Clause 1 - The National Identity Register

Identity Cards Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at on 18 January 2005.

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Amendment moved [this day]: No. 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 16, leave out from beginning to end of line 4 on page 2 and insert—

'(a) of assistance to the Secretary of State in preventing or detecting terrorist acts in the United Kingdom or elsewhere or otherwise in the interests of national security;

(b) of assistance to the Secretary of State in preventing or detecting serious crime;

(c) for the purposes of controlling illegal immigration and enforcing immigration controls; or

(d) for the purpose of securing proper provision of relevant public services.

(4A) For the purposes of subsection (4)—

''relevant public services'' means the public provision of—

(a) healthcare,

(b) housing,

(c) education, and

(d) social benefits;

''serious crime'' means crime giving rise to an offence triable only on indictment.'.—[Mr. Malins.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Photo of Derek Conway Derek Conway Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup 2:30, 18 January 2005

I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following amendments:

No. 4, in clause 1, page 1, line 17, leave out 'prevention or'.

No. 5, in clause 1, page 1, line 17, after second 'of', insert 'serious'.

No. 111, in clause 1, page 2, line 3, leave out from first 'of' to end of line 4 and insert

'establishing entitlement to a particular public service'.

No. 2, in clause 43, page 36, line 32, after first 'crime', insert

'(other than in section 1(4A))'.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Shadow Minister (Homeland Security), Home Affairs

To reiterate, I am speaking to amendment No. 1, with overarching interests in amendments Nos. 4 and 5.

The basis of the Bill has to be terrorism. Without a mention of terrorism at this early stage we are missing an important point, which is why I should like to emphasise proposed subsection (4)(a) of amendment No. 1, which says:

''in preventing or detecting terrorist acts in the United Kingdom or elsewhere or otherwise in the interests of national security''.

Paragraph (b) refers to serious crime. I emphasise that everything that has brought the Bill to a head is predicated on what happened on 11 September. However, we might just pause for a moment and consider what has happened inside this country in   terms of terrorism and international terrorism, and thus the importance of the first paragraph of amendment No. 1.

Unless we emphasise in the Bill that the register is designed to put facts about potential terrorists into the public and private domains, we are missing a trick in an area where the Bill could be quite useful. A register and a card can help to counter terrorism, but we must consider the matter differently from how we have looked at it so far. The main problem that we have faced inside this country over the past 30 years has been with a terrorist organisation that draws its recruits largely—and clearly I am being blunt—from certain sections of the community, and from certain families within those sections. I am talking about the paramilitary threat in Northern Ireland, and principally that coming from the Irish Republican Army and the Protestant paramilitaries. Information on home-grown terrorism has been relatively easy to gather. The dreaded aspect that one faced when considering the IRA was what people called a ''clean skin''—in other words, a terrorist who came from nowhere, had no previous form and no family or even religious connection to the cause that he or she espoused. Clean skins were unusual, but unfortunately, with the threat that we face at the moment, they will be the norm.

I should like to dwell on a series of arrests last summer, principally in Kent but in the midlands too, of a number of men who are Pakistani by birth or of Pakistani origin and were born in this country. Some of them are coming before the courts at the moment. It has been suggested that the case in which they were involved could have equalled the Madrid attack and the effects that that had on the Spanish Government and society.

If we are to prevent the sort of terrorism that, sadly, we have had to get used to over the past two or three years, we must realise that much of it will come from individuals who are born in this country and move, not necessarily to the countries of their origins, but to where the rest of their family comes from. I would not say that the point applies only to Pakistan, although it illustrates the point well. North Africa and a series of other countries also spring to mind, but I will not go into that now.

It is therefore crucial that if the register is to be of assistance to our security services and security forces in countering a new style of terrorism with a new style of counter-terrorism, the least that we can do is specifically spell out in the Bill that it is trying to face down terrorism, and that we consider international terrorism as part of the same deal. An accurate register will be crucial, and a card, if introduced in the right way, could be highly useful in countering such terrorism. That is another argument into which I will not go at the moment, but I am sure that the Minister will mention that we will deal with it later.

I strongly support the amendment; without it, the Bill will fail to achieve something that could have been achieved at an early stage.

Committee members are correct to devote some time to clause 1, because it is at the heart of the identity card scheme. It establishes the national identity register, and it sets out the statutory purposes for which the register is to be established and maintained. It also plays a key role in safeguarding the ID card scheme from function creep, which we will come to later; it will become apparent in the interoperation of clause 1 with other clauses.

The statutory purposes of the register are twofold: first, to facilitate a convenient method by which individuals will be able to prove registrable facts about themselves if they choose to do so, or are required to do so in private transactions and accept that requirement; and secondly, to provide a secure and reliable method by which registrable facts about individuals can be ascertained or verified where that is necessary in the public interest. Those statutory purposes are explicitly expressed in the clause, although not explicitly enough, or narrowly enough, for the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan).

Given that to some degree I am treating this as a clause stand part debate, I turn to some of the general points that have been made to which it is appropriate for me to respond. We ought not to confuse the purposes of the scheme, as set out in the clause, with the specific powers that the Bill provides. The scheme is difficult to follow—as, sometimes, is legislation generally—but it becomes even more so if the purposes of various parts of the legislation are confused with other parts that we have not yet debated. My first request to Committee members is that they do not accidentally confuse the purposes of the scheme with the specific powers that the Bill provides.

Clause 1 does not of itself empower anybody to do anything. It is a response to the Home Affairs Committee's request that the Bill should explicitly set out the wider purposes of the scheme. To see what powers the Bill provides, Committee members need to look at later clauses. It would be inappropriate for me to go through all of those powers, but I will give some examples so that Members may be guided through the process.

For example, clause 14 gives a power for limited identity information to be provided with the consent of the card holder, and clause 19 gives a power for information to be provided without consent in specified circumstances. The powers are very specific, whereas the purposes of the scheme are, understandably, wider. Both the powers on the provision of information and the purposes meet the hon. Gentleman's test of proportionality. I hope to persuade him of that as I continue to respond to the debate, although I suspect that that is a forlorn hope.

''the efficient and effective provision of public services'' mentioned in clause 1(4)(e) is a wide purpose, but that does not mean, as hon. Members seem to suggest, that there will be carte blanche to provide any information for any purpose to any public sector organisation. For example, if there is a need to provide information without consent to a Government Department—say, to the Department for Work and Pensions for the investigation of a benefit fraud, in which it could be very relevant to know where someone lives—that would have to be spelled out in an order made under clause 19(5). The time to consider the details will be when such an order is laid before the House.

The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) said that 51 registrable facts could be revealed whenever a person produces an ID card. I assume that his arithmetic involved counting the sub-paragraphs in schedule 1, but what he did not say is that the schedule includes some 20 sub-paragraphs of administrative information, which, of course, will not be provided by the applicant at all. That information includes details of every initial application, the date of every application for an ID card, information on the application itself, and details of when any ID card was reported lost or stolen. Those administrative details would not be provided. In fact, clause 14 prevents them from being provided when, for example, an individual uses an ID card to open a bank account.

Such administrative information might conceivably be of interest to the police for the prevention or detection of crime, and so could be provided under clause 19(3). However, it would also be of significant interest to the commissioner, and to any individual whose information was retained on the register who was conducting an audit trail to see what data were held about them, and what administrative decisions had been made in relation to that data. It is a consequence of the need to have an appropriate form of audit for the protection of the individual that such things are listed as registrable facts. With respect, it does the scheme a disservice to do that simple arithmetical calculation and to say in a pejorative way that there are 51 facts, and then to use that as some sort of argument against the collection of this information, as the hon. Gentleman has done several times.

Clause 1(5) defines the registrable facts and lists nine, not 51, items of information. Even if one adds the definitions in subsections (6) and (7), the total reaches only 16 items. Those 16 items are the sorts of basic identity information that anyone would expect an identity card scheme to include, such as name, address, date of birth, nationality and, for foreign nationals, the terms and conditions of their leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom. Much of that information—as has already been conceded, I think—will be held in various Government databases. I do not think that that is confidential or highly personal information.

I dispute the argument that the collection of such information in one database fundamentally changes the relationship between the individual and the state. I know that that is not the whole argument being made, but we need to put that part of it aside. We cannot   continue to conduct our affairs on the basis that the figure of 51 can constantly be bandied about, as if the Government are seeking to know every single thing that there is to know about people and to put it on to a database. They are not. When one looks into the issue and disaggregates the arguments properly, one sees that we are talking about a comparatively small amount of information about people's identity, and it is information that the Government broadly know already, in any event.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I based the number of 51 on a report from Privacy International, which said that clause 1 and schedule 1 set out more than 50 categories of information required for the register, subject to change by regulation. I can either hand the Minister the list of those 51 or read them all out to the Committee in due course.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality) 2:45, 18 January 2005

I have do doubt that Committee members will look forward to the hon. Gentleman reading out that list, as the Privacy International briefing was probably circulated to all of them. The point that I make to the hon. Gentleman is that there is clearly a danger in accepting arguments—without seeking to establish what underlies them—from people who wish to lobby from a particular point of view. What underlies this argument must be the simple arithmetical calculation of counting up all the registrable facts. However, I have the advantage that the Government's thinking—and mine—has to be reduced to the form of a Bill and published; the evidence of the Government's thinking is there. A number of those facts are administrative and are not in the individual's ownership in the sense that no such information is ever in any individual's ownership.

I have no objection to the hon. Gentleman's accepting arguments from other organisations and repeating them; that often engenders healthy debate and discussion. However, if he does that, it must be open to me to point out where those organisations have misinterpreted the Bill, if they have done so, or where they have done that simple arithmetical calculation and misrepresented what a registrable fact is for the purposes of this legislation.

