moved Amendment No. 58:
Page 9, line 30, at end insert—
"( ) The Secretary of State must not make regulations containing (with or without other provision) any provision prescribing requirements for the purposes of subsection (2) unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House."
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 58A:
After Clause 10, insert the following new clause—
The Secretary of State or a designated documents authority may not by order under this Act, or any other enactment—
(a) require the recall or surrender of, or act to invalidate, a document issued by a Minister of the Crown or Northern Ireland department or any person authorised by them, which is lawfully held by an individual, if a purpose of the recall or invalidation is to—
(i) require the individual to apply for or to purchase a replacement document which the Secretary of State has ordered or intends to order to be a designated document under this Act; or
(ii) require the individual to apply to be entered in the Register; or
(iii) require the individual to apply to be issued with an identity card; or
(iv) enable the individual to be registered or to be issued with an identity card without his consent.
(b) charge any individual for the cost of the replacement of a document issued by a Minister of the Crown or Northern Ireland department or any person authorised by them, which is lawfully held by any individual, if he has encouraged or required the individual to surrender the document, or has invalidated the document, in order to—
(i) require the individual to apply for or to purchase a replacement document which the Secretary of State has ordered or intends to order to be a designated document under this Act; or
(ii) require the individual to apply to be entered in the Register; or
(iii) require the individual to apply to be issued with an identity card; or
(iv) enable the individual to be registered or to be issued with an identity card without his consent."
My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 62A and 62C. I have given notice that we will not move the following amendments, which would normally be debated before the target amendment, Amendment No. 64E, tonight: Amendments Nos. 59A to 59D, 62D, 64C and 64D. The matters that I wish to raise on those probing amendments may either properly be covered in other groups to be dealt with tonight, or I will able to consider whether they need to be brought to Third Reading. I hope that they will not.
The purpose of the amendments under consideration is to prevent the Secretary of State recalling documents used in our everyday life, simply so that he may then force us to go on to the national identity register and have an ID card. I have alluded to that on occasions, particularly today. The concern is that, if the Secretary of State has already designated a passport under Clause 4, perhaps I have only just applied for one, and it has almost 10 years to run. I would expect to possess it for a period of 10 years, when I can decide whether I wish to apply for registration, with a new passport, ID card and all that that entails. I will not try to rerun some of the arguments on what is voluntary and what is forced about that.
If the Secretary of the State forces me to surrender the passport before its time is up and to apply for another one—hey, presto—in the Government's initial period of so-called voluntary operation I will find myself forced to go on the register and to have an ID card whether I want one or not. That is the power given to the Secretary of State in what was the Government's unamended version of Clause 5.
Of course, if the Government at a later stage were to accept the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, my amendment would not be so important. The problem would not subsist, but as I mentioned earlier with my own amendment to remove Clause 6, I rather suspect that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, may come winging back to us. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, has more confidence in the foresight of the Government and feels that they will accept his amendment as they should—quite right too.
My amendment does only what the Minister assured me that the Government intended; I therefore think it is hardly controversial. As the Minister said on
"The Government do not intend to make an individual surrender a lawfully held document to obtain a replacement document that has been designated".—[Hansard, 12/12/05; cols. 1011-12.]
If that is the case, why not make it clear in the Bill that the Secretary of State will abide by that assurance? That would bind not only the current Government, but any future one as well. As I said, we know that in the Road Safety Bill the Government tried to give themselves just such a power of requiring surrender of driving licences. The House voted on
I move this amendment because I read carefully over the weekend the response that was given by the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, to my noble friend Lord Hanningfield on these very matters. The Minister failed to give an assurance that the power in the Road Safety Bill would not be used to recall driving licences so that they could be reissued as designated documents requiring a person to register on the national identity register and have an ID card. He went about his answer in a different way and did not therefore give the assurances that we required to allay our suspicions.
The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, merely repeated earlier assurances that the Government had no plans at the moment to designate driving licences and, if they were to do so, it would be prescribed by order under the affirmative procedure as in Clause 4 of the Bill. We know that, we can see that in the Bill. We sought a different kind of assurance. He simply did not address that. Has the Minister had any assurances from the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, about the recall of driving licences? Will the Government accept the view of the House that Clauses 29 and 30 of the Road Safety Bill should not form part of this Bill?
