Identity Cards Bill

– in the House of Lords at 3:06 pm on 6th February 2006.

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Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms (HM Household) (Chief Whip, House of Lords) 3:06 pm, 6th February 2006

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Identity Cards Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Bill read a third time.

Clause 1 [The National Identity Register]:

Photo of Lord Ackner Lord Ackner Crossbench

moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 31, at beginning insert "if the individual so chooses,"

Photo of Lord Ackner Lord Ackner Crossbench

My Lords, I do not claim paternity of this short, simple and important amendment; I concede that honour to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton. The limited function to which I am entitled to limited credit is to draw your Lordships' attention to the extent to which he is neglecting his own offspring and to invite your Lordships to give statutory protection to the infant.

The amendment arises quite simply in this way. Clause 1(7)—to be found about two-thirds of the way down page two of the present draft—provides:

"In this section references to an individual's identity are references to—

(a) his full name;

(b) other names by which he is or has previously been known".

Nothing could be clearer than the fact that (b) is additional to (a)—two statutory obligations,

"his full name [and] other names by which he is or has previously been known".

The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, appreciating that this was the situation, raised the matter on the third day of Committee on Wednesday 23 November last year by tabling an amendment which proposed that the word "legally" be inserted into paragraph (b).

That was followed by a lengthy discussion, lasting close to 30 minutes, in which 14 of your Lordships took part. Questions were raised as to what "legal" meant and how one could define it having regard to the fact that there was no formal obligation to adopt any particular procedure when one changed one's name; deed poll may be a good way but usage and repute is equally effective. Then there followed questions about nicknames. I raised a question as to the obligation in that situation. I illustrated my views by a reference to the late Lord Justice Purchas, known universally as Bob Purchas, yet his Christian name was Francis—Francis Purchas.

I could have added another colleague of mine, Buster Milmo, who was known consistently by that name. I bear in mind that I had a similar nickname, which I decided was not wholly consistent with the pomp and splendour of the Bar, and after all repressed it. The result was that when Sir Norman Skelhorn, the previous DPP, sent a telegram congratulating "Buster", he meant it to refer to Buster Milmo and not to me, but those who knew me by that nickname were confused.

So the discussion was wide ranging. I said that I had still not understood the position, and referred to Lord Justice Purchas. Then, all of a sudden, with his well recognised perspicacity, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said:

"I shall try to pin it down. In those circumstances the person should register as Francis, but"—

I emphasise this point—

"he could also provide the name Bob to the national identity register".

That was the first suggestion that there was a choice available to the individual in regard to what he put under (b). There is no reflection of that in the subsection. Further on, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked,

"Am I right in understanding that one has to put down the name of one's choice, that other names are entirely voluntary and there is no compulsion to put down all the names that one is known by?".

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, replied,

"I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, because I think he understands the situation well".—[Hansard, 23/11/05; col. 1638.]

That puzzled the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, who in her reply said:

"I am grateful to all noble Lords—about 13, I think—who have taken part in a debate on an amendment which I had intended to lead to some clarity. I think it has just opened another can of worms. I certainly do not intend to examine that can of worms any more today. I shall consider what we are to do before Report stage. I was grateful to the Minister for his response at the end to my noble friend Lord Lucas. I understood him to be saying something that he had not quite said earlier: that we may elect what names we put down and will not then be penalised for leaving out names. If that is the case, then it sounds a very common-sense way forward . . . There has been some confusion. I hope that the Minister's closing remarks to my noble friend Lord Lucas"— the same comments that I have read out—

"will mean greater clarity. If we find that the Government think again on that point, obviously we may have to return to it".—[Hansard, 23/11/05; col. 1639.]

The amendment was by leave withdrawn.

I attended the Report stage. I had assumed that paragraph (b) would be modified in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, suggested, and I had therefore not paid the anticipatory attention that perhaps I should have done. When I came to look at the amendments on Report, there were none. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, had done nothing to further the increased vitality of his offspring, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, had therefore nothing new to contemplate. Having observed that, it occurred to me that the position was really most untidy. We have an obligation under paragraph (b), which I read out, that is entirely unqualified, and yet we appear to have reached unanimity among the 13 or 14 of us who spoke that it should be "at the choice of", hence the words that I have used. The drafting that I have followed is consistent with the same wording that is found in subsections (5) and (6).

In these circumstances, I hope that your Lordships will be easily persuaded now to provide the certainty that we all long for. Accordingly, I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 3:15 pm, 6th February 2006

My Lords, I listened with great interest to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, bringing back the amendment in an improved form. As he said, he is trying to reflect fairly the response given by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, to an amendment of mine which I had, of course, intended in all seriousness in Committee, but for some reason the House seemed to find a little frivolous at the time. The reason why I did not bring it back on Report—because as the House will know I like to help the Government on each and every occasion—was that I realised that the Government were in a complete mess on this and that on this occasion the mess was so comprehensive that I could not find a way out of it for them.

In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said that the Government needed some flexibility in the format of paragraph (b), and therefore they needed to be able to compel us to register a range of names; not just our principal name but others by which we are now, or have been previously, known.

I am about to say two things, one of which I think will bring comfort to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, and the other of which I think he will wish that I had not said. I shall say the nice thing first.

When the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, referred to flexibility, he went on to say:

"The register has been designed . . . to accommodate the fact that a number of people use more than one name".—[Hansard, 23/11/05; col. 1636.]

He then said that the Government needed this flexibility to cope with identity fraud and the problems that that causes. I hope that the Minister will bring a more effective argument than that to the House on this occasion. When the Government published their figures about identity fraud on 2 February and made extravagant claims about its extent and the importance of this Bill in tackling it, they then found that their claims were blown apart by the very body which provided those statistics; that is, APACS, the Association for Payment Clearing Services. It said that the cost of identity fraud that the Government had put forward had been grossly overestimated and that its own figures had been misrepresented. Ministers included in their total the cost of money laundering, but the Home Office admits that only "illustrative figures" were involved and that,

"no figures are currently available on the proportion of money laundering that relies on identity fraud".

Furthermore, the Government claim that APACS put the cost of ID fraud linked to plastic cards at £504 million, but a spokeswoman for APACS then said that the real figure was less than £37 million. She said:

"The £504 million is the total losses for plastic cards. It is not just identity fraud on cards. Within that overall figure, there will be some cards stolen in the post, some skimmed or cloned, some lost or stolen".

When asked why she thought that the Home Office had used the larger sum, she said:

"I just think they think it's a good story to scare people with".

In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, cited identity fraud as the driving argument for subsection (b). I hope that he will be able to bring a more sturdy argument for the necessity of the subsection to the House.

I now come to the part of my remarks which will not please the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. I reflected on the can of worms that we had opened in Committee. The argument that persuaded me that however bad subsection (b) was I could not yet find a satisfactory way out of it is as follows: if the House were to accept the noble and learned Lord's amendment, its drafting would mean that we would have the option to register any name other than our current principal name. The noble and learned Lord gave admirable reasons why we should have that option.

My concern centres around the problem of how we then ensure that the multiple identities of those who have been, and are, serious criminals or terrorists—either living within this country, or outwith it before coming to live here—are registered on the national identity register. If there is any argument for its use, it should be that of national security. That is an argument that we pursued throughout Committee and Report. We still say that much better and more effective ways of ensuring national security exist than by using this intrusive, bureaucratic identity register.

However, if the Government were to accept the noble and learned Lord's amendment, there could be difficulties in obtaining the very information about terrorists which we would all wish to have readily available to the police and to immigration officials when they check that register. The Minister may of course surprise us all and accept the noble and learned Lord's amendment, but if he is not going to do so, I hope that he will make a more robust response than he did in Committee and also recognise that the Government, by the very drafting of this Bill, have done exactly what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, said and left the position as an unknown. Members of the public will not find that a very convenient way of registering their names when they read Clause 7(1)(b).

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

My Lords, when the Minister replies for the Government will he say something about subsection (7)(d), which uses the words "the date of his death", which reminds me of Gogol's famous novel, Dead Souls. I can see that the living may sometimes want to impersonate the dead, but does there not come a time when the dead should be decently interred? How long will the names of the dead be kept on the national register?

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

My Lords, I am more sympathetic to the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, than that of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. The noble and learned Lord, having led us this far up the garden path regarding his former nickname, should tell us why he was given it.

No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, will tell us in reply to the amendment that, surely, the requirement to provide a full name, which is unaffected by the amendment, must mean the current full name. My other point is that it will make little difference whether or not the amendment is allowed. I would be grateful if the noble Lord would help the House, because the Bill is always springing little surprises on us, even at Third Reading.

As I understand it, Schedule 1 has a paragraph entitled "Validation information", which clearly states:

"The following may be recorded in the entry in the Register for an individual", and begins,

"the information provided in connection with every application," for an ID card. That relates to all the background information. Paragraph 7(c ) states:

"particulars of the steps taken, in connection with an application . . . for identifying the applicant or for verifying the information provided".

I anticipate that the procedure in connection with applications for ID cards and their consideration by the Passport Office will centre heavily around identification and, in particular, around the name. Thus, with or without the amendment, it seems to me that you will have logged on your file in the national register all the stuff about previous names—I will not say nicknames.

It would be helpful for us to know the rights and wrongs of that.

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

My Lords, given our debates in Committee I rather thought that I might have been to blame for the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. I hope that I can rise reasonably effectively to the tease in his amendment and I thank him for moving it again so that we could debate this issue, as we did with some amusement at an earlier stage. I should also address some of the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, regarding the latest published figures on identity fraud.

I accept that there has been some dispute in the press over those figures, but for our part, we feel that the figure of £1.7 billion has in the main been agreed with all the key stakeholders. We have never claimed that the introduction of identity cards would impact on all of that fraud but it would certainly make a substantial difference. I suspect that the noble Baroness appreciates that that is the case. I do not know whether she occasionally watches commercials as intently as I do—I am obliged to by my children—but I recall that a major credit card, Capital One, I think, is drawing people's attention to its own variant of credit card rating by claiming to be more secure from fraud and identity fraud than other credit cards. That is entirely a matter for those involved, but clearly there is an issue which we cannot dismiss. Yes, it is part of the Government's case that having a secure system of identity will ensure that the chances of people being able to secure and steal one's identity for a fraudulent purpose are much reduced. That is important, certainly for consumers, who have to pay the cost of identity fraud through their credit card bills.

As noble Lords are by now no doubt aware, Clause 1 sets out the statutory purposes, an important component of which are the registrable facts—that is, the key pieces of information through which people's identity will be established. Clause 1(7)(b) includes within the registrable facts other names by which a person is or has previously been known. That is set out in the Bill.

This amendment, as moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, would qualify that paragraph with the words,

"if the individual so chooses", and would introduce the element of choice in the way in which he described. The effect of the amendment would be twofold. First, it would impact on the Secretary of State's regulation-making power in Clause 5(3), under which the information that must accompany an application to be registered will be prescribed. That power is limited by Clause 5(6), the effect of which is that the regulations may not require information from a person unless that information is required for the statutory purposes. Amendment No. 1 would write into the statutory purposes the proposition that it is entirely a matter for the individual concerned whether or not previous or other names are recorded. Regulations which nevertheless required such information would therefore be of dubious legality.