In applying the test of proportionality and of whether this is the historic change that people suggest it is, we should consider the Bill rather than the rhetoric. I argue—whether people are persuaded is a matter for them—that there is no great controversy about the information gathered on individuals in the database and that the Government, in one guise or other, probably know much of that information. Much information on many citizens is in the public domain in any event—in telephone directories or in other documents in general circulation. Such public documents have a significant amount of information about all of us, unless we choose that they should not have it.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

The Minister said that a lot of the information is already available. However, to put the issue in context, we should be clear that when people have tried to publish reverse telephone directories, through which people can collect all kinds of data and publish it on the internet, action has been taken by the Information Commissioner and such things have been found to have been in breach of data protection legislation. There is a lot of public sensitivity on this issue. The fact that the information is there does not mean that that is necessarily accepted by the general public. In the commercial context, that has explicitly not been accepted and actions have been taken to prevent such data being circulated.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. This register will be subject to the very same data protection legislation. All the protections that we feel are necessary to stop the abuse that people are capable of perpetrating with information will relate to the register as well. The provisions are not in any sense separate from those in general law now under the Data Protection Act 1998 to protect people's valuable personal information. We will later consider specific provisions to ensure that behaviour that is designed to try to use or abuse the information or the register is seriously criminalised, which I am sure will be supported. The Government want to protect against any vulnerability, although they accept that their principal responsibility is to devise a register that is secure against that such behaviour in the first place.

The only information that we believe needs to be held at a higher level is the record of when information has been provided from the register, as that could arguably be used in order to glean information about where and when an ID card has been used. It is obvious that an audit trail of when an ID card has been used and of when access has been granted to information on the register or information from the register has been provided will tell us something about the behaviour and activity of the individual carrying the card. There is no question but that people could draw other conclusions from that information. That is why the many millions who have Tesco cards sign up to allowing Tesco to record information on a database   about their personal and shopping habits. A friend of mine told me that his cat got a Christmas card from Tesco, because the firm could tell that he bought cat food and so clearly had a cat. I wonder about the extent to which people in this country, including those who object to the proposed scheme, already unwittingly allow a significant amount of information about themselves to be gathered by commercial organisations.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

It is voluntary to an extent, but there is such a concept as informed consent, which operates in a number of areas, and I sometimes wonder how informed people are about what they are consenting to when they sign up to loyalty and other cards that they routinely carry around. However, that is a matter for them; we live in a free society and if people wish to do that, they may do so.

The information that I referred to as the audit trail will be subject to the serious crime threshold in clause 20(4) before it can be provided to the police, for the very reason that it is sensitive and because there should be a high threshold before it can be shared, even for the purposes of crime.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that the registrable facts in clause 1(5) included information that a person would not want to be revealed to the police if he or she was being investigated for a criminal offence. Exactly which piece of information would he not wish to be revealed if were asked to volunteer it? Would it be his name, his address, his nationality or even his previous address?

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

I very clearly remember the hon. Gentleman envisaging a set of circumstances where a comparatively minor crime was committed.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

Ah, the hon. Gentleman remembers now. I will respond to it in any event; I accept that it might not be the most important argument that he makes.

The importance of the register is that there will be a single, reliable source of registrable facts that individuals can use to help prove their identity, and that in certain circumstances—we will come to those in more detail later—the police and security services and Government Departments can use to help identify people. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam stated that providing those registrable facts for the register will somehow alter the balance between the individual and the state. I want to take that debate head-on, because it is at the heart of the objection in principle of a significant number of people.

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said on Second Reading—he asked this rhetorical question, and nobody took him up on it—did the compulsory requirement to register the birth of everyone in England and Wales alter the balance between the individual and the state when it was introduced in 1837, or do so when it was introduced in Scotland in   1855? In fact, it may have done. However, that is the environment in which we have been living in England and Wales since 1837 and in Scotland since 1855. So where is this fundamental change in the relationship between the state and the individual, as it has been required that the birth of every single person in the United Kingdom since 1837 or 1855 be registered?

Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Labour, Vauxhall

I am always keen, as I am sure the Minister is, to include Northern Ireland when we are talking about the United Kingdom. Will he tell us when that situation applied in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

To my great embarrassment, I am unable to do so. However, I promise that I will ensure that at some stage before the conclusion of the Committee's proceedings I will provide that information to hon. Members. My hon. Friend will understand why I am embarrassed, because I am very careful to include Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom. I am embarrassed—her presence exacerbates my embarrassment—that the notes that I wrote during lunch do not include research on Northern Ireland.

However, we seem to be talking about a fundamental question. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam is about to take it on and I am happy to let him do so.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

I tried this morning to set out a case that the proposals represent a fundamental step change. All the other registers and databases that have been collected have been for specific functions. The register of births had a specific function. The registers of births, deaths and so on are not generic databases for a range of functions such as those in clause 1 just in case we might need the information at some future date. There is a difference between saying, ''Every citizen must do this just in case we need it for this massively wide range of functions in the clause'', and saying, ''A birth certificate very carefully defined with specific purposes must be issued in respect of every child that is born.''

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

I opened up this debate and perhaps I should have come better prepared. I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's response, because I suspect that he took a shot in the dark when he said that the register of births was for specific purposes. Clearly, the first purpose was to register births, but, in fact, extracts of that register are used for a myriad of things. I am sure that he knows that for in excess of 150 years the legislative framework for the register has been such that I could get an extract of the registration of the birth of every individual in this Room simply by paying the fee to the registrar—if I knew where the registration had been made. Without knowing that, I suspect that I could search on the net for where someone was born and approximate where the registration was made. More than likely I could then get an extract of the registration of birth for the payment of a fee.

There is no restriction on the use to which the register of births is put. It is a comprehensive database backed by compulsion and there are penalties for   failure to register; parents are compelled to register the birth of their children within a period of time. It is an open register.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

The hon. Gentleman says that it holds a single fact; it holds a substantial amount of information about people and not just a single fact. It holds details of who the parents were, where the individual was born, their date of birth, and their gender. Indeed, for a period of time it held the parents' occupations. I have not asked for such an extract for anybody for a long time, because I have not practised as a solicitor for some time, so I am not sure, but I think that it includes the parents' occupations.

The point is that if the lobby that is against ID cards—it would not be fair to say the civil liberties lobby, because it is not everybody—is to construct a massive attack on the basis that the proposals shift fundamentally the relationship between the individual and the state, it is up to that lobby to make that argument. I include the hon. Gentleman in that. The argument must be made in a coherent and intellectually honest fashion. It is not open to that lobby to ignore the registers and databases that exist and what they are used for, and to argue that we must all accept that they are for limited purposes but that this measure is substantially different. It is not. I do not get any sense that people are persuaded that there will be a massive change.

The hon. Gentleman may say that the difference is that the databases that he referred to are for limited purposes, but that the proposed register is for everything. No doubt the argument will change from specific purposes to limited purposes; I shall make the argument for him before he intervenes. The register is for the purposes that are laid out in the Bill. I grant that those purposes are more extensive than some of the purposes for which other databases are held, and I grant also that the specific purposes that are set out subsume some of the purposes for which other databases are held by the Government. However, they do not add significantly to the powers that public authorities already enjoy.

The purposes offer authorities, the police in particular and those who provide public services the opportunity for the first time to use a guaranteed, accurate database. Until now, it has been hit and miss and up to the value of the documentation or the information that the individual or somebody else could produce. If the system works, provides the level of certainty that it should and is tied to biometric information, an individual can be certain for the first time that people are provided with accurate information about their identity and, more importantly, that no one is stealing it.

Photo of David Curry David Curry Conservative, Skipton and Ripon 3:00, 18 January 2005

I suspect that the introduction of registers of birth was an attempt to update to the industrial world the   records that had already been kept at a parish level in England. However, does the Minister accept the argument about the incrementalism of the data being collected? It is easy enough to say, ''Well, this is simply an extension of what has been done and it goes back 100 or 200 years'', but surely it is legitimate to argue that there is a tipping point because of the sheer accumulation of the information.

The Minister said that the provision was extensive, but it is significantly hypothetical because the purposes are hypothetical and very much subjective in the sense that we can ask who reaches the conclusion that it is necessary to stop crime Who makes the decisions about the efficient and effective provision of public services? When I consider the list, it is difficult to conceive of any activity in which I might engage in my everyday life that would not justify someone making such demands of me.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

It does not matter what the genealogy of the legislation in the mid-19th century was or what led Parliament to decide that national registers were appropriate throughout the United Kingdom. The existence of the register since then cuts the feet entirely from the argument that, by the collection of registrable facts, we are fundamentally changing the relationship between the state and the individual. The right hon. Gentleman did not deploy that argument, but those who do should not be entitled any longer to make such assertions and walk away from them. The whole debate has been plagued by people making grand assertions about liberty, but then walking away from them and not staying around to justify and explain what they meant.

In the second part of his argument, the right hon. Gentleman said that there was a tipping point at which the collection of information moves from what is— to adopt the argument of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam—proportionate to what becomes disproportionate. I intend to deal with the matter and if the right hon. Gentleman will bear with me, he will understand that I accept the challenge of spelling out why making such a change now, apart from the arguments that were rehearsed by his hon. Friends from the Front Bench about terrorism, is proportionate and reasonable.

The right hon. Gentleman was not in Committee for the beginning of my contribution to the debate this afternoon—he almost certainly had other important things to do and I am not criticising him—but I made it clear that I thought that the debate would not be served by doing what he did. He confused purposes with powers. To understand the Bill, we must understand the purposes of the register as set out under clause 1. The powers that people will have to access the information will be much restricted and are set out later in the Bill. I explained that at some length to the Committee and I do not intend to repeat myself. However, if the right hon. Gentleman has an opportunity to read the report of that part of the debate he should do so, because I spelt out the difference.

