Clause 19 - Use for purposes of public authorities etc.

Identity Cards Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:30 pm on 25 January 2005.

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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) 5:30, 25 January 2005

I beg to move amendment No. 173, in clause 19, page 17, line 15, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert—

'(2) The provision of information is authorised in this section where it is—

(a) the provision of information to—

(i) the Director-General of the Security Service,

(ii) the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service,

(iii) the Director of the Government Communications Headquarters,

(iv) the Director-General of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, or

(v) a chief officer of police; and  

(b) it is—

(i) in the interests of national security, or

(ii) for the purposes connected with the prevention or detection of crime.'.

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

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 174, in clause 19, page 17, line 17, leave out 'connected with' and insert 'necessary for'.

No. 136, in clause 19, page 17, line 27, at end insert

'for any of the purposes specified in subsection (2A)'.

No. 137, in clause 19, page 17, line 27, at end insert—

'(2A) The purposes specified in this subsection are—

(a) in the interests of national security;

(b) for purposes connected with the prevention or detection of crime; or

(c) for other purposes specified by order made by the Secretary of State.'.

No. 53, in clause 19, page 17, line 32, leave out

'prevention or detection of crime' and insert

'detection of serious crime which shall mean any crime giving rise to an offence triable only on indictment'.

No. 175, in clause 19, page 17, line 32, after 'of', insert 'serious'.

No. 54, in clause 19, page 17, line 32, leave out from 'crime' to end of line 33.

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)

We tabled the amendment to tease out how the information held in the national identity register will be used, in particular by law enforcement organisations. We want to redraft the terms under which the information will be used in response to a concern that has been expressed not only by us, but by other organisations such as Justice, Liberty and the Law Society, about the breadth of the powers set out in the clause. We suggest to the Government an alternative that would more specifically focus the powers. We also want more clarity about their precise intention in advancing the existing wording.

Amendment No. 173 sets out the framework for the alternative wording and amendment No. 174 would strengthen one aspect of it. We want to introduce the concept of necessity and have said throughout Committee proceedings that a potential breach of privacy is acceptable where it is both proportionate and necessary. We always wish to see that enshrined in legislation.

We suggest an alternative wording, which says that the information should be necessary for carrying out the functions of the Security Service, rather than simply ''connected with'' them. The amendment tests the existing wording and I seek assurance from the Minister that the normal tests of necessity and proportionality apply, even though the wording seems to be a much vaguer form of ''connected with''.

Amendment No. 175 returns to a theme from the beginning of proceedings on the Bill—that was not very long ago, although it may seem like it—when we sought to establish what level of crime might justify   the use of the national identity register. We debated whether the Bill should refer to crime or serious crime. The amendment would introduce the notion of seriousness.

It is important that we are able to test where the use of the data may occur. I have referred to that previously and it echoes a debate about what happens with data that people create by using the internet, where they are concerned about a potential breach of their privacy. We had a big debate on that and the previous Home Secretary unusually changed position from the beginning to the end as the public realised that the law enforcement agencies wanted a much broader range of access to a much greater range of personal data than they felt comfortable with.

I accept that the public want to be protected from criminals, terrorists and so on, but at the same time they want some privacy. We are trying all the time to test where that balance should lie. The amendment has been tabled to draw out the Minister's understanding of how he will apply that test under the clause. It also reflects our concern that the necessity and proportionality tests should be rigorous and an issue of principle in defending the article 8 right to privacy.

I hope that the Minister and other Members can tease out some of those concerns in this short debate. Other amendments address specific aspects of the data in relation to matters that are also serious—they involve fraud and the Inland Revenue—but which are in a different category from those we are debating in this group, which deals with those agencies that investigate crime and carry out intelligence and secret service functions.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

This is a big debate and the Minister has a lengthy reply to make to the points raised by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam.

My amendments reflect concerns expressed in the House and outside about the nature of the information that can be provided to a wide variety of bodies, as set out in the clause. The issue of supplying information about me, without my knowledge, to various bodies is sensitive. Although it is entirely proper that information should be supplied, one of my amendments would limit that to the purposes of security and serious crime.

I am concerned about the wide-ranging powers, particularly under clause 19(4), where not only the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, GCHQ or the Serious Organised Crime Agency are being brought in; we are also bringing in the tax and customs people, who seem to have some very wide powers.

When I link that in with the debate that we could be having now with regard to paragraph 9 of schedule 1, to which I invite my hon. Friends to direct their attention, I become concerned. That paragraph, which is right at the end of the Bill, is potentially very worrying:

''The following may be recorded in the entry in the Register for an individual''.