The second effect that the amendment would have is that, where a person changed his name and updated his entry on the register, his previous name could, arguably, not be held unless he consented to it being so held. That is because, as a consequence of Clause 3(1), information may continue to be held on the register only if it is consistent with the statutory purposes to do so.

We take the view that the power to determine if and when previous or other names should be held on the register should not rest solely with the individual concerned, as suggested in the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. In fact, as regards previous names in particular, we consider that for the prevention and detection of fraud it is imperative that that discretion does not remain with individuals.

On enrolment, it will be necessary to ask whether an individual has had a previous name so that verification of all the information provided by him can be carried out effectively. This is nothing new and is a common request on many application forms, such as the passport application. To do otherwise would leave a loophole to assist those wishing to create a false identity.

The recording of previous names is also important to tackle situations where fraudsters change their name and address in rapid succession in order to create a new identity or fraudulently use that of another person. Currently, such crimes can be difficult to prevent, as there is no reliable source that can link a previous and current name to the same individual. Very often, a proof of change of name does not even exist. By recording previous names, the identity card scheme can help to tackle this problem far more effectively than can current methods such as a presentation of a deed poll, where there is absolutely no assurance that you are in fact the person on the deed poll.

A different rationale underlies the recording of second names. As our letter to Peers during Committee stage clarified, this is intended primarily to be for the convenience of the individual who may need to be verified in a different name, such as a stage name or their maiden name. To that extent, it will indeed be a matter for the individual concerned whether or not he registers a second—or, indeed, third—name as his current name.

However, there will be certain circumstances in which the Secretary of State will require details of a second, current name to be held on the register. For example, in the small number of cases in which those members of the transgender community living dual gender lives will have two cards, both names will have to be recorded on the register.

As noble Lords are aware, people are free to call themselves whatever they like. A change of name does not need to be effected by deed poll. Our policy on names in relation to the register in no way changes that position. We will require people to register their primary name, that is to say the name by which a person is known for all purposes. We will provide guidance to ensure that a person is satisfied that the right name is on record, in line with the current practice of the UK Passport Service. Attendance at an enrolment centre will also ensure that any questions can be clarified by a member of staff before enrolment is complete.

I hope I have been able to explain clearly to the House why we consider that the discretion to determine if and when a previous or an alternative name should be held on the register should not, as the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, would suggest, rest entirely with the individual concerned.

I have referred to the regulation-making power in Clause 5(3) to prescribe the information which must accompany an application to be registered. It is those regulations that will contain the details of exactly when previous names and alternative names will be required from applicants. I should remind noble Lords that on the first occasion on which regulations are made under that power the parliamentary procedure will be the affirmative resolution procedure. Thus the matter will come before your Lordships' House at a later date.

Other questions were raised during the debate and I shall try to respond to them as best as I can. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, asked about previous names being included in the validation information. I agree with him that it is likely that previous names would be investigated and recorded as validation information under paragraph 7 of Scheduled 1. I am in agreement with the noble Lord on that point. However, that would be a rather indirect route. We believe that previous names are highly relevant to establishing a person's true identity and in combating fraud. Therefore, we take the view that it is right that they should be included as registrable facts in themselves.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked how long a deceased person's names will be kept. In essence, the answer is as long as necessary for the statutory purposes of the scheme. Clearly, we need to be able to guard against what is sometimes known as the Day of the Jackal-type fraud. I recall that at an earlier stage of the Bill we had some discussion on that. Fraudsters seek to use the identities of people who have died. The answer is for as long as necessary. At this stage I cannot say exactly how long that will be. We shall have to give continued thought to that point.

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, for bringing forward this discussion today. I hope that I have clarified any confusion that may have arisen. I had hoped that the letter that we sent after Committee stage had done that. I hope that having heard that explanation the noble and learned Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of The Countess of Mar The Countess of Mar Crossbench 3:30 pm, 6th February 2006

My Lords, is the Minister really telling the House that the Government believe that fraudsters will tell the identity card officer all their previous names when they apply for cards?

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

My Lords, I would not speculate on that. Clearly establishing the other names that someone is known by would assist us in combating fraud, but it is very important that the details of previous names are on the national identity register so that we have as complete a record as possible.

Photo of Lord Ackner Lord Ackner Crossbench

My Lords, until the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, intervened, I thought he was a friend of mine. If he were really interested in how I obtained my sobriquet, he would have asked me that in private. I never have any secrets from the House. There is a certain sweetness about this which I hope he would naturally associate with me. On my fourth birthday, I was presented with a chocolate cake by my parents. I embraced it, and the conclusion was that the dear child would rather bust than waste his sweetmeats—hence the word "buster". Now that he knows all, I hope he will find it relevant to this construction exercise that we are all going through.

With regard to the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, I draw her attention to Clause 5, which is on page 5 of the Bill, headed:

"Applications relating to entries in Register".

Clause 5(2) states:

"Where an application to be issued with a designated document is made by an individual, the application may, if the individual so chooses, do one of the following . . . include an application by that individual to be entered in the Register . . . state that the individual is already entered in the Register and confirm the contents of his entry . . . state that the individual is entered in the Register and confirm the contents of his entry subject to the changes notified in the application".

Clearly, discretion is given to the applicant. Clause 6(7) provides:

"An individual who is not already the holder of an ID card may, if the individual so chooses, in the prescribed manner, include an application to be issued with such a card in every application made by him to be issued with a designated document".

Once again, discretion is given to the individual.

I find the submissions of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, unconvincing. There is an absolute obligation; no exceptions or any form of limitation on the clause are provided. Accordingly, some modification is required. That is why the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, sought to include her qualification of legality, which did not find favour. The need for modification was made perfectly clear by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, who, having gone through the various problems raised in Committee, made it clear that there was a discretion. But there was not. The words are absolute, and accordingly, they needed modification. It was conceded in Committee that this is an important point. In those circumstances, I want to test the opinion of the House.

Photo of Lord Brabazon of Tara Lord Brabazon of Tara Chairman of Committees, House of Lords 3:43 pm, 6th February 2006

The Question is that Amendment No. 1 shall be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content". To the contrary "Not-Content". I think the Not-Contents have it. Clear the Bar.

Division called

Tellers for the Contents have not been appointed pursuant to Standing Order 54. A Division therefore cannot take place, and I declare that the "Not-Contents" have it.

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

My Lords, Amendment No. 2 amends the list of registrable facts so that instead of Clause 1(7)(e) referring to "physical" characteristics that are capable of being used for identifying an individual, it refers to "external" characteristics that are capable of being used for identifying an individual.

I should say at the outset that this amendment is not intended to give effect to any change of policy. However, it fulfils the Government's commitment on Report to review this matter in response to concerns understandably expressed by a number of noble Lords. In particular, the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, was concerned that the reference to "physical" characteristics could encompass internal characteristics. As I said at the time, the wording of paragraph (e) has to be considered as a whole, and it is not at all obvious that internal characteristics would be a useful, or indeed a viable, means of identifying people.

However, we accept the noble Lord's point that for the sake of clarity this matter should be put beyond doubt in the Bill. I have therefore brought forward government Amendment No. 2, which changes the word "physical" to "external". By implication "internal" characteristics are not a registrable fact. They could not therefore be recorded on the register other than in the limited circumstances provided for in Clause 3(3); that is to say where a person has requested that additional information—for example, his blood group—be held on his record.

There is a further benefit in bringing forward Amendment No. 2. It would bring the wording in Clause 1(7)(e) into line with the definition of biometric information in Clause 43(1), which also uses the phrase "external characteristics". It will therefore be beyond doubt that the reference in Clause 1(7)(e) to external characteristics encompasses biometrics.

Finally, Amendment No. 2 would have the consequence that DNA could be added to Schedule 1 only by way of primary legislation, not by way of order subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. The reason for this is that DNA is not an external characteristic, so is not a registrable fact. Holding it on the register would not be consistent with statutory purposes. As has been said many times before in this House and in another place, it is not and has never been our policy that DNA should be stored on the register. This Bill in no way caters for a DNA register. For example, while there are powers to require fingerprints to be taken, there are no powers to require DNA samples. A future government who wished to add DNA to the information which may be held on the register would have to bring forward further primary legislation. Amendment No. 2 has the consequence of putting that issue beyond a shadow of a doubt. I beg to move.

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

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister and the Government for this amendment, for all the reasons the Minister has just given us. This really is an important amendment because the issue of the potential of DNA samples being part of one's entry on the register is one that exercises many people. It is therefore entirely welcome that this amendment is brought forward, and I support it.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, I give my full support to this. It is important that this further clarification is given. I know that in another place the Government tried to give assurances, but this was the final step they needed to take. I welcome it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 3 [Information recorded in Register]:

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

moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 3, line 47, at end insert—

"( ) An individual's entry in the Register must include any information falling within paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 that relates to an occasion on which information contained in his entry has been provided to a person without the individual's consent.".

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

My Lords, Amendment No. 3 has been tabled again in response to that of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips—I think it was Amendment No. 33—which he moved but then kindly withdrew on the first day of Report on 16 January. That amendment would have first given individuals the option of whether an audit log should be kept for those occasions when an identity card is checked with the individual's consent under Clause 14—which is now Clause 12, following the various government setbacks or whatever you want to call them.

For the reasons that my noble friend Lady Scotland gave earlier (at cols. 532–538 of the Official Report for 16 January 2006) it would be wrong to allow for the possibility of individuals deciding for themselves whether some checks against the register should be logged. If that happened, there would be no record to use in cases of complaint, and it would mean that a fraudster trying to use someone else's card could insist that there was no record kept of the transaction.

At the same time, we have thought again about the second part of the noble Lord's earlier Amendment No. 33, which would make it a requirement to hold details of whenever any information is provided from an individual's entry on the national identity register without consent. That is what we intended to do. Amendment No. 3 will ensure that each occasion on which information is provided from the register without consent must be recorded in the audit log, in Schedule 1(9).

I hope that, having heard that, the noble Lord will feel reassured. I beg to move.

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

My Lords, I have sensations of modified rapture. It is good to have half of one's amendment accepted, and I am genuinely grateful for that. I put on record the fact that the first part of that amendment was important. One of the problems with this Bill, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, in particular will agree, is that it is so complicated and intertwined that it has taken some issues a long time to find expression. Had that come to my mind at an earlier stage, we would then have voted on the first part of the amendment. However, there is no point in doing more than mentioning that.

The Bill has received conscientious consideration in this House, but several aspects of it, of which this is one, are still deeply unsatisfactory. It is not a protection against fraud to stop any citizen from having the choice on whether utilisation of their card for verification is logged. If a citizen is most motivated by a desire to prevent fraud, he or she will consent to having all the verification uses of his or her ID card logged on the national register. If the citizen is more concerned about privacy—and many are—he or she will choose not to have that logged.

Having said that, I am grateful for what the Minister said.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, echoing the words of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, I welcome the half of the loaf that has been offered by the Government, but stress that the half they have not granted we think is important. Concerns about how the audit trail may be accessed and used were core to many noble Lords' speeches—certainly to mine—on Second Reading and thereafter. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, is right to say that despite the careful attention given by the House during six days in Committee, only on Report were we advised about a particular way to amend Schedule 1 that might meet our concerns about the audit trail.

