Identity Cards Bill

– in the House of Lords at 8:19 pm on 16 November 2005.

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House again in Committee on Clause 1.

Photo of The Earl of Northesk The Earl of Northesk Conservative 8:30, 16 November 2005

moved Amendment No. 24:

Page 2, line 7, leave out paragraphs (b) to (f).

Photo of The Earl of Northesk The Earl of Northesk Conservative

The Minister might imagine that the underlying purpose of the amendment is destructive. I hope to offer her some reassurance by advising that my aim here is merely to probe a few issues. I am also grateful to other noble Lords who have been more imaginative than me in tabling amendments to constrain the terms of the individual categories of information.

First, the registrable facts encapsulated in paragraphs (b) to (f) cannot be interpreted as identifiers of an individual's identity. Indeed, if we consider the drafting of Schedule 1(1), these categories are defined as "personal", rather than "identifying" information. This point was reinforced by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform and in its observation that registrable facts are,

"not necessarily limited to information needed to prove identity . . . and extends to matters such as previous addresses, terms of residence in different parts of the UK and elsewhere and an 'audit trail' of disclosure of register entries".

Of course, I acknowledge that these categories of data will be of benefit in terms of corroborating an individual's identity. Nevertheless, as I shall seek to demonstrate, the scope and range of the information required is wholly disproportionate. As I understand it, these categories of information comprise more data than that required to be given to the police for individuals placed on the Sexual and Violent Offender Register. By way of illustration, paragraphs (c) and (d) impose the requirement for the individual to record every address at which he or she has been resident and for how long,

"in the United Kingdom or elsewhere".

For the vast majority, this represents a huge amount of data. For example, will Members of Parliament have to update their information on the register on a weekly basis to indicate the periods that they have resided in London and the periods they have resided in their constituencies? More seriously, the provision appears to include periods of residence overseas, periods of residence of children, periods of residence at school or university, and so on. It has to be questionable whether we will all have the capacity to remember the precise details of where we have resided for every moment of our lives. That is a significant consideration, given that failure to provide the prescribed information could incur liability for a civil penalty.

Additionally, given the drafting, individuals may be required to register residential circumstances such as extended treatment in hospitals and periods spent at clinics or refuges; for example, in respect of mental illness, that would involve hospice care for the terminally ill or safe houses for victims of domestic violence. Equally, individuals may be required to indicate periods of residence when serving sentences of imprisonment—something which would be, on the face of it, antipathetic to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. A requirement to register such information, irrespective of whether it is intrusive, not to say insensitive, could be said to contravene the Data Protection Act in respect of sensitive personal data.

Despite protestations from the Government, subsection (6) is a very small fig leaf; after all, it bars the recording of sensitive personal data only in respect of subsection (5)(g). However, even if it were drafted to include residential data, as envisaged by Amendment No. 38, tabled in the names of my noble friends, I am uncertain that that would resolve the problem. As is so often the case with database management, omission of data, and what can be inferred from that omission, can be just as revealing and intrusive as their inclusion. Were incomplete records to be justified on data protection grounds then, by definition, where a gap in an individual's record of residence exists, that period would have to relate to sensitive personal data.

In such circumstances, it would be a relatively simple matter, as a function of probability, to tie the period to a specific life event such as a prison sentence. The problem here is that an individual's whole life experience can be deduced merely by reference to where they have lived and for how long. The residential information, or its absence from the register, may not per se qualify as being sensitive, but what can be inferred from it most assuredly is. In effect, the Government's oft-repeated claim that no sensitive data, as defined by the Data Protection Act, will be held on the register would seem to be just so much window-dressing.

Inevitably, all those difficulties also arise in respect of paragraph (b). Individuals will be required to record their current residential details irrespective of any element of sensitive personal data with which such information may be imbued. For example, is it really the Government's intention that terminally ill patients living out their days in a hospice will be required to record that fact in the register? There is also the problem of how it is anticipated that, for example, rough sleepers or Travellers will register their details. In effect, will "no fixed abode" be an adequate answer? There may also be potential problems with paragraphs (e) and (f). Asylum seekers who have fled persecution will be required in effect to make that fact plain in the register, thereby potentially exposing themselves to the risk of retribution.

All in all, the construction of those categories of residential information is disproportionate to the purpose that they are intended to achieve. It sanctions pervasive capture of sensitive personal data for inclusion in the register in contravention of the Data Protection Act. I therefore look forward to the Minister's explanation of the logic on which the Government's drafting is based. I beg to move.

Photo of Viscount Simon Viscount Simon Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

I advise Members of the Committee that, if Amendment No. 24 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 25 to 35 due to pre-emption.

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative

Last night my noble friend Lord Northesk rendered the Committee a service by enabling us to debate the subject of convenience. We return to that subject with this group of amendments but, as the noble Earl has indicated, there may be an even more important set of questions than that which simply concerns convenience.

My noble friend was probably wrong when he said that all those who make applications for passports or apply to join the register would necessarily be required to provide all that information. The subsection that we are dealing with simply defines "registrable fact". However, Clause 5 enables the Secretary of State to prescribe what information should be provided and, as the Government have listed all those registrable facts, we must start by assuming that the Secretary of State may ask for all the information on the list.

My second introductory comment is that not all the information described as a registrable fact must be entered on the register. Under Schedule 1, personal information that may be recorded in an individual's entry includes,

"the address of his principal place of residence in the United Kingdom" and,

"the address of every other place in the United Kingdom where he has a place of residence".