It goes on to list what amounts to a complete audit trail, which is  

''(a) particulars of every occasion on which information contained in the individual's entry has been provided''— that is very wide-ranging—and

''(b) particulars of every person to whom such information has been provided on such an occasion;

(c) other particulars, in relation to each such occasion, of the provision of the information.''

It does not say what those ''other particulars'' are.

We are debating a serious matter and the Minister has a lengthy reply to make.

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

My hon. Friend draws the Committee's attention to paragraph 9 of schedule 1. Before he concludes, I hope that he will also refer to clauses 20 and 21. We do not want to pre-empt the debate on those clauses, but they contain serious measures that will give the Secretary of State or a prescribed person powers to provide information to other people without an individual's consent. Therefore, this is becoming a very powerful provision for the state. I think it should be very carefully considered.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My hon. Friend is entirely right to draw those clauses to our attention. We are getting into a position where a serous and major power is being given to the state.

I do not wish to speak at length to amendments Nos. 136, 137, 53 and 54; they are on the amendment paper and the Minister will have prepared a response to them. I know that he has much to tell us, hence the brevity of my contribution. If he has a response to those amendments, I would prefer him to reply at this stage, despite the fact that I have not spoken to them at length.

Furthermore, subject to progress, it is my intention not to move amendments Nos. 60 and 61 and probably not to speak to amendments Nos. 55 to 50. The Minister is aware of my worries and the issue is big enough for him to realise that we will return to it on Report. I shall bring my remarks to a close.

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) 5:45, 25 January 2005

I am grateful to the hon. Members for Sheffield, Hallam and for Woking for they way in which they have introduced such important issues. I propose to reply to the debate along the lines of the Government's response to the individual amendments. As the hon. Member for Cotswold said perceptively, the clause is related to other clauses and, Mr. Conway, you may allow members of the Committee to treat the debate that deals with such issues as preceding a number of clauses. That will allow them, when they have considered what I have to say, to come back with other issues if they want further information.

It is a disadvantage that we have reached such an important stage when we have been engaged in other matters for most of today, as that will have an effect on our ability to function at the appropriate level for such a serious matter. I shall do what I am disinclined to do, which is to concentrate on the notes that I have prepared, rather than take interventions and develop the debate as we go along. We may have an opportunity to do so later when we reach clauses 20   and 21, if necessary, or on Report. It is an important matter and some significant issues will be raised.

The starting point is that information held on the national identity register will be confidential, but there need to be exceptions to that principle to realise the most beneficial aspects of an identity card scheme. We have debated at some length the utility of the scheme in relation to serious crime, terrorist offences—which are, of course, serious crimes—and other areas of national security. There needs to be, by definition, some exception to the principle of confidentiality to achieve the best from the scheme for those purposes.

The following amendments are all related to the provisions under clause 19 and those clauses that cover the circumstances in which information may be provided without the consent of the individual. Amendment No. 173 would limit the provision of information without consent to the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, GCHQ, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the National Crime Squad. That is in advance of the creation of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, which will be amalgamation of those two other agencies and the police. The amendment would limit the clause to circumstances in which the provision of that information is in the interests of national security or the prevention and detection of crime.

The effect of the amendment would be to narrow the grounds for which one of the intelligence services, by which I mean the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, GCHQ, SOCA or the police could have information provided to it. I understand the desire to ensure that information can be provided from the register without consent only in limited circumstances. I agree that national security and the prevention and detection of crime are legitimate reasons for providing information without consent and will no doubt be the grounds on which most requests for information to be provided from the register are sought. However, it is not wise to limit the information that can be provided to those agencies for just those two purposes.

Subsection (2), as drafted, limits the information that can be provided to those agencies, with the exception of the police who are dealt with under subsection (3)—with which I will deal in a moment—to purposes connected with the carrying out of that service's functions. For example, information could be provided only to the Security Service for purposes connected with the protection of national security, the support of law enforcement agencies in the prevention and detection of serious crime and to safeguard the economic well-being of the United Kingdom.

Those are the functions of the Security Service as set out in the Security Service Act 1989, which it is presumed this Parliament is content with. The service already enjoys those functions and they have been legislated for by Parliament.

The existing limitation to the purposes of each organisation is intended to ensure that information is disclosed only to bodies with a legitimate public interest in having it. All the bodies listed in   subsection (2) have clear statutory purposes. They have been scrutinised and approved by Parliament. We have agreed that they are their functions and that they are what we want them to do. Why should we limit the purposes for which they can receive information to only some of their functions? That is not sensible or consistent. In a sense, to reflect the argument that we had about carrying and police powers, if we want to limit the functions of those organisations, we ought to do it in the context of the legislation that gives them their functions and not in the context of this legislation.