For example, there is no power in the Bill to require production of an identity card to the police. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam will say that that is unnecessary because people will have their biometrics on them in any event, and he is right. However, this is yet another area where misinformation is introduced into the debate to support an unsustainable argument against identity cards. I read that a member of the official Opposition rather grandly said that the first time a police officer asks him to produce his identity card, he will eat it. Under this Bill, he will never be asked to produce his identity card, because the Bill is not about giving the police additional powers. There are very good reasons for that; we do not want to live in a society in which the police can stop people and require them to produce an identity card just because they know that they are required to have a card. However, we want to give the police the power to ascertain the identity of a person with certainty where they already have the power to do that in the current legislative structure that they operate within—such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, in England and Wales, associated with the Serious Organised Crime Agency and other organisations. The debates on this issue must be had in the context of discussions on policing, rather than in this context. This legislation is not about giving creeping increased powers to the police in their relationships with individuals.

I suspect that the final point that could be made on this matter is that once we get beyond that sticking point, there is a danger of there being some sort of creep that moves us into a world that none of us want. This Parliament is the protection against that; it is our responsibility to prevent such draconian powers being given to authorities, the police, or to anyone else in any part of public life. Although I have disputes with other parties in the House about all sorts of things, including fundamental issues of public policy, I do not think that any party in the House would want to do the sorts of things that it is being suggested we are opening up the opportunity for a Government to do. If we ever get a Government who are prepared to do such things, they will find a way of doing them whether or not there are ID cards or a register of individuals.

We ought not to deny ourselves the opportunity of having certainty in terms of proving our own and other people's identities because of something that may happen 10 years hence. Another distinguishing feature of the debate on Second Reading was that the majority of those who criticised us wanted to have a discussion about what they thought would happen in 10 years' time rather than now. 

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

May I take the Minister back not to the identity card, which comes later, but to the register and the question of police powers? If a police officer who is trying to prevent or detect a low-level crime chooses to access the register in order to check my identity, is that officer entitled only to have confirmation that I am on the register or is he entitled to all the information about me that is on the register?

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

In those circumstances, if a police officer were allowed to do that—and we will address where he can do that in more detail later—he would only be allowed to establish identity.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

Nothing else—although there is a provision that would allow police officers investigating serious crime to get access to more detailed information in certain circumstances. However, with respect, we should properly deal with that when we come to it. It is important to deal with the powers in the context of the relevance of the purposes, which is why we are having this debate. I do not want to anticipate all the debates, because I can see, from the amendments that have been tabled, that we will have significant debates about some of the powers, and rightly so.

There is no power in the Bill to require the production of an ID card to a police officer and no new power for the police to demand to know someone's identity. The scheme will allow the police to check people's fingerprints when they are already entitled to do so against the national identity register—for example, if a person is under arrest—but only if they have already checked against the records on the police national computer to which they have access.

The police will have to exercise the powers that they currently have and, if they have not been able to ascertain identity that way, only then will they be able to gain access to the register to check a person's identity. Because we all carry our biometric information with us, as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam said, there is no need for the police to carry out such a check or for a person to have a card in their possession, although it would help if they carried their card and were prepared to assist the police by proving their identity to the highest possible standard. In terms of the detection and prevention of crime, that facility and security alone will undoubtedly mean that the police will save a significant amount of time, which they would otherwise have to expend in checking people's identity to the level that satisfies them if they have a relationship with those people and even when those people are volunteering the information.

The Bill also sets limits on the information that can be held on the register. Can we all finally agree that this is not a Big Brother database? Unless the information meets the requirements of clause 1(5) and schedule 1, it cannot be held on the register. No criminal convictions, medical records or bank details can be held. There is a mechanism in the Bill that operates in relation to the registration of information and makes that clear, but there is one minor qualification. We have left open the possibility that people may, in   future, voluntarily put information about themselves on the register, such as the fact that they are an organ donor or have a particular blood group. As one hon. Member said, a constituent argued that it would be helpful if information about a child who suffered from a potentially fatal allergy were held on the card. [Interruption.] Not political affiliation. We will deal with voluntary information when it is appropriate to do so.

I shall now move on to the specific provisions and amendments and deal with some of the arguments. Before doing so, however, I say to my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) that the registration of birth became compulsory in Northern Ireland in 1864—although it was part of Ireland then. I am grateful to have covered my embarrassment on that so quickly.

I am grateful to hon. Members for tabling the amendments, because they enable us to discuss in some detail—as they expected—what we mean by ''the public interest'' in the second limb of the statutory purpose of the identity card scheme that is set out in clause 1(3)(b) and, by dint of that, they enable me to address some of the issues of proportionality.

The clause makes it clear that one of the statutory purposes of the national identity register, which underpins the ID card scheme, is to facilitate the provisions of a secure, reliable method for identity or registrable facts to be verified or ascertained where there is a public interest. Before we move on, I remind hon. Members that the first limb of the statutory purpose is the voluntary limb, which we have already discussed.

Amendment No. 1 would make five changes to the purposes of the scheme. Some of the other amendments in the group make consequential changes, and I shall not go into them, as they follow the principal amendment as night follows day. Although I understand the reasoning behind them, I believe that they are unnecessary or, in some cases, would seriously undermine some of the benefits that the ID card scheme would provide in the wider public interest.

The first change is the addition of the prevention or detection of terrorism to the reference to national security in subsection (4)(a). Before I come to that, I will deal with the challenge thrown to me to show how an ID register, the ability to issue a card relating to it, and the use of that card as a point of access to facts on the register, would interdict terrorism. We know from information provided by security services and the police that terrorists try to use false identities in order to evade surveillance and arrest, and to facilitate activities such as moving money around and finding safe houses. That supports their terrorist activities. One key benefit of the introduction of the register and ID card scheme is that it will make it much harder for people to do those things.

I am seriously tempted to resort to an equally facile argument in response; indeed, I did so once, and I will repeat it: there are police officers and security services in Spain; there were bombs in Spain; therefore, police officers and security services are no use in fighting terrorism. That argument is nonsense. To my knowledge, no one who has deployed that argument has yet asked the Spanish Government whether the existence of identity cards was of any assistance to them in fighting terrorism. That would have been a relevant question, because that country has a long and sustained history of internal terrorism. I asked that question, and the Spanish Government told me that the existence of identity cards had significantly restricted the activities of terrorists and had significantly assisted the police and security services in tracking them down and bringing them to book for their offences, and helped to interdict offences.

The fact that terrorists may—or may not—have gotten away with terrorist atrocities since the introduction of ID cards does not alter the fact that the Spanish Government are clear that the cards have helped them. We should bear in mind the number of convicted terrorists in Spanish jails.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Shadow Minister (Homeland Security), Home Affairs 3:15, 18 January 2005

I do not know whether this will be of any assistance to the Minister, but the incident on 11 March last year was the mirror image of an incident that ETA tried to put into practice the previous Christmas. The Spanish security forces were able to catch up with and prevent the ETA incident just over a year ago because a reliable series of facts was known about ETA. I come back to a point that I made earlier: the Spanish police were able to use their equivalent of the register and of the ID card to tie down an organisation about which they knew quite a lot, and whose activities had similarities with those undertaken recently by paramilitaries in Ulster. I support the Minister in what he is saying about assisting in the fight against terrorism, but that did not help the Spanish police when it came to the new form of terrorism that we face.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

We shall have to wait for the Spanish police and security services' experience of the new form of terrorism, and the role that identity cards did or did not play in that, to come out in the wash. None of us are in a position to say exactly what role identity cards played in the apparent effectiveness of the Spanish police in tracking down the people responsible—although there was another incident in which a significant number of suspects were killed—because that information has not been shared. I am not prepared to speculate about that. However, we need to address the argument that Spain has identity cards, that Spain had a terrorist incident and that therefore identity cards cannot help in any way.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

May I gently chide the Minister? He has produced some cogent arguments on identity cards, but they relate more to clause 8. He has been talking continually about identity cards. I come back to the register. We are asking the Minister how the register, specifically, will help in the prevention of terrorism. Will it? We want the Minister to persuade us. For that matter, did Spain and other countries have the sort of identity register—separate from a card—that is being set up under this Bill?

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. The Spanish have nothing like as good an identity register as that which we propose, and nothing like as secure a way of proving the identity of individuals. It seems pretty obvious—I have no doubt that I could find many examples—that if the police or security services had information about, for example, the laundering of money that they suspected might be associated with or supportive of terrorist activity, they could check the identity register in such a serious criminal investigation against the identity of the person who opened or operated the relevant bank accounts.

The register could be checked to ascertain whether a suspect was registered. If they were not registered, the police could investigate how they came to have a bank account. If they were registered, they could find out where they were registered to be living. That would provide the security services with a significant amount of information in any number of circumstances. The police might find paraphernalia that they believed was normally associated with terrorism and might be able to pick up a fingerprint. By reference to the register, they would be able to ascertain who a certain person was—if they were registered in this country.

Photo of Mr Jon Owen Jones Mr Jon Owen Jones Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff Central

A moment ago, the Minister made a statement about the role of identity cards in helping the Spanish authorities arrest suspects. The part that I caught was that that information has not been shared. Will the Minister clarify that? I would have imagined that information on al-Qaeda suspects was shared, although for very good reasons not in open Committee. I hope that the Spanish authorities are co-operating with the British authorities on al-Qaeda suspects.  

Photo of Derek Conway Derek Conway Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

Order. I hope that the Minister will not be tempted down an unwise route. The clause is about the register.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

No, but I should clarify that. My recollection of the incident that followed the Madrid bombings was that there was an explosion in which people were killed. I do not know the details of the circumstances, but I understand that the Spanish security forces had cornered or surrounded people. That is all in the public domain. I am merely saying, in the context of the Spanish police investigation, that as a Minister with my responsibilities I am not privy to what role, if any, identity cards or an identity register played in the decisions of the police that led to that incident. I would not expect such information to be in the public domain at this stage, in any case. Hon. Members should await the analysis of the investigation and the publication of the information to make any decision as to whether identity cards had any direct role in the investigations of the Madrid bombings. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to clarify that point.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

I agree with the Minister, in that the arguments on both sides of the Spanish ID card debate are facile. The reality is that both terrorists and police adapt to the prevailing environment. The Minister is trying to make a powerful case for the fact that ID cards will create a more hostile environment for terrorists. We agree with the need for that more hostile environment, but the debate is about whether the price that we pay to achieve it is appropriate and whether the Bill is the best way to achieve the objective, which we all share, of defeating terrorism.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who has a talent for expressing in a comparatively short intervention the issues that we need to debate. I was invited to debate the matter. I remind the hon. Member for Woking that I entered this area in response to direct questions that he asked of me.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam is absolutely right. There may well be a division in the House. It is appropriate that we should clarify the differences among Government, official Opposition and Liberal Democrat Members as to whether defeating terrorism, among other things, is a justifiable reason for the measure, given the environment in which we live.