But it does not refer to the past and the clauses on previous residences, to which I will refer. Last night, the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, described himself as "a simple lawyer." I think some of us raised our eyebrows at this description. I am not a lawyer at all and when I first looked at the Bill, I assumed that "residence" was something which would be defined in such a way that lawyers would understand and would have a universal application that I could very quickly discover by enquiring at the Library. I went to the Library; they referred me to two works with which the noble Baroness will be very familiar: Curzon's Dictionary of Law and Stroud's Judicial Dictionary of Words and Phrases. I discovered that the situation is much more complicated than I had imagined. What a residence is depends very much on the situation and the particular Act of Parliament with which we are dealing.

To take an obvious example, for the purposes of getting ourselves on the register of electors, the residence in question is where we happen to be on a particular night. It may include a tent or caravan, or wherever we are spending that night. I turned hopefully to Curzon to start the operation and discovered that a "residence" is a

"place where a person abides, i.e., where he has his home".

I was not sure that took me a great deal further, but below I discovered that an "habitual residence" was defined in R v Barnet LBC as,

"a voluntary residence with a degree of settled purpose".

The simple lawyer, like the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, will doubtless know exactly what that means, but the non-lawyer will not necessarily be much the wiser.

Then I got into Stroud and the whole thing became even more complicated. Under the definition "reside, residence, resident," I read that,

"a condition to a gift of a house that the donee takes actual possession of it, 'as and for his residence and place of abode', and continue during his life to reside therein, does not imply that the donee must continue personally to reside in the house; he will satisfy the condition by keeping up the house as a place of residence in which he and (or?) some of the members of his family occasionally dwell."

I do not think that is the intention of the present Bill.

Then we have the situation of the Army officer who had a place of residence that was deemed not actually to be a residence, because he had let it and was living in Germany while serving in the Army. I think we need to know exactly what the Government's intentions are.

Let us take the example of many Members of this House. My noble friend Lord Northesk has already touched upon this in respect of Members of Parliament. Many of us have two homes, one of which may be in the country, and another that we live in when in London in order to attend this House. In my case I have a house in the country and my wife has a house in London where I live when attending this House. I met a noble Lord at dinner whose wife is Spanish. He tells me that she has two houses in Spain and he has two in this country.

In addition, some people may have a holiday home in, say, France and all those may be defined as residences. To complicate issues, I recall that when I was a Minister, a Minister's principal home was deemed to be in London. Fortunately, when we come to this place and start claiming our parliamentary expenses, our principal home may prove to be in the country.

Furthermore, many students live at home with their families and spend some time at university. We need to know what requirements may be imposed on them. My Amendment No. 24 limits the requirement to name your principal residence in the United Kingdom. My noble friends Lady Anelay and Lady Seccombe and I have tabled a string of amendments attempting to restrict the definition either by saying that you have to live there for three months; that students do not have to register their place at university unless they have been there for three months; and so on. My noble friend Lord Northesk raised a whole string of examples which I had not thought of; for example, hospitals, hospices and prisons. All of them fall within the definition. Before we go much further, we must have a clear definition of the Government's intention in this respect.

I turn to the second set of issues that we must consider. I notice a requirement that we should go back, presumably to the age of 16, to record all the places we have lived in. We must not only record those places but remember the dates when we arrived and left. It is a pretty extraordinary demand. I cast my mind back to 1953 when I was a National Service officer. I suppose that for part of that year my residence was in Jamaica. Perhaps visits to Taipa, Bermuda and a spell on two of Her Majesty's ships were not long enough to qualify as residential. But then I went to Germany where I was probably in residence. Having finished my service, I returned to live at my parents' home in Chiswick and then I went up to Cambridge University for a spell. I am not clear from the Bill whether I am required to record not only all those places but the time when I was there. I hope that in reply the Minister will say that of course it is not the Government's intention that we should have to do such unreasonable things. However, as the Bill stands, that could be the position. I think we are entitled to know what the Government's intentions are on this matter.

That takes me to one further point. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Gould, is not with us today. Yes, he is here! The noble Lord, Lord Gould, tells us that this is a hugely popular measure, as does the Minister. I have been reading carefully the document I was urged to read during yesterday's debate. Page 33 of the document issued by the Home Office states:

"This exercise demonstrates the importance of making it very clear to citizens what conditions they are judging the scheme on before they are asked to agree or disagree to the scheme".

The document makes it very clear that their attention was drawn to the possible costs of the scheme. We know from our earlier debates that estimates of those costs are completely misleading and almost worthless, but, none the less, a number of cost options were drawn to their attention. Also drawn to their attention was the fact that they might have to go to places to register and that it might take up to an hour. No reference was made to the fact that they were going to have to record all the places where they had lived at any time in their lives since the age of 16. I am taking 16 as the age because that is the age at which people are going to come into the scheme as it stands. Once they understand that they are going to be asked for this information, that they will be liable to quite severe penalties if they fail to provide it accurately, and that its accuracy can be checked, they may not be quite so much in favour of the scheme as they were previously.

So at this stage, when we are taking only an early look at the detail of the scheme, it is important that the Government clarify their intentions. If we are going to have a scheme, I think that we all want it to be reasonably practical and easy to operate. One of our amendments suggests that the record of residence should not have to go back more than six years. That would at least ease the problem of looking back into the far distant past which I have identified. If we were to restrict the clause further so that we would not have to list anywhere where we did not spend three months in every year, it would simplify matters a good deal. There may be other ways in which we can make this a more practical and sensible measure.

