
What is the Minister's response to the briefing by the Commission for Racial Equality on these matters? It is concerned that the Government's integration agenda may suffer as a consequence of this legislation and its effects. The CRE says that the impact on communities where there are high numbers of irregular migrants has not been considered, except to say that it is "beneficial" unsupported by evidence. The CRE states,
"With regard to illegal immigration and access to public services, it appears that the Government can achieve its aims without Identity Card legislation. There are provisions within immigration legislation to ensure that migrants have certain documentation."
The CRC also points out that the recent pilot scheme aimed at Sri Lanka was not an unqualified success. Its reason is not just that at seven, the number detected was low, but that if there were a full race equality impact assessment it would indicate whether there are other, more effective, alternatives. It feels that the problem at the moment is that the Government have not yet published a full assessment. Can the Government indicate today whether they intend to do so?
Amendment No. 16 also inserts new subsection (4) (a) to define relevant public services. I beg to move.
I want to raise a small point to be introduced on the back of the important matters which have just been raised by my noble friend. It is a Committee point, the devil being in the detail and, as we all know, there are many mansions in the detail.
The scheme of Clause 1 is to provide that registrable facts are to be able to be ascertained whenever that is necessary in the public interest. Subsection (4) states,
"For the purposes of this Act something is necessary in the public interest if, and only if, it is—" and then there follows paragraphs (a) to (e). The interesting fact and one that is possibly productive of future difficulties, is that one sees that in paragraph (a) it is,
"in the interests of national security".
In paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) it is,
"for the purposes of the prevention or detection of crime", and so on. In paragraph (e) it is,
"for the single purpose of securing the efficient and effective provision of public services".
I would not expect the Minister to provide an immediate answer as to what is the distinction between the purposes and the purpose or between either of them and the interest. But it just may give rise to difficulty later and it could possibly be considered whether that might not be tidied up in the interests of consistency.
I rise to make a couple of points. I notice that this amendment has left out the prevention of illegal working and I wonder whether that is a good idea. I understand that the IND or the ACID databases are up to a year behind on their updating and so therefore it may be quite difficult until things like that catch up. The problem is the interface with other Government databases. If we are relying on this information to decide whether someone can work or not then all the information needs to be up to date—not just the NIR information but that on other Government databases as well. It might be wise to leave some of those out of this at the moment so that we do not suddenly find that some poor people get a work permit but they cannot verify it online—or whatever method is required under the proposals—and cannot actually get work for six or nine months later. Or we have a fallback system in which case the entire thing is a load of nonsense anyway.
The second point is that all this is about providing public services. As has been mentioned several times during Second Reading and elsewhere I know that the Home Office has been talking to the banking community about this being a wonderful thing for opening bank accounts. But why is opening a bank account a public service, or provision of a relevant public service? I presume it comes under the preventing or detecting of serious crime; in other words, it is all being thought of as anti-money laundering. But we know that the anti-money laundering provisions do not work at the moment: because I believe they caught £46 million laundered through London last year as opposed to the several billion pounds which is estimated to have actually been laundered. We know that it is all pretty ineffective anyway and could really be disposed of without making any impact on serious crime at all. I do not see how that provision is preventing or detecting serious crime.
If we are to make proper use of the card maybe we should be widening the said provisions to include what citizens want. How we do that I am not sure, but if we are going to have this card we might as well make it useful. I have not really thought it out, but it is a useful way of opening up the debate on the matter.
I would like to follow up on the intervention made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, and ask the Minister—and I am sorry that I did not give notice of this gritty question but it has only come to me in the course of the debate—whether the provision in Clause 1(4)(b) and the similar provision in the amendment, paragraph (b), the definition of public interest vis-à-vis prevention or detection of crime or serious crime, haul in the huge extension of disclosure of information in relation to public authorities which were brought in by Section 17 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. Many of your Lordships will remember that we had heated debates on that section. I particularly remember that at the eleventh hour the order came down the Corridor that the Conservatives were not to vote to delimit the effect of Section 17 to terrorism. I exempt the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, from that—she was furious about it. That was a huge extension of disclosure under our criminal law. My question is: does Section 17, and the extended disclosure which it gave in respect of a massive range of authorities and statutes, come within the ambit of Clause 1(4)(b)?
I take up a point that has just been raised by the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, which concerns the definition of "public services". The subsection states:
"For the purposes of this Act something is necessary in the public interest if, and only if, it is", and it then goes on in this context to say,
"for the purpose of securing the efficient and effective provision of public services".
My noble friend who moved the amendment defines what public services are.
I have a new bible. It was provided to me last night by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, and, as I said earlier, he urged me to read very closely this fascinating document produced by the Home Office. It is entitled, Identity Cards: An assessment of awareness and demand for the Identity Cards Scheme. Very helpfully in Appendix B, it sets out what it describes as the high-level objectives of the scheme. When we come to this particular objective, it states:
"To facilitate fast and efficient access to public and private services, and prevent unauthorised access to public services".
So we have reached the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Erroll. When I read the Bill, I thought that it referred here only to services provided by departments of state or public organisations and agencies. But, according to the Home Office's own words, it apparently refers to public and private services. If that is so, how does that definition fall within the wording in the Bill?
I do not intend to delay the Committee on this issue but it might be worth noble Lords looking at the other description of high-level objectives helpfully provided by the Home Office. I shall quote just one:
"To help disrupt the activities of organised crime and terrorism, which depend in part on the ability [to] use false and multiple identities, and travel undetected".
That, again, is a little different from either the version contained in the Bill or that provided by my noble friend. But now that we have this bible and are urged to read it, I think that we need to have an explanation of the implications of that wording.
When my noble friend Lady Anelay spoke to her amendment, I do not think that she said why she had omitted from it subsection (4)(e) about working or employment. Clearly, she admitted it deliberately but I do not think that she explained why, and I wonder whether she can tell us the reason.
Indeed, but I think that my noble friend meant to refer to paragraph (d) on working or employment rather than paragraph (e). I felt that, as we had tabled another amendment which would cover that issue, it would be otiose of me simply to include it in this one. That is the only reason, and we will have the opportunity to discuss it.
We have had a very interesting debate. I will deal with the substantive points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, but, first, I say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, that I have been looking at the point that he raised in relation to "purpose" or "purposes". I think that it will have to be looked at and I will come back to him on that.
We need to be clear that there are a number of purposes for which the identity card scheme will be helpful. We do not seek to say that that list is in any way to be restrained by further and other useful purposes to which it could be put. I say to the noble Baroness that there is no competition or hierarchy in relation to these issues, but a number of purposes are of real importance.
Amendments Nos. 16 and 140 and Clause 1 are connected with the statutory purposes and the definition of "public interest". The second statutory purpose of the national identity register, which underpins the identity card scheme, is to facilitate the provision of a secure and reliable method for identity or registrable facts to be verified or ascertained where it is in the public interest. The key is how we should define exactly what is meant by "public interest". As we have discussed this afternoon, the second limb of the statutory purposes of the identity card scheme is set out in Clause 1(3)(b).