Overall, my concern remains that the Government should not be able to recall documents in order to force an early take-up of ID cards. I appreciate that the Minister may not have had a communication from the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham. That is why this is a probing amendment at this stage. It may well be that she can give an assurance tonight and surprise me, or she may wish to give that assurance at Third Reading. But assurance there has to be, preferably a belt and braces provision in the Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, I do not know whether I will be able to give all the assurances that the noble Baroness wishes, but I shall give her, I hope, a satisfactory explanation with which she will be content. I understand the reasons behind the amendment, but I hope that I can reassure the noble Baroness that there really is no concern and that therefore there is no need for the amendment.
Registering individuals as they replace a designated document will provide a predictable roll-out, which means that there will be a steady volume of applications for the issue of identity cards. That in turn will make planning easier. It will reduce the risk of problems caused by fluctuating or unpredictable volumes and reduce costs because the capacity that the identity card-issuing system will need at varying stages and the roll-out can be more carefully managed and will be much more even.
The noble Baroness will know of the volume of passports that are issued every year and that we will therefore be able to predict more precisely when the likely turnover will be. We do not know the scope of the power to recall driving licences precisely, and we will have to come back to the noble Baroness on that. I shall be happy to talk to my noble friend about the matters that she raised with her usual eloquence.
The recall of all existing documents would be a risky enterprise. Although volumes will be known, it will take place over a much shorter period, and volumes would be very much higher. That would increase the project risks and, indeed, the costs. It would be much harder to predict how much capacity would be needed at various stages. It would not be wise to build a system designed to issue a very large number of identity cards in a very short time, followed by a long period in which application numbers were small, and ending up 10 years later with another vast influx of applications as all the initial identity cardholders renewed their documents. It would be building into the system capacity issues that would be unhelpful.
I can therefore give the noble Baroness an assurance that the Government do not intend to require the recall of any category of document, be it passports or other documents, simply in order to introduce identity cards. When the Government consider that the time is right to proceed to compulsion, so that every United Kingdom resident has an ID card, then, as we have always made clear, we would proceed by way of a compulsion order under Clause 6, if that clause is in due course restored to the Bill, rather than by attempting to recall all remaining passports or other designated documents.
The noble Baroness was right to anticipate what might happen in due course. As we have discussed, we will roll out the issue of identity cards incrementally as people naturally apply for or renew the documents that it is intended to designate, such as the passport for British citizens and residence permits for foreign nationals.
Paragraph (b) of the new clause proposed in Amendment No. 58A would also have a negative impact on the scheme. It would prevent the encouragement of people to upgrade their existing document once it had been designated. Home Office research has shown that 26 per cent of people said that they would be prepared to renew their passport earlier in order to obtain a joint identity card and passport package. It would not make sense if a new agency established to issue identity cards could not encourage such people to take up that opportunity—for example, by offering a discount on the combined fee for a passport and identity card for existent passport holders who wished to renew early.
As I have just made clear, we have no intention of recalling existing documents to introduce identity cards. However, we would not want in any way to delay the benefits of the scheme by preventing the new agency encouraging people to update their documents so as to obtain a card. It has always been made clear that there could be no "big bang" introduction of identity cards. So, rather than speeding up their introduction by recalling existing documents, it will be necessary to spread it over a number of years. It would be wrong to be constrained as the new clause provides.
Amendments Nos. 62A and 62C to Clause 13, which covers invalidity and surrender of ID cards, would both affect the cancellation of a group of identity cards. Amendment No. 62A would prevent the Secretary of State cancelling a particular class of identity cards that he had decided should be re-issued and amended, while Amendment No. 62C would prevent the requiring of the surrender of an ID card in such a category. They could have a serious impact on the security of the identity card scheme.
If it were not possible to recall a group of identity cards, it might be necessary to require a particular category of identity cards to be surrendered and re-issued, if their security had somehow been compromised. That might affect just one batch of identity cards, something that we touched on earlier this evening. However, in such a case it would be essential for all the cards in that batch to be cancelled, recalled and reissued as quickly as possible, which would be necessary as much for the interests of the identity card holders as the overall integrity of the identity card scheme.