It is a measure of the great assistance that we receive from those who advise us outwith this House that we managed to turn that amendment round within an hour of the closing time for tabling amendments that day. We wanted to ensure that we kept within the rules for tabling amendments and not having manuscript amendments, but that meant, ultimately, we were to fall foul of some of the changes in procedure for Third Reading amendments that we now face.

I notice that the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, is looking concerned. It would have been difficult for us to table an amendment today within the correct rules that would have been robust enough for us to have argued the case, divided and met within the amendment or the concerns expressed by the Government on Report—especially those that have now been expressed in a letter that we only received during the past 24 hours. I do not complain about that, because the Home Office team has done its absolute utmost throughout to ensure that we received replies as soon as possible. However, we are all now more aware of how speedy we need to be in our responses—we will make that clear to those who brief us—and how wary we must be in what we bring to Third Reading. I am therefore grateful to the Government for tabling the amendment, because it means that they are able to fulfil their commitment on Third Reading. We shall watch what happens to the audit trail if and when the Bill is implemented in this exact form.

Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative

My Lords, I am trying to understand the amendment and I wonder how it deals with paragraph 9(c) of Schedule 1, which states:

"other particulars, in relation to each such occasion, of the provision of information".

It strikes me as a little strange to have a compulsory obligation to give other particulars that are unspecified, but the Minister may have the answer.

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

My Lords, I am not sure that I have the answer to the noble and learned Lord's point, which sounds a good one. I hope that I can satisfy him by dropping him a note.

I gratefully thank both the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. His "modified rapture" is a term that will now enter my language, because it is a very good one to describe a look of mild contentment on my children's faces across the dinner table. I take the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, in response to our amendment. We have made progress, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is certainly right that the Bill has received very considered attention in your Lordships' House. For those reasons, the form has been improved. We were grateful for the way in which earlier amendments were tabled, because it has helped us to find a point that satisfies several, if not absolutely every one, of your Lordships who were concerned about the use and the value of the audit log, which we see in essence as a safeguard.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 4:00 pm, 6th February 2006

moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 4, line 37, leave out from "are" to end of line 46 and insert "passports and residence permits"

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, I have explained in advance of today to the government Bill team that the amendment has been tabled primarily to give the Government the opportunity to clarify their intentions about which documents shall be designated under Clause 4.

If a document is designated, it means that any application for such a document kicks off the process of application for entry by the individual on the national identity register and the obtaining by them of an identity card. I have probed the Government's intentions behind this. I have been told that their current intention is to designate passports, and that they may designate driving licences in future.

My initial objection to the whole process of designation was based on the Government's plans in the original Bill as it reached this House to force us all to register and to have an ID card from the word go, as soon as any document was designated and we applied for it. My objections to the process of designation will evaporate into thin air if the Government do not seek to overturn the decision of this House on 23 January, when the House agreed Amendment No. 38 at col. 976. That amendment makes it clear that when an individual applies for a designated document, they can choose to go on the register and have an ID card, or they can choose not to do so.

If, next Monday, the Government seek to overturn the decision of this House and to insist on compulsion in the initial stage of the operation of the register, my objections to Clause 4 would have to remain. I therefore thought that I should raise in the House my concerns about an interview that the Home Secretary gave a couple of weeks ago on Radio 4. He referred to the designation of passports and perhaps applications for a Criminal Records Bureau check. The question must therefore be; what are the Government's intentions with regard to that check?

I also tabled the amendment to give effect to a private undertaking that I gave to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans last week that I would seek an opportunity for the Government to respond to a question that he had put to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, on 30 January at col. 28—a question which the right reverend Prelate fully accepted was rather wide of the mark of Amendment No. 76. Naturally, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, therefore ignored it.

The right reverend Prelate asked whether any thought had been given to the impact that the designation of Criminal Records Bureau checks would have on volunteering if, of course, we have the original drafting of Clause 5 at some future stage. He pointed out that if we have the original drafting, it would appear that in order to get Criminal Records Bureau clearance, volunteers in any organisation would have to purchase their own ID card before they can volunteer, and that in the interests of encouraging volunteering, that is surely not the way in which we would wish to go.

Naturally, the right reverend Prelate would have been here himself, but he was on the duty roster last week and cannot be with us this week, hence my reason for tabling the amendment. I beg to move.

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

My Lords, I rise briefly to support the amendment. I was a little taken aback by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, who is normally extremely gung-ho on these occasions, seeming to be a touch fatalistic about what might happen to the Bill on Monday in the other place. It might be fatalistic, but if the other place chooses not to support our amendments, we might want to think again.

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative

My Lords, this is a brief point. At one time there was talk of making the application for a driving licence a trigger, although I think the Government now say that they have no intention of proceeding down that route. I read a report over the weekend which horrified me. It stated that the DVLA had been flogging information to third parties. That alone is a good reason not to use that organisation as a trigger for this Bill in the light of its sensitivity.

Photo of Baroness Carnegy of Lour Baroness Carnegy of Lour Conservative

My Lords, the House will listen to the noble Lord's reply with great interest. The public is beginning to grasp the fact that, when the Bill emerges from the House of Commons, it is likely to make it compulsory to have an identity card when applying for a passport. Some people are wondering whether it will be compulsory to apply for one when getting anything else, such as a driving licence.

If it is true that the Home Secretary has said that criminal record checks might call for a compulsory card, it is important that the Minister should tell the public that other things will be added to the list of items that would make the issue of an identity card compulsory. The public need to know whether they will have to apply for an identity card on any occasion other than when they apply for a passport or a driving licence. This is now an important political point.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate raised a very important point concerning volunteers— whether they are working in the voluntary services or in the statutory sector. It is already difficult and expensive enough to have the necessary checks made. We really do not need anything that will make the situation worse.

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

My Lords, as ever I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for introducing her amendment and for explaining privately the thinking behind it. I shall come on to the question of designating CRB certificates in due course.

The amendment would provide that only passports or residence permits could be designated. The Government cannot accept that we should limit the possibility of designating other official documents. Of course the noble Baroness is right to suggest that passports and residence permits for foreign nationals are the key documents we intend to designate. However, we have always said that we want to keep open the option of designating other documents—the example of the driving licence has been cited in this context. There are also other types of immigration documents that might conceivably be designated, rather than limiting the Bill just to residence permits as defined in Clause 26(2). I understand that noble Lords would like to know more precisely how the designation power in Clause 4 is to be used, but the amendment would create an unwelcome limitation on how that power might be used in the future.

We have already responded to the suggestion from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee by restricting the documents which can be designated to those issued by Crown bodies rather than including documents issued by other bodies under statutory powers. First, I confirm once more that it is the Government's intention to designate British passports issued to United Kingdom residents aged 16 and over so that an identity card could be issued alongside a passport as a package. Secondly, it is intended to designate residence permits and other immigration documents issued to foreign nationals resident in the United Kingdom for more than three months, so that the residence permit itself would become valid as an ID card. Finally, we intend to issue standalone identity cards, but these would be under what is now Clause 6 and would not be affected by this amendment as they would not require the use of the designation power in Clause 4.

However, as we have always made clear, the legislation should be flexible enough to allow for the possibility of designation of other official documents in the future. Each designation order under Clause 4 will need to be approved by both Houses of Parliament under the affirmative resolution procedure, so this would not be done without the opportunity for proper debate and scrutiny.

As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans said on Report, the Home Secretary is on record as saying that there is a possibility of linking identity cards to the Criminal Records Bureau check. I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, was right to suggest that it was on the "Today" programme that the Home Secretary used the word "perhaps", which indicates that we are far from any definite decision.

We can be clear that the Government want to retain this option, but there are no definite plans to require people applying for a CRB check to have an identity card. If there was, a key factor that we would have to consider would be who would pay for the identity card for volunteers who currently receive a free CRB check. Of course, people who volunteer may already have obtained an ID card—for example, for use as a travel document—in which case there would be no additional cost. As we have made clear in previous debates, the Bill contains power for exemptions and exceptions, including, and in particular, in relation to fee-setting powers.

Of course, once we move to the second stage of the scheme when we intend it to be compulsory for everyone to register and obtain an ID card, prospective volunteers would already have an identity card, so there would be no additional step for them to take. We believe that the CRB will be able to transform its working processes once ID cards have been rolled out. For example, it has been estimated that the current four weeks' time for the disclosure process can potentially be reduced to three days, if it is possible for people to prove their identity conclusively through possession of an identity card. Furthermore, having proof of identity will reduce the risk that unsuitable persons are able to gain employment with vulnerable adults or children through the misuse of identity or mistakes being made in identification.

There have been more than 1,000 occasions since March 2004 where applicant details supplied by the CRB to the police led to conviction details being matched mistakenly with an applicant. As I have said, there are no definite plans for CRB certificates to be designated, but we want to retain the possibility of doing so. I give a commitment that the position of volunteers who presently receive a free CRB check would be examined in detail before any move was made to designate CRB certificates.

In sum, this amendment would remove the possibility of designating any document unless it was a passport or a residence permit. I hope that I have persuaded noble Lords that this would be too narrow a definition and that the noble Baroness, having heard that, will feel able to withdraw her amendment. I hope that I have made it clear too that we are committed to the designation in due course of passports and residence permits or other immigration documents. We are not presently committed to designation of any other particular documents, but we need to keep that option open. I think that that covers all the points raised during this short debate.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for addressing specifically the question put by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans. If the Government go down the route of designating Criminal Records Bureau checks and the Bill is in its initial form, it is important that they should examine carefully the position of volunteers who may be discouraged from coming forward if there is this extra charge on them.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, is absolutely right to take me to task for being so gloomy. Like him, I ought to have confidence in another place—that it will have listened to the debate here; but, more importantly, that it will have listened to the debate outside this House and therefore will consider again, and that it will withstand government pressures to overturn the decisions made in this place. I certainly hope I can have as much confidence as he does.

Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope in some corners of the Home Office. I note that the letter we have just received, dated 6 February, refers to the recall of driving licences, something the Minister has referred to. On a couple of occasions I have tried to tease out from the Government whether they intended to overturn the decision of this House on the Road Safety Bill, whereby on 29 November the House removed the Government's power to recall driving licences because we were concerned it could be used as a step for designation.

Unfortunately, Home Office letters are never page-numbered. Perhaps one day it might manage that. When they are e-mailed to me, I put the page numbers in if I am allowed to. Usually I cannot, however, as the Home Office prevents you making any changes to its documents, so you have to download and save them. I say this because I know there are four keen sets of ears over there listening—so please, what about pagination?

I shall get back to the important thing. The letter from the Home Office, referring to the fact that we removed that clause from the Road Safety Bill, says that:

"The Road Safety Bill contained a provision for the compulsory surrender of old-form licences. On 29 November the House of Lords voted to remove this clause from the Bill".

There is nothing after that. Usually the Government say, "and we're going to seek to overturn it in another place". I suppose they might be keeping their options open, but let us hope this is a signal that the Government are listening, and might not try to shove that back in again. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 [Provision of information for verification or otherwise with consent]:

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip 4:15 pm, 6th February 2006

moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 12, line 34, at insert—

"( ) The power of the Secretary of State by order to modify subsections (2) and (3) does not include—

(a) power to omit subsection (2); or

(b) power to add information falling within paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 to either of those subsections."

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

My Lords, I caution the noble Baroness not to read too much into elliptical comments in letters, but that is for another day.