I do not think that during the debate anyone has disputed the fact that we need to define what the public interest test should be. But we should not overlook the first limb of the statutory purposes in Clause 1(3)(a) because, as I have already said, this identity card scheme is intended first and foremost to provide a means for people to identify themselves. I hope we all accept that not only will identity cards help to combat crime and the enforcement of immigration controls but they will also help our citizens to safeguard their identities. It is right to record that at present one of the most sought-after items from many suppliers is a shredder machine. That is because more and more people consider it important to shred personal details as it helps them to feel more secure and able to keep their identity safe.
Amendments Nos. 16, 140 and 274 would make five specific changes to the purposes of the scheme. We cannot understand the reasoning behind all of them—or, at least, we could not until the noble Baroness made it clear that they were probing amendments which were not seeking to be exclusive in their effect but were intended as a means of stimulating debate. We believe either that they are unnecessary or that they would seriously undermine the benefits of the identity card scheme by changing the definition of "public interest". I hope that the noble Baroness will also accept that limiting the provision strictly to indictable offences, even in England and Wales, would unnecessarily restrict us in relation to a whole series of criminal issues which should be properly dealt with. I know that the noble Baroness, having sat as a magistrate and having been cognisant of those issues, would not wish to see that happen.
We know, for example, that terrorists will try to use false identities in order to evade surveillance or arrest. One of the key benefits of the introduction of identity cards is that not only would such activities be very much harder but identity cards would assist the police and security services in the vital work that they do to combat terrorism.
As a number of noble Lords know, identity and verification of identity is often a key to the success or failure of police investigations. But there are no new police powers in the Bill. Under PACE, the police must have reasonable grounds to stop or stop and search a person. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, referred to a person stopped for speeding. As is currently the case, a police officer will ask the person to identify himself. The difference under this scheme is that there would be far less scope for the person to give a false name because the police officer would no longer have to waste time in investigating it as there would be a safer means of doing so.
I emphasise again that it will not be necessary for a person to carry his card with him. Nothing in the Bill would enable the police to demand that any individual produce an ID card.
The noble Baroness has made the point a number of times and it is of considerable reassurance. Is she willing to give a general assurance that this Government will never attempt to impose the requirement that an ID be carried?
Certainly, there is nothing in the Bill which would enable us to do so. Of course I cannot bind my successors in title. I can certainly say that there is no intention to do so. The Bill makes that quite secure. It is not possible. We absolutely understood that one of the things people on all sides of the House, both in this place and in the other, were really concerned about was the idea that they would have to carry the ID card with them at any point and that a police officer could demand to see it. Therefore, we have sought to make this secure so that it would not be so demanded.
What is wrong with producing a driving licence? It has my photograph, my signature and everything the police officer would want, including whether I am permitted to drive that car, which the ID card will not have. So that is the document he really wants to see—and it identifies me.
That is a perfectly proper thing to say. Noble Lords will know that if you are stopped in the street regarding a motor vehicle incident the police officer is currently entitled to say "Produce your details to the local police station within a certain number of days". Nothing in the Bill changes that. Many people will find it useful. In order to avoid the necessity of producing documents later—perhaps identification—they can choose to produce the ID card. They will not have to, but it would obviously save a lot of time if it was used in that way. But it would not be compulsory.
To come back to some of the problems we face, particularly in relation to terrorism but also in relation to how organisations such as al-Qaeda work, its training manuals require its operatives to acquire false identities to hide their terrorist activities. Judge Jean-Louis Brugueiere, who is France's top counter-terror investigator, was reported in the Times on
However, the addition of the word "terrorism" to the reference to national security in Clause 1(4)(a) is unnecessary. Terrorist acts are crimes. We cannot get away from that. The Bill already provides for the scheme to be used in combating terrorism through the reference to the prevention and detection of crime. Preventing terrorism is also covered by the existing reference in Clause 1(4)(a) to national security. I add that the statutory purposes of the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ, as set out in the legislation, do not contain a separate mention of terrorism; and to suggest that it is needed in this context might cast doubt on whether anti-terrorism work was within the lawful activities of those bodies.
The noble Baroness makes a reasonable point about al-Qaeda operatives, but am I not right in thinking that in order to get the identity card that she wishes them to have, they will have to apply for a passport or a driving licence or apply to be on the register? It seems to me rather unlikely that any potential al-Qaeda bomber is going to do any of those things. So, until the whole thing becomes compulsory, which we are told will not be for some considerable time, there will be no impact on al-Qaeda operatives, will there?
It is not just obtaining new passports. It will now be necessary for new passports to contain biometric data. The ability for operatives to act improperly will continue. What we are seeking to do, appreciating the challenges with which we are now faced, is to set in train a method of dealing with this both in the short and the longer term, which we believe will be truly successful. The whole lead-in time, as I have said on a number of occasions, will enable us, first, to establish the passports, as they currently are, under a voluntary scheme and then to ensure that the scheme has the integrity and soundness we will need before we make it compulsory. We will go through those stages. But, we see this as a current and long-term need. The sad truth is that we do not believe that the difficulties with which we are currently faced will simply evaporate in a year or two and make all this unnecessary. That is not the reality of the world in which we currently live. That is why I mentioned the issues in relation to GCHQ, which are set out in legislation, and the fact that this is a real issue for us.
The second effect of the amendments would be to limit the usefulness to the police of the national identity register and the introduction of the identity cards by changing the reference from "crime" to "serious crime" and defining that to mean an indictable offence. We have dealt with why that will not be helpful. I see the noble Baroness nodding her assent to that fact. The reason we jointly—if I can take the noble Baroness's assent to that—would not think it wise to limit the use of the scheme in this way is that the public would think it very odd indeed if we seemed to be tying the hands of the police by limiting the use of the identity card scheme to serious crime.
The noble Baroness referred to what I said at Second Reading—I think at col. 13 of Hansard. What I said then was quite right because it related to the provision of information from the audit log, which is set out in paragraph 9 of Schedule 1. I remind her of that. I have the extract here, but I am sure that if she reads it again she will see what I was trying to express.
The definition "serious crime" would be very unhelpful. Combating serious crime is a priority, but everyone must accept that the ordinary man or woman is as much affected by lower levels of crime and will expect us to provide the police with the tools they need, including a national identity card scheme, to combat that crime.
The use of the phrase,
"giving rise to an offence triable only on indictment" would limit the use of the register and, we believe, simply not work. We already have a serious crime threshold, at Clause 20(4). That is for quite a different purpose. It is to provide extra protection to the provision of information from the register to the police about the records of provision of information at paragraph 9 of Schedule 1. That, as I said earlier, relates to the audit log of where and when a check of an identity card has been made against the register. I accept that that information should be given a much higher threshold, whereas it would not make sense for the provision of basic information to be subject to a "serious" crime threshold. The noble Baroness is right to try to make that division, but that is where we think it should be.
The third point is that the amendment would limit the public interest in relation to terrorism and crime to assisting the Secretary of State to combat them. Of course the Secretary of State has a most important role to play in these matters. However, primary responsibility for fighting crime and terrorism lies with the police and the security services. It would be artificial and unhelpful to limit the definition to information,
"of assistance to the Secretary of State".