I am unequivocal about this: if we could stop the sort of atrocity that happened in Madrid by introducing these provisions, it would be a small price to pay. I do not want to have to make ridiculous arguments. Let us ask the people who lost loved ones in Madrid whether they think that a secure identity database would have helped stop the sort of activity that happened there, and whether they would have been prepared to give up whatever bit of liberty they would have had to give up. I do not think that that is a big price to pay, particularly as we are trying to collect information that relates only to people's identity. Apart from the connection to biometric data, such information about individuals is already known by agencies of the Government, albeit perhaps for more   limited purposes. Given the situation that we face, it is no longer sustainable to argue that somehow this is a fundamental change in the relationship, and that we are giving up massive liberties in order to secure very little. In fact, we are not giving up that much, yet the potential benefits are enormous. The benefits are potentially enormous not only in respect of terrorism—I am not arguing that the Bill will stop all terrorism—but in respect of all the purposes that are set out in clause 1. I shall quickly deal with them.

The amendment would include a reference to the prevention of terrorism. That is not a fundamental issue; I simply argue that the amendment is unnecessary. Terrorist acts are crimes, pure and simple. The Bill already provides, through the reference to the prevention and detection of crime, for the scheme to be used in combating terrorism. Combating terrorism is also covered by the references in subsection (4)(a) to national security, so the amendment is unnecessary.

I am not in the business of legislating if it is unnecessary to do so. If it would give some comfort to those who feel that it would be much easier to support the legislation if they saw the word ''terrorism'' in it, I am prepared to reflect on that, although I am not guaranteeing that I will come back with an amendment to include it. I will go and think about it, but inclusion of such words is completely and utterly unnecessary. I do not think that we should be putting in unnecessary words just because they give us some degree of comfort.

The second effect of the amendment—by changing the reference from ''crime'' to ''serious crime''—would be to limit the usefulness to the police of the national identity register and the ID card scheme. The hon. Member for Woking made a big issue of this, defining serious crime as any indictable offence. I do not believe that it would be right to limit the use of the scheme in this manner. I will explain why.

The law already allows the police to take the fingerprints and a DNA sample from somebody who has been arrested for a recordable offence. Those circumstances will be widened if Parliament agrees to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill and the extension of the definition of arrestable offence. It seems a simple enough question. Why should the police not be able to use the national identity register to check the identity of those arrested? They are already able to use their own database and DNA samples to check the identity of those arrested. Why should they not be allowed to do that, for example, by checking the biometric data?

We are talking about identity information, so the police could be provided from the register only with information for identity searches—name and address, date of birth and nationality. It would be very odd if, in order to seek the provision of such basic identity information, the police were to have their hands tied by only being able to make checks of those suspected of offences that would be triable on indictment. 

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 3:30, 18 January 2005

I understand the Minister's argument well. He is making it properly. That is the nature of a Committee. I put a point forward; he responds to me and responds properly. The definition is just a fraction wider, because crime includes a whole lot of trivial matters. Although the Minister may tell me that they would never be deemed relevant, nevertheless, crime is crime, and many offences where the police can do nothing like take fingerprints or arrest are still crimes, even if at a very low level.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

I do not wish to repeat myself, but we need to look at purposes and then powers. If one looks at the powers in the Bill, one sees that the powers only allow the police to do what they already have the power to do. That is the test. We in this Parliament, and other legislation, decide whether the police have the power to arrest. Once we cross that threshold, we give the police the power to check people's identity anyway. All we are doing in this Bill is allowing them to do that via the register.

The third point is that the amendment would limit the public interest on terrorism and crime to assisting the Secretary of State to combat them. I will not make a big issue of what I suspect might be an accidental inclusion. Of course, the Secretary of State has an important role to play in these matters, but the primary responsibility for fighting crime and terrorism lies with the security services. It would be artificial and unhelpful to limit the definition to information of assistance to the Secretary of State.

The fourth point is the change to the reference to immigration and the deletion of the reference to the enforcement of prohibitions on unauthorised working or employment. I accept that, as a result of this change, the use of the scheme to combat illegal working in breach of immigration controls would still be covered. However, I ask whether all employers would realise that.

Furthermore, it would be wrong to limit artificially the use of the ID card scheme—that is, the register—to illegal working in an immigration context. Should it not be open for employers to ask to see the ID cards of all prospective employees and to be able to check identity—for example, as a way of combating under-age working or identifying employees to ensure correct accounting for tax and national insurance? We all know the difficulties that historically there have been over the number of national insurance numbers in this country. Governments of both parties have been plagued by that difficulty, because of the growth in the national insurance database. There are more national insurance numbers out there than there are people who should have them. That use generates an opportunity for us progressively to bring some of these problems to book. I do not think that it would be helpful at all to make that change.

I am asked what exact assistance this ID card register and the scheme are to dealing with illegal working. The fact is that the scheme will make it much easier for employers to check a prospective employee's entitlement to work, and that is what bedevils the prosecution of employers for illegal working. It is a problem that the previous Government sought to   address in 1996, and legislated for in a way that was ineffective. It is a problem that we have sought to correct, with the support of the Opposition in changing those rules. I am still not satisfied that it is the best that we can do. The ID card scheme gives us an opportunity to nail down the very point that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam raises. I will come to his criticism of the status quo in a moment.

A person is entitled to be cleared in the face of the card if the holder is a British citizen and an EU national. For foreign nationals, such as students, the register will facilitate a quick and easy check on whether the person has the right to work—perhaps online or by telephone. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam says that this is all smoke and mirrors that the real problem is that there is no enforcement. He is wrong. There has been an exponential increase in the number of operations against illegal working over the last 12 months. I think we are now in excess of 770 for this year—last year.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

The hon. Gentleman is right that there was a need to do that. Anyone who understands the challenge of illegal working understands that we are asking people in policing to make decisions of priority, to operate quite often on intelligence which is far from reliable and to operate in an environment which is very difficult. I have nothing but praise for the people that do the work, and for the way in which they ramp up their productivity.

We then have to face the challenge that identifying those illegal workers and their employers presents in terms of further policing, prosecutions and removing people from the country. Anyone who understands the most basic things about illegal migrants knows the significant difficulties that we face in re-documenting certain individuals from certain countries—although we have been making progress on that issue. This is not just a one-dimensional argument, and to reduce it down to enforcement is to fail to understand the nature of the problem.

This is a serious problem and it generates a whole array of challenges, in relation to which the immigration and nationality directorate has been significantly improving its productivity. Just doing what it is doing—that is, the enforcement that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam suggested—is only part of the problem.

We must ensure that we are in a position where we can, with certainty, prosecute employers who use illegal workers, and can get the penalties that should be brought to bear on them. Another problem that we inherited from 1996 was that the offences were not prosecutable by indictment, and did not attract significant penalties. We had one example of a successful prosecution in which very small amounts of money were imposed as penalties by the court. We had to do something about that, and the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 passed through this Parliament last year. 

Photo of David Curry David Curry Conservative, Skipton and Ripon

We are all very mindful of the problems of gangmasters and illegal working. However, the Minister will also know that there is a considerable amount of almost official unofficial working—for example as part of the agricultural industry. That may involve students who come into the United Kingdom under special arrangements to help with strawberry harvests and people who come from eastern Europe for particular periods. Can we be confident that nothing will be proposed that will make it more difficult to recruit labour to do specific tasks or people to come in for specific purposes?

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

The right hon. Gentleman can be confident that my stewardship, and that of my predecessor, has generated just that opportunity. It is one of the marked successes of the labour market in the United Kingdom that we have the flexibility to allow temporary labour to come in, to be properly supervised, to be treated properly, to make a contribution—such as at harvest time—and then to go back. Almost all are students going back to universities in their own countries. I just wish that more Opposition Members were prepared to trumpet the benefits to the British economy and were not so reticent to stand up for managed migration in its significant numbers or for the benefits that it generates, in particular, for the English agricultural economy. I excuse all the hon. Members in Committee from that charge, but it would be much more helpful if some Opposition Members were prepared to speak out rather than keeping quiet when people are described by certain publications as ''flooding the United Kingdom''. The right hon. Gentleman can rest assured that the scheme is not intended to operate to the disadvantage of those successful schemes. I will have more to say in another context about the development and maintenance of those schemes.

The fifth point relates to the definition of public services, which in the amendment would limit the scheme to health, housing, education and social benefits. Although I agree with the hon. Member for Woking that they are the key public services for which we will need to use the ID card scheme, it would constrict the scheme severely if we were not able to set out clearly that one of its purposes is to help the efficient and effective delivery of any public service.

I will provide some examples about why the scheme is not disproportionate. Surely the scheme is in the best interests of the public, whether as taxpayers or users of services. I am not arguing that the services listed are not important for delivery, but in future, once everyone has an ID card, why should it not be reasonable to ask someone to produce an ID card when registering for VAT—not when they are going to consume a service, but registering for VAT—or for a check to be made on the register when applying for a driving licence? Why would it be considered disproportionate, for example, to try to find the address or date of birth of an individual in those circumstances through this scheme? I do not think that it would be considered disproportionate or an improper use of an identity card, and that is why I argue that the purpose as expressed is appropriate. In   any event, when we consider the powers, we will see that none of them can be exercised unless there are regulations made to govern their use.

