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Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 6:30 pm, 12th November 2018

Once again, I thank my noble friend for the amendment. As he will recall, in 2010 the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition decided to end the identity card scheme and the associated national identity register because it was expensive and represented a substantial erosion of civil liberties—and I have to tell him that this Government have no plans to revisit that decision. There are good reasons for that. We have not seen any evidence that a national identity number or database would offer greater protection against terrorism or greater control at the border. There is no evidence that it would have prevented the 2017 terrorist attacks in the UK, and it has not prevented the attacks in France and Belgium, where national identity registers are in place. If my noble friend’s concern relates to people entering this country from abroad, I simply say that the UK is not in the Schengen area: we retain full control of our border and can carry out the necessary checks on those entering the UK.

UK citizens’ biometric data that is already held is stored in different government databases for specific purposes, with strict rules on how they can be used and retained. We cannot foresee any benefits that would justify the expense of introducing a national identity number for everyone in the country linked to a centrally held database which, if it were biometric, would presumably hold the biometric data of all of us indefinitely—an idea which, as I mentioned earlier, Parliament has expressly rejected. Protecting the public and keeping citizens safe is a priority for the Government. We are making big investments to those ends. We believe that the investment that we are making in better security, better use of intelligence and cybersecurity is a more effective use of our resources.