The fourth point relates to the change to the reference to immigration and the deletion of the reference to the enforcement of prohibitions on unauthorised working or employment. That point was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Erroll. While the use of the scheme to combat illegal working in breach of immigration controls would to some extent still be covered by the reference to immigration controls, I do not think that it would be helpful to make that change. The use of identity cards to combat illegal working should be spelt out explicitly in the Bill. I know that illegal working has been an issue which the noble Baroness has been very concerned to stop because of the abuse that it involves—often the abuse of human rights. I know that the noble Baroness has a degree of passion on that subject.
Removing that reference would not help employers and employees to recognise the importance of that aspect of the identity cards scheme. It would also limit artificially the use of the scheme to illegal working in relation to immigration control. There are other sorts of unlawful working, and identity cards would help employers properly to identify their prospective employees as a way of combating under-age working, and would ensure that tax and national insurance deductions are correctly allocated.
The fifth point relates to the definition of public services, which in the amendment would limit the scheme to health, housing, education and social benefits. I have no problem with the list of public services in the amendment. Our concern is that it would limit the scheme unnecessarily if we were unable to show on the face of the Bill that one purpose of the ID cards scheme is to help the efficient and effective delivery of all public services. That is what the taxpayer and, indeed, the citizen expects. There are many other public services for which the use of identity cards to confirm someone's identity would provide benefits all round, for example, when applying for a criminal records check for someone working with children or vulnerable adults, or when anyone applies for a driving licence. It would be wrong to limit the scope of the scheme in the way proposed by the amendment.
We also believe that when identity cards are used to access public services, it would be much better to rely on the existing checks in the Bill. Clauses 15 and 16 mean that any regulation requiring an identity card to be produced to access a public service would be subject to public consultation followed by an affirmative resolution order. By restricting the statutory purposes of the scheme we risk restricting the usefulness of the identity card.
The noble Baroness asked about the race equality impact assessment. We published a full assessment on
The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, and the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, again raised the issue of bank accounts. Opening a bank account is not a public service. A private organisation will be within the definition only if it is a public authority under the Human Rights Act, which is an organisation that performs public functions. The benefits to the private sector are encapsulated in the first limb of the statutory purpose in Clause 1(3)(a) referring to the convenience to the individual.
Clause 14 controls provision of information to the private sector with the consent of the individual. Much of the debate yesterday was about consent, when and how it would be given, and so on. The important point is that consent will be necessary. We need to bear in mind the fact that, when someone currently opens a bank account, the bank is entitled to ask for various kinds of information to be produced to verify the person's identity. Quite often a passport and a series of other things are asked for. Banks ask for proof of identity. We believe that the ability to produce an identity card, which has someone's biometric data and a clearer means of identification, will assist in that regard. That is helpful and proper.
I hope that I have managed to answer all the questions that were raised on the amendment. I understand that it was probing, but if there are other issues that the noble Baroness would like to explore, I shall be more than happy to write to her. I think that we have covered all the bases.
I hope that the noble Baroness will answer—not necessarily now—my rather gritty question on Section 17 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.
I listened intently to what she said about the enforcement of prohibition on unauthorised working or employment. She said that the measure would be welcome to employers, but how can an employer make use of the ID card system?
I apologise to the noble Lord for not answering his question, but I shall do so now. It had slipped my mind, so before I forget his second question I shall make a note of it.
Section 17 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act is dealt with specifically in Clause 20 of the Bill. Information can be disclosed for those purposes. We shall have an opportunity to debate the issue later as we have specific provisions in relation to it. We also have specific amendments in relation to illegal working, which we shall come to later. I know that we shall have a wide-ranging debate on employers and employees.
One of the most useful things will be identifying that the person is who he asserts to be. The card will do that. Secondly, it will provide information through the register on whether the person is entitled to work. We shall debate those issues later. If the noble Lord can cool his ardour until we reach that point, we shall have a fuller discussion.
The noble Baroness mentioned that the measure would prevent illegal under-age working among immigrants. She should be aware that apparently there is a disparity between the ages of those registered on the Home Office unaccompanied asylum-seeking children database and the same people registered with local authorities. Those complications will come out in real life, and we must be careful how we handle them.
I was not suggesting that under-age working was in relation only to migrant workers. It is a matter of general concern to ensure that those who are working are an appropriate age. I agree with the noble Earl that it is always difficult to verify age unless there are quite a lot of data. The reason for having registrable facts and the process of verification is to ensure that the first registration has cogent evidence that demonstrates name, address, age and those other matters. I understand the importance of what the noble Earl has said, and it is important to get the first registration right at that point.
The noble Baroness has made a very useful restatement of the role of the private sector, which I understand. But I am not sure that all identity service users in the private sector have taken the issue fully on board.
Again, I refer to the interesting Home Office document, because it states that the users are positive towards the scheme, with 84 per cent of the sample likely to use the verification services and that they strongly support the scheme and will endorse that support by verifying identities. It is important that it is widely understood that although they may find it helpful, if the individual does not want to use it, they cannot go down that road. I slightly doubt that when they cast their votes in that way and gave their support, they were conscious that it was entirely a matter for the choice of the individual, not for identity service users. That is a point that must be got over widely because, confronted by a demand from a commercial organisation, there will be a tendency for individuals to believe that it may have some right to ask for it.
The statement that the Minister has made is useful and I hope that that will be made clearer much more widely, because it is a very important distinction. I think that I got that on board before, but the fact that she emphasised it is important. Later, we shall probably want to consider how we deal with the whole issue and how it is approached to ensure that the system is not abused by commercial organisations that seek to give the impression that they have stronger rights than they have.
We have made that clear to the service providers. In their experience—as banks and other lenders, in particular, but also as other service providers—it is usual that they get the assent of their customers. We just want to ensure that the people from whom they are seeking that verification are giving them high quality information. It is clearly valuable to them to know that confirmation comes from a sound source. There is also an understanding that business may well have to pay for that verification service. Notwithstanding those two clear points, business is enthusiastic.
I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. In particular, the noble Baroness was kind enough to refer to the contribution of my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew of Twysden. I know that he is not in his place and I should explain that, at 6.15 pm, we have the meeting of the Association of Conservative Peers, so some of my noble friends naturally have to be there. However, I know that he would want me to say that he welcomed the Minister's comments that she would return to the issue that he raised about the distinction between interests, purposes and purpose. I should be grateful if she would consider that, write to my noble and learned friend, copy the letter to other Members of the Committee who have been involved in the debate and place a copy in the Library to assist our further consideration.