I hope that the noble Baroness understands why we think that the amendments are unnecessary and that the Bill is drawn appropriately. I therefore invite her to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister, particularly as she says that she will speak with her noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham about the interaction with the Road Safety Bill. I anticipated that she might argue that the Government wanted to have a predictable roll-out, so that they could predict numbers year by year. I can well understand that wish, if one is managing a vast scheme of this nature. On the other hand, if you are an individual on the receiving end of that, it looks haphazard, as one of my noble friends said earlier today. It seems that because you happen to have got your passport at a certain time, you come into the system at the stage when it runs out. However, I understand the Minister's argument.
I also found intriguing her answer that it could be helpful to offer a discount for early take-up. I will not mock that, for there the Minister is putting forward the idea of a real choice for individuals on whether they want to enter the scheme. In the Bill at present, that is the only time when they would have a real choice, while others would have been forced in the initial stage. So, I see a tiny gleam in the Government's dark suit of armour suggesting that the individual has some choice; it is just not far enough.
I entirely accept and understand what the noble Baroness says about the potential need to recall a category of cards if their security has been compromised. Earlier today, my noble friend Lord Marlesford recalled the occasion when he arranged for us both to go to the Passport Agency and, as I have said previously, they were most accommodating. They really tried to give us as much information as possible and impressed me with the public service that they provided. However, as my noble friend said, they were forthcoming with information that we were perhaps not comfortable with about attempts at forgery in the current Passport Agency system. So, that created some concern about the lack of security already in the system and how that might become more serious when the roll-out of ID cards comes.
However, I entirely accept the noble Baroness's argument on those points, and I shall return to the amendments only on the basis of an assurance via the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham. Otherwise, they shall not see the light of day again. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 59:
Page 9, line 40, leave out "for being" and insert "to be"
Amendments Nos. 59 and 72 are drafting amendments tabled to respond to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. They do not change the meaning or effect of the clauses, but they clarify certain issues highlighted by the noble Lord, with which we agree. I beg to move.
moved Amendments Nos. 60 to 61:
Page 11, line 15, after "at" insert "an agreed place and time or (in the absence of agreement) at"
Page 11, line 23, at end insert—
"( ) The power of the Secretary of State to make regulations containing (with or without other provision) any provision that he is authorised to make by this section is exercisable, on the first occasion on which regulations are made under this section, only if a draft of the regulations has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House."
On Question, amendments agreed to.
[Amendment No. 62 not moved.]
[Amendment No. 62A not moved.]
My Lords, this gets a little confusing. It is all very well to assist the House by withdrawing amendments, but it then gets confusing as to which ones are to be moved.
Clause 13 concerns the invalidity and surrender of ID cards. Subsection (3), which would be amended by the amendment, provides that if someone is in possession of an ID card that is not his own and for which he does not have the authority of either the individual who is the subject of the card or of the Secretary of State, he must surrender it to the Secretary of State. My amendment would remove the authority of the Secretary of State to give someone the right to have another person's ID card in his possession.
I understand that the Secretary of State will want to give permission to those who are manufacturing cards to have them in their possession. Or, if this is such a secure matter that the Government do not want to trust to the post the delivery of the card to the person, so that the person must go to an enrolment centre to pick it up, the person who is staffing an enrolment centre may well need physically to have his mitts on the card. However, who else do the Government intend to have permission to have the ID card in their possession and in what circumstances? I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining her amendment so clearly. Essentially, she inquires why the Secretary of State might authorise someone to have another person's card without their agreement. It would certainly not be normal practice for the Secretary of State to authorise anyone to have another person's ID card without their agreement, but there may well be some circumstances—the noble Baroness has imagined some—in which an ID card is held without the specific authority of the holder and where it would be inappropriate to require its surrender as soon as practicable. For example—this is an example in which I have been interested for a while—the card may be held by the police or another enforcement agency as part of a continuing inquiry. A widely known need for that power would be the case of football banning orders.
Clause 13 would allow the Secretary of State to order the surrender to him of an ID card. This could be held by the police or appropriate authorities with the permission of the Secretary of State but not necessarily with the permission of the individual concerned. Indeed, he may be very unhappy about it as it is likely to be withheld from him along with his passport where there is an obligation to surrender the passport. In those kinds of law enforcement cases we would expect someone to hold the document, not necessarily with the permission of the person to whom the card has been issued.