Is it really necessary to divulge to Her Majesty's Government every possible bolt-hole that we may have in any part of the world where we may want to go for a few weeks of peace and quiet? Of course I understand that they must have, and be pretty confident about, a principal residence where we can be pinned down and where people can, if not find us, at least convey requests and information to us by whatever method is chosen by government. But to ask us to identify every single possible place where we may put our heads for a few nights and which falls within a definition of residence is totally unreasonable. It will cause the scheme to be probably unworkable and certainly unpopular. In the hope and expectation that the Government have worked out a much more sensible arrangement and are—dare I say it?—going to reveal it to an astonished Committee tonight, I support my noble friend's amendment and hope that we get a positive response.

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

In speaking to my amendments, I support those moved by my noble friend Lord Northesk and spoken to my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. Clause 1(5) gives us too rough an idea of what is meant by the "registrable facts" that may be held on the national database about our personal lives. As my noble friends said, these amendments aim to tease out from the Government a more rounded picture of how the measure will be applied. Otherwise, the open-ended ability of the Government to pile demand after demand on individuals to come up with every detail of their lives will plainly be unsustainable and certainly extremely unpopular.

I shall explain briefly the purpose of the amendments tabled in my name. Amendments Nos. 26, 29 and 34 would exempt the registration of places where one had lived for less than three months. I also ask the Government to explain how the provisions will affect those of no fixed abode, a point already mentioned by my noble friend Lord Northesk, or indeed how they will affect the Traveller communities. I am reminded every day of the needs of those with no fixed abode when I travel past the Salvation Army hostel close to Vauxhall Bridge Road on my way back from discussing matters in your Lordships' House. So this is a very real concern.

Amendment No. 31 seeks to exempt the registration of those places where one has spent a holiday. This goes beyond the situation referred to by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell when he mentioned second homes and holiday homes. What if someone takes a sabbatical? We all think we know what we mean by a holiday, but I feel some pangs of jealousy when I find out that some of my former colleagues from outside the House are given a year's sabbatical paid for by their employers. One must be wary of how one defines a holiday, as well as who should be exempted and who should not.

Amendment No. 27 would exempt from registration those addresses at which one had lived as a student or as a person under a work contract for less than three months. Are the Government treating students of different ages and backgrounds, whether they are mature students or those still in their teenage years, in different ways when it comes to requiring or exempting the registration of all addresses? If so, how and why?

Amendments Nos. 30 and 35 would exempt from registration those addresses at which one has lived or lives currently outside the United Kingdom. These amendments have been tabled simply to ask the Government what kind of verification of overseas addresses would be required within the context of the Bill as it stands. I wonder rather cynically how on earth someone from deepest Darfur is expected to provide a postcode or proper proof of their address. The Government need to give us some sensible answers on this.

Amendment No. 28 would confine the registration of addresses to those one had used during the past six years, a point already mentioned in passing by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. My noble friend referred to his own life, and I should like to refer to my mother's experiences. My mother died earlier this year at the age of 91. She led an industrious but, some would say, a quiet life. She lived at home with her parents until she married at the age of 24. She then shared with my father just two homes over the whole of her life. But during the Second World War she wanted to be with my father while he was being trained, so she was put to work in various places around the United Kingdom and travelled to wherever she was allocated. Although her memory was formidable and she was proud of her war work, she certainly would not have been able to recall all the addresses of where she lived during those years. She might have been able to recall the different towns, but not the exact addresses.

My question is this: what do we expect people to be able to remember? What onus will be placed on them in this regard? Although my mother had a superb memory, she would not have been able to come up with the relevant facts. What of those suffering from Alzheimer's disease or those less able to recall detailed information? I am sure that the Government do not intend to place undue pressure on such people, but we need that kind of detail to be fleshed out.

If the Government follow the line taken by the Minister in another place and say, "Well, we intend to use the UK Passport Service rule of requiring evidence of addresses for the past six years", then of course I must ask: why not just say so in the Bill? In Committee on 6 July at col. 67, the Minister, Mr McNulty, stated that the application form would require us to provide addresses for the past six years, but that the six-year requirement would be in regulations yet to be drafted.

My concern, as reflected in my probing amendment, is that if the Government introduce a six-year requirement, at what stage will they decide that they need to go back further than six years for some people and on what will such a decision be based? If it is to be different strokes for different folks, on what basis will they decide how to discriminate against some individuals by requiring more information from them? Will they discriminate on a personal basis, on groups, on suspicion, or on information provided by the security services? How will that kind of decision be made?

Amendment No. 33 appears to reflect a comment by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. When debating his own amendment on principal residence he asked what a place of residence means. My amendment is far more prosaic. Amendment No. 33 asks the Government to explain their choice of drafting when using different forms of words in Clause 1(5)(c) and (d). Subsection (5)(c) refers to,

""where he has previously resided".

Subsection 5(d) uses the term "was resident". Is there any significance in that difference or was it simply a different person drafting the subsection?

I should be grateful if the Minister could try to give some answers to these myriad questions. We shall listen carefully to her reply and consider what we shall need to do at a later stage.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs 9:00, 16 November 2005

I support the amendment. Clarity will be essential if a lot of people are not to get very upset over the legislation—and they will get upset anyway.