The noble Baroness was also kind enough to go into some detail in response to the issues raised by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. I agree with him; the Minister has made a useful statement about commercial organisations and private interests that we will need to look at. The practical issue in the amendments is that we will have to continue to agree to disagree on whether the Government have chosen the right or wrong way forward. I fully accept what she said about serious crime. That was only a probing amendment. Considering the further explanation that the Government have given on specific points today, we have gone as far as we can with this amendment. I would not serve the time of the House well if I return to it on Report. So in seeking leave to withdraw the amendment today I give notice to the Bill team that I shall not trouble the Government with this amendment again. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The amendment inserts into Clause 1(4) (b) the single word "serious" so that, in defining what is in the public interest for the purposes of Clause 1, which delimits the whole extent of the measure, we are concerned only with purposes of preventing or detecting serious crime. On the previous amendment, we have already had quite a bit of debate about that notion. I listened carefully to what the noble Baroness said and will think more about it. In legislation such as this, we are always in the business of drawing lines. She made the point that she felt that the line delimited by the definition of serious crime in the amendment was too far.
On the other hand, to have no limit as to what crime engages those important and potentially intrusive powers is seriously inadequate. One could have an officious police force using a parking offence or not having a TV licence as entitlement to access the national register. They are both crimes. More seriously, in a public demonstration, the police could claim that there was the possibility of public order offences and claim to be entitled, under the provision of preventing crime, to go around photographing everyone on the demonstration and performing a facial match with the national register. Those examples may sound far-fetched, but who knows? As I have said many times, in this Bill we should not take chances with civil liberties.
I am of the view, and so are my colleagues on these Benches, that we need a threshold beneath which the provisions of the Bill do not bite and above which they do. Hence my insertion of the word "serious". The definition of the word that I suggest in my amendment is that of the Bill itself. The noble Baroness referred to Clause 20(4). That refers us to Clause 43, which, in turn, defines serious crime—because it is used in another clause—by reference to the Regulation and Investigatory Powers Act 2000, Sections 81 to 83. For the benefit of the Committee, serious crime in the Bill therefore means crime that is either violent, involves substantial financial gain, or involves a large number of people in pursuit of a common purpose, where, were they convicted, they would expect a sentence of three years' imprisonment or more—on the basis that they had no previous convictions. That is the definition in the Bill and it is a substantial threshold to provide.
However, we cannot just think of the convenience of the police in contemplating the amendment and the clause. There are hearts and minds issues in the Bill that those of us who are worried about them have tried to explain. We are especially concerned with ethnic minority groups and how they may be targeted if the Bill is too lax. I mentioned briefly before that there was a failure to have some such limitation in Section 17 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. That has left it in what everyone whom I know who is aware of it considers to be a parlous condition. I will leave it at that; we have already had a bit of a discussion on the matter; and look forward to hearing what the Minister and other Members of the Committee have to say. I beg to move.
Much of our debate on the previous amendment refers directly to this one. I know the noble Lord does not expect me to repeat that debate. We do not believe it would be right to limit the use of the scheme in this way; the public would find it very odd indeed. The noble Lord rightly said that the threshold is set high. The reason for this is that we thought it was important to give the police and authorities access to the audit log, which would demonstrate how often and how an identity card had been used. It was proper to make sure that use was restricted to the most serious crimes in the way that we defined them. But, as I said earlier, crime of a lower level can often have a pernicious and, at least, a deleterious effect on wide swathes of the public. It must be right that the police, in the proper exercise of their duty, should be able to check identity with the register in a way that makes it easier for them to protect members of the public and to do their duty. To do otherwise would put an unnecessary impediment in their way. I know that that is not what the noble Lord intends, and that he has concerns but I remind him—particularly in relation to the changes made in the way in which we charge and the involvement of the CPS in the whole prosecution system—that we now have some extra safeguards and a really robust system to deal with these matters. We think it is proper to allow the police to exercise their duty and to have the benefit of information which the register can procure.
Are crimes such as shoplifting, taking and driving a car without consent—just for joyriding, not to sell on—breaking into a car to steal the car radio, in the terms of this amendment, serious crimes? Are they not all crimes which could be helped by the perpetrator having an identity card, or not having an identity card, to prove who they were?
The noble Lord, Lord Maxton, asks a fair question. None of those instances would be within the definition of serious crime in my amendment. They would be below it. It is a question of where you draw lines. He will understand by now that we are deeply unhappy about the ID scheme at all, at least in terms of it becoming compulsory. We have no problem with the voluntary system, but since the Minister posits most of her remarks on the basis of a compulsory system, I respond on that basis. We have deep misgivings for reasons which I will not begin to bore the Committee with now. The answer to his question is as I have given it.
I agree with the point made by my noble friend Lord Maxton; moreover, it is right that if we were to take the benchmark that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, suggests, we would not be able to capture identity theft. Those people who steal one's identity and use it for improper purpose, would be outwith the test that the noble Lord has given.
I wonder whether the noble Baroness is right. There are already provisions in the Bill—she mentioned them herself—which allow prosecution for abuse of ID cards and the system. You have the prospect of using other parts of the clause which I do not object to—national security for example. If the identity theft was in connection with that, then it would be within the purview.
I was not necessarily dealing with just the theft of the card or the offences in relation to the register. However, the acts preparatory to, or part of, stealing identity currently covered in legislation but outwith those in the Bill would not fall within the rubric that the noble Lord proposes, particularly in relation to the potential three-year sentence—because both would be likely. In any event, I understand that the noble Lord will not pursue the amendment at this point.
My amendment would not be the three-year serious crime provision. If one of the other limbs catches the offence then it is caught, fullstop. That includes the provisions in the Bill. As the noble Baroness says, I do not intend to pursue the matter now.
Can the noble Baroness clarify a point that the discussion on identity theft sparked in my mind? To what extent do the Government envisage that the scheme will have an impact on identity theft and fraud perpetrated on the Internet, where, in truth, the vast bulk of those offences are committed?
We think that the provision of information will make such activity more difficult right across the piece. Once there is a better way of identifying individuals, there will be a system in terms of the information that one chooses to give. As the noble Earl knows, Internet crime exercises our intention increasingly and a ministerial group is looking at the issue. We acknowledge that we must develop better models for responding to that new area of crime.
In response to an issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, the whole point is that the offence would have to be of a sufficient gravity before the police would be allowed to make an application to use the register. I took it from the noble Lord's amendment that, if the offence were below the serious crime threshold, the police could not make such an application. That is quite significant.
The noble Baroness is partly right and partly wrong. If, for example, an identity was stolen, and that is a matter relating to national security, the provision would not apply. Similarly, the criminal provisions in the Bill are not subject to my "serious crime" test. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
I speak on behalf of my noble friend Lord Dholakia. This probing amendment would delete paragraph (d) of Clause 1(4), which contains the category of purposes on unauthorised working or employment. There has been considerable debate about that already, so I shall be very brief.
Again, we are concerned about drawing the right line. I am not yet convinced that one should drag issues of employment into this crucial subsection, which defines what is necessary in the public interest for the purpose of having access to the national register. As has already been said, the subsection—reasonably, in our view—includes the category of,
"purposes of the enforcement of immigration controls".
Certificates are now issued to asylum seekers confirming their right to move within the community so that they have a sort of identity card. I should be interested to hear what other noble Lords have to say because I have an open mind. Why, for example, should one not include other headings such as housing, transport, gaming and tourism? I beg to move.