The Secretary of State might also authorise that the ID card of a person who has died be retained by the next of kin. There may be circumstances like that where, for practical reason, the card would be held by someone to whom it had not been directly issued.
moved Amendment No. 62E:
Page 13, line 29, leave out "modify subsections (2) and (3)" and insert "amend subsections (2) and (3) by—
(i) amending existing paragraphs; or
(ii) adding new paragraphs relating to information on the Register which the Secretary of State is satisfied that the individual regularly needs to prove"
My Lords, in moving the amendment, I speak also to Amendment No. 72E and government amendments in this group.
As I understand it—I am sure the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—Amendment No. 63 will amend subsection (6)(c) to clarify the wording referring to persons in this case as will be specified or determined by the regulations in that subsection and then limits the powers via the conditions imposed by paragraphs (a) and (b).
This change to Clause 14 is welcome in so far as it goes. However, realistically it does little. It means that there is a slight tightening up of the order-making powers in subsection (6) and the Secretary of State's ability to provide information to a person about an individual's recorded entry in subsection (1), but not much else.
Amendment No. 64 appears to be a drafting amendment. It removes the phrase "modifying subsection (2) or (3)" and inserts,
"that he is authorised to make by subsection (4)(a)".
Subsection (4)(a) states that the Secretary of State may,
"by order modify subsections (2) and (3)".
The Government are changing the wording but not the meaning; namely, that an order to modify subsections (2) and (3) needs to go through the affirmative procedure.
The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, has brought forward a number of amendments to meet the comments of the DPRR Committee on the Bill. However, they notably fail to address the concerns the DPRR Committee expressed about Clause 14 relating to this exact issue—something which my amendment seeks to address—namely, that the term "modify" in the Bill under the general interpretation in Clause 43 of the Bill, (page 37, line 23) includes the power to omit. The DPRR highlights that,
"the power appears to extend to omitting subsections (2) and (3) altogether, so leaving no limit on what may be provided with the individual's consent".
The report goes on to state:
"This seems wider than is appropriate in light of the Government's stated intentions".
Indeed, paragraphs 70 and 71 of the government memorandum to the committee state that,
"Subsections (2) and (3) limit the information which can be lawfully provided under this power", and that,
"this is limited to core identity information and excludes other administrative and historic data that may be held on the Register".
If subsections (2) and (3) can be omitted and replaced with anything else, this is indeed a far-reaching power which will enable the subsections to be altered beyond the boundaries the Government have indicated. Like the DPRR Committee,
"we are not persuaded that the case for so wide and significant a power has been made".
Given that, I hope the Minister will be able to accept our amendment. It aims to limit modifications to these subsections by allowing the Secretary of State to amend only existing paragraphs or to add new paragraphs relating to information on the register which he is satisfied that the individuals regularly need to prove.
Government Amendment No. 74 is linked to Clause 14 in that it adds a new subsection to Clause 23, which itself provides the,
"rules for providing information without an individual's consent".
As the Minister has explained, it prevents the Secretary of State providing information about an individual to another person under Clauses 19 to 22 unless it is,
"subject to the satisfaction in relation to that other person of conditions imposed by subsection (4)(a)"; namely, that,
"the person to whom it is provided has registered prescribed particulars about himself with the Secretary of State".
Again, I suggest that this is a welcome addition. However, I also take this opportunity to highlight the continued inclusion of Clause 22, which the DPRR Committee suggested should be removed; hence the inclusion of the amendment tabled in the name of my noble friend Lady Anelay in this group.
The simplest explanation for an amendment to leave out Clause 22 comes from the committee's report, which states:
"The power in Clause 22 is wider than that in Clause 19(5). It enables the Secretary of State, by order, subject to affirmative procedure, to prescribe any information in a register entry (apart from the audit trail information in paragraph 9 of Schedule 1), any public authority (as defined for the purposes of section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998) and any purposes, thereby making lawful the provision of information to that authority for those purposes without the individual's consent. This enables the Secretary of State to make information very freely available, including to non-government bodies that perform some public functions.
"In the light of public concerns about the wide dissemination of information to different state organisations, the power in clause 22 requires the fullest justification, and we consider it to be inappropriate unless it can be shown to be fully justified. Paragraph 104 of the memorandum states that, 'it is regarded as essential to have a reserve power to use in the public interest if it should be necessary'. This is an insufficient justification and we draw this issue to the attention of the House".
I hope that the noble Baroness, having had time to look at the report and come forward on some of the other points, can clarify beyond the arguments already given to the DPRR Committee, why the Government have not taken up the two recommendations addressed in our amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, I hope that I will be able to give the noble Baroness satisfaction on these points. On the narrowing of the clause to which she refers, it may be that something can be done. However, I am not able to accept her amendments for the reasons I shall set out.