Amendment No. 5 has been tabled in response to comments made by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee with regard to Clause 14, now Clause 12 after amendments to the Bill. Clause 12 provides for the provision of information from the register without consent. The information that may be provided is limited to that set out in subsections (2) and (3). There is a delegated power in subsection (4)(a) to modify subsections (2) and (3).

The committee commented that the power in Clause 12(4)(a) could be used to remove subsections (2) and (3) altogether, thus undermining the safeguard of having only a limited subset of information available under Clause 12. Paragraph (a) in government Amendment No. 5 responds to that concern by ruling out the possibility of subsection (2) being removed altogether. There is no need to expressly prohibit the removal of subsection (3), as that is automatically consequential on the prohibition on the removal of subsection (2).

Paragraph (b) in the amendment introduces a further safeguard by ruling out the possibility of paragraph 9 information—that is, audit log information—being added to subsection (2). It has never been the Government's intention either to remove subsection (2) or to add the audit log information to that which can be provided under Clause 12. The amendment therefore places limitations on the scope of the delegated powers in Clause 12(4)(a), which are entirely consistent with our policy and, for that reason, appropriate amendments to make. I remind noble Lords that the power in Clause 12(4)(a) is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, so any additions to subsections (2) or (3) would have to be approved by this House and another place. I beg to move.

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

My Lords, I am grateful for that support.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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

moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 12, line 36, leave out "for the purposes of subsection (1)(a)" and insert "or consent for the purposes of subsection (1)"

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

My Lords, this again is an amendment inspired by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, who—for someone who has rigorously opposed the Bill—has made a ferociously large number of improvements to it through his tenacity.

The noble Lord put forward Amendment No. 116A during the last day on Report and we promised we would give further thought to the subject of consent in the context of Clause 12—previously Clause 14—and the power in that to provide information from the register with consent. That amendment sought to provide that all consent must always be given in writing. Similar amendments had been debated at an earlier stage in the passage of the Bill through this House.

The reason we have resisted all such amendments is that they are simply not practical. There must be flexibility for consent to be demonstrated in a number of ways—for example, the use of a PIN number; agreeing verbally; or, as with a credit card, by handing over an ID card. To allow for nothing other than written consent would be, in our view, unnecessarily bureaucratic.

As well as raising the issue of written consent, the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, raised the interesting issue of continuing consent. As I said at the time, that requires some further thought. We recognise that the capacity to give continuing consent would be—could be—extremely convenient for cardholders, but also recognise the loss of control that such a facility might entail. We have concluded therefore that continuing consent—and indeed consent in general—should be the subject of further parliamentary scrutiny; I see that the noble Lord is nodding his head in agreement. For that reason we have brought forward the amendment, which provides for a regulation-making power in relation to how consent is to be given for the purpose of Clause 12.

The amendment has the added benefit of bringing the issue of consent into line with the related issue of authority. There is already a delegated power to make regulations on how an authority is to be given for the purpose of Clause 12. The amendment provides for a parallel power to make regulations on how consent is to be given for the purpose of Clause 12. Both powers are subject to the negative resolution procedure.

As I have indicated, we envisage consent being given in a number of different ways. However, we are acutely aware of the fact that we must take every step to ensure that the facility of checking the register is one which is not abused, and that consent, when given, is unambiguous and well informed.

That said, the precise details of how consent may be given will, to a certain extent, depend on the particular requirements of those using the scheme—both cardholders and third-party organisations. Furthermore, those requirements may well develop over time. For those reasons, and on account of the level of detail the necessary provisions might contain, we consider that the question of how consent may be given is one which will be most appropriately dealt with in secondary legislation.

I remind noble Lords that, as a consequence of government amendments made on Report, it will be compulsory for all organisations wishing to make use of the Clause 12 facility to be accredited by the Secretary of State. The regulations providing for such an accreditation scheme will give Parliament a further opportunity to consider safeguards relating to the power for information to be provided from the register with consent.

I hope that I have persuaded noble Lords that the important issue of how a person may consent to a check on the register under Clause 12 is one which should rightly be the subject of regulations. I repeat my initial thanks to the noble Lord because the amendment has been very helpful. It underlines the point that in your Lordships' House we can have an intelligent and integrated process of consideration of clauses and subsections to get to the point and improve the quality that is written into law. I beg to move.

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

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation of why the amendment is the best way of dealing with the points that I raised earlier. He made the case in a way with which I entirely agree. It takes two to tango and to persevere with some of these rather knotty little issues. I pay tribute to the Bill team, who have been constantly helpful and open-minded. I am very happy to support the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 16 [Prohibition on requirements to produce identity cards]:

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

moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 15, line 40, at end insert—

"(A1) It shall be unlawful to make it a condition of doing anything in relation to an individual that the individual—

(a) makes an application under section 12(1) for the provision to him of information recorded in his entry in the Register;

(b) exercises the right conferred by section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (c. 29) to obtain information recorded in his entry in the Register; or

(c) provides a person with information about what is recorded in his entry in the Register."

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

My Lords, noble Lords may recall that at Report we indicated that we were investigating whether there was a need to widen the safeguard in Clause 16 in order to close a potential loophole. After giving the matter careful thought we concluded that there was such a need. Government Amendments Nos. 7, 8, 9 and 10 are designed to address that need. Noble Lords who have followed the matter closely will recall that Clause 16—Clause 18 as it was previously—is a key safeguard in the Bill. It prohibits organisations from making things conditional on the production of an ID card or a check on the register save in certain circumstances. In essence, the clause prevents compulsion by the back door.

As drafted, the prohibition relates to a requirement that an ID card be produced, and a requirement that an application under Clause 12 be made or consented to in order that information from the register be provided to the organisation concerned. Government Amendment No. 7 adds three further prohibited scenarios. They are as follows: requiring a person to undertake a subject access request under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act; requiring a person to make an application under Clause 12 for information to be provided to him, the cardholder, from his entry on the register—that scenario is distinct from what is already provided for in Clause 16(1)(a) because the information would be being provided to the cardholder not directly to the organisation concerned—and requiring a person to provide information about what is recorded in his entry on the register. This scenario is something of a catch-all. It would cover, for example, forcing people to produce printouts of their entries on the register obtained using the secure online facility.

It should be noted that these three scenarios are absolutely prohibited. Unlike the scenarios set out in Clause 16(1), these prohibitions do not fall away in the circumstances set out in subsection (2); that is, where the cardholder is subject to compulsory registration; where alternative methods of establishing identity are allowed for; or where the requirement relates to the provision of a public service and has been imposed by legislation.

The absolute nature of the new prohibitions is particularly important in respect of accreditation. As noble Lords will be aware, we have amended the Bill so that information may not be provided to a person under Clause 12 unless he is accredited with the Secretary of State. Government Amendment No. 7 ensures that an organisation cannot avoid accreditation by requiring the cardholder to have the information provided to himself and then pass it on to the organisation. Government Amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 10 are all consequential on government Amendment No. 7.

I hope that noble Lords recognise that these amendments represent an important and necessary tightening up of the crucial safeguard in Clause 16. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Seccombe Baroness Seccombe Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Shadow Minister for Constitutional Affairs & Legal Affairs (Also In Home Affairs Team), Constitutional Affairs, Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, once again I thank the noble Lord for the concession that he promised at Report on 30 January. Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to support these amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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

moved Amendments Nos. 8 to 10:

Page 15, line 41, after "shall" insert "also"

Page 15, line 44, at end insert "in order to secure the provision to another person of information recorded in the individual's entry in the Register"

Page 16, line 3, leave out "such a condition or requirement" and insert "a condition or requirement referred to in subsection (1)"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 22 [Appointment of National Identity Scheme Commissioner]:

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs 4:30 pm, 6th February 2006

moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 20, line 40, at end insert—

"( ) There shall be a Commissioner appointed by Her Majesty."

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

My Lords, Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 are grouped together in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. They deal with an error that slipped into the Bill at the previous stage when I moved an amendment to what was then Clause 24, providing that the National Identity Scheme Commissioner should be appointed not by the Secretary of State but by the Crown. The House voted in favour of that amendment, but I now discover that the language was not right and that the reference should be to Her Majesty rather than to the Crown. These amendments were drafted by and with the approval of the Government and the draftsmen. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, since my name is on the amendments I also thank the Government for their assistance in ensuring that the drafting is correct.

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

My Lords, we do not intend to oppose the amendments. They are drafting changes to an amendment accepted following a Division. Our position is that we do not believe that it is necessary or appropriate for the National Identity Scheme Commissioner to be appointed by Her Majesty. However, we think it is right and proper that any drafting errors should be corrected. For those reasons we are happy to support the amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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

moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 20, line 41, leave out from beginning to "be" in line 42 and insert "The Commissioner shall"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 23 [Reports by Commissioner]:

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative

moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 22, line 10, at end insert—

"( ) For the avoidance of doubt, in a report made under subsection (2) the Commissioner may include information regarding the viability and cost effectiveness of the information technology and support systems used for the National Identity Register and ID cards."

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative

My Lords, I am moving the amendment, which stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Northesk, because at this late stage we have been confronted with an alarming situation that has been brought to our attention by the publication of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the Home Office resource accounts 2004–05. During the long examination of the Bill grave doubts were expressed about the Government's ability to run the integrated IT systems required to manage the register and to make full use of the material it will contain or to guarantee the security and integrity of the information about every citizen that will be placed compulsorily on the register. Those doubts have been dismissed by Ministers as groundless.

At the same time the Government have failed to provide information about costs and benefits in a manner that this House has judged to be satisfactory. I argued on Report, as did the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, that an honest answer to our questions would have been that the Government did not have the faintest idea what the costs would be. The House hoped that by insisting that what is now Clause 44 should be inserted in the Bill, which requires information about costs to be provided to another place before the project can proceed, it had provided effective protection against gross waste and misuse. We now have compelling evidence that it would be reckless of Parliament to allow responsibility for the direction and management of the ID cards scheme to remain with the Home Office and its agencies without additional safeguards. The accounts of the UK Passport Service are among a number of others consolidated with the accounts of the core department.

We are confronted by the deplorable situation that the Comptroller and Auditor General has had to inform Parliament that a major department of state, the Home Office, has not met the statutory reporting timetable in respect of its 2004–05 resource accounts; and that he has not been able to reach an opinion as to whether the accounts show a true and fair view. The primary reason for that extraordinary state of affairs is that the Home Office has proved incapable of using Adelphi, its new Oracle-based integrated finance, human resources and procurement system. Let us be clear about this; Adelphi is not some entirely novel, ground-breaking and uniquely complicated IT system. It is the kind of accounting, human resources and procurement system that would be familiar to most large commercial and government organisations worldwide.

The first draft consolidated accounts were delivered 10 weeks late. I quote from paragraph 10 of the auditor general's report:

"These accounts contain numerous errors and internal inconsistencies. In particular, amounts relating to cash, Exchequer funding and non retainable income due to the Consolidated Fund were contradictory and did not reconcile between the different places in which they appeared in the accounts. There were also material omissions and misstatements".

I quote again, this time from paragraph 14:

"Difficulties were encountered in the transfer and cleansing of data, and staff were not trained to use the new system on a timely basis. These problems and delays, together with a lack of understanding of the new accounting system, meant that the Home Office could not use data from its new accounting system effectively to produce a cogent set of accounts to the required faster closing and statutory timetables".