I wish to emphasise how right I think the Government are to leave in this provision. When I was a Member of Parliament I made regular visits to organisations in my Bristol constituency. In one meeting with the United Bristol Healthcare Trust I was appalled to discover that, in the process of taking back into the trust the contracted-out cleaning services, the trust discovered that the bank account details of a large majority of the cleaning staff were identical. From this one can only conclude that these people had been brought into this country and were working long hours in our National Health Service for no wages; the money was being paid into another account. In his maiden speech at Second Reading, my noble friend Lord Soley referred to similar circumstances in his constituency. This provision will afford protection to people who are outwith most of the things that we take for granted.
The amendment stands in the name of my noble friend Lady Seccombe, among others. In a debate on a previous amendment the Minister was kind enough to refer to what she called my "passion" to ensure that the appalling conditions people suffer in illegal working should not be allowed to continue. The amendment would ensure that any measures introduced with the objective of reducing, or altogether eliminating, illegal employment are done in a proportionate way, and that other methods should not be jeopardised as a result.
I hope it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I say that I have told the Front Benches that I will not move Amendments No. 19 and 20 tonight. I believe that they would duplicate much of the debate that has taken place over the last couple of days, particularly today, on hacking. It might be better to look at a more focused amendment on Report.
We have already had quite a debate on this and I will try to keep my comments brief. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, would remove the deletion of the reference to the enforcement provision prohibitions on unauthorised working or employment. While the use of the scheme to combat illegal working in breach of immigration controls would, to some extent, be covered by the reference to immigration controls in any event, we take the view that it would not be at all helpful to make this change. My noble friend Lady Corston made a very useful intervention on that point.
Bona fide employers will want to know exactly who is working for them. And once the scheme is in place, the identity card will be the easiest way to check a prospective employee's identity and to ensure that, if a foreign national, he or she is entitled to work in this country. It will offer a further measure of protection to employers. It is worth saying that employers have, in the past, expressed the view that the measures they face in relation to illegal working have presented something of a burden to them. This will help them to work through that burden, if burden it be. We think it is a quite proper measure.
The use of identity cards to combat illegal working should be spelt out explicitly on the face of the Bill. For example, paragraph (d) would also cover employment laws unrelated to immigration, such as prohibitions or under-age working. Again, we think that that is a benefit. Where people are forced into employment for less than the minimum wage, it will help enforce the law, and has value for that reason.
I believe that we should not limit the public interest test, as set out in the amendment. For the reasons that my noble friend Lady Corston and I have made plain—and which the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay probably agrees with—I think the noble Lord should withdraw the amendment.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for responding to what has been said. I am not sure that the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, would be helped by ID cards. First, if an employer is in league with, or otherwise oppressing, workers—and it sounds as though this might have been such a case—I do not see how identity cards would come into it. Secondly, under Clause 2(3), the Secretary of State may provide that an individual residing in the United Kingdom, in the exercise of an entitlement to remain here temporarily, will not be entitled to an ID card in any event. So, while I am not saying that there are no issues where they might help, we may be exaggerating the degree to which ID cards will help in cases of improper employment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 2, line 4, at end insert—
"(4A) For the purposes of subsection (4), the provision of a public service or services will be made more efficient and effective if, and only if, the Secretary of State can demonstrate, and certify in a report laid before Parliament, that, for the relevant service or services, the total cost to public funds and the total additional cost to users of the relevant service, which together will result from the establishment, maintenance and application of the identity card scheme to the service or services concerned, will be significantly less than the saving to public funds that the Secretary of State certifies will result from the establishment, maintenance and application of the identity card scheme to the relevant service or services.
(4B) In calculating the costs and savings in subsection (4A), the Secretary of State must include costs to public funds and service users that would not arise, or would not have arisen, if a document were not designated under section 4 of this Act."
When I introduced our first amendment yesterday, I did not anticipate that it would lead to such an early furore on the issue of this scheme's cost. Noble Lords from both sides of the Committee soon seized upon the importance of that. Amendment No. 21 remains on the list only so that I can indicate publicly the kind of questions I hope the Government might be able to address more effectively by the time we get to Report. It is, therefore, very firmly in the nature of a probing amendment.
It is important that the Government should be able to demonstrate clearly that the cost of the establishment and maintenance of the identity register and the ID card system are proportionate to the alleged benefits to be realised by the better control and detection of fraud in the public services, and the better delivery of those services to all. The Minister referred to the KPMG report, a concise version of which has been placed in the Library. She will have realised yesterday that we feel it would be appropriate if, before we reach this full debate on Report, further information could be made available, so that a proper assessment of the Government's position may be made.
There was a certain amount of disarray on the Government Front Bench yesterday about the real figures for costs. I do not attach any blame for that disarray to the Minister. I attach it firmly to the Cabinet that has, as yet, not properly worked out the cost of the scheme or has done so and not seen fit to let those costs be known. I make no judgement on that; I simply wish to take part, in Committee, in a further examination of what the real costs are.
Last week, I chaired an all-party meeting at which the two speakers were Mr Simon Davis, referred to earlier today by the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, and the Minister who has responsibility for the Bill in another place, Mr Andy Burnham. I understand that that was one of a series of hustings that they have attended. I was grateful to both of them for so clearly putting forward their relative cases to an audience of predominantly information technology experts. There were also several Peers there, representing both sides of the House.
What concerned me most during that presentation was the feeling that Mr Davis was beginning to move closer to what he thought the Home Office figures were, only to find that Mr Burnham, during questioning, volunteered the plea that we should not take into account the integration costs because these would not fall upon the Home Office budget. That left the meeting somewhat open-mouthed; we need to look not only at the impact upon the Home Office budget when determining proportionality and cost benefit analysis but also at the impact upon the budget of all departments, because that may have an impact on tax paid by individuals.
Therefore, if a proportionate benefit is not achieved—the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, was rightly interested to ensure that that benefit is taken into account—or if benefits outweigh the costs, one could say, "It's all fine and dandy to say that £30 will be the cost of an ID card if you don't have a passport and £93 will be the cost with a passport"—if those are the correct figures. However, that would be no use to individuals if the real costs of provision of the whole system were somehow loaded on to other departments and had to be borne by the taxpayer in other ways. That is a problem at the moment.
I will certainly not go into the kind of detail I had intended because that would merely repeat some of the snippets of yesterday's debate. However, it is important that the Government carefully take into account points made yesterday from all parts of the Committee.
I am pleased that the noble Lord asked that question because I was intrigued by his contribution yesterday. He appeared to say that the Inland Revenue would suddenly have extra information about people. I should be grateful if the Government would tell the House whether the Inland Revenue will have access to information about people—about their principal place of residence—and whether capital gains tax will be assessed on places they have not declared as being their principal residence. I am thinking of people with second homes who may judge one to be a second home and not the other. If I were to say yea or nay to the noble Lord, who asks a proper question, I would be prejudging who the Government intend to have access to the information and what information will exist.