The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, must be commended for his library work. He could have gone further. One could have 10 lawyers arguing for 10 days without reaching a conclusion on what "residence" means. The noble Baroness will remember that "residence" for tax purposes engages many, rather well-paid, lawyers in endless argument. Since we are being confessional, my grandfather's residence was a series of hotels. He never had a place of residence but went from one spa town to another staying in hotels. Where would he stand under the Bill? Perhaps under the terms of the Bill he has no place of residence, placing him in the same class as the poor old fellow on the London street.

We need to do far more on this issue before the Bill leaves the House. I shall be fascinated to hear the Minister's response.

Photo of Lord Lyell of Markyate Lord Lyell of Markyate Conservative

Perhaps I may be swift in illustrating the problems. I am sure it is sensible to have a maximum time over which to go back. To go back over a whole life would be a massive burden on citizens. I doubt whether there would be anything like a proportionate advantage to the public authorities, whatever one's views on the Bill. Equally, young people often change residence after very short periods. They may stay in a place for a few weeks or days. Presumably a few days will go unnoticed. But with regard to a few weeks or a few months, there must be a minimum period. I suggest that three months, as proposed in the amendments, is not unreasonable.

In casting my mind back to between 1956 and 1963, I lived at 10 different addresses in Markyate, Buckingham, Aldershot, Bulford, Hertfordshire, Oxford, Hertfordshire, Newcastle, Blaydon and London. Over the past three years, one of my sons has lived in Oxford, Markyate, World's End, Clapham, Fulham and World's End. That must be fairly typical.

Questions by the noble Lord, Lord Gould of Brookwood, will have ascertained the public popularity of having to apply six times in three years to re-register. They will have explained exactly how much he anticipates it costs to re-register. These are serious points. I am sure that the whole purpose of this kind of constructive, revising legislation is to try to iron out those difficulties. I much look forward to hearing what the noble Baroness will say.

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

First, I commend the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, for his remarkable memory. He had no difficulty in going back to 1953. I confess that I do not have the opportunity to do so. I shall not comment on the remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, while seated.

I understand the importance of the issues raised by all noble Lords. I also understand that it is a probing amendment. These are important issues. I shall seek to answer as many as I can. I hope that the explanation will assist noble Lords to realise that we understand that the practicalities are important and that we have to ensure that we do not put a disproportionately large burden on people which would make it difficult for them to comply. So, with the leave of the Committee, I shall go slowly through the issues and attempt to answer the different species of concern raised by noble Lords.

Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 relate to the provision for allowing addresses to be held on the national register as one of the registered facts. They are concerned with the boundaries we are seeking. I thank the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, for acknowledging the starting point that there is no objection to having an address registered on the national identity register, that there is utility in doing so and, indeed, that it could be helpful to card holders in many ways. Furthermore, the detail and information contained in these amendments are exactly the kind of detailed arrangements that should be set out in regulations rather than on the face of primary legislation. However, it may be helpful if I explain how we currently intend this issue to be considered.

Applicants for identity cards will be asked for information about their current principal address, together with current alternative addresses and previous addresses. They will not be asked about every address at which they have ever lived. However, once an identity card has been issued, historic data and information previously recorded will continue to be held on the register, but not as part of the current record of information provided with the consent of the identity card holder under Clause 14. The current address will be required not only to enable the new agency to contact individuals but also to clearly record on the register where someone lives if they need subsequently to provide evidence of address—for example, when seeking access to a service that applies only to people living in a particular catchment area.

We will use the order-making power in Clause 43(10) to specify in detail exactly what will be regarded as a place where a person resides or as his principal place of residence. We will also use the order-making power under Clause 12 to set out clearly which particular changes of address need to be notified and the period within which this must be done. I can reassure the Committee that there will not be a requirement to update addresses every time someone changes their address for a short period of time or when, for example, they go on holiday. Our current thinking is that a person would be required to notify the agency of a change of address for any place where he or she has lived continuously for a period of three months or more.

However, we will consider making exemptions in the case of students or others who have continuing permanent addresses. I understand the point about students made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell of Markyate, and the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. For students with a term-time address, or for people with second homes, it would be possible, although not a requirement—I emphasise it is not a requirement—for them to update their entry as frequently as they move from one place to another if they found it of personal benefit.

After moving into a new residence, there will be a reasonable time limit for notifying the agency of the new address. There will be no requirement for changes to be notified immediately.

We intend that updates of addresses will be both easy and secure. There will be a variety of methods to update an address on the national identity register, including over the Internet, by telephone or in writing. But in each case, in order to protect individuals from bogus attempts to change their address details, there would need to be a validation of identity. The identity card scheme is currently investigating the most secure method of conducting such remote transactions, including the use of methods involving one-time passwords, which would provide much greater assurance than traditional passwords.

Previous addresses will be required from an identity card applicant for two reasons. First, if there has been a recent change of address, it will help the individual to ensure that the register has both addresses available. It might create problems if the register held only the latest address and a service checking identity had the person living at their last address.

Secondly, previous addresses are needed to enable background checks to be carried out, to ensure a gold standard of identity is entered onto the register. For example, this check could be against DVLA records to confirm that the person really has lived at the addresses they claim. As I stated in Committee, it is sometimes much harder for a fraudster to create historic records than it is to create current ones.