Rather than limit the purposes for which the bodies can receive information, we must ensure that information provided to the agencies is properly authorised and that there is independent oversight. The Bill provides for that and I will discuss the issue further in relation to later clauses. We can come back to the issue if we so need.

The Bill treats the police in a different way to the agencies that I mentioned. Subsection(3) would permit information to be provided to a chief officer of police where the information is in the interests of national security, the prevention and detection of crime or for other purposes specified by order.

We have taken that approach as the police have common law as well as statutory powers and do not have a set of statutory purposes. As similar approach has been used in other legislation, for example, the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

Amendment Nos. 173 and 54 would also remove the ability to specify in an order additional purposes for which the police could have information provided to them.

It is widely known that the police get involved in other areas of work that would not be classified as preventing or detecting crime, or protecting national security, but are probably seen more as providing a service to the general public. Such examples would be identifying a body that has not died in suspicious circumstances, or tracing a missing, vulnerable person who might be in danger because of a medical condition. People in this country might well consider those situations to be good enough reason to allow information to be provided from the register without consent. Indeed, some would think it strange if we had the tools to do that, but were prevented from so doing by the inflexibility of our legislation.

Clearly, we need to give this matter careful thought. Providing information without consent requires the careful balancing of rights. However, as a principle, it is not right to limit the usefulness of the register when Parliament might consider there to be good reasons to depart from the principle of non-provision. It is right that we give ourselves the flexibility to approve those situations in future, should we so desire. Any regulations would be subject to parliamentary scrutiny under the negative resolution procedure. For that reason, I would not accept amendments Nos. 54 and 173.  

While I am on the subject of the police, it would perhaps be useful to discuss amendments Nos. 175 and 53. Amendment 175 would permit information to be provided to the police only for purposes connected to a serious crime. Amendment No. 53 would restrict the provision of information to the police to the detection only of a serious crime and would insert a new definition of serious offence, which would be an offence ''triable only on indictment''.

The effect of amendment No. 175 would be to limit the usefulness of the national identity register and the ID cards, as it would mean that the police could not seek even basic information from the register for any person arrested for a non-indictable offence if they did not consent. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam will recollect that he did not pursue his similar amendment to clause 1. I will not repeat the arguments that he found so persuasive last week.

The fact is that the law already allows the police to take fingerprints and DNA samples from someone who has been arrested for a recordable offence, in order to identify them. It would be odd if, in order to seek the provision of basic identity information from the national identity register, the police were to have their hands tied by being able to make checks only on those suspected of offences triable on indictment.

Amendment No. 53 would also seriously constrain the legitimate use of the national identity register and the ID cards scheme for policing purposes, if prevention of crime were excluded from the purposes for which information from the register could be provided to the police. A large proportion of police time is taken up with crime prevention, as opposed to detection. Prevention includes much general police work, including vehicle or pedestrian stops as well as targeting more serious criminal suspects such as drug traffickers or terrorist suspects. It is right that our police force is not merely reactive.

The phrase ''prevention and detection'' of crime is commonplace in legislation such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Indeed, even the European convention on human rights allows interference with the right to private life, which comes under article 8, on the ground of—guess what—prevention of crime. Are we seriously suggesting that we must wait until a crime is committed before the police can act? I do not think so.

Amendment No. 174 would restrict the provision of information to the intelligence services to purposes ''necessary for'', rather than ''connected with'', their functions, as is allowed under the Bill. It is of course important that the information provided to those agencies is proportionate to the reason for which the information is being requested, but the amendment is unnecessary. Largely, information that is ''connected with'' those functions will be the same as information that is ''necessary for'' those functions. However, ''connected with'' ensures that we do not unwittingly tie the hands of those operating in the agencies.

Proportionality is, in my view, better assessed by those operating in that arena. That is supplemented, of course, by ensuring that the relevant commissioner—  either the intelligence services commissioner in the case of the intelligence services, or the national identity scheme commissioner in the case of all other bodies that may be authorised to receive information without consent—can review the situations in which information has been provided, and they will be able to do that. Oversight and a power to make regulations regarding authorisation procedures is set out in detail in subsequent clauses. For that reason I would reject amendment No. 174.