It is important to remember that Clause 14 addresses information from the register being provided with the consent of the individual concerned. It is right that I should begin by clearing up a little confusion which arose towards the end of our last sitting in Committee. The technical government amendment I mentioned as part of a large group should indeed have been Amendment No. 64, not Amendment No. 66. The error was made in the groupings list rather than in my notes. I see that it has now been corrected. So it is government Amendment No. 66 that we are discussing here. I apologise to noble Lords for any confusion that may have been caused. Perhaps I should have been more confident that I was right and the list was wrong, but as noble Lords know I am quick to accept my own fallibility.
Amendment No. 62E seeks to provide that the Secretary of State could not add to the information provided by Schedule 1 unless he was satisfied that the additional information was information the individual would regularly need to prove. I recognise, as I think the noble Baroness has mentioned, that the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform was critical about the width of this power. Clearly it is both necessary and desirable to allow the scheme to adapt to different user requirements in the future, but we would not seek to expand the list of information that may be provided under Clause 14 unless there was a clear user need. In that sense, our policy is not at odds in any way with the terms of the noble Baroness's amendment. Also, we would not use the power to remove subsections (2) and (3) altogether, a possibility that caused concern in the committee, and indeed was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, this evening.
For various reasons, I cannot accept Amendment No. 62E, but I will undertake to return at Third Reading with an amendment that narrows the scope of the power in Clause 14(4)(a). I do not think the noble Baroness was suggesting that her amendment was the perfect construct; it simply gives us an opportunity to look at how we should do this. I agree with her that there is perhaps something we can do there.
The effect of Amendments Nos. 63, 66 and 74 is, as the noble Baroness has indicated, that the Secretary of State will in practice be obliged to set up a system of accreditation in relation to persons to whom information may be provided from the register. We have always intended that there should be an accreditation system and that regulations should be made, but as the committee pointed out in paragraph 46 of its report, Clauses 14, 17 and 23 do not by themselves secure that there must be such a system. These amendments remedy that.
Amendment No. 63 has the effect of obliging the Secretary of State to make regulations under Clause 14(6)(a) and (b) that make the provision of information with consent conditional on the recipient of that information being accredited. Amendment No. 66 has the effect of obliging the Secretary of State to make regulations under Clause 17(3)(a) and (b) that make the provision of information to public service providers conditional on those providers being accredited. Amendment No. 74 has the effect of obliging the Secretary of State to make regulations under Clause 23(4)(a) that make the provision of information without consent conditional upon the recipients of that information being accredited. The only recipients of information who will not have to be accredited are those specified on the face of the Bill in Clauses 19 to 22. The DPC did not require the removal of Clause 22; rather, it considered that insufficient justification had been put forward for this clause. We intend to come back to this at Third Reading with further justification.
Amendment No. 72A would remove Clause 22 from the Bill. This clause contains a power under which an order may be made specifying persons to whom information may be provided from the register in situations not covered by Clauses 19 to 21. The power only applies to information not falling within paragraph 9 of Schedule 1; the audit trail information is not covered. The power applies only in relation to public authorities as defined by the Human Rights Act, and only with regard to the provision of information that is necessary in the public interest as defined in Clause 1 of the Bill, which sets out the statutory purposes. Again, the power is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. Examples of how this clause might be used include authorising information to be provided without consent for use by registrars-general of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; to receive information to be used for statistical purposes; or to local authorities for council tax or housing benefit administration. Neither would be covered by the definition of "government department" in Clause 19(5).
In addition, Clause 22 would permit the Secretary of State to provide information to bodies such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission. In the future it may be necessary to provide this organisation with information about someone's identity to assist it in an investigation that it is conducting. Without Clause 22 we would have no power to provide it with information from the register as it would not fall under the definition of a "government department". We believe it is right therefore that we ensure Parliament has the opportunity to consider further uses when there are convincing reasons for doing so, and that we do not limit the effectiveness of the scheme by requiring any public authority which has a convincing reason for requesting information from the database to wait until there is appropriate primary legislation. We are confident that we have provided adequate safeguards by restricting the circumstances in which information can be provided to those where provision is to a public authority and is in the public interest.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. Have the Government any present plans for sharing information with public authorities and, if so, which?