I have made a substantial contribution, because I am confident that Members will be true to the spirit of the debate and that if they get a number of issues dealt with, we will not need to revisit them in Committee. I believe that I have addressed all the points made; if I have not, hon. Members can remind me and I will try to deal with them later. I am confident that my arguments sustain the Government's position, and I invite the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I begin my concluding remarks by paying sincere tribute to the Minister for the helpful way in which he has responded to the debate. I hope he understands—I must repeat it now, and perhaps repeat it again later—that we supported the Bill on Second Reading. We had our doubts and set a number of tests. One significant thing that he said was something to the effect that if the national identity register could in some way act as a force for good in relation to incidents of terrorism, any reasonable person would accept that the register was a proper proposition. I paraphrase him, but that was the gist, and he nods in agreement. My hon. Friends and I could not agree more with that proposition.

We are extremely keen to support any measure that could help to avoid any terrorist act in the certain knowledge—the Minister said that he will return to this point—that not one single measure that we debate or put into statute can at any time guarantee the proposition that we require. It is idle for any of us to start talking about a percentage reduction in the chances of a terrorist act. We simply cannot do that; it is a meaningless debate. We are here to legislate, and the Minister is right to say that if the register can contribute to the important area of reducing terrorism or terrorist acts, it is something to which we must all give our support.

I am persuaded by the Minister's arguments against my amendment of crime being serious crime. I thought that he answered that point well, but I hope that does not mean that I was not right to raise it.

I am not so happy with the Minister's response on public services—I hope that he is taking on board what I am saying—because I believe that there is an argument for restriction to entitlement. However, I go back to the principle of clarity of purpose, words used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis), the shadow Home Secretary, when he has debated the matter.

The main clause of the Bill is clause 1, and its purpose is to set up a national identity register. The Bill is born out of acts of terrorism that have taken place around the world, and properly so. However, as the issue of public interest is the essential point in subsection (3)(b), it should contain a reference to preventing or detecting terrorist acts. The Minister   might have a slightly better amendment than mine. He might have an amendment that made no reference to the matters that I raise under paragraphs (b), (c) and (d), but, for example, in subsection (4)(a), after the words

''in the interests of national security'' simply added ''in pursuance of preventing or detecting terrorist acts'', or something of that sort.

I shall ask my hon. Friends to support me in a Division on this amendment only because we had hoped to see, and still hope to see, a reference in the clause, the critical clause relating to the national identity register, a reference to its purpose being in part to prevent or detect terrorist acts. The Minister has sought to persuade us that the creation of the register will assist in that respect, and for that I am grateful to him. Whether he has satisfied us completely I am not sure, but I do not think that it is possible to satisfy somebody 100 per cent. However, the Minister must understand—I speak to him from my heart—that Opposition Members share his view that if the register can assist in preventing or detecting terrorism, that is a fine thing to which we should give our support, and we do.

I thank the Minister for his response, but because I want to see the word ''terrorism'' or something similar in the clause, he will understand why I want to test the Committee's opinion and press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 11.

Division number 2 Nimrod Review — Statement — Clause 1 - The National Identity Register

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 11 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Derek Conway Derek Conway Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

Before we move on to the next group of amendments, it might be convenient for Members and those who serve us if I let it be known that I intend to suspend the sitting at 4.30 pm for 20 minutes, and at 7.30 pm for the dinner break. The Committee will, of course, adjourn at the Government's pleasure.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, Cotswold

On a point of order, Mr. Conway. I understood from my discussion through the usual channels and elsewhere that we were happy for the Committee to sit through until 6.30 pm without a break, and for it to terminate then. What has happened to change that arrangement?

Photo of Derek Conway Derek Conway Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

The suspension of the Committee is a matter for the Chair, and the usual channels can debate between themselves when they want to draw   stumps, as it were. I have also been informed that the Minister might move a motion relating to our sitting times, and the Clerk has to be able to prepare that and circulate it to the Committee. Members must also have some concern for those who serve us; it is not unreasonable to break after two or three hours if the Committee can sit indefinitely, which it can tonight—and, as far as the Chair is concerned, it may well do so. Therefore, we will suspend at 4.30 pm, as advised.

Photo of Derek Conway Derek Conway Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 68, in page 2, line 7, leave out paragraphs (b) to (i).

No. 6, in page 2, line 8, leave out 'and elsewhere'.

No. 7, in page 2, line 10, leave out paragraph (d).

No. 125, in page 2, line 13, leave out paragraph (f).

No. 8, in page 2, line 14, leave out paragraph (g).

No. 126, in page 2, line 14, after 'numbers', insert

'recordable under paragraph 4(1) of Schedule 1'.

No. 9, in page 2, line 18, at end insert—

'but ''registrable facts'' shall not include criminal convictions or cautions or medical records.'.

No. 22, in schedule 1, page 39, line 13, leave out sub-paragraph (g).

No. 25, in page 39, line 15, leave out sub-paragraph (h).

No. 23, in page 39, line 15, leave out 'whether'.

No. 24, in page 39, line 15, leave out 'or elsewhere'.

No. 42, in clause 8, page 7, line 5, leave out 'and'.

No. 43, in page 7, line 7, at end insert


(c) is issued for the following purposes only—

(i) to assist in preventing or detecting terrorist acts in the United Kingdom or elsewhere or otherwise in the interests of national security;

(ii) to assist the Secretary of State in preventing or detecting serious crime;

(iii) the purposes of controlling illegal immigration and enforcing immigration controls;

(iv) the purpose of securing proper provision of the following public services, namely—

(a) healthcare,

(b) housing,

(c) education,

(d) social security benefits.

(1A) In subsection (1)(c)(ii), ''serious crime'' has the same meaning as in section 1(1A).'.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

On the last group of amendments, the Minister issued a robust challenge and made an effective case as to why he felt that the national identity register was no different from what had gone before. I would like to respond to that challenge, particularly with regard to amendments Nos. 68 and 69, and I am sure that we will continue to clash over such issues during the next few days.

Amendments Nos. 68 and 69 can be described as filleting amendments. They remove a whole range of information from the potential national identity register, because we think that the addition of that information represents a significant change from what   has gone before. The right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) was right to warn us about the dangers of incrementalism. Just because something has happened before, if one is going a step further that does not necessarily mean that that additional step should automatically be acceptable.

The Government have said that they are committed to having an identity card system. If we are to have such a system, it is important that, while addressing the detail of it, we continue to debate what shape it should take. In this clause, the Government have put forward a particular model for a particularly comprehensive identity database, which I will argue, in the context of amendments that remove much of that, goes far beyond what is strictly necessary. I am sure that there are plenty of technical deficiencies in amendments Nos. 68 and 69, but I hope that the sense of them will come through, which is that we want to end up with a far poorer database that contains much less information than that which the Government propose. There are good reasons why less could be more in the context of the database.

There are principled and practical reasons for what we are proposing. In our model, the database has identity characteristics. We should cut through everything and get down to the question of what identity is. The identity of an individual is ultimately simply their physical being, and biometrics are a way of recording that. None of the other characteristics we are talking about—not even names or dates of birth—are unchangeable characteristics of identity. People change their stated dates of birth. There are significant numbers of people who do not know their exact date of birth, and when they are asked to produce it, they come up with a date and that date becomes their date of birth; however, that date cannot strictly speaking be verified in any meaningful way. Names change, and addresses certainly change, and I will focus a lot on why I think the address data are particularly problematic.

The Minister again referred to us looking forward over a period of time, but if we include all the data covered in the database and we project ourselves forward 10 or 20 years, what we have is an incredibly comprehensive intelligence database. In a sense, it is a national suspect database. I understand why, from a policing point of view, that is a very attractive proposition.

That reminds me of the debates that we had about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the requests by the National Criminal Intelligence Service for internet service providers to record all internet traffic over a period of seven years. I understood why, from a policing point of view, there would be value in that. However, it was incumbent on the Home Office, again following the principles of proportionality and necessity, to argue against the police. It needed to come to a settled view as to what was appropriate and what level of intrusion into an individual's privacy was appropriate to the aims.

In that context, the Government have simply gone too far, particularly in recording the address detail, which is quite important. If we were to follow the   scheme and record all the information set out in subsection (5)(b) to (i), we would have an intelligence database that would allow an investigating authority to establish not only the identity of an individual—in strict terms, the biometric data—but a complete history of where they had lived. Over time that history would grow.

Again, that is where the proposal is quite different from something like an electoral register database or a birth register, which simply records a specific event in time. We are talking about a comprehensive database that follows us throughout our lives and possibly beyond, because the data will not be destroyed at the point of death. As well as recording information about where an individual lives at any point, it will allow people to perform known associate searches by cross-referencing all the people who lived at particular addresses at certain times.

There is a specific amendment to remove or to test the auditing data provision as well. I recognise that the Government are between a rock and a hard place. Not to have auditing data exposes them to accusations that the data will be accessed and no one will be able to track down a perpetrator—a person who accessed it illegally. To have it significantly adds to the quantity of data that could be used to intrude on someone's privacy. The collection of data on every place that someone has lived and all their known associates who lived in or shared those addresses at a certain time, and the auditing data, means there is a comprehensive intelligence database, which I imagine would be attractive to law enforcement agencies.

Photo of Mr Jon Owen Jones Mr Jon Owen Jones Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff Central

Do not some of those examples already exist? If one traces birth certificates and cross-references with electoral registers, one can find out where people lived and who lived with them. That situation already exists.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

I do not disagree that plenty of the data exist already, but I would quite strongly put forward the argument that to require anybody who is performing an investigation to go through certain steps—in other words, not to make it immediately straightforward—is not necessarily a bad thing in a democratic system. Stickiness and complexity in the system is a form of safeguard for the individual citizen against potential abuse.