Reviews carried out by the Home Office's own internal audit unit and by the auditor general's staff found—and I quote from paragraph 15—

"Control weaknesses within key Information Technology applications including access to the system, inadequate segregation of duties, the creation of standing data and the ability to interrogate and monitor changes made. These weaknesses made access to the database by unauthorised staff possible, representing a risk to the integrity of Adelphi data and exposing the Home Office to a greater risk of fraud and error".

That paragraph is particularly serious in the context of the ID cards scheme. Even if steps are now being taken to address those weaknesses, it confirms what we have been saying; that it is not just the technology that is important but the quality of the training and management of the people using it. Failures that have exposed the integrity of the Adelphi data to risk and the Home Office to fraud and error can equally well expose the register data and the citizens whose names are contained in it. It is ironic that one of the principal arguments advanced by Ministers for their scheme is that it will reduce the risk of fraud.

The scale of the disaster is almost unbelievable. I quote from paragraph 11, which refers to the second draft accounts, which were delivered two days late:

"The amounts in the revised accounts had changed significantly from the first draft. In particular nearly every major balance was markedly different. To illustrate the scale of the movements: the amount owed to the Exchequer by the Home Office of £68 million in the September draft accounts became an amount owed by the Exchequer to the Home Office of £112 million in the December draft accounts. This swing is due to major changes elsewhere in the accounts resulting in a change to the cash required by Home Office".

Because the Home Office was incapable of implementing its new accounting system, it,

"has been unable to reconcile its cash at bank position".

I quote from paragraph 16:

"Bank reconciliations are one of the most fundamental of all accounting controls as they enable payments, receipts and cash balances to be validated to an external source and provide assurance about debtor and creditor balances. They are also a key control for the prevention and detection of fraud".

Four other references in the auditor general's report are equally lethal. They are listed in paragraphs 21 and 22:

"Poor controls and weaknesses in the audit trails maintained over the assignment of access rights; absence of checks made against Human Resources records to ensure that new users are authorised, and leavers are removed promptly; an absence of controls to detect unauthorised access to the database; over-reliance on the Home Office contractor to undertake security checks, and a lack of effective processes to address the risks this exposes the Department to".

It would appear that the Home Office has not arrived in the age of technology and the computer. If its staff were still on high stools and using quill pens, they could hardly have made a worse job of their resource accounts. No doubt the auditor general will report if future Home Office accounts and those relating to the ID cards scheme repeat this shambles. Clause 44 requires him to report on the estimate of scheme costs to be submitted to another place. But it is essential that Parliament should require the National Identity Scheme Commissioner to keep under close review, and regularly report on, the training and management competence of those running the IT systems, and to give reassurance that the integrity and security of the information held on the register are being adequately safeguarded. I beg to move.

Photo of The Earl of Northesk The Earl of Northesk Conservative

My Lords, my name is attached to this amendment, moved so ably by my noble friend. Needless to say, therefore, I support it. My noble friend is quite right to draw our attention to the decision of the Comptroller and Auditor General not to endorse the Home Office's accounts. As he said, this demonstrates how little faith we can have in its ability to deliver the ID card project, either technologically or within budget. The case that he made is deeply persuasive, and I need not embellish his remarks. Rather, I shall add some further insights about this matter which have surfaced during the past few days.

First, as my noble friend Lady Anelay pointed out earlier, the Home Office released with great fanfare last week its updated figure for the cost to the country of identity fraud, totalling £1.7 billion. Supposedly, the report builds on the previous study from 2002, which claimed that identity theft was then costing some £1.3 billion a year. In light of the report, the Home Office Minister, Andy Burnham, made the bold claim:

"One way we can reduce the potential for identity fraud is to introduce a national identity card, backed by a National Identity Register".

It is all the more unfortunate, therefore, that the figures are pure bunkum.

The report is riddled with inconsistencies and flawed methodology. For example, it includes the sum of £62.8 million, attributable to the cost of administering security and ID checks and combating fraud in passport applications by the UK Passport Service. Do we therefore assume that the sum of £584 million that is so often quoted by the Government as the annual running cost of the identity register and ID cards should be viewed as a legitimate "cost" of identity fraud? But perhaps most telling is the claim, already cited by my noble friend Lady Anelay, that £504.8 million arises from identity fraud-related abuse of credit cards. Clearly, this figure has been sourced from APACS, the card payments body, but as its spokesman, Mark Bowerman, has subsequently revealed, the ID fraud element of the total amounted to just £36.9 million in 2004 and, during the first six months of 2005, it dropped by 16 per cent, principally as a result of the introduction of chip and PIN. Indeed, when all the non-ID fraud figures are taken out of the calculations, the total annual cost of ID fraud is £494 million, although a further £372 million of that is an undefined sum attributed to losses across the telecoms industry. One wonders therefore whether KPMG would be quite so willing to describe the cost assumptions and methodology as "robust".

That said, while resentful of this misleading attempt to prey on people's fears, I can accept that ID fraud is a growing menace. Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the Minister's earlier comments, we need to recognise—and this simple fact is generally accepted within the industry—that of themselves, ID cards cannot and will not have any significant beneficial effect in countering credit card fraud, not least because it will not be compulsory to carry them. Indeed, the widely respected LSE report and other commentators within the industry have accurately pointed out that ID cards could exacerbate the problem.

In that context, news also surfaced at the weekend that Simon Davies, who the Government have consistently and repeatedly vilified for his involvement with the LSE Identity Project, has written to the Prime Minister indicating his possible intention to pursue the matter in the courts should such defamation be repeated. As his letter states, the fact is that:

"More than sixty academics and a further forty external experts have contributed to the LSE work".

That being so, is the Minister prepared to take this opportunity on behalf of the Government to retract the outrageous slurs perpetrated against Mr Davies and offer an apology?

All in all, these matters are of a piece with the relentless litany of spin born of a misguided sense of political expediency, and are unsubstantiated by the available evidence that has spewed out of the Home Office over the past few years in respect of ID cards. I am sure that throughout our scrutiny of the Bill, all of us have had but one wish—namely, that the Government publish their own detailed—I stress, detailed—system architecture, cost-benefit analyses, project risk assumptions and so on. After all, to quote a phrase, "if they have nothing to hide then they have nothing to fear".

I support the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 4:45 pm, 6th February 2006

My Lords, my noble friends have delivered a devastating critique of the implications of last week's NAO report on the operation of ID cards. I support what they have said.

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

My Lords, I rise to sing the same tune. Why should there be any objection to the amendment, even if the Government deny a good deal of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and the noble Earl, Lord Northesk? The amendment contains sensible provisions that I would have thought would aid and abet the work of the commissioner.

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

My Lords, perhaps I should start with the adoption and use by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, of the National Audit Office report as a way of attacking the financial viability of the scheme and the ability of the Home Office to run and organise an ID cards scheme.

There is no disputing the NAO report. It is clear. It is in the public domain and we do not seek to run away or hide from its import or effect. The NAO press release states:

"The Home Office has recognised the need to strengthen its financial control framework and to improve its financial statements preparation processes to enable it to meet its accountability obligations to Parliament".

The press release sets out the actions that the Home Office has taken. They are, the report continues,

"the redesign and restructuring of its financial accounting function . . . continuing work on 2004–05 account in order to provide a more robust basis for preparing a timely account for 2005–06 . . . commissioning a review to determine the factors that prevented the timely preparation of the 2004–05 accounts and the further action that is required, which will report to the Audit Committee; and ensuring that focus is maintained on financial control environment through close monitoring".

Those seem to be entirely right and absolutely proper, and the Home Office is addressing the issues that have rightly been raised in what we all recognise as being an important critique of the financial control framework.

It is also worth making clear at this stage that the delivery of the identity card scheme will be by a new agency, which, as we have said many times, will be based on the United Kingdom Passport Service, which is a Next Steps agency. It is worth pointing out to your Lordships' House that the UK Passport Service prepares separate accounts from those of the Home Office and that those accounts have received an appropriate certificate from the National Audit Office in each year since the agency was created. It is to the credit of the UK Passport Service that its performance year on year improves. It is also worth pointing out that the latest accounts—those for 2004–05—have been approved as well.

One should also focus on our intentions for proper and independent scrutiny of the ID cards scheme specifically. We made it clear on Report that there will be an independent assurance panel, which will include IT and financial oversight, and a biometric assurance panel. We will consult continuously the public and private sectors and special needs user groups and we will seek the advice of the scheme commissioner so that we have a comprehensive accountability framework that ensures that the thing works, that it is delivered on budget and that timely accounts are produced.

I do not wish to detract overly from the critique of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, based on his import into this debate of the National Audit Office commentary on the Home Office, but the effect of the amendment, as I understand it, would be fairly minimal. It would clarify on the face of the Bill that the National Identity Scheme Commissioner could, if he so wished, include in his report information relating to the viability and cost-effectiveness of the information technology and support systems used for the national identity register and ID cards themselves. However, we argue that that is simply unnecessary. The commissioner's jurisdiction as regards the Secretary of State is set out in Clause 22(2)(a), which refers to,

"the arrangements for the time being maintained by the Secretary of State for the purposes of his functions under this Act or the subordinate legislation made under it".

That subsection covers all the Secretary of State's functions under this legislation. As we have indicated in previous debates, the word "arrangements" does not place limitations on the extent to which the commissioner may have regard to the substance of the matters that he is required to keep under review. The only limitations on the commissioner's remit are those set out in Clause 22(4). As we have said before, all those matters come under somebody else's jurisdiction. There is nothing in the Bill that would prevent the commissioner from looking at the matters referred to in the amendment.

On Report, in response to the concerns of a number of noble Lords, we brought forward a government amendment that clarified the fact that the commissioner's remit includes consideration of the integrity and confidentiality of the information on the register, as well as consideration of the complaints procedure. We do not consider it necessary or desirable to make any further clarifications. If we were to list expressly all the matters that Clause 22(2) already covers, the Bill would be considerably and—given what noble Lords have said about the Bill—unnecessarily longer. The Bill as it is will enable the commissioner to comment on the issues that the amendment covers.

We accept the contents of the National Audit Office report on the accounts of the Home Office generally. Specifically, the UK Passport Service, around which the new agency will be based, has a very good track record with regard to IT management, accounting and its ability to deliver on time and on budget. For those reasons, we cannot accept the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell.

The noble Earl, Lord Northesk, is not convinced by the latest published figure on identity fraud. However, as I said before, the published figure of £1.7 billion has been agreed with relevant stakeholders. The noble Earl accepts, as he said in his commentary on the amendment, that identity fraud and financial fraud are considerable matters. I repeat that these worry people. We believe that the ID card scheme will make a significant contribution in tackling ID fraud and will help those who are determined to track it down and to detect it, to minimise it. It rests as a cost on all of us who make use of banking, credit card and debit card services. It is down to the Government to take responsibility, to tackle those issues, to provide such reassurance as an ID card scheme can and to assist those who enforce the law in tackling fraud and abuse.

We cannot accept the amendment tabled by the noble Lord. Having heard what I have said, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his gallant defence of his accounting office and his department. He did as well as he could in the circumstances. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, said that he might deny some of the charges I have made. It would be very hard for him to deny them as they were almost all taken directly from the report of the auditor general.