We will prescribe the period for which we will ask for information on previous addresses as provided at paragraph 1(h) of Schedule 1. Our current thinking is that we will ask all applicants for details of their addresses for the past six years, and only in the most exceptional cases would any earlier details be required. Clearly we would not require an applicant to provide us with details of every place where they have spent a single night in the last six years. Currently we think that a place of residence would be any place where you have lived continuously for three months or more. However, we think it would be wrong for this sort of detail to be set out on the face of the Bill.

We have amended the Bill from the version that was previously introduced, so that previous addresses are no longer held in the information recorded in paragraph 1 of Schedule 1. I should make clear that the historic information will also be held, but will not be available on the current record. Thus, if someone has held an identity card for, say, the last 30 years, information about their early addresses will have been moved into the record history part of the register.

The power to hold record history is provided by paragraph 5 of Schedule 1. It is important to note that the powers for verification with consent provided by Clause 14 do not cover paragraph 5, so it would not be possible for a commercial organisation to seek provision of an individual's complete address history on the national identity register, even with that person's consent. The individual could himself seek provision of that information under a Data Protection Act data subject access request. That is the way it would have to be done. In addition, it would be possible for historic information to be provided to the police, for example, under Clause 19 in connection with the prevention or detection of crime.

I assure the noble Baroness and noble Lords who have raised the issue of those with no fixed abode and Travellers that we will look carefully at how we deal with that situation. It is clear that we need to deal with homeless people and with Travellers. We have yet to confirm fully how we will handle address details for groups such as the homeless, those with no fixed abode and Travellers, but, in Clause 43(10), we have the power to make regulations as to a place that is to be regarded as their place of residence. It is probable that a contact address will be sufficient.

I assure the Committee, however, that we are committed to developing a scheme that will not exclude these groups from registering for their identity card. For the purposes of a biographical footprint check, an applicant's inability to provide an address or address history will make it more difficult to validate his or her details. However, the biographical footprint check will be based on a range of information provided by an applicant and will use a number of databases and other sources in order to build evidence of identity relating to an applicant's details. Therefore, it will be possible to develop satisfactory evidence of identity, for example, through a personal meeting with an applicant without requiring address details where there are clearly good reasons why that person has no address history.

In a small minority of cases there may be a need to collect further information from an applicant about earlier addresses in order to validate his identity, for example, in the case of a British citizen who has just returned to the United Kingdom having lived six years abroad. Collecting information on past addresses in the United Kingdom from such an applicant could be an important extra piece of information to enable their identity to be validated. However, for the vast majority of identity card applicants we expect to ask for no more than details of addresses over the past six years.

The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, asked about elderly people who might be unable to give all the necessary details. I have dealt in part with the length of time issue. Elderly people may be exempted from the requirement to register or the requirement to obtain an ID card. Not all the information will be required from every applicant. We shall have to consider those issues very sensitively. Your Lordships will know that many other forms contain an age distinction regarding people over 85 or whatever. We shall have to consider the regulations very carefully in that regard. Not all the information will be required from every single person.

The application process will be discussed in more detail when we discuss amendments to Clause 5. However, I assure the Committee that the process will be sensitively handled because we want to ensure that we properly record the details of all those who wish to participate in the scheme while it is voluntary. It will be absolutely crucial to have sensible arrangements when the scheme becomes compulsory. The noble Baroness asked why we need to have the power to hold addresses abroad on the national identity register. First, any applicant for an ID card may have lived abroad recently. In order to confirm their identity it would not be unreasonable to know where they have lived to enable us to get that certainty. Secondly, we must not overlook the fact that foreign nationals resident in the United Kingdom and entitled to registration may still have an address overseas that they would wish to have registered also. The noble Baroness asked about the steps that we would take to verify overseas addresses. We would not need to do so unless there was uncertainty about that person's address.

Finally, in relation to Amendment No. 33 the noble Baroness asked what was the difference between the phrases "has resided" and "was resident". The simple answer is, "None". I hope that I have been able to reassure—

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative 9:15, 16 November 2005

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for giving an extremely helpful, positive and detailed response, which we shall need to study extremely carefully. One specific question occurs to me. Assuming that a resident provides the information which satisfies the authorities that he has given a legitimate place of contact, some may have very good reasons for not wanting to disclose on a register where they are. Some people may not want to do that for security or other sensitive reasons. Would such people be able to make a reasonable request that that information is not recorded on the register and would it be considered sympathetically and with understanding? They may provide a contact and, perhaps, the address, but there may be very good reasons for not having their location identified on a register.

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

I can certainly understand what the noble Lord says. The most important thing is that the details that are given in relation to the address enable those who have to clarify and secure the accuracy of that identity to complete the first registration.

I spoke earlier about the other potential issue of those who, for good reasons, have perhaps had to change identity or have other reasons why the provision has to be kept secure. We touched on the fact that there is that provision, in response to the question raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell of Markyate, in terms of compulsion and probability. We must be clear that, for the purposes of the Bill, that identity and that information is conclusive. It should not necessarily be conclusive for criminal proceedings, but it should be conclusive in terms of obtaining access to information.

So if there are specific issues such as those that are security-related, this structure would ensure that the proper indications could be placed on the register in a way that would enable us to keep that person secure. The whole purpose of the provisions that we have created is to obtain certainty of identity and utility—returning to the idea of convenience—and we do not wish to introduce burdensome provisions that would have no real utility of purpose. We believe that we will be able to get that balance right in the regulations.