The Minister has said that we are talking about fanciful circumstances where abuse might occur at some point in the future and the Government could act anyway. However, to have the tools in place—this is one of the fundamental principles behind something like the Data Protection Act 1998—that allow access to happen easily if a malign or malicious Government have taken control, is not something that we want to encourage in law.

In other words, in designing our tools—our Data Protection Act and our databases—we want to ensure that the scope for abuse by malicious forces is as small as possible. It is quite a respectable theory to say that that amount of complexity and stickiness is one of the   fundamental safeguards that we have in a democratic system. The removal of complexity is in the interests of those who seek to abuse systems. That is a significant argument.

The other argument that people must consider in principle is that we are effectively saying that we will treat everyone as a suspect. We have had serious debates in this place about that. There was a debate about what happens when the police pull someone up because they are genuinely suspicious of them and they take their fingerprint and DNA data. Whether they should keep the data and in what circumstances they can use them was a matter of huge contention.

We are now saying that everybody over the age of 16 will be taken to a place where they will be fingerprinted. The biometric data will be held and it will be associated with a range of other data, which is normally the kind of data the police might hold on files of those whom they suspect of an offence. That will happen in a comprehensive fashion. That is quite a different measure, and a different way of dealing with information from that which has gone before.

On the addresses, there are some practical issues about complexity. Specifically, I hope that the Minister can deal with those relating to those of no fixed abode. An important point to establish is the threshold at which one becomes resident somewhere. In our amendments, we put forward the argument that the address data held should be a contact address, rather than all the addresses at which someone might be deemed to have been resident. That is important in establishing how complex the system will be.

At this stage of the afternoon, I do not want to go too far into database theory, but there is a clear distinction between kinds of database. Some, such as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency database, might simply hold records that say, for example, ''Mr. Smith, No. 1 Acacia avenue'', and when Mr. Smith changes his address, one deletes that and puts in, ''Mr. Smith, No. 1 High street''.

Another kind of database might record all people and all their addresses. That would create what is called a many-to-many relationship. There is a lot of complex database theory about that called normalisation, but we do not have to go into it now. Suffice it to say that there is great complexity in such a database system, in which there are potentially tens of millions of addresses, and certainly tens of millions of people. Trying to relate them in many-to-many relationships is a nightmare from a technical point of view, and certainly that has not been attempted elsewhere.

When we look at the Government's feasibility study, we see that the nearest comparable systems are those such as the American fingerprinting system, which has tens of millions of records. However, those records are one-to-ones; the entries are effectively ''Mr. Smith'' and then his fingerprint. There will then be other ways of checking where someone lives. Under the Bill, the Government are proposing a hugely complex database for everybody, potentially recording dozens of addresses over people's lifetime.

Under our proposal, people could choose that contact address. If it were the parental address, the chances of being able to track that person down or get hold of them, if that was the purpose of the database, would be far greater than through having stored a complex web of 10 or 12 out-of-date addresses.

There is a huge expansion of the purpose of the database in the clause; it is no longer just about identity. If the clause were simply about identity, it would say that the register would record the details of a person's identity—which I accept is probably the biometric data—and associated useful information, such as the name under which someone currently goes, their date of birth and so on, as well as a contact address for that person. Once we get beyond that, we are building an intelligence database that treats all over-16s as potential suspects and holds that data so that it is available as and when the law enforcement agencies seek to use it.

There may be a rationale for doing that; it may be the Government's position that crime and terrorism are, or are likely to become, so serious that keeping such data is strictly necessary, but our view is that it is not currently necessary. I keep reminding the Committee that nothing should be taken as a given; if we choose not to implement this law enforcement tool, it does not mean that we do not wish to enforce the law. It simply means that we wish to release the funds that would be used and spend them on other law enforcement tools that we feel would be far more effective.

A couple of other points need to be mentioned. Subsection (5)(g) on the numbers that can be recorded mentions

''information about numbers allocated to him for identification purposes and about the documents to which they relate''.

I refer to the Minister's comment about national health service and criminal records data explicitly not being in the database. If numbers are to be held, what numbers are we talking about? Are we talking about numbers relating to registrable documents such as passports—in other words, part of the whole ID card package—or are we saying that identification numbers, like NHS or criminal records numbers, could be included in the database under subsection (5)(g)? If the latter is the case, that would be of concern.

One could go through the database and see whether a person has a criminal records number allocated to them. If they have, by definition they have a criminal record; if not, they presumably do not have one. Immediately, potentially sensitive data are held in the database by virtue of having the identification number, rather than the data associated with it. It would be helpful to have more clarity on the numbers spelled out   in subsection (5)(g), which is one of the measures that we seek to remove with our amendment. Some additional clarity on what the Government mean by the audit trail in paragraph (h) would also be helpful: do they mean it to be all-encompassing? What data will be held in the database and what will they look like? We said at the beginning that the detail is important.

I understand that the Minister will say that with these amendments we are seeking to wreck the national identity register, but we should be looking at different forms for the national identity register; we should not take the Government's form as the only possible option. It is important that we seriously question whether a national identity register that is simply about saying, ''I have the right person in front of me,'' should be expanded to include a huge amount of additional intelligence that is useful for the police, intrusive to the individual and not strictly necessary for the purposes of identity.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 4:00, 18 January 2005

My head is still reeling, I am afraid, at the observation by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam about many-many relationships. I am not sure what that means and I got mildly lost. I shall talk to the hon. Gentleman later. It sounds rather like an orgy.

I shall speak briefly to amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 125, tabled by me and my hon. Friends, and raise a small but important point. The ''registrable fact'' includes addresses where we have

''previously resided in the United Kingdom and elsewhere''.

Is it really necessary for the word ''elsewhere'' to be included? For example, my father was an Army chaplain and in the first 28 years of Army time we had about 32 homes. I regret to say that there is no one alive on this world who has the slightest idea of any of those addresses. Is the word ''elsewhere'' essential?

Amendment No. 7 would knock out the words

''the times at which he was resident at different places in the United Kingdom or elsewhere''.

That is a further problem, because even if we can remember the various addresses at which we have lived in the UK and elsewhere, the chances are that being able to remember the times when we lived at them are pretty remote. Can the Minister justify that requirement? How far back does this provision go? If I am going to register that information on the national register, how far back do I have to go in terms of my residences?

Will the Minister comment on second homes and say a little bit about Army, RAF and Navy personnel and students on gap years? In short, what approach will the Government take on addresses, because the Minister knows as well as I do that certain people are on the move a great deal in their life and those who are living rough or vulnerable are in an even more difficult position on the matter of homes.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis), the shadow Home Secretary, not long ago asked the Home Secretary for his latest estimate of the number of people a year who move home and get married. The answer was as follows: 

''In 2003-04 there were 2,630,000 moves by households in England''.—[Official Report, 20 December 2004; Vol. 428, c. 1505-06W]

In 2002, there were 242,000 marriages. That suggests that changes of address by spouses, and perhaps families, run into millions a year. I suppose that one will have to pay to get that information on the register. However, this is a big handling exercise and the Minister will appreciate that I am getting through my amendments quite quickly. There is more to say, but I want him to have the gist of what I am talking about in terms of addresses, which represent a big logistical undertaking, particularly as in some London boroughs the council tax reveals that there is an annual turnover of addresses greater than 60 per cent.

I share the concern of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam about subsection 5(g), which refers to

''information about numbers allocated to him for identification purposes''.

Will the Minister explain that a little more?

Amendment No. 9 would exclude from the register criminal convictions, cautions and medical records. The earlier explanatory notes said that registrable facts could not be extended by regulation to cover categories not relating to identification, such as criminal convictions and medical records. That assertion is not in the Bill or the present explanatory notes, but the Minister was terribly helpful earlier and I think he has given me the assurance that such matters will not be on the register, so I need not speak to that amendment.

The list of registrable facts includes in clause 1(5)(g)

''information about numbers allocated to him''.

As identification numbers from the police national computer and national DNA database, for example, are now used to establish links to identifying information, arguably they could be included. What does the Minister have to say about that?

The prospect of my reading out the 51 categories of information required for the register would be too much for you to bear as Chairman, Mr. Conway, even with your well known sense of equanimity, so I propose to pass a copy of them to the Minister in due course today on the off chance that he and those who advise him will return to me at their leisure with some observations. I choose not to make any reference to those 51 categories; I hope that that has gone down well.

Amendment No. 43 is important and we may press it. In effect, it is the same as amendment No. 1, but it relates to clause 8, which deals with identity cards. It has been helpfully grouped with the other amendments and it is intended to set out in clause 8 the purpose of identity cards. It would add to clause 8 words identical to those in the earlier amendment. The test of clarity of purpose that applies to the identity register equally applies to the issue of the card. As my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary has said repeatedly, the Government ought to make clear in the Bill the specific purposes for which an ID card is required and, in particular, which of those purposes are the priorities.

Given the hour, I do not propose to go through the lengthy argument that I had prepared in relation to terrorist activities in countries where ID cards exist. There are substantial grounds for believing that a compulsory ID card would not be much help in the fight against terrorism. Indeed, the then Home Secretary was clear on the point in a debate on 3 July 2002. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) said to him:

''May I ask my right hon. Friend, first, whether he accepts that it is for those who are in favour of the card to make out the case for it, not the other way round?''

At that stage, I think that the hon. Gentleman was taking a sabbatical from ministerial office and was back as Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee—otherwise, I am sure that the impertinence of such a question from one Minister to another on the Floor of the House would have been noted. The hon. Gentleman went on:

''Secondly, will he confirm that the card will be little or no use in combating terrorism? Thirdly, given the unhappy history—I put this as gently as I can—of Government information technology projects, are we not entitled to be sceptical about some of the claims made for the card?''

The then Home Secretary replied:

''I can say yes to all three.''—[Official Report, 3 July 2002; Vol. 388, c. 231.]

A little later, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir Teddy Taylor), the then Home Secretary said that he had ruled out the possibility of the cards'

''substantial contribution to countering terrorism.''—[Official Report, 3 July 2002; Vol. 388, c. 236.]