My second point is that it would be totally shocking if the Home Office had failed to recognise the need to strengthen its financial control framework and to improve its financial statements preparation processes to enable it to meet its accountability obligations to Parliament. In view of the scale of the failure, I believe that there would have been considerable trouble and I suspect that the new accounting officer would have been facing a very embarrassing situation indeed.

Thirdly, we are always told how wonderful the UK Passport Service is, but as the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, reminded the House on a previous occasion, it got off to a pretty shambolic start a few years ago. While I acknowledge that it has greatly improved, its record has not been perfect throughout. Finally, I entirely accept that the commissioner is, under the Bill, able to report on these matters. Now that this matter has been drawn to his attention, I hope he will know that he has the encouragement of this House, and that that is exactly what he will do. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 34 [Code of practice on penalties]:

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

moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 30, leave out lines 33 and 34 and insert "must be considered when determining—

(a) whether a civil penalty should be imposed under this Act; and

(b) the amount of such a penalty."

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

My Lords, I can speak more briefly on this amendment. The amendment makes it clear that the code of practice on civil penalties should be taken into account when it is being considered whether a penalty should be imposed, and not just what the amount of a penalty should be. As noble Lords who have read the draft code and participated in previous debates will know, we have always intended that this should be the case. The amendment simply puts that beyond doubt by clarifying, on the face of the Bill, the scope of the code. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, for his improving and constructive suggestions in this regard. I beg to move.

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

My Lords, I thank the Minister for tabling this amendment which achieves exactly the purpose that my earlier and less meritorious amendment sought to achieve. The only residual point is that I suggest that the heading to Clause 34 should now be reworded, although I understand that one cannot tinker with the wording of the title of clauses in the form of amendments. I serve notice that it should now refer to "Code of practice" or "Code of practice on penalties etc". The "etc" is a formulation used in other clauses and would at least make it clear that it is not just about the penalty.

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

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. He is right about headings—they are not susceptible to amendment—but we shall take account of his comment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs 5:00 pm, 6th February 2006

moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 30, line 41, at end insert—

"(4A) Before a draft code under this section is laid before Parliament, the Secretary of State must take such steps as he thinks fit—

(a) for securing that members of the public in the United Kingdom are informed about the proposed code; and

(b) for consulting them about it."

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

My Lords, Amendment No. 15 continues the improvement to Clause 34 which was started by the previous amendment. Clause 34, which was Clause 36 in the Bill before it came here, is a very important clause. I think that the whole House has always recognised that, as it provides for a code of practice regarding the whole regime for the imposition and quantification of penalties. Unfortunately, penalties will be germane to this legislation. They are considerable penalties—£1,000 or £2,500—and, as the Government have indicated, a normal first-time penalty will be a quarter of the maximum. So, even at a maximum of £1,000, we are talking of a £250 fine for—for example—failing to notify a change of address.

To be fair to the Government, they have gone to lengths to assure the House that this provision will not be like some traffic cameras, which are an alternative way of generating revenue, and that the Government will be extremely long-suffering and pragmatic and only levy penalties where it really is a case of incorrigibility—let us put it that way. I am perfectly ready to accept that, provided two things happen. The first is that the code reflects that sentiment. I think that the draft code broadly reflects that approach—for example, it gives substantial significance to an aspect of the whole regime, which is not referred to in the relevant clauses, in that it gives a warning to the citizen before he or she is penalised. That is to say, it does not simply rely, as you might think from the Bill, on the citizen's right of appeal once a penalty has been awarded at a distance and without having heard what the citizen has to say. So, that is in the code.

The point of the amendment is to ensure that there is consultation. On Amendment No. 14 the Minister made the point that there will be a continuous consultation, on this part of the Bill in particular. I want to see that provision plumb on the statute. It is already on the statute regarding the matters dealt with in Clause 15, which deals with checks on the register and information from the register. I borrowed the language from the consultation subsection in Clause 15 for the amendment. I hope that for all those reasons the Government will agree with me, and with the noble Baroness whose name is attached to this amendment, that this provision is better in the Bill. On that basis, I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, my name is attached to this amendment in support. I noticed that when we debated the matter on 30 January the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, at col. 70, said that he had sympathy with the purpose of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, and that the Government intended to consult extensively on the code. He also said that the Government had already prepared an initial draft which had been placed in the Library on 9 December, and that it was on the identity cards website.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, is trying to ensure that members of the public are informed clearly about the proposals in the Bill and that they have easy access to the information. So, in the course of those few moments that one had idle at the weekend in between preparing for this Bill and the asylum Bill tomorrow, I went on to the website pretending that I had never accessed the Home Office website before and pretending it is not on my favourites list to see whether I could easily find this draft letter. It is not easy to find.

Perhaps I may suggest that signposting on Home Office websites needs to be a lot better for members of the public to follow. Otherwise they could spend—I would not say waste—time. I spent 10 minutes trawling through before I went to where I knew I would find it. But I had to know where it was. Does that not underline what the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, was saying that there should be something clearly here to ensure that the public are consulted and that they are informed about these matters?

Photo of Baroness Carnegy of Lour Baroness Carnegy of Lour Conservative

My Lords, this is a matter that members of the public should really know about clearly. It should not only be those who enjoy playing with computers and think of going to the Home Office website to find out what penalties there are. If one is really subject to £250 for not registering a change of address, a great many people are going to be involved in these penalties. It will be widespread, and will cause enormous discontent when people discover that this happens. The more publicity and public knowledge about this matter the better, from the Government's point of view. I suggest that this amendment or something like it should be in the Bill.

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

My Lords, Amendment No. 15 would have the effect of requiring the Secretary of State to consult members of the public about the draft code of practice before it is laid before Parliament. As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said, I was sympathetic towards this at an earlier stage, and that remains the case. As we have already said, we always had the intention of consulting the public on the code of practice, largely for the reasons which have been averred to in this debate, because we want people to know. We want to make sure that that consultation takes place before it is laid before Parliament.

The Government have consulted the public both on the principle of identity cards in 2002 and more recently on the draft Bill that was published in 2004. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, told us about some of her Sunday afternoon activities. It is the sort of thing I occasionally do, though I do not browse the Home Office website extensively on Sunday afternoons— sometimes I watch the football. Currently the draft code of practice is on the ID cards website. The public are free to comment on it if they so choose. I am told by the Bill team that many of them are already doing exactly that. Perhaps the noble Baroness has had some difficulty getting through the various links, but clearly the public have not been so badly put off. We accept that the noble Baroness has a point, and obviously one can improve signposting on websites. By and large, the Home Office site, often the focus of criticism in these matters, is reasonably easy to travel through. We certainly intend further to perfect what is there and will work to improve it because we want people to understand exactly what is being done in their name.

We are persuaded by the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, on this matter and are grateful to him for suggesting it. We intend to accept his amendment. Government Amendment No. 16 is consequential on that and has the effect that any revisions of the code of practice will also be subject to the requirement to consult. I am sure the noble Lord will be happy with that.

Amendment No. 17, again a government amendment, has the effect that the order bringing into force the first draft of the code of practice that is laid before Parliament will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. Our Amendment No. 18 is consequential on that. It has the effect of clarifying that orders bringing into force all subsequent drafts will continue to be subject to the negative resolution procedure. The Government have tabled Amendment No. 17 in response to the noble Lord's earlier raising of the issue. The amendment does not go as far as the noble Lord's amendment tabled at Report stage, as that would have had the effect of requiring all drafts of the code to be brought into force by way of the affirmative resolution procedure. That would have meant that any revision of the code would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. Even the most minor or technical revision of the code of practice would need to be brought into force by way of affirmative order. We do not think that is necessary or a good use of parliamentary time. I suspect the noble Lord would agree with us in some particulars.

As we have made clear, the civil penalties regime is intended to encourage compliance. It is not intended as a punishment, although as the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, made clear in her comments, people need to understand that point. We have made clear in the code that once a requirement has been complied with any penalty will normally be waived and that should be the end of the matter.

We accept the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. Our amendments are essentially consequential, so in accepting his amendment, I commend the government amendments in the same group.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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

moved Amendments Nos. 16 to 18:

Page 31, line 4, after "(4)" insert ", (4A)"

Page 31, line 5, at end insert—

"( ) The power of the Secretary of State to make an order containing (with or without other provision) a provision authorised by this section is exercisable, on the first occasion on which an order is made under this section, only if a draft of the order has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House."

Page 31, line 6, leave out "under this section" and insert "which—

"(a) contains provisions that the Secretary of State is authorised to make by this section, and

(b) is not an order a draft of which is required to have been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House,"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 35 [Fees in respect of functions carried out under Act]:

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

moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 31, line 10, at beginning insert "Save as provided for in subsection (1A),"

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

My Lords, Amendments Nos. 19 and 20 are together intended to ensure that any citizen wanting to check the register to ensure that the verifiable facts are accurate can do so without having to pay a fee. I was moved to table these amendments late in the day by our conversation on Report, when the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, made clear that for some searches the normal Data Protection Act fee of £10 would be required. That stuck in my gullet until it was explained to me that there are two quite different sorts of access to the register. One is to check what is mainstream information about you on the register; the other is to get into the considerable body of other information set out in Schedule 1. For example, earlier I mentioned validation information, security information, record history and stuff like that.

I was not aware until late in the day that the register will contain on it all the information that the registrar obtains from you and me when we apply to go on it—for example, all the answers given to the questions asked of us to verify the key facts. I am just about willing to accept that one should have to pay to access that. However, it would not be fair, right or just—especially if and when the whole scheme becomes compulsory—for you and I to be required to provide information and then to be charged for checking that it is correct in our file on the register.

I thought that the way to distinguish between those two types of information was to use the Bill. The reason that the amendment refers to Clause 12 is that that sets out information that can be accessed for the purposes of verifying key facts about you as an individual with your consent. The categories of information are set out in Clause 12(2)—there are eight sub-headings. I hope that the House will share my belief that I should be able to check at any time for no fee or charge that that information on the register is still accurate. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip 5:15 pm, 6th February 2006

My Lords, Amendments Nos. 19 and 20 would require that an individual could be provided with any information listed under Clause 12(2) free of charge. Throughout the Bill's passage, we have made clear that we intend to implement a two-tier process to allow an individual to review the record on the register.

The first tier would, subject to secure identification of the individual, involve a free secure online facility that would allow an individual to check personal details on their record, as well as their recent verifications on their audit log, subject to Data Protection Act exclusions. I reiterate that this is an application facility. It does not mean that the individual will have direct access to the register via the Internet. However, it is intended to serve as a convenient service to provide the individual with reassurance that their details are accurate and that abuse of their information could be easily detected.

The second tier follows the subject data access request process as outlined by the Data Protection Act. This would provide a full written record of all information held on the individual, subject to DPA provisions. This would include additional information; for example, records from the audit log that were not recent. There may be a charge of up to £10 for this request, as permitted by the Data Protection Act.

As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, has explained, the intention behind these amendments would be to reflect in the Bill the first tier of this approach. I am happy to give a commitment to the House that it is the Government's intention to provide this free service. However, we believe it would be inappropriate to reflect this in the Bill as the amendments suggest. That level of detail is inappropriate at the current stage of the development of the ID cards scheme.