I hope that I have been able to reassure noble Lords, first, in relation to the usual three month requirement for residence and, secondly, why we think that six years is an appropriate period, but that there would be special reasons where it might be necessary, due to an individual's particular circumstances, not just to look at the six years, but to go back further, to ensure that we had clearly identified the correct person. I hope that I have answered all the questions raised by noble Lords and have reassured the Committee that we are alive to these issues and will seek to address them.

Photo of Lord Maxton Lord Maxton Labour

This is a genuine question—I am not clear in my own mind as to the relationship between the register and other databases on which information about individuals is held. I accept that there should be no compulsion in this, but if, for example, someone was not clear about some aspect that they wished to include on the register, could they voluntarily ask the register to seek that information from other sources? Could that be something as simple as the electoral register, the DVLA, the passport authority, or whatever?

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

Is my noble friend saying that if there is an inability or insecurity about providing an address, would we use further and other means to ensure that we had the right person and that they had properly been identified? I hope that I have been able to reassure the Committee that if we do not have the address, we will seek other verifiable means to ensure that the information given by the individual is, indeed, correct, because the whole purpose of this exercise is to ensure that we have the right person properly identified before their biometric data goes on to the register.

Photo of Viscount Colville of Culross Viscount Colville of Culross Crossbench

A number of us—and I see two of my noble colleagues here this evening—in this House are now very much concerned with the details of statutory instruments. If the Minister is saying that a great deal of this detail is going to have to be relegated to regulations then I totally understand what she is saying because there is clearly going to be an enormous amount of detail that will not go into the Bill.

One of the difficulties at the moment about regulation making is the consultation process. Normally speaking the Cabinet Office deals with business, and the effect of regulations on business. This is not that sort of case at all. This is a case where members of the public are going to be personally affected in very many different ways and will be asked to give a lot of information about their previous lives and their circumstances and so on. I do not expect the Minister to answer tonight, but how does the Home Office suppose that they are going to have a consultation process which is not going to lead to a great deal of dissatisfaction when the regulations are eventually laid? Once they are laid, we have the usual problem about them not being able to be amended. I ask the Minister to think about this issue because it is a very serious problem if you are going to consult every single member of the population of the British Isles.

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

I assure the noble Viscount that I will certainly think about that. One of the advantages that we have in relation to this Bill is that it has been much talked about and we have to try and ensure that the utility of the regulations is, if not guaranteed, then assured by the way in which we craft them. There would be no point in having regulations in relation to the detail if they did not work in a way that was practical and understandable.

To answer the point raised by my noble friend Lord Maxton I also assure the Committee that we have the power under Clause 11 to check information on the register with other data sources. That subject is to do with safeguards and we will discuss it later on in the Bill. But we will consider that issue very carefully. We do of course have the new committee which looks at statutory instruments and that is an additional and quite new safeguard of which we might be able to take advantage.

Photo of Viscount Colville of Culross Viscount Colville of Culross Crossbench

That is exactly why I raised the point—I am a member of the committee. We know our limitations: we can complain if the consultation has been inadequate but there is nothing that anybody can do about it unless the Government are prepared to withdraw the regulations.

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

I absolutely understand that; I was simply seeking to compliment those who, like the noble Viscount, are undertaking this work because it is going to make the work of this Chamber much easier and it will make it clearer when we come to use the affirmative procedure as to whether we feel comfortable about agreeing or disagreeing because we will have an informed basis upon which to look at those issues.

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

This mini debate makes me wonder just how practical all this will be. With a high level of limited literacy in the population at large and an incredibly mobile population, I wonder—and this is speaking as a down-to-earth practising lawyer—what level of accuracy one can expect from the population as a whole, especially in relation to these past addresses. When one looks at Clause 30, which is the clause which allows for prosecution for inaccurate information supplied—admittedly it requires mens rea or recklessness—I could imagine that even without the significant minority of people who are going to want to bamboozle the record as regards their past, there will be a sizeable minority of the population who simply will not be capable of understanding the sort of notes that will be put out with the questionnaire. Just consider the questions that have been raised tonight in this place and how much we have been metaphorically scratching our heads. I ask the Minister—not to make difficulties, but in a really practical sense—is this going to work?

Photo of Lord Maxton Lord Maxton Labour 9:30, 16 November 2005

I am still astonished by the feeling that somehow or other the register will create a mass of totally new material. If the noble Lord were prepared to tell me the name of the town in which he lives, I could tell him tomorrow morning exactly where he lives in that town, who the other residents in his house are, who his neighbours are, and I could even print out a map of where his house is in the town. A website called 192.com will give you all that information without any trouble at all.

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

We need to nip this in the bud. We are talking about the requirement for people to provide an historical background. We appreciate the electronic means at our disposal to be able to track down who lives where, provided that those records are correct, but there is a longer perspective here. As we have made clear, we are trying to ensure that too much stress is not put on people. It is the honest and law-abiding people who will want to fill in the information correctly whom I am really worried about.

Photo of Lord Maxton Lord Maxton Labour

That is the point—95 or 98 per cent of the population are exactly the kind of people whom the noble Baroness describes, and a very small proportion may be the people to whom the noble Lord referred.

The other thing that is available to anyone on the website—I accept that you have to pay for some of the information—is every census since 1881. I can tell noble Lords where my grandfather first lived when he went to Glasgow in 1881. That information is available. It is not impossible to find out about people at present, and I really do not understand why people are getting so upset and concerned about this information being available on the register, as opposed to being available in a whole range of other places.