In May last year, he said to the Home Affairs Committee that

''whilst there could be a contribution towards countering terrorism this was not the primary purpose''.

In speaking to this amendment, jett—what is the word I am looking for? [Hon. Members: ''Jettisoning!''] The more one says a word, Mr. Conway, the more idiotic it seems. I have put aside some of my notes as I have moved along, because the Minister knows the arguments about countries in which there have been terrorist acts. What we really seek from him is a reassurance that he believes that identity cards could help in the fight against terror, and   an explanation of how. Perhaps he could give practical examples of how they could help. If we believe that they can, we will, of course, support him.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry) 4:15, 18 January 2005

The hon. Gentleman puts forward an interesting line, as he did when speaking to the previous amendment. However, can I take it that his position is not an absolute one and that something that was a small help in the fight against terrorism, but a massive deprivation of civil liberties at huge financial expense would not be acceptable? Does he have a threshold? He would not support absolutely anything that helped in the fight against terrorism, would he? That is what it sounds like.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

Such questions are impossible to answer, although they are good questions to raise. No Committee member could answer that question accurately. Eventually it will boil down to the instinct and judgment of the person who has to cast a vote one way or the other. However, I accept the hon. Gentleman's point, which is the centrepiece of the argument about this Bill. However, we all have to make our own judgments.

I refer briefly to a matter that I did not raise earlier: identity and benefit fraud. I hope that the Minister will address that issue at some stage, and the effect that the introduction of ID cards would have on it. He knows—it has been said so many times—that the card may or may not be of much use against benefit fraud. Anecdotally, I would say that 99 per cent. of the cases of benefit fraud that I try do not involve people pretending that they are somebody else or having somebody else's identity. They say who they are, but have signed a document that states that they are not working when, in truth, they are. That is what benefit fraud is primarily about for the courts. [Interruption.] The Minister is making an aside to his Whip. It might be relevant to the point I have made.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

I do not wish to add to the time that the hon. Gentleman is taking. However, I have experience of cases in which benefit fraud has involved people saying that they live at one address when they are living at another.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

This might be a debate for another day. I cannot immediately recall trying a case in which somebody claimed that. However, the Minister will accept the gist of what I am saying: most benefit fraud involves people saying that they are not working when, in truth, they are.

Will the Minister say a little about the card's ability to prevent or detect benefit fraud? Will he also say—again, in view of the time, I shall not lay out my full arguments on identity theft and the research that has been done on it—something about identity theft as well as what I would call straightforward benefit fraud?

I am drawing an hour and a half's speech to a close in minutes. I do that not because I do not feel that my amendments deserve consideration, not least on the question as to why my addresses elsewhere are needed, and for how long and in which countries. That is a great deal to ask, with many practical difficulties. The   critical amendment is the one that asks that the Bill say that an identity card has a real purpose—to assist in the prevention or detection of terrorist acts—because that possibly is true. I hope that the Minister will be able to help us on that issue, because it is important to all of us.

Photo of David Curry David Curry Conservative, Skipton and Ripon

I read the Bill last night, which was probably a mistake, and when I came to this part of the clause and the demand for addresses, I simply did not believe what was being asked for.

I have led a relatively uncomplicated life. I was born in Burton-on-Trent, then my family moved just north of Burton-on-Trent and then we moved to Ripon, where we stayed with my grandparents while my family looked for a house. We lived in a council house for a while and then my parents bought a house in Leeds. Meanwhile I was at Oxford and then at Harvard. I think that where I lived at Harvard has been demolished, so tracing it may be difficult. I then started work in Newcastle. At my first residence, I had a disagreement with the landlord about the decorations and I had to find a second residence there. I then moved down to Finchley, where I lived for a brief time. I finally bought a house in Essex, and, while there, was posted to Brussels and then to Paris for the Financial Times. Then we came back and bought another house in Essex, but meanwhile I had to acquire a house in Yorkshire, because I represent a Yorkshire constituency. That is a relatively uncomplicated saga. Will all that have to go down, given that I must have lived in my last house for about 20 years now?

Compared with mine, my father's story is much more complicated, because I suppose that, for part of his life, his residence was a motor cycle on the plains of Germany during the second world war. What goes down as his residence during that time? My dad is 87 and compos mentis, but if I said ''Dad, will you jot down for me a list of where you have lived and from when?'', he would go into a state of panic. He would not be able to do it. Elderly people who come to our surgeries have great difficulty recalling chronology and facts. This is a serious imposition for them.

I have a constituency with a large number of care homes. Looking after the elderly is the hidden industry in many rural parts of the United Kingdom. It is a major part-time employer in my constituency. Many elderly people in such homes will not be able to fill in the necessary forms. I am not sure that, without extensive researches, the documents would exist. How necessary is it that this incredibly detailed residential CV should be an essential part of the register? Is it necessary for elderly or retired people—say, those over the age of 75 who get a free television licence—to fill in such a CV? If people have lived over a certain period most recently at the same address, do we need to go back beyond that? It is an incredibly complicated provision that will cause many people a great deal of strain and stress. In some cases where they have lived will not be traceable; they will not have been there long enough to have been on the electoral register.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Shadow Minister (Homeland Security), Home Affairs

I rise to address principally amendment No. 43, which deals with ID cards as opposed to the ID register. I believe that a correctly organised and researched identity register will be a powerful tool in countering terrorism, but my experiences of ID cards lead me to ask one or two questions of the Minister.

I referred earlier to the experimental use of special driving licences in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. Although it was never stated that they were identity cards, after several tours in the mid-1970s with my battalion, we returned to south Armagh in 1977 when the Sherwood Foresters were sent back. We were told that things had changed; terrorists using cars or those that had driving licences would be much more easily traced and our job as enforcers of the law and keepers of the peace would be considerably simpler as a result.

We had lengthy training, Mr. Conway, which you may have gone through yourself, about what the driving licences would mean to Tommy Atkins when he was mounting a vehicle checkpoint in the wilds of south Armagh. We honestly and truthfully believed that that would be a great asset in fighting terrorism. There is no doubt in my mind that 90 per cent. of the people that we stopped at the vehicle checkpoints were ordinary, law-abiding, decent citizens, even in that troubled part of the world. However, after a short while, it became clear to me that the soldiers and policeman under my command were using the driving licence that was being presented to them as a form of pass instead of checking carefully the photograph on the driving licence, checking that the person driving the vehicle looked like the photograph and that the address matched all the information that was being given.

I freely acknowledge that those were uncomplicated days and technology was not particularly advanced. I understand that there may be more technological solutions to those problems now, but the fact remained that in a windswept or snow-swept lane at three in the morning when a driving licence was presented to one of the soldiers, he tended to consider it as a pass to enable the driver to move through quickly. Those who were searched, given a difficult time and pulled over for further inquiries were those who were not carrying their identity cards/driving licences. That is what raises a problem with cards.

I understand that nothing will be absolutely watertight. Nothing that we can do with identity cards will ensure a 100 per cent. guarantee that they will help. However, I have a practical difficulty with the carrying of a card. The card, rather than being a guarantee of decency and a law-abiding nature, will turn into a free pass, either for those who wish to evade the law or those—who may be carrying a legitimate card—who wish to blow themselves to pieces in the midst of their enemies. I would be grateful if the Minister explained that. To echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Woking, I believe that this aspect of the Bill should reflect the amendment if we are to tie down this and other worrying elements of the legislation.

Photo of Derek Conway Derek Conway Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

Before I invite the Minister and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam to wind up, we will suspend for 20 minutes. We shall resume at 4.50 pm.

Sitting suspended.

On resuming—

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality) 4:50, 18 January 2005

I am grateful for hon. Members' contributions to the debate. I acknowledge at the outset that addresses have raised important issues and I shall respond to some of the questions that have been asked. I am not in a position to respond to all of them, but I undertake to return to the matter before the Committee concludes its business. If I am unable to do so because there is no appropriate debate on future amendments, I will deal with it in the remaining stages in the House. Hon. Members are entitled to greater clarity of the issue than the Bill allows at present because it is enabling legislation and there are developments in the area. I shall return to the matter in Committee or in the House and explain exactly where we stand.

I shall deal with the amendments in the order in which they were grouped. The amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam are intended to make a wholesale reduction in the identity information that may be held. I do not believe that they are wrecking amendments, but later amendments that he has tabled are intended for that purpose and we shall deal with them in due course.

Under the hon. Gentleman's amendments, not only would we lose the ability to hold any information other than a contact address but information on identity numbers and residential status would also be lost. That loss may be an incidental consequence, but it would be a consequence. Residential status, which includes   nationality or immigration status, is an important part of one's identity and if that changes, it should be recorded.

If all that was required was a contact address, we would leave it open to people to use accommodation addresses to give the false impression that they lived in a place where they did not live and that could be used as a way of gaining an advantage. For example, at one end of the spectrum, people might seem to live in the catchment area of a particular school and, at the other end of the spectrum, criminals could avoid giving their principal address on their applications. That would be a serious loophole and would drive a coach and horses through the efficacy of the register and the identity cards that will be issued from the register.

Amendments Nos. 6 and 7, tabled by the hon. Member for Newark, relate to the holding of addresses on the national identity register and their inclusion in the registrable facts defined in subsection (5). A person's address is an important fact in ascertaining their identity. The current address will generally be all that is needed when someone wishes to confirm their identity, unless they have recently moved, when most people would expect to be asked for their previous address. That is normal experience in day-to-day transactions at the moment.

To verify the true identity of someone who applies for an identity card, it may be necessary to examine their biographical footprint over a number of years. In the case of British citizens returning from abroad or foreign nationals newly arrived in the United Kingdom, that should include their previous addresses outside the United Kingdom.