The amendment may not necessarily reflect the service that is demanded by the public. For example, the amendments refer to the information listed under Clause 12(2). However, this is drafted to reflect the likely need for verification services, not for subject data access. Thus, it is unlikely that some of the technical information involved in confirming a person's record, as mentioned in Clause 12(2), would be of interest. On the other hand, some information from the audit log is likely to be of interest but is not covered under Clause 12(2). I say this not to criticise the noble Lord's drafting but simply to highlight the importance of working out the precise needs of users in this regard. That is pretty central to their intelligent use of the service.

As the development of the scheme progresses, further work needs to be done to specify the exact design of the service based on feedback from potential users. We do not want to design a system that no one finds useful or that becomes surplus to requirements. Furthermore, as the identity card scheme progresses through its procurement processes, further issues may arise that need to be considered before the online facility's eventual design can be finalised. Thus, it is simply too hasty to place details of the service in the Bill, as the amendment would do.

Finally, I note that the amendments do not necessarily reflect the Government's commitment in this regard. We have informed the House of our intention to offer an online service, subject to secure authentication methods. The amendment implies that the service may not simply be online. Naturally, that would have consequences for both the design of the scheme and for the cost of running the service, and would need the Government's further consideration.

I have some sympathy with the noble Lord's desire to ensure that an individual can view the key pieces of their record on the register without fuss, bother or interference. We certainly share that desire and are working to achieve it in practice, but for the reasons that I explained to the House, it is simply not appropriate to try to specify the design of this service in the Bill in the way in which the noble Lord suggests. It is, however, something that we will want to do at some point in the future. For those reasons, and not because of any rampant opposition to the noble Lord's point, I hope that he will withdraw his amendment this afternoon.

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

My Lords, I am very grateful for that full explanation. Not being much of a techie chap, I am not sure that I took it all in, but I think that I did, and that I found it entirely reasonable. Before I withdraw my amendment, I simply ask the Minister this. Widow Brown, my former neighbour, certainly has no machinery with which to access this through the web and so on. If in the future she wants to check that her name, address and basic particulars held on the register are accurate, she will have to do that by post. Is it the general intention on the part of the Government not to charge for this? Does it mean that she and many older people like her will not be charged for checking that what is on register is accurate?

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

My Lords, that is our intention. If Widow Brown, the late neighbour of the noble Lord—or perhaps she has moved elsewhere—does not have personal access to the Internet from her home, she may at least be able to gain access via her local library or by another public service provided locally. By those means she would have relatively easy access, and, as the noble Lord said, she would be able to write as well.

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

My Lords, I am grateful for that reassurance and I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 20 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch Conservative

moved Amendment No. 21:

Before Clause 39, insert the following new clause—

"PARLIAMENTARY CONTROL OVER UNITED KINGDOM ID CARDS

(1) No international body may impose on any United Kingdom citizen the duty to attend or to have attended at any place for the purposes of the issue, or in connection with preparations for the issue, of an ID card; and a United Kingdom citizen shall have free passage throughout the United Kingdom and the member states of the European Union without the need to fulfil any such obligation, except as shall have been agreed, or determined, by statute in the United Kingdom.

(2) No Minister of the Crown may enter into any undertaking within the European Union to introduce an ID card scheme or identity register in the United Kingdom, or propose or agree any common standards in relation to such a scheme, without the consent of Parliament."

Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch Conservative

My Lords, under guidance from the Public Bill Office I have retabled part of the amendment I moved on Report on 30 January, which was the same as that moved by my noble friend Lady Anelay on 12 December last year. I do so in order to clarify some remaining uncertainties over how far the United Kingdom may have moved towards joining an EU identity card system behind the back of the House of Commons and your Lordships' House.

Since our debate last week I have received a Written Answer from the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, which helps to clarify the position. It was published on 31 January. The Answer reiterates what the noble Baroness said in Committee, in her letter to me dated 10 January, and on Report on 30 January, to the effect that Title IV of the TEC covering visas, asylum and immigration, and other policies related to the free movement of persons, does not specifically refer to identity cards. So we all agree about that. She then sums up the Government position as follows:

"In addition, the UK is only bound by Title IV measures if it chooses to opt into them, so even if a measure providing for EU ID cards could be adopted under Title IV, the UK would have a choice whether to participate in the measure and thus whether to be bound by it".

I submit that this is an important step towards transparency because for the first time the Government admit that Title IV could produce an EU ID card system. So I am glad we all now agree about that too. However, the Government still contend that they have not yet opted the UK into such a system, whereas in our previous exchanges I have been probing the possibility that by signing up to Council Decision 15226/04, they have in effect done so. These are murky waters, but I have now consulted senior constitutional counsel and he tends towards the Government's position. In other words, although through agreeing to be part of Council Decision 15226/04 the Government have agreed that decisions under Title IV—particularly under Article 62(2)(a), which I quoted on Report and is the one most likely to justify an EU ID card system—will in future be taken by QMV to the extinction of our veto, the Government have not yet opted specifically into an EU ID card system.

I am happy to go along with this view, but fear it does not give much comfort. I am advised that all that is now required for the United Kingdom to be irretrievably part of such a scheme, the operation of which would be decided by QMV under which the Government have some 8 per cent of the vote, would be a simple letter from the Home Office to Brussels saying that the United Kingdom would like to join. That letter would not be placed before Parliament for approval. It would be a simple, secret, executive missive. We would then be bound to the scheme, which would be agreed by QMV.

If some of us complain, or even if Parliament complains, we will be told in time-honoured EU fashion that we were warned, that we should have made a fuss earlier, but that now it is too late. Of course, it will be too late, which is why I am trying to make a fuss now. This is a beautiful example in the making of how the corrupt octopus gets its tentacles around ever-larger portions of our sovereignty.

At the end of our debate on Report last week, I asked the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, a double-barrelled question. I asked her to give a clear assurance, first, that the Government had not opted into an EU ID card system and, secondly, that they would not do so. Now at Third Reading, I would like to clarify the noble Baroness's answer by asking the questions separately. First, will the Minister confirm that the Government have not yet written that letter and so have not yet opted into an EU ID card system? I feel confident that he will be able to confirm that that is the case. The second question may be a little more difficult for him. He may feel that his noble friend answered it last time when she said that she would not bind the Government for many years in a way that is improper. But how could it be improper to guarantee that the United Kingdom will not become part of an EU ID card system controlled by Brussels? Surely, that would be an entirely proper guarantee to give, which would be wholly popular with the British people. Any EU ID card would surely be extremely unpopular.

To clarify the position further, it should not be too difficult for the noble Lord to give that guarantee now. After all, both in her letter to me of 10 January and in her speech on Report last week, the noble Baroness assured your Lordships that Parliament remains supreme in any decision to introduce ID cards in this country. Her letter states:

"There is no question of ID cards being introduced by fiat from Brussels".

On 30 January she said:

"Unless and until primary legislation concerning ID cards is brought before this Parliament, there will be no ID cards in the United Kingdom".—[Hansard, 30/1/06; cols. 87–88.]

If the Government mean that, why will they not undertake not to sign us up to an EU ID card system in Brussels? Surely, they would only be fulfilling an undertaking already given at earlier stages of the Bill. I look forward to the noble Lord's reply in clarification of their position.

Finally, I should clarify a point that I touched on at Report when I mentioned that Brussels could use Title V, being Articles 70 to 80 of the TEC—the common transport policy—as an alternative route to introduce an EU ID card if it so wished. The United Kingdom does not have any form of opt out from that policy, which is decided by QMV and which empowers the council to lay down,

"common rules applicable to international transport to or from the territory of a member state or passing across the territory of one or more member states", which is a quote from Article 71(a). Article 71(d) allows the council to dictate "any other appropriate provisions".

I understand that the EU driving licence was developed from Article 71(c), which covers,

"measures to improve transport safety", so I fear that it is not far fetched to suggest that EU ID cards could be introduced under Title V against which, as I have mentioned, we have no protection. There is also the suggestion, as has been mentioned in our debates so far and during the debate on Amendment No. 4 today, that EU driving licences might develop into an EU identity card, or something very like it. So I would be grateful to learn from the noble Lord whether the Government disagree with that analysis and why.

These are my three questions for the noble Lord. First, will he assure your Lordships that the Government have not yet sent a letter opting into an EU ID card system? Secondly, if Parliament is to remain sovereign in this area, will he undertake that the Government will not do so in future? Thirdly, is there any reason why Brussels should not introduce an EU ID card system under the common transport policy as an alternative to Title IV? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative 5:30 pm, 6th February 2006

My Lords, I shall not be as detailed as my noble friend was in his eloquent and erudite speech. I shall make a short general political point. I have noticed that in recent Ministers' replies to Questions about the burdens imposed on British citizens by the EU there have been fewer attempts to defend the totally indefensible and to present utterly ludicrous proposals as in Britain's interests, and there have been more references to the fact that we have to obey regulations that have been thrust upon us because of majority voting, even though they are ridiculous. That was the tone of the Minister's reply a week ago to a Question about tallow burning.

It occurs to me that the Government could avoid adding to their embarrassments by proceeding in the way suggested by my noble friend in the amendment and promising not to take on any further major obligations of the kind mentioned in the amendment unless the need for them has first been endorsed by Parliament. If Parliament's agreement was not forthcoming, the Government would find Parliament's obduracy a very useful shield.

At the moment the Government are constantly riding roughshod over Parliament, even agreeing in Brussels to proposals before they have even been properly scrutinised by the appropriate parliamentary committee. It is high time we stemmed the constant draining of power from our own Parliament and reasserted our belief in democracy. I therefore support the spirit of the amendment moved by my noble friend. I am not sure this is the moment to air these wide issues, to which I have certainly not done justice in this short speech, but I heartily endorse the spirit of the amendment.

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

My Lords, I too support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, as I did previously. I thank him for bringing the matter before the House and for doing so much research on it. I do not intend to speak for long.

The noble Lord mentioned driving licences. It is well within my memory that the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, when she was Prime Minister, ridiculed the idea that there would one day be a European driving licence, or that we would have the European flag on our car number plates. But that has come to pass. I know we will be told that we need not worry about anything; this comes under, I think, the first pillar, so there would have to be primary legislation before we could have a European driving licence. Under the proposed European constitution, however, those pillars are dismantled and there is only one constitution, without the protection of individual agreements between individual nations. In that sense, as we have been told we are protected by the pillars, if the constitution comes into being, the fears of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, may well be realised.

We will be told that there is no prospect of the constitution being brought forward, but the Prime Minister said last week that there was. The whole thing may be resuscitated; the pillars that protect us—according to the noble Baroness, when we last discussed these matters—will be abolished; the European Union, under the new constitution, may be able to introduce a European identity card, probably under qualified majority voting; and the British Parliament will be compelled to accept it.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

My Lords, I am not commenting on the merits or otherwise of the amendment. Is it expected that foreign states will at some point in the future be able to consult our national identity register when dealing with British citizens travelling abroad or applying for their visas? There are many police and security services belonging to arbitrary and despotic regimes who we would wish to avoid having any access. But if there is to be some access, it is important that there should be safeguards and controls over this. I look forward to hearing what the Government will say on this matter.

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

My Lords, to be found speaking in the company of the noble Lords, Lord Pearson of Rannoch and Lord Stoddart of Swindon, puts my "euro reputation" at a certain risk. However, I remain an undimmed admirer of the indefatigability of both noble Lords, even though I disagree with them more often than I agree.