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

As the noble Baroness said, it is because of the historicity of the issue. It is easy enough now, but we should just look at the electoral register. The Electrical Commission calculates that well over 1 million people are not on that register. What will we do when 1 million, 2 million or 3 million of our citizens do not fill in the questionnaire come the day—if it comes—when the register is compulsory? I am not trying to make difficulties; I am being realistic and asking the Government—this comes back to a very basic issue—whether we are not going a bridge too far with this whole grandiose project and leading ourselves to a shambolic future.

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative

I want to make one point but, before I do so, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Maxton, that we are not really discussing in this series of amendments whether or not he can get certain information about where someone happens to be living at present or even where his grandfather was on a particular night on which the census was held. In fact, the information in the census does not tell him any more than where an individual was on a particular night. We are talking about the requirement of all sorts of people, who are nothing like as clever as the noble Lord and who do not have the computer equipment that the noble Lord has, to provide accurate information that changes very frequently. I believe I am right in saying that about 60 per cent of the population of London change their address every year.

So this is a question of the burdens that are being placed on people. Last night the noble Lord described this as the poll tax Bill, and I took him up on that. But if it is unpopular and if people find that the burden is unreasonable, that is not his object and it is not my object either. We are trying to make this a reasonably practical and workable scheme, and I was greatly encouraged by the response of the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, who was clearly trying to give us that assurance.

I have one further thought on the matter. Having heard what the noble Baroness said, and having heard what was said about regulations, I think that we will have to consider whether we should write into the Bill at least some of the restrictions on time and duration and so on which she said are likely to be introduced in the regulations so that there is some constraint on government. I mean, we may have to go back 30 or 40 years as the Bill is drafted. The Minister has indicated that probably the Government will not want us to go back, except in very exceptional cases, more than six years. She has already indicated that probably the three-month residence qualification is likely to be the sort of thing that would be included in regulation.

We need to consider before the next stage, having read very carefully what the Minister has to say, whether some upper limits should be placed in the Bill so that the Government are constrained in the drafting of their regulation. As has been said, we all know the difficulties about dealing with regulation. Parliament is very reluctant to give totally unconstrained and unlimited powers in Acts of Parliament that enable governments to do things by regulation. So while I very much welcome what the Minister has said—it was positive and she has responded to almost all the anxieties I raised—I think that we need to consider whether there still should be some outer limits placed on government which make the provision very much tighter than it is.

Photo of Lord Lyell of Markyate Lord Lyell of Markyate Conservative

I add my appreciation for the way the Minister has responded to these important points. I think that she has gone a very long way to meet us, particularly in regard to those sections of society who are comparatively affluent and educated and comparatively willing to provide the information.

I ask for clarification on one point. The noble Baroness mentioned Travellers and others and her approach is obviously sensible. There is a section of the population, particularly architects, surveyors or engineers, who work abroad and live temporarily in England for whom an accommodation address—I agree that it and their identification must be properly validated—is really almost a necessity and likely to be the most sensible thing to accept. I hope the Government agree with that approach.

Perhaps I may say a word about what the noble Lord, Lord Maxton, was saying. I agree that over 90 per cent of the population will probably co-operate and on this aspect will be willing to see the Bill work. The main problem will be with the other 10, 5 or 2.5 per cent. That should not be shrugged off because 5 per cent of the population is about 2 million adults. It is probable that among those 2 million adults there will be a high proportion of those in whom the security services and others are likely to be most interested. We should not underestimate the very real problems that still await us.

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

We have had a positive debate. I sympathise with the concern of my noble friend Lord Maxton. To answer the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, currently about 85 per cent of our population have passports. If you look at the requirements for obtaining a passport, they are not dissimilar from the sort of provisions to which I have already referred. To obtain a passport you are required to give several years of past addresses. So we are not doing anything which is so dissimilar from that which we have already done.

I am very grateful for the indications that have been given by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell of Markyate, and the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. Much of what we have said has reassured noble Lords that we are looking at this issue appropriately. I understand that the noble Lord would wish there to be an outer perimeter, almost. Perhaps I may say, as gently as I can, that it is usual for that sort of detail to be put in regulations. It gives us a greater ability for appropriate flexibility and takes away the rigidity of putting things into the primary legislation, which is then the devil's own job to get changed.

The affirmative resolution gives us the opportunity to decide whether to accept or reject it. We are becoming quite skilful at debating orders and statutory instruments. That skill, as I said when replying to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, will be made easier as the new committee comes on board and can give us greater assistance.

We have a sound way of dealing with the issue. We also have a certain amount of history in relation to updating. Those of us who have a driving licence have to update information to the DVLA. We must tell it when we sell our cars. Therefore it is not something that is totally new or burdensome, and I shall certainly take into account the comments made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell, about groups that need a specific facility in relation to their difficult circumstances. All of that can be encompassed within the regulations.

Photo of The Earl of Northesk The Earl of Northesk Conservative

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to this important and useful debate. I echo my noble friends in being particularly grateful to the Minister for the considerable care and attention with which she has responded. I am both encouraged and comforted by her exposition of the Government's current thinking on the issue.

There is no need to protract our proceedings unnecessarily at this hour, so on the basis that we shall probably return to these matters at later stages, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 25 to 35 not moved.]

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

I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 37, 38 and 59.