I had perhaps previously been falsely reassured by the Government that there would be no information on the register that would be of value in tracking down people who were trying to con the system. Let us face it, people who try to abuse the tax system abuse all of us. Perhaps I should declare an interest in that my father was an Inland Revenue tax inspector. I grew up thinking it was one of the dirty things in life to try to claim things wrongly. I suspect that both my husband and I overpay tax rather than being tax-efficient. That is the last thing we are.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, asks a proper question but it is not one I am in a position to answer. I wish that I could, but the Government have not yet told us what information would be on the register that could be used by the Inland Revenue.
Does the noble Baroness accept that some people in society are completely outside the whole system of tax collection? They simply use our services and yet they are unknown to the state. Does she accept that in having an identity card such people would be drawn into the system even in the most minimal way which she suggests might be the case?
At the risk of taking the debate more broadly than I should—the noble Lord tempts me—of course I agree that groups of people are outside the system and I have done so for many a decade. Again, I declare an interest in that I started my early life as a student working during the vacation updating records in tax offices. They were not my father's, I hasten to add—there was no patriarchal system, but open application. I could certainly see even then that broad swathes of people were trying to operate outside the system. That is even more apparent when people bring in those from overseas and get them to work in unsafe conditions while not being part of the tax take.
There is a different point here. Would such people be brought within the protection of the Inland Revenue system if they had an ID card? I return to the point that it depends what information is held on them and what access the Government say the Inland Revenue will have to that information. Until I know that, I cannot answer the noble Lord, but in many senses I am with him in wanting to reduce fraud on the Inland Revenue. I do not think that this is the way to do it but I wait to hear from the Government.
Does the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, really believe that those currently outside the system will be within it after these new measures are in force?
I had not originally intended to take up the remarks make yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. However, I was told by a former Treasury Minister who I consulted overnight that he thought the figures given by the noble Lord were hugely exaggerated. I refer to the amount the noble Lord thought would be obtained by the Treasury from taxpayers because of the introduction of this system. Reading again the clauses which we recently debated on the purpose of securing the efficient and effective provision of public services, many people will be surprised that what is being proposed in the Bill is a new Treasury method of dealing with tax evasion. I am not sure that it is one of the factors that has been fed in by the noble Lord, Lord Gould, and others to the assessments of public popularity.
Furthermore, I do not believe for a moment that the revenue that will arise from the Treasury learning the names and addresses of people who apply for driving licences and passports—names they do not know already—will have anything like the consequences asserted and hoped for by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. However, that is a diversion from the central point I wanted to make.
I want to follow the remarks of my noble friend Lady Anelay when she said that in no way did she attempt to blame the Minister for the somewhat painful afternoon we had yesterday. As a former Minister, I am acutely aware that government Ministers in this House are abominably treated by departments under all Administrations. They leave their Ministers to answer debates in this House, often facing people with great expertise, with inadequate briefs and information. Government departments do not understand the importance of the work of this House and they put Ministers in an extremely awkward and difficult position. I have the greatest sympathy for the Minister, who had to respond yesterday with an obviously totally inadequate brief.
However, yesterday we established two facts: either the Government do not have the faintest idea of the total cost of the scheme; or, if they do, they are deliberately withholding the information from this House and from the public because they think it would make the scheme much less attractive. They repeatedly put into the public debate the figure of £584 million per annum for the Home Office to maintain the system. People may think that that does not sound a large sum of money and will be reassured by it. Indeed, the surveys which have been carried out by the Home Office, and on which I have made myself an expert having accepted the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, not only produce the figure of £584 million but emphasise that it is the current estimate of the charge to be made for this magnificent new service. But to take a 10-year figure and then divide it by 10 is a pretty odd way of arriving at a reasonable estimate of the real, annual maintenance cost. We know now that the capital costs of setting up the scheme have not been included. Perhaps even more significantly, we have not been given an estimate of the cost that will fall on all other government departments.
Another piece of information to be had from this Home Office bible on which I have now become somewhat of an expert is that the cost of the sophisticated type of equipment that will be needed will be in the range of £300 to £600 for each item. When one starts to wonder whether the health service will want to make use of this service, I suspect that the billion-pound deficit that has now been accumulated by health authorities will become even greater. I referred yesterday to the burdens falling on the Foreign Office.
So we are not, frankly, in a position at the moment to make comparisons of benefits and costs. That does not stop the Government making them. They take this totally meaningless figure of £584 million per annum and say, "But look at the great benefits we're going to provide". Until we have real figures in which we can put some trust as being realistic estimates, the whole proposition of comparison becomes impossible.
That does not mean that I do not warmly commend my noble friend's amendment, which states that we ought to be able to know what the costs and benefits are before we commit ourselves to a scheme of this kind. That is clearly the case. Therefore, I will not ask the Minister suddenly to produce some new figures or even to repeat the defences which she offered to us yesterday. We know the current position. We simply say that before Parliament finally approves this measure, we should be given—we must be given—real cost figures so that we can make a judgment on the merits of the proposals that are being put to us by the Government.
This is the job of Parliament; Parliament is there: to decide whether we are doing something that can be justified as being in the interest of the public and the taxpayer. Until we have those figures, I suggest that we are not in a position to do the job that Parliament is there to do. Therefore, I shall not press the Minister. We clearly will not get the information we seek tonight, but we are entitled to be provided with it in a full and adequate form before we reach the next stage of the Bill. If we are not, I hope that we will pass a whole series of amendments which will embarrass the Government and make life extremely difficult for them.
Perhaps I may make a comment on the costs of technology. My first mobile phone—I was one of the first Members of Parliament to buy one—cost me £2,500. I now get one free when I sign a contract which is going to cost me a couple of hundred pounds—if that—a year. A colour television is now the same price in cash terms as it was 20 years ago, and it is a totally different machine from the one which you then bought. That mobile phone had a battery life of about 30 minutes and pulled all my suits out of shape because it was so heavy in my pocket.
One of the reasons why inflation throughout the western world is being held down is that new technologies are constantly coming on stream and constantly lowering the cost of providing technological services. They keep inflation down and will continue to do so. Therefore, the cost of providing this scheme, far from being X, Y and Z, will, if anything, be less than the Government are predicting because the new technologies involved in collecting and storing all the evidence and data required will be that much simpler and cheaper.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I have often made the kind of speech that he has just made on the subject of modern technology, mobile phones, calculating machines and so on. Of course, he is absolutely right, but that is not what we are talking about. If the noble Lord were to look at the cost of large-scale government IT schemes and the cost of the security involved, he would see that almost exactly the reverse has been true. We have only to look at what is happening at the current time to the hugely important National Health Service scheme to see that the benefits that we are all enjoying as we buy our mobile telephones, our calculators or our TV sets have not come through in the same way. In any case, that does not change our need to have current cost estimates from the Government and to be able to make real comparisons.
One cannot calculate what the cost of the technology will be 10 years down the line, because it is simply impossible to do so exactly. Therefore, the rough estimates that are being provided by the Government are right, though they will probably turn out to be less than they are predicting.