As always, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has done his homework. In moving the amendment, he seems to be saying that we have not yet signed up to a decision on ID cards in Europe that could be taken by a qualified majority and that he wants to prevent that happening without the consent of this Parliament. Given that we have spent 50 or 60 hours debating—often with some passion—our views on compulsory ID cards of our own making, that is not an unreasonable proposition. It would make a mockery of all our efforts if in three months' time—having opted into whatever it is—we find ourselves outvoted. Have I got that right? If I have, subsection (2) of the amendment is fair enough.

I do not consider subsection (1) to be a runner on any basis. If we are not going to be part of the EU machinery that consented to the introduction of euro ID cards, we can scarcely complain if—having turned our back on that—there are certain consequences for our citizens. We cannot pass a clause in the Bill saying that, whatever Europe does with or without our consent or support, it will not be allowed to require us to have the ID card it has decided upon if we travel in its territory. I am trying to be helpful. I do not think that subsection (1) works but I am fascinated to know if there is substance in subsection (2).

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, my noble colleague Lord Pearson of Rannoch seeks further clarification from the Minister, as does the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. I admire the indefatigability of my noble friend—he is still a friend even though he does not take the Whip at the moment. He has an enviable knowledge of the intricacies of the interrelationship between the EU and UK legislative and constitutional issues.

Like my noble friend Lord Waddington, I support the intent behind this amendment, but like the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, I note that subsection (1) of the proposed new clause is not operable. If we wished to travel across the EU, we would have to comply with its requirements. Shame, one might say, but that is the reality. I anticipate that, as my noble friend said, the amendment seeks clarification and will not be pressed today.

Subsection (2) ask a very pertinent question, and I hope that the Minister will be able to give a proper and satisfactory reply to my noble friend's questions on it. I am aware that these days it is almost impossible to speak at Bill do now pass. It seems to me that the House has tried to stop that. As my noble friend moved the amendment with such tenacity it seems to me an ideal opportunity to reflect on the marvellous support that I have received from my Back-Benchers—17 of whom have during our six days in Committee, three days on Report and Second Reading and Third Reading, taken part in discussions on the Bill. I am extremely grateful to them as they have teased out more and more of the difficulties that the Government are heaping upon us through their drafting of the Bill.

I also want to put on record my appreciation of the work of the Government's Bill team and of the courtesy that both Ministers, the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, have shown in the way they have handled the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, is unavoidably absent today. I am sure that all our thoughts are with her. The Ministers have had to respond to a barrage of criticism on the Bill's core issues—issues on which the House has decided against the Government. I refer to three issues. First, the Government should not compel us to have ID cards by stealth during a period which the Government promised in their election manifesto would be a voluntary period. Secondly, the Government are still unable to give the House a clear indication of costs that may be audited for the running of the scheme. Thirdly, I refer to the issue of the commissioner's powers and the independence of that office.

We believe it is right that another place should now have the opportunity to look again at all those issues. My fervent hope is that the Government will allow another place sufficient time next Monday to debate them properly because the people of our country deserve nothing less than that.

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

My Lords, I hope that the House will grant me the indulgence of speaking very briefly a second time. It is against the rules but I had not realised that this was the last opportunity I would have to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the many other Peers who have made the passage of this difficult Bill so friendly and so constructive despite what the Government may think about being defeated seven times in the Lobbies.

I, too, thank very particularly the Bill team for its tremendous help throughout. I thank my own colleagues, particularly my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford. It has been a useful if painful passage which I hope will in the end make for a better measure.

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

My Lords, I shall deal with the amendment and then the thanks.

As ever, we have listened with interest and not inconsiderable admiration to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. I am reminded that the last time a politician was described as indefatigable, it was Mr George Galloway in another place describing Saddam Hussein, but perhaps I should go no further with that. I do not think that even the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, could be described as indefatigable in the same way as that.

I listened carefully to what the noble Lord had to say about his amendments. As he described, subsection (1) of the amendment seeks to prevent any international body imposing conditions on any United Kingdom citizen to attend any place for the purpose of an issue of an ID card unless this has been agreed by a UK statute. Subsection (2) of the amendment seeks to prevent any Minister entering into an undertaking with the European Union to introduce an ID card scheme in the United Kingdom or agreeing any common standards in relation to such a scheme without the consent of Parliament.

As we have said on previous occasions the Government's position is that there is no question of identity cards being introduced by fiat from Brussels. We very much doubt that the treaties could provide a legal basis for measures on national identity cards. Even if—which once again we doubt—it could be argued that Title IV could provide a treaty base, the UK would be bound by such a measure only if it opted in to it. Title IV is primarily concerned with border controls and the entry and residence of third-country nationals in the Community. It does not provide for the introduction of an EU ID card. In addition the UK is bound by measures drawn up under Title IV only if it opts in to them. There is therefore no question of the UK being forced to sign up to a European ID card under Title IV of the EC treaty.

I am sure that the House will have no objection to my taking this opportunity to respond to comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, on Report, when he cited Council Decision 15226/04 of 15 December 2004—as he did this afternoon—which he believed showed that European ID cards could be introduced by Brussels without the consent of Parliament. I think he conceded that, subject to the advice that he has now received from senior counsel into what he described as "murky waters", this is no longer the case. I think he accepts that point now, which suggests that we have moved on a bit—certainly in the thinking of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. At least we have confirmed that point to his satisfaction.

We should also make it clear—and it is important that the House should be in no doubt about it—that the decision in question provides that measures adopted under articles in Title IV of the EC treaty shall be subject to the co-decision procedure with the European Parliament, and qualified majority voting, rather than being adopted by unanimity and after consultation with the European Parliament. The United Kingdom, as the noble Lord has rightly said, opted in to that decision as to the appropriate procedure. However, I must also make it clear that that does not change the position that I have already set out: that under the Title IV opt-in protocol the UK is bound by a Title IV measure only if it opts in to it. We have not opted in to all future Title IV measures that are subject to qualified majority voting. For all measures, including those under Article 62(2), we have a right to decide and determine whether to opt in on a measure-by-measure basis.

With regard to subsection (2) of the amendment, the Government have no intention of entering into an undertaking with other EU members to set up an ID card scheme. That is a decision for this Parliament and that is exactly what this Bill is about. I should also make it clear that there is no requirement for inter-governmental agreements that are not legally binding to be deposited for parliamentary scrutiny. The Government see no reason why special arrangements should be made only in relation to ID cards.

As I have made clear, the decision on whether identity cards should be introduced in the United Kingdom is a matter for this Parliament and that is what we are debating today. The information contained on the card will be governed by regulations under what is now Clause 6(3). Those regulations are subject to the affirmative procedure and require the agreement of Parliament. The issue of common security standards for those states that issue ID cards is entirely different. The United Kingdom's interest in what other countries do is not whether they have an ID card scheme, but to ensure that if they do those cards which can be used to travel to and from the UK comply with suitably high security standards. I am sure all noble Lords will accept that that is in the interests of our country.

The extraordinary JHA Council of 7 July last year asked for standards on physical security features to be agreed early in 2006 and for standards relating to the security of issuing processes to be agreed by the end of 2005. The JHA Council of 1 and 2 December adopted council conclusions which carried out this remit. The council conclusions are intergovernmental; they are not legally binding on any member state but they do show how seriously the member states take document security. In so far as the noble Lord's amendment is designed to prevent such intergovernmental initiatives, I strongly urge noble Lords to reject it.

The noble Lord asked a series of questions. First, I confirm again that the Government have not opted into any EU measure requiring the introduction of identity cards. Secondly, I confirm that the Government have no intention of opting into any system of EU ID card, but as my noble friend Lady Scotland has said on several occasions and particularly on Report, it would be inappropriate to give some sort of commitment that would bind future governments; we cannot do so. Thirdly, I have not been briefed on common transport policy. Using that to bring in a common format driving licence would be one thing, but I cannot conceive that this could be used to impose a European Union ID card on member states. I do not see it as a back door method of entry for that purpose. The noble Lord is sometimes a bit of a keen conspiracy theorist, but that is one conspiracy that I cannot see coming to fruition.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that neither foreign states, nor anyone other than those employed to administer it, will have access to the register. As we discussed earlier, Clause 18 allows for information to be provided to overseas law enforcement bodies in the limited circumstances set out in that clause and subject to the conditions and regulations under Clause 21, which is parallel to Section 18 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act. Under the Act, the Secretary of State can prevent information being provided to foreign states if it would be inappropriate, perhaps because of concerns about fair trials in those jurisdictions.

I have tried to cover all the matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, and other noble Lords during the course of this shortish debate on Third Reading. Before I sit down, given that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, have made comments about the progress of the Bill, I shall add my own comments. I have happily spent many hours sitting next to my noble friend Lady Scotland listening to her with great intent and trying to provide her with some respite from the myriad of amendments and questions that have been raised about the Identity Cards Bill. Like everyone else in your Lordships' House, I sit there in awe and wonder at the way in which she does her very difficult job. It is sad that she is not with us today; for very sad reasons indeed. I know that I echo the sentiments of the House in wishing her well and thanking her for her incredible efforts in the course of this Bill and the other legislation that we have been considering in parallel.

I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. She is at all times courteous. Her questions are well intentioned and well directed, and her amendments are well thought through and well argued. I enjoy the way in which she brings her wisdom and knowledge to this subject. Similarly, the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, who is a representative of a party that is implacably opposed to the legislation, has made an unusually large number of extremely constructive points and extremely constructive amendments, which have added to the weight and import of the Bill. I am also grateful to all other noble Lords, in particular the 22 Labour Back-Benchers who supported us at Second Reading and supported the principles behind the measure. I am also grateful to other Back-Benchers from all parties who have participated and to noble Lords from the Cross Benches. Finally, I thank the Bill team, who have made my job and that of my noble friend Lady Scotland much easier and who have occasionally provided us with a few one-liners to make matters lighter and slightly more humorous than they might otherwise have been.

That brings me to the close of my remarks. I cannot support the noble Lord's amendment, although he moved it with his usual force and thought. Perhaps there will come a time when I will find myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch; but I am not in agreement on this occasion.

Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch Conservative 5:45 pm, 6th February 2006

I fear that it falls to me to lower the tone of the party by winding up on this amendment. I thank all noble Lords who have supported the spirit of the amendment, if not its whole detail.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, answered the first question in the affirmative: the Government have not yet signed up to the scheme in Brussels. I find it odd that he was not more specific in agreeing to answer the second question in the affirmative. However, he said that this Government have no intention of signing up to such a measure. He mentioned that he would not want to bind future governments by agreeing to the second question in full. I was not asking him to do that. I thought that a tradition existed whereby one government did not have the right to bind another government. That tradition is being severely eroded by other events in European policy. The Minister completely ducked my point on the common transport policy, but I forgive him for that. I think that we can take it that this is not a conspiracy policy; an ID card could be introduced via the common transport policy.

I remain fearful that, one way or another, through developing common minimum standards such as the driving licence, entitlement card and so on, we will end up as part of a harmonised EU ID card system. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than if I were proved wrong.

I understand that the Government have serried ranks of noble Lords waiting to vote down this amendment if I were to press it to a Division, so I feel that discretion should be the better part of valour, if only because I would not want it said that your Lordships' House had disagreed with it. Time will tell but, in the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, that the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.