Amendments Nos. 136 and 137 would restrict the information that could be provided to the Serious Organised Crime Agency—or, in advance of its creation, its constituent agencies—so that it was provided only in circumstances in which its functions related to national security or the prevention or detection of serious crime, or for other purposes specified by order. The amendment would mean treating SOCA as any other police force. As I said before, where Parliament has approved the functions of an agency—where we have agreed on what we want it to do—we need to give it the tools to do the job. Our role is to ensure that the tools are used appropriately. The police do not have statutory purposes, so it is for us to say for what purposes information should be provided to them. That is not the case for SOCA, and I therefore reject amendments Nos. 136 and 137.

I know that the subject is, understandably, of great interest to many hon. Members, and not just those on the Committee. I hope that the Committee will be reassured that the amendments are unnecessary and undesirable. I think that I have set out the Government's position as best I could, and I think that it has a persuasive logic to it. I therefore invite hon. Members not to press the amendments, but I recognise that they will want to ruminate on what I have said, and may well come back with more searching questions on other clauses in this part of the Bill.

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

Before I call the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam, let me say that I have taken notice of what the Minister and Front Benchers said. Although there can be no question of going back to debate a clause that has already been approved, I am sure that we will take the mood of the Committee into account on Thursday morning when we deal with the clause, and I will not be too restrictive about the debate.

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 am grateful for that guidance, Mr. Conway. I look forward to a bit of rumination over the Minister's comprehensive response. On that basis, it would make sense at this stage to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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 beg to move amendment No. 176, in clause 19, page 17, line 37, leave out paragraphs (a) to (f) and insert

'where it is necessary in the interests of national security or the prevention or detection of serious crime'.

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

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 55, in clause 19, page 17, line 39, leave out 'prevention or'.  

No. 56, in clause 19, page 17, line 40, leave out paragraph (c).

No. 57, in clause 19, page 17, line 43, leave out paragraph (d).

No. 58, in clause 19, page 18, line 1, leave out paragraph (e).

No. 59, in clause 19, page 18, line 3, leave out from 'numbers' to end of line 4.

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 recognise that I have come in for the night shift, and that others have been here a lot longer and are seeking to go, so I shall not prolong debate on amendment No. 176. I simply want to put on record our concerns about the powers of the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise.

Following your guidance, Mr. Conway, that we are likely to have a broader debate on later clauses, which will govern the rules under which Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue will have to operate under the current clause, perhaps we do not need to have a full debate at this stage. However, I want to ensure that we put on the record our concerns about the breadth of these powers, which I recognise exclude the auditing data under schedule 1, but still include quite a large amount of data. The clause seems to offer the Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue broader scope for accessing that data than is strictly necessary, hence the terms of amendment No. 176.

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) 6:00, 25 January 2005

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam has introduced the amendment quickly. I would be testing the patience of the Committee were I to repeat the arguments that I have already laid out in some detail in relation to the last group of amendments, which are directly transposable to this group. Her Majesty's Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue enjoy different powers and there are different, although good, reasons why it is appropriate that they should have access to this information for their investigatory purposes.

I rest my case on the arguments that I have already made. It is not for me to say whether we can return to this debate in more detail at another stage; that is a matter for the Chair. I resist the amendment for many of the same reasons that I resisted the last group. Because of the role I play I will, no doubt, find many opportunities to go into detail on these issues, should it be necessary. If the hon. Gentleman is satisfied with that approach and can be persuaded to withdraw his amendment, I am sure that we will return to the matters in hand in more detail and he may get more detailed information from me. At this stage I will see how the Committee responds.

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)

We are offered a further opportunity for rumination. At this stage, it makes sense for me to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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 amendment No. 153, in clause 19, page 18, line 26, after 'Police;' insert—

'( ) the chief officer of the States of Jersey Police Force;

( ) the chief officer of the salaried police force of the Island of Guernsey;'.  

This is slightly unusual because it is the first Government amendment. It would give effect to the request of the authorities in Jersey and Guernsey that their chief officers of police be added to the list of chief officers in clause 19(7). The chief constable of the Isle of Man constabulary is already included in that clause and the amendment aligns the other Crown dependencies with it. This technical amendment changes nothing in the provisions of clause 19 and is a logical addition to the list of chief police officers.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

Does Jersey and Guernsey include Alderney, where I have had some wonderful holidays over the years, about which I would be pleased to tell 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)

The hon. Gentleman has caught me out—not for the first time—with a question to which I do not know the answer, but I will find out. I normally pride myself on my knowledge of the geography of the United Kingdom, but I do not know precisely the answer and rather than guess I shall provide the hon. Gentleman with that information.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 19, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Joan Ryan.]

Adjourned accordingly at four minutes past Six o'clock till Thursday 27 January at ten minutes past Nine o'clock.