I do not think, with the greatest respect, that the noble Lord has really got the point. The issue is not the cost of the technology, which we all know is advancing and reducing, but the cost of the management and the application of the technology. It is that at which the Government are so poor, and no department is poorer at it than the Home Office.
We on these Benches are sympathetic to the spirit of Amendment No. 21. I do not want to belabour the Minister any more than did the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, because, as he so rightly said, it is not exactly her fault that we are not being given the very basic facts about the capital costs of the establishment of the scheme now—not in 10 years' time. Nor are we guardians of the nation's finances—that falls to the other place—but it completely defeats me how it could have allowed through to this place a Bill with no indication of the capital costs which are attendant on it, let alone the capital costs of integrating between government departments. Although the noble Baroness has several times sniped at the LSE report, with great respect, I do not see how we can dutifully do our work here without having an answer. Perhaps the Minister will tell the House whether what she said last night is the Government's last word; namely, that because of commercial confidentiality as part of the tendering process, the Government are unwilling to give us the capital establishment costs of the scheme.
We have again strayed dangerously into yesterday's territory. I shall pay a few compliments and offer a few words of thanks before I respond. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. With her usual courtesy, she pointed us in the direction of the further and better particulars which she seeks. She did so quite rightly, and I understand and respect that. I accept that yesterday's debate, which included lengthy comments about cost, was not the easiest of debates. While I do not accept that we have got it wrong, it is certainly down to government to provide as much information as they properly and practically can to Parliament in making their case. We will endeavour to do that in the best way possible between now and Report.
Is the Minister saying that we shall have the capital cost details by the Report stage?
I specifically do not commit to that for very good reasons. I shall deal with the point now. We would be an exceedingly negligent government if we were to expose in the public domain information of a commercially sensitive nature. I see that the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, is in her place. Like me, she is a former employee of KPMG. I suspect that the accountants and those who have a duty to see that governments as much as anyone else stick to the rules would be pretty apoplectic if they thought we, as a government, were revealing information that placed us in a commercially vulnerable position. That would be quite wrong and, I suggest, a breach of our fiduciary responsibilities. It would also place the Government in a very vulnerable position indeed throughout the procurement process. It would be irresponsible of us to behave in such a way. However, that is not to say that we should not aim to put into the public domain as much information as we can and to validate it in the best way possible.
I turn now to the particulars of the amendment. It seeks to insert into the Bill a new subsection the purpose of which would be to require the Home Secretary to lay before Parliament a report to demonstrate and certify for any particular public service that it will be cost-effective for that service to make use of identity cards and to calculate the costs and savings that would arise as a result of the designation of a document under Clause 4.
There is already a provision in the Bill that requires parliamentary scrutiny under the affirmative resolution procedure of any proposal to designate a document under Clause 4. Also, where it is proposed to make regulations requiring a particular public service to be conditional on the production of an ID card under Clause 15, those regulations will need to be consulted upon to ensure that members of the public likely to be affected by the regulations are aware of the intention to introduce an identity card requirement and the reasons for it. They will also be scrutinised under the affirmative resolution procedure.
As we have said, we have already published the estimated annual running costs of issuing passports and identity cards: the now often-quoted figure of £584 million per annum. It is perfectly correct to point out that these are issuing costs. They do not include the marginal costs to public services of checking identity cards. However, we should not fall into the trap of thinking that just because we are introducing biometric identity cards, every card check will have to be a biometric one. In many instances, as we have said on a number of occasions, a simple visual check will suffice.
Where there is a good case for investing in identity card readers, of course that will be done. But it will be for each public service to determine its own cost-benefit analysis to provide for that. We would not expect the costs of issuing passports to be constrained by decisions on the use of passports by, say, the Immigration Service.
I readily accept that the ID card scheme will take a number of years to roll out and that many of the benefits in, for example, combating identity fraud will be more easily realised once there is a high coverage of ID cards. We are working closely with other government departments to assess whether the benefits of identity cards will enable services to be delivered more quickly and efficiently, and to safeguard our enviable public services against fraud. We have already quantified the estimated financial benefits as ranging between a low figure of £650 million to £1.1 billion per annum once the ID card scheme is rolled out.
I understand that in due course noble Lords will want to scrutinise individual proposals to designate documents under Clause 4 or to require identity cards to be produced to access public services under Clause 15. I am quite sure that the costs of doing so will be a factor to be considered at the time. That is a debate for the future. However, I do not think that it would be helpful to be constrained by the provisions in the amendment. For those reasons, I ask that it be withdrawn.
During our discussion some doubt was cast over the reliability of costing assumptions. It is right to put on the record that the accounting firm KPMG has carried out what is in our view a robust, independent review of the identity card costings. It has concluded that the costing methodology as much as anything else is sound and appropriate for this stage of the development of the ID card scheme. The question has been put to me whether we can provide more information from the KPMG report. We will look at that request to see whether it is possible to do so without compromising commercial confidentiality, although clearly we will have to consult very carefully indeed with the authors of the report. I am prepared to say that that is something which we shall undertake to do.
I have also been asked whether the Inland Revenue and Customs would be able to seek and use information. Yes, of course they will. I turn the attention of noble Lords to Clause 19(4). It makes the position very plain on the face of the Bill.
I hope that my response clarifies the issues that have been raised as part of our debate. As I said at the outset of my response, we shall do what we can to ensure that we provide at all times during the course of the Bill's trajectory through this House as much information on costs as we reasonably can. However, we believe that the position we have reached is robust. I do not accept the allegations made by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, on this. I can understand why he might want to put forward his argument, but it is not one that I can accept. That is one of the reasons why we reject the amendment.
For the reasons that we have been putting forward in many of our debates on this measure, I think it is exceedingly unlikely that that would be the case. Many departments have already begun to identify cost benefits in wanting, at a future stage, to invest in reading and verification equipment and so forth. As I said in my contribution and as my noble friend Lady Scotland made plain yesterday in one of her contributions on the issue of costs, already even at what could be said to be this early stage in the life of the development of the ID card scheme, some of the cost-reduction analysis and research undertaken shows up very clear benefits. I think that our discussion about the Inland Revenue and its ability to access information probably highlights the help that the scheme will be to that department and, no doubt, to other enforcement agencies in recovering revenues lost to HM Revenue & Customs in terms of moneys to the public purse. So there will be benefits. It is inevitable and highly desirable that other areas of the public service should buy into those benefits. That will be of assistance to us and to the Government as a whole.
At this stage it is not possible to identify all of the costs. It is also not desirable to do so, certainly in terms of procurement for the reasons I spelt out earlier and which I am sure the noble Earl understands. I am sure that he is familiar with procurement processes—how they work and how the market is tested. For those reasons it is not possible to identify all of the costs and to make the figures public at this stage.
I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. In my opening speech on the amendment, I was so diverted by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, that I forgot to say the magic words, "I beg to move". However, that seems to have had no impact and we have had our debate in any case.
While I touch on matters other than my response to the Minister, perhaps I may say that taking into account the progress we have made this afternoon—the Government might think of it as a lack of progress—despite all our best efforts, I should announce now that I shall not move Amendment No. 23 before what I hope will soon be a dinner break.