The Government's intention is that the application process for an identity card will be as easy and as straightforward as possible. For most people who have lived at the same address for a reasonable period, the current address is all that will be needed. However, we must be ready to deal with bogus applications and there is no doubt that, for fraudsters trying to create an identity, it will be much more difficult to fabricate historic information. If a suspicious application is received, a check on previous addresses will be a good way of helping to verify the applicant's bona fides and whether they are who they claim to be. That is why it would dangerous to state in the Bill that we will only ever ask people for their address during, for example, the previous five years, which is the current thinking. That is the sort of period for which we expect to ask applicants for information, but we must hold in reserve the power to seek information about earlier addresses if that is necessary to confirm someone's true identity. That is the reason for the way in which the provision is drafted.

I accept that for some people, such as Travellers, homeless people or people who have an itinerant lifestyle for a short period, there will be a genuine reason why it will be difficult to provide a single permanent address. However, I am ready to give a commitment that we will find a sensible way around that to ensure that no one is disadvantaged because of such difficulties. I can do that because it currently happens with driving licences and passports. There is   no bar to someone without a fixed abode obtaining a passport or driving licence, and in both cases they would be expected to provide a contact address so that the documents can be sent to them, but that is all. We can draw on a history of relationships with Government agencies. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam is right: the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency holds current addresses on its database, but it also holds historical addresses.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

The Minister has just made the case when an applicant asks for additional information about historical addresses. Is it the intention that that would go on the database to be recorded henceforth? Is it possible under the scheme envisaged that data, such as old addresses, then fall off the system, so they are no longer relevant after a certain period?

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

The hon. Gentleman understands the scheme very well, and he will understand that everything must refer to the purposes and be intra vires of the scheme. We will examine this matter and I will come back to the Committee about it, but there is an argument that holding addresses in perpetuity for everybody may in certain circumstances be in contravention of the purposes of the scheme.

Although the design of the card and the precise information to be shown visibly on the card is still to be decided, it seems increasingly likely that the address will be held on the register but not shown on the card. It would not only make it easier to update changes of address without requiring a new card to be issued each time, but would mean that people who would prefer their addresses not to be shown for whatever reason would not have to have it printed on the card.

We know that much more detailed guidance in deciding where someone resides and their principal place of residence is needed, so we have included a specific provision—clause 43(10)—enabling regulations to be made that will allow much greater clarity and guidance on how they should be determined. I think that provision answers some of the questions that have been raised.

Much more work is required on the processes for issuing ID cards before we will be able to draft the regulations, but they will be designed to clarify exactly what is needed as well as to ensure that we can help those people who have a genuine difficulty giving a permanent address. I reiterate my undertaking to the Committee that as thinking progresses, I will come back to the Committee or the House.

Amendments Nos. 22 to 25 to schedule 1 are consequential and also refer to holding addresses on the national identity register, so I do not propose to repeat the arguments in relation to them.

As the hon. Member for Woking said, amendments Nos. 42 and 43 insert into clause 8 a similar set of provisions for identity cards as were included in his amendment No. 1, which we considered in the previous group of amendments. For the same reasons, I disagree with the wording of these amendments. It is not necessary to specify again in clause 8 the statutory   purposes of the scheme, as an ID card links to an entry in the register, which is already governed by the statutory purposes set out in clause 1.

Amendment No. 8 would remove the ability to hold the numbers of identity documents and their details in the list of registrable facts. They are listed in detail in paragraph (4) of schedule 1, and include not only the number of an ID card issued to an individual and his or her national identity register number, but other relevant numbers, such as national insurance, driving licence or passport numbers. For foreign nationals, it would include work permit or immigration reference numbers, together with any foreign ID or passport number. That may look like a long list of numbers, but it would help to identify an individual.

Holding them on the register would also make it easier to derive from the scheme some benefits of joined-up government. For example, the Department for Work and Pensions will be able to check somebody's national insurance number against an ID card, and that could be useful to a benefit or pension application. For the DVLA, checking someone's ID card details could speed up the identification of a driving licence applicant.

Amendment No. 126 would limit identification numbers to those contained in the list under paragraph 4 of schedule 1. I say to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam that we have no plans to vary the list but, as under the rest of schedule 1, there should remain a power to add to the list by order subject to an affirmative resolution procedure as provided for under clause 3(7). He asked specifically if the provision could be amended to include NHS numbers and criminal record numbers. Other identity numbers could be added under the Bill by affirmative resolution, although there are no plans to do so. That could include an NHS number, but it would not mean that medical records could be held. In theory, it could be possible, but I do not see any reason why a future Government would make a case for adding the criminal record number. However, he has identified correctly that such action would be possible.

Amendment No. 9 would make it clear that medical records, criminal convictions and cautions are not included in the list of registrable facts under clause 1. Medical and criminal records are not included under paragraphs (a) to (h) of subsection (5) and, to that extent, the amendment is redundant. The information could be added to the list of registrable facts only with further primary legislation. I confirm unequivocally that the Government have no intention of holding medical or criminal records on the national identity register and the Bill, as drafted, specifically does not allow for that. The omission of such an explanation from the explanatory notes was unhelpful, and I apologise for that, but it has never been our intention for such action to take place and that was made clear from the outset when the Bill was drafted for consultation.

The information that may be held on the register and listed under schedule 1 may also be amended by affirmative order under clause 3(5), but only when it is consistent with the statutory purposes of the scheme. The statutory purposes are tied explicitly to the registrable facts. Thus, the power to amend schedule 1 could not be used to add information such as medical or criminal records. I do not need to give the Committee more assurance than that, as matters should be clear.

I hope that I have reassured the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam that his amendment is not necessary to the extent that it would prevent people from using the register to record medical information at their request, which is undesirable. It really is essential to be able to request and to hold information about various identification numbers. For most people, only one or two numbers will be relevant, but we need such a facility.

I trust that I have reassured the Committee that it is essential to be able to request and to hold information about previous or alternative addresses in the United Kingdom and abroad. It could be damaging to the scheme were that not possible. The right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon is now in Committee, so I repeat my undertaking that I shall come back with more detail about addresses, because I accept that it is an important issue. I shall demand more flesh on the bones from the Government and endeavour to provide it before our deliberations are concluded. In such circumstances, I ask hon. Members not to press their amendments to a Division.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry) 5:00, 18 January 2005

The Minister has given a helpful response, perhaps more helpful than I had anticipated. He has made it clear that the address data that will be sought will be tied in more specifically to proof of identity than collected for its own sake. That is certainly how I read the Bill initially, but the hon. Gentleman has now given an undertaking to clarify further the precise terms under which address data will be collected and stored for future reference. It would make no sense to press for clarification of such matters until we have received the appropriate information from the Minister, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. 

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Shadow Minister (Homeland Security), Home Affairs

I beg to move amendment No. 10, in page 2, line 22, leave out from 'birth' to third 'and'.

I will be extremely brief. I am sure that the Minister will be delighted to hear that, as will you, Mr. Conway. I am a man of my word.

Amendment No. 10 is simple. Clause 1(6) states:

''In this section references to an individual's identity are references to . . . (c) his date and place of birth and, if he has died, the date of his death''.

I must be being extraordinarily obtuse, which is nothing new, but I do not understand who is responsible for notifying the authorities about the death. If he who has died is required to notify them about his own death, clearly there are practical difficulties. Perhaps the Minister can help me on that point. It could be that the Minister is talking about the next of kin, the executor of a will or the registrar, or perhaps initial responsibility will fall on the hospital. I do not know. Will the Minister be kind enough to clarify? I suspect that the dead hand of the drafter slipped on that point.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

The amendment would remove the date of an individual's death from the list of registrable facts. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman moved the amendment because, on Second Reading on 20 December, the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) suggested that the Bill placed a duty on the people who had died to notify the register of their own death. Normally we can rely 100 per cent. on the interpretation of legislation of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

Indeed. Unfortunately, in this case the right hon. and learned Gentleman was wrong. I deeply regret that, in the time that I had to respond to that debate, I did not get to that part of my notes. It may well have been one of those moments to savour in the House, which come infrequently. It may have been unique.

I am pleased to be able to reassure the Committee that not only would such a duty be a physical impossibility but that the Bill does not place such a duty on the dead. All the Bill does is say that the date of an individual's death is a registrable fact. It was our intention that the details of death be notified to the register automatically when a death is registered, as is required by other legislation. [Interruption.] Clearly, the registrar will be required to communicate that information at the point of registration.

Under clause 13, there will be a consequent duty on anyone who holds the ID card of a person who has died to surrender it. That duty may fall on those who have the personal effects of that individual. Clearly those issues will have to be dealt with using a degree of sensitivity, but it is logical that the surrender of ID cards be a requirement on those who have them and who know that the proper owner of the card is dead. It may sound odd to hon. Members, although it does not to me, to include the date of death, but it is important not only to retain records of people who have died, but to include the date of death in the list of registrable facts.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Shadow Minister (Homeland Security), Home Affairs

I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying those points. The issue starts to become important in the light of a number of people still living who tried to use the attacks on 11 September 2001 to suggest that they were actually dead. There are also clearly a number of people who have emerged still alive after the Tsunami in south-east Asia, despite the fact that it might better suit them to be supposed dead. However, what the Minister said has helped me to understand exactly what is meant in the Bill, and therefore with the leave of the Committee and yourself Mr. Conway, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill

Photo of Derek Conway Derek Conway Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

Before we move on to clause 2 it may be convenient now to take a motion from the Government amending the programming order, copies of which have been put on the Table for the convenience of Members.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

I beg to move,

That the order of Committee of this morning be amended in paragraph 1(b) by leaving out ''9.25 am'' and inserting ''9.10 am''.

I understand that there has been some discussion in relation to this motion, and that there is agreement that it would be a better use of our time in the morning to commence proceedings at 9.10 am rather than 9.25 am. We are all anxious to make progress in relation to this, and it would be much better if we could make progress early in the morning when we are all bright and chirpy rather than when we have to stay late at night. I move the motion.

Question put and agreed to.