My Lords, I do not believe that we have any such plans over and above those we have already discussed. The noble Lord will remember that we discussed the public authorities and the way in which the measure will work both in Committee and earlier. But over and above that we do not have any new plans. However, if there are further and other instances, I will write to noble Lords about them. As I say, there is nothing new over and above that which we have already discussed. I believe that we discussed it fairly extensively in Committee. I cannot think of anything new; that is what I am saying in essence.
My Lords, given the importance of the matter it would be helpful if a list of those who are currently contemplated could be given to us.
My Lords, I am certainly very happy to write to the noble Lord setting out what we think would be encompassed in the measure and to indicate whether there are any further or other instances when we think that it might be appropriate. I cannot think of any at the moment but I am very happy to do that.
As I say, any orders laid under Clause 22 will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. I remind noble Lords that we would therefore be able to have a debate on whether things had or had not been appropriately included at that stage. That is the assurance that proper discussion could still be undertaken in that regard. We therefore invite the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, to withdraw Amendments Nos. 62E and 72A, to which she has spoken. We hope that noble Lords will accept government Amendments Nos. 63, 66 and 74. As I indicated, I shall return to the other matter at Third Reading.
moved Amendments Nos. 63 and 64:
Page 13, line 47, leave out "by the prescribed person in the prescribed manner." and insert "in the prescribed manner by the person specified in or determined under the regulations.
( ) The power of the Secretary of State under this section to provide information about an individual to another person is exercisable only where the provision of the information is subject to the satisfaction in relation to that other person of conditions imposed under subsection (6)(a) and (b)."
Page 14, line 2, leave out "modifying subsection (2) or (3)" and insert "that he is authorised to make by subsection (4)(a)"
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 15 [Power to make public services conditional on identity checks]:
My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 64A I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 64B. This returns to an issue that I raised briefly in Committee—that of access to health services and whether one has to use an ID card to obtain such access.
Clause 15 gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations which may allow or require a public service to force us to use our ID cards or other evidence of identity. The purpose of my amendments is to ensure that public services can indeed ask for proof of identity; what they cannot do is ask a person to use only their ID card as that proof of identity. This would ensure that a person could retain their privacy in seeking medical help since they would not have to allow their visit to be recorded on the audit trail of a national identity register.
In Committee I raised the issue of access to health services where fees may be required. My question is: in advance of compulsion why should the Bill allow for the possibility of regulations requiring the production of an ID card for access to health services where there is a fee? Two-thirds of people pay for their prescriptions. Why should there be the power to require them to produce an ID card in that so-called voluntary period? I am trying to ensure that the person has the option of providing other forms of identity. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining her amendment so clearly. As the Bill stands, public service providers could require an individual who requested a service to produce an ID card, evidence of registrable facts, or both. If these amendments are accepted, public service providers could request only evidence of registrable facts. An ID card is, of course, evidence of registrable facts, but the amendment would arguably remove the power for an ID card to be specified as the form of identification to be used. Rather, people would be able to produce any form of identification, however insecure, which contained evidence of registrable facts.
I would like to outline the importance of making public services conditional upon secure identity checks. The identity cards scheme will immediately provide a more convenient way for people to show their identity when accessing public or private sector services. However, until it becomes compulsory for the individual concerned to register, the ID card could not be the only way of proving identity for the purposes of receiving private services, benefits or free public services. Clause 18 sets out this prohibition on mandating use of the card before any move to compulsion. Nevertheless, the identity card will offer the individual a more secure proof of identity than what is on offer today.
Amendments Nos. 64A and 64B seek to ensure that public service providers can only require an individual to provide evidence of registrable facts rather than specifying an ID card as a means of identification. In practice, the ID card makes the process of verification against the national identity register much easier and much quicker for the individual. Without it, while a biometric verification could take place against a register it may potentially require a more complex, "one to many" record check, rather than a more efficient "one to one" check, against the individual's specific record. The alternative would be to rely on other, less secure, and often less convenient, documentation, such as utility bills, which were never really intended to provide proof of anything, other than how much gas or electricity has been used.