I realise that the hour is getting late, and I shall be brief to the point of perhaps being too brief. Amendments Nos. 36, 37 and 39 probe why the register should be used to store personal numbers and what exactly those numbers are intended to be. I raise this because there is no guidance in the explanatory notes. There may be some innocent answer but we have not yet been given guidance.

I have to test the Committee's patience somewhat on Amendment No. 38 because it approaches a matter that could not be debated in another place. It relates to an amendment that the Government tabled very late in proceedings on Report, and because of the guillotine there was no opportunity for the Minister to explain the amendment.

Considering the lateness of the hour, I wonder whether it would be convenient if I simply read into the record my questions and invite the Minister to write to me and all noble Lords present, and to place the letter in the Library so that we can consider our proceedings further on Report. If there is no objection from around the Committee, I shall proceed to do that.

Subsection (6) was inserted by the Government on Report in another place. The Minister's only comment on 18 October at col. 741 was:

"We do not have time to consider Government amendment No. 1, but I refer my hon. and learned Friend to it because it will give him the reassurance that he wants. Mr Carmichael raised the legitimate point in Committee that clause 1(5)(g) suggested that personal sensitive data could be covered by the Bill, such as those on the police national computer. We have thus tabled Government amendment No. 1 to rule out the use of sensitive personal data, as defined by the Data Protection Act 1998, with which my hon. and learned Friend Mr Marshall-Andrews will be familiar".—[Hansard, Commons, 18/10/05; col. 741.]

Similarly at Third Reading the Home Secretary pursued the same form of reassurance. The Government stated that they tabled the amendment specifically to restrict the database from containing sensitive personal data.

My difficulty is that I have received briefing from concerned members of the public to say that the problem is that the real effect of the amendment, which is limited to Clause 1(5) (g), is to achieve the exact opposite of that intended by the Government. It is to permit the processing of sensitive personal data in the database. I must then demonstrate why I believe that the government amendment limited to Clause 1(5)(g) would have that opposite effect.

The answer is as follows. The ID card database content is specified in Schedule 1. There are about 50 data classes that could be stored in a central register. Those registrable facts fall within nine categories specified in Clause 1(5)(a) to (i). I shall not bore the Committee by reading them out; they are in the Bill. The technical amendment now forming Clause 1(6) tabled by the Home Secretary states that the registrable facts falling within paragraph (g) above,

"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".

By inference, that limitation automatically implies that paragraphs (a) to (i), except (g), could include sensitive personal data. So the amendment must be considered in conjunction with powers in the Bill to amend the database. Clause 3(5) states that the Secretary of State may, by order, modify the information for the time being set out in Schedule 1—which contains the ID card database. Thus, there are powers in the Bill to add sensitive personal data, such as criminal records and medical records, to items (a) to (i), except (g), to the register later.

In other words, if the Government deem it relevant to hold criminal or health records in the database—for example, in connection with the purpose of securing the efficient and effective provision of public services in Clause 1(4) (e), primary legislation is not needed. That would be at odds with the statement of the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, to the third report of the House of Lords Constitution Committee at Appendix 3. She wrote:

"Personal information not relevant for identification purposes and so not consistent with the statutory purposes (such as tax information, medical records and criminal records) cannot therefore be held on the Register without the Government passing fresh primary legislation".

My amendment was tabled to ensure that the stated intention of the Government is carried into effect. It would achieve the objective set out by Mr Burnham and Mr Clarke in another place on Report and Third Reading and by the noble Baroness in her letter to the Select Committee on the Constitution. That is especially relevant in the light of questions raised earlier today on another amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, about the activities of the Inland Revenue.

I stress that I do not doubt the Government's good intention by their amendment to exclude sensitive personal information. My concern is that, because there was not adequate time to debate an amendment that was welcomed on all sides, there may be an unintended consequence. With that, although I shall beg to move the amendment, I anticipate shortly formally to beg to withdraw it, in the anticipation that, in the mean time, before Report, the noble Baroness will write to me and other Members of the Committee. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management) 9:45, 16 November 2005

Perhaps I may just clarify an issue. Certain assumptions were made in what I said earlier, and I need to make clear the basis on which they were made. That relates to the order-making power. Members of the Committee will know that the power to amend or enact something to Schedule 1 is affirmative. The power to set requirements under Clause 5 for applications is negative.

The requirement to notify changes under Clause 12 is by negative resolution. I hope noble Lords will have noticed that the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform made no adverse comment on Clause 5, but recommended that the first regulations be by affirmative resolution. We have made no decision on that. But speaking entirely for myself—always dangerous for a Minister to do from the Dispatch Box—it seems there may be real merit in making the first regulations by affirmative resolution. I would be anxious to come back to the House to confirm that is the view the Government have taken. Some of my comments earlier today might have predicated that decision which has not yet been taken. Noble Lords know I am not the policy Minister and of course it would be appropriate for us to discuss any change in the Government's current stance before I can confirm that to the House. I hope that is a helpful indication for me to have made.

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

As we are very flexible in this House and self-regulating whenever it is practical to do so, I welcome the statement the Minister has just made. We will consider carefully what she said and welcome any discussions that may follow on from that. When I introduced my amendment in a rather brusque manner, I anticipated that the Government might not wish me to go on to my next group of amendments, which will take some considerable time. Therefore I will now beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 37 and 38 not moved.]

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

I would like to thank the noble Baroness for her courtesy on this matter. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.

House adjourned at seven minutes before ten o'clock.

Wednesday, 16 November 2005.