Noble Lords have taken up my invitation to refer briefly to the difficulties faced by the Government yesterday on the issue of costs. The Minister has been kind enough to repeat yesterday's answers. Unfortunately, however, yesterday's answers were shown not to be adequate for proper scrutiny of the Bill in this House. As my noble friend Lord Crickhowell said, we need to have greater clarity on costs before the Bill is able to pass safely through this House.
I am grateful that the Minister will consider carefully the KPMG report to see whether further information may be put into the Library so that noble Lords may have access to it. He is right to say that the amendment is only a rough vehicle for debate. I made clear that the amendment puts the Government on notice that by Report stage the House will anticipate better clarity regarding costs before it is able to judge whether the scheme is properly deliverable and a proper charge on the public purse. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"In this Act 'registrable fact', in relation to an individual, means information which may be recorded in the Register as specified in Schedule 1".
I do not know whether I am alone in having difficulty in correlating Clause 1(5) with Clause 3 and Schedule 1. The noble Baroness stated earlier that the purpose of subsection (5) is to give a definition within which any information recorded in Schedule 1 is to come. In effect, it circumscribes the boundary of information for the purposes of Clause 3 and Schedule 1. I recommend some cross-reference in the Bill—at present there is none—between Clauses 1 and 3 and Clause 1 and Schedule 1. For the normal purpose of anyone reading the Bill—that includes a lawyer—the provision should state, "information which may be recorded in the Register" followed by a reference not only to Clause 3 but also to Clause 1(5).
I am considerably assuaged by the thought that Clause 1(5) circumscribes for all purposes and at all times, subject to primary legislation, what can be placed in the register under Schedule 1. I referred earlier to one fact which seemed to go against that supposition in relation to principal residence. I still think that I am right. No doubt the noble Baroness will be kind enough to consider that issue.
There are issues the other way. I note, for example, that paragraph 5 to Schedule 1 refers to "his date of death". An identity card for a dead man is a somewhat novel concept. None the less, I am sure the parliamentary draftsman has some obscure purpose in mind.
Subject to those matters, for the next stage of the Bill, I shall return with some cross-reference amendments which will make life easier for those who have to construe this document. I have one question: I do not expect the noble Baroness to answer it now. I do not understand who decides under Clause 3 what registrable facts are to go on each individual's registry entry. Clause 3(1) states:
"The only information that may be recorded in the Register is".
Who exercises the discretion in respect of each citizen as to what information within Clause 1(5) is to be included on the register?
Finally, in thinking more about this matter, I was brought back to the need for the register, and responsibility for the register, to be clearer in the Bill. I beg to move.
Perhaps I may point out that if Amendment No. 22 is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 23 to 45 inclusive by reason of pre-emption.
I shall refrain from making comments which I could have done on the amendment. I prefer to make them when we debate Amendment No. 24 and later amendments, which I understand will be after the break. I note at this point the remarkable fact that an individual may have 12 different numbers recorded on the register as a result of the legislation we are passing. I admit that that is an exceptional circumstance and will involve people entering the country and others who make application. Many people will have a large number of identifiable reference numbers entered in the register. I believe that that says a little about the nature of the Bill we are passing.
I thank the noble Lord for thinking again about the amendment. I understand what he says about the connection not having been made in relation to Clause 1(5) and Schedule 1, and that he wants to think about that and return to the issue. I shall also be happy to write to him about why we believe that Schedule 1 is at present consistent with Clause 1(5). I have indicated already the broad parameter but I am conscious of how long these matters seem to have taken in debate. It will be convenient if we take soon a short adjournment.
It will be the Secretary of State who decides what information is to be put in each entry. Not all the information would be relevant for each individual. For example, immigration documents or drivers' numbers are not necessary for or relevant to everyone. We think that it plays a useful role to have that framework for Clause 1(5) because it indicates the outer limits and means that it constrains other issues which could possibly come in by way of order and affirmation or negative resolution. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has approved the affirmative procedure for adding and the negative procedure if we wish to remove something from the schedule, as appears appropriate.
I hope that for the time being that satisfies the noble Lord. I shall sit down in the hope and aspiration that no one will ask me anything before I do so.
I thank the noble Baroness for that response. The only issue that arises—I may have mentioned it earlier—is the confusion over adding matters to the schedule. There does not seem space. The schedule already carries all the information that it could carry within the parameters of Clause 1(5). One of the issues about which the noble Baroness may be kind enough to write to me is where the Government see room for any additional information given that the whole of Clause 1(5) already seems to be in the schedule.
We understand that this whole area may develop quite quickly and that the way in which we store biometric data and transfer information may change dramatically in the next five or 10 years. For example, looking back to where we were before the age of the fax machine and the computer—which was not very long ago—I can remember having an interesting debate in my chambers about whether we should acquire a fax machine because no one else had one. After a lengthy debate lasting a number of hours, we finally said that we should have the courage to invest in this piece of equipment, which may or may not prove to be useful.
So bearing that in mind, and knowing how quickly technology has developed over the past 10 years, it is likely that we may wish to include in the schedule other modes of communication which have not as yet been invented. That is an example of why we need to have latitude and why it is important, even with those increments, that we should have Clause 1(5) to constrain the use to which we put new technological and other developments.
That is extremely helpful. I take for granted the need for technical additions. I was referring to Clause 3(1)(a), which relates to what I call the real information about individuals. I invite the Minister, if she would be so kind, to let me know what room there is for further information to be put in the schedule, given that it seems to take up the whole of Clause 1(5) already.
The final part of Clause 3(3) states:
"there is to be a conclusive presumption for the purposes of this Act that the information to which the direction relates is accurate and complete information about that matter".
Is that wise? Would not the word "presumption" be perfectly adequate? If for any reason—and I cannot immediately imagine one—there was an issue in court where the accuracy of a fact that had been recorded was shown to be nonsense, would it mean that the court was bound by something which was completely inaccurate and consequently might find it very difficult to do justice? The wording seems to be unnecessarily strong and the word "presumption" would probably be sufficient.
I understand why the noble and learned Lord has raised this point. The reason for inserting the word "conclusive" is that we anticipate—and we have framed the legislation to reflect this—that great care will be given to the registering of any fact. The integrity of the system will depend on its accuracy and its ability to identify each individual placed on it. Having done that, the import will be to ensure that it has a "conclusive presumption" for the purposes of the Act. I shall certainly consider this issue to ensure that that is the most felicitous way of expressing it. But I know, as does the noble and learned Lord, that a presumption is ultimately still only a presumption. I shall come back on the issue, but the reason it is drafted in that way is because of the robustness and soundness that we hope the register will have.
I have further assistance which states that, for the purposes of the Act, the Secretary of State can withdraw the conclusive presumption if it proves to be wrong. But the purpose of the revision is to protect people with new identities—for example, those in the witness protection programme.
It might be for the convenience of the House if we move on to the next business. I therefore beg to move that the House be resumed. In doing so, I propose that we re-convene to consider the Bill further in Committee no later than 8.30 pm.