I do not think it appropriate for the Bill to specify in which way public service providers must verify their customers. Subject to initial accreditation procedures, such decisions should be suited to the particular nature of the service provided and the existing relationship between the individual and the service provider. For some low-value transactions, or for individuals who have regular interaction with the service provider, a check on validity of the card—that is to say, it has not been reported lost or stolen—may simply be acceptable. Additionally, some organisations may decide to verify the individual by asking them to use the PIN. The choice should be one that is suited to the particular situation, not restricted in the manner in which these amendments would seek to do.
Additionally, in the future, some methods of remote authentication, such as to request a service over the Internet, may require the individual requesting the service to physically have their ID card in their possession. These amendments would remove the ability of the service provider to insist that an ID card was present during such a transaction. Such a situation may mean that new secure technologies for remote authentication could not be used.
Any regulations made under Clause 15 are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure and would have to be individually approved for each public service that wished to rely on identity checks. Parliament will, therefore, have the opportunity to debate and vote on the regulations tabled for each public service. I hope that provides the noble Baroness with sufficient reassurance and that she will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, for his courteous response. He has not actually given me reassurance overall, but he has given me enough reassurance to withdraw the amendment. I think it has proved to me two things. The first is the importance of tackling this issue from another angle—that is, looking at the audit trail. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, tabled an amendment on our first day in Committee with regard to the paragraph 9 of the schedule. I want to look at that again as an important way of tackling this. Secondly, the Minister was far too courteous to point out that my amendment did not achieve what I was trying to achieve anyway. He gave me the answer that I needed, even if I did not like it and even though I had tabled the wrong amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 64E:
Page 15, line 32, at end insert—
"( ) Any consultation required under this section must include consultation with—
(a) representatives of ethnic minorities;
(b) representatives of disabled people;
(c) representatives of pensioners;
(d) representatives of students and young people; and
(e) users of the service concerned."
My Lords, the end is in sight, at least today. Clause 16 sets out the procedure for making regulations under the gate-keeping system in Clause 15. The Explanatory Notes tell us that:
"Subsection (6) requires there to be consultation with interested parties, for example the providers of a public service, before any regulations are made . . . if there is an equivalent requirement in other legislation governing that service to consult these interested parties".
It therefore seems that the Government are in practice considering only a need to consult the service providers. My question is really about the users of the service and others who have an interest in its provision. Should they not also be consulted?
My amendment therefore adds a requirement that consultation should encompass representatives for disabled people, ethnic minorities, pensioners and young persons. As ever, it is not meant to be an either inclusive or exclusive list that I want to see in the Bill; it is simply a stab at defining some of those who might be consulted. As soon as I read it again this evening, I realised that I had made the same mistake as on a previous Bill and had left out the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender group, for which I apologise. I am sure that it would have reminded me after this had appeared in Hansard even if I had not noticed tonight. The amendment simply asks the Government to explain what consultation there will be, how it will happen, and why it should not be extended to the users—the people whom the Government say will benefit from the service. What benefit? My goodness me. I beg to move.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness about the breadth and depth of consultation and the need to be inclusive. I am sure that no one who knows her assiduousness would possibly think that she had forgotten the gay, lesbian or transgender group for very long.
The provision is expressed as it is in Clause 16(6) for a straightforward reason—that there is no need to specify in the Bill the different groups of people that will need to be consulted. There is no doubt that we would wish to include representatives from all these groups, as well as others not mentioned, if the regulations tabled under Clause 15 would affect them. There is an obligation in Clause 16(4) to consult members of the public likely to be affected.
We have put Clause 16(6) in this way because there may be occasions when regulations relate to a specified group. For example, if we were to say that special provisions were to apply to people aged 25 and under, we would not need to consult those of 65. If we were to say that other provisions related to people over 75 or 95, one could see that we would need to consult that specific group but might be able to exclude others. That is the only reason why the provision is there. We want proper consultation with the members of the public likely to be affected, pursuant to Clause 16(4). I know that the noble Baroness is anxious for us never to waste time and to be absolutely practical, so I am sure that the reasons why the amendment is not necessary will be only too plain to her.
My Lords, I am grateful that the Government will carefully consider consultation. I appreciate that subsection (4) referred generally to members of the public, but it was important to look at the classes of the public. The noble Baroness is right; it is not a case of looking at a description of a class of persons with regard to their continuing condition—something to which they may always subscribe. They may become disabled during their life, or may be disabled from when they are born, but there are times when it would be right for the Government to consult specific groups defined in a transient way. I am grateful to her for her answer, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.