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Committee Mandates

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what the mandate of the Committee for the implementation of the programme of exchange, training and co-operation between law enforcement

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authorities (OISIN) is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the UK representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if he will list the items currently under its consideration; if he will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if he will make a statement; [58450]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Falcone, Hippocrates, Grotius criminal, Oisin II and STOP II Committees assist the European Commission in the management and implementation of programmes which co-fund projects to promote knowledge of and skills in combating organised crime (Falcone) and the prevention of crime (Hippocrates); to promote knowledge of Member States' legal and judicial systems and facilitate co-operation in criminal matters (Grotius criminal); to develop and enhance co-operation between police, customs and other national law enforcement authorities through exchanges, training courses and seminars (Oisin II); and to encourage practical co-operation between the persons responsible for action against the trade in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children in the Member States (STOP II).

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Each Committee normally meets twice a year, initially to agree the annual work programme and criteria for evaluating and selecting bids for funding, and subsequently to discuss the bids which have been received and agree the allocation of funds to successful projects.

The UK is represented on each Committee by a Home Office official and an official from the UK Permanent Representation in Brussels. A representative from Her Majesty's Customs and Exercise also occasionally attends the Oisin II Committee when appropriate.

The programmes are funded by the European Community budget and travel costs to attend Committee meetings are met by the European Commission. However, the Home Office (and HM Customs as appropriate) pays a subsistence allowance to cover attendance at a Committee meeting.

The committees met on 22 and 23 July to agree the successful bids for funding for 2002.

The Commission is required to prepare annual reports on the implementation of the programmes which are submitted to the Council and European Parliament. The reports are also published on the EUROPA Internet website. I do not see a need for further measures to increase the Committees' accountability and transparency.

The Council is currently negotiating a new funding programme which will replace Falcone, Hippocrates, Grotius criminal, Oisin II and STOP II when they expire at the end of 2002. The creation of one programme should streamline the current administration process and therefore reduce costs. It will also allow the European Commission and Member States to have a broad overview of all the projects which are submitted for funding in the field of criminal law and crime prevention and consequently take a more strategic approach in selecting which projects to assist.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will answer the question from the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South of 17 April, reference number 51632, on guidelines on sex abuse cases; and if he will make a statement. [65749]

Mr. Denham: With apologies for the delay in responding I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 24 July 2002, Official Report, column 1489W.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will answer the question from the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South of 22 May, ref. 58561, on police officers in Portsmouth; and if he will make a statement. [65745]

Mr. Denham: With apologies for the delay in responding I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 18 July 2002, Official Report, column 561W.

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will answer the written question from the hon. Member for Chichester, tabled on 22 May, on the official travel of departmental and non- departmental special advisors. [72684]

Beverley Hughes: My right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary replied to the hon. Member on 24 July 2002, Official Report, column 1494W.

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Entitlement Identity Card

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will define the rigorous procedures to check (a) access to information and (b) protection from unauthorised access referred to in paragraph 1.3 of his consultation document on Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud; [72105]

Beverley Hughes: My right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, made a statement to the House on 3 July, announcing the publication of a consultation paper on Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud. The consultation period will last until 10 January 2002. The Government has made it clear that the introduction of an entitlement card would be a major step and that it would not proceed without consulting widely and considering all the views expressed very carefully.

One of the purposes of the consultation exercise is to identify potential partners. Views are welcomed in the consultation paper from organisations providing services in the public and private sectors on whether they would like to link services to a card scheme and what features they would want to see in a scheme that would most benefit their services. The consultation paper also discusses sharing revenue generated by potential partners' use of a card scheme to cover some of the costs of setting

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up and administrating a card scheme. If such an arrangement could be agreed, this would reduce the fees charged for entitlement cards.

There are no plans to hold medical records on entitlement cards. The consultation paper discusses holding, at the cardholder's consent, a limited amount of medical information that could be used in an emergency, for example, current medical information on allergies.

There are no plans for the issuing authority for any entitlement card to make checks with the banking sector.

The set up and issuing costs for a universal scheme outlined in the consultation paper are based on the costs of building on the driving licence and passport systems extrapolated to cover all of the resident population. There is no separate estimate for a voluntary scheme.

It is not possible to estimate how many people would apply for an entitlement card as opposed to an entitlement card issued in the form of a photocard driving licence or a passport card. On the assumption that those who do not hold driving licences and passports at present all opt for an entitlement card and that these cards would be lost or stolen at the same rate as driving licences were in 2000–01 (which is the latest date for which complete figures are available), it is estimated that 424,000 cards would be reported as lost or stolen each year once a scheme was fully implemented.

A list of those organisations to which copies of the consultation paper have been or are in the process of being sent has been placed in the Library.

The Government has invited views from all of these organisations. We intend to contact other appropriate organisations as they are suggested to us.

The consultation paper requests views on what information should be held in any central register which might be used to administer a card scheme and what information should be displayed or stored on the card itself.

The proposed central register and entitlement card/driving licence would hold core personal information necessary to administer an effective scheme. The information to be held on the card and in the register would include the holder's name; date and place of birth; residential address; validity dates of card(s) and issuing authority; digitised image of signature; photograph; National Insurance number; driver number; a unique personal number; nationality; sex; employment status; and possibly biometric information.

The central register would also include cross references to other personal identifiers used in schemes linked to the entitlement card such as passport number and driver number. It might also include any secret password, pass phrase or PIN used to help authenticate transactions if it was decided to incorporate such a facility in a card scheme.

The consultation paper invites views on what specific measures should be included in any entitlement card scheme to ensure compatibility with the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998.

The consultation paper goes into detail about how a scheme would comply with all eight principles. Paragraphs 6.15 and 6.16 of the consultation paper discuss compliance

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with the Sixth and Seventh Principles of the Data Protection Act. The Sixth Principle stipulates that personal data shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under the Act. The Seventh Principle stipulates that appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.

The procedures adopted for any entitlement card scheme would build on the experience and expertise of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the UK Passport Service, both of which have a great deal of experience in administering large databases of personal information, including where they are administered by a third party under contract. Both are well placed to develop detailed procedures to comply with the requirements of the Seventh Principle should the Government decide to implement a scheme in this way.

Paragraph 2.9 of the consultation paper assesses the disadvantages of a non-compulsory, non-universal entitlement card scheme. Such a voluntary scheme could not guarantee complete coverage of the population, service providers would need to support different ways of checking the entitlement of the people they served. Benefits for a scheme would therefore be lower than for a scheme where everyone was required to have a card. Those people most likely to benefit from a simple, straightforward means of asserting their rights and entitlements may well be amongst the least likely to apply for a voluntary one. Unless all of society were to hold one, the protections a card scheme could afford to the broader community would be reduced or eliminated.

The costs of a full cost- benefit analysis of an entitlement card scheme, and of a proper risk assessment of the challenges of the procurement and roll-out cannot be determined until a decision is taken on what type of scheme, if any, the Government intend to proceed with. This will not be decided until the views received during the consultation exercise have been carefully analysed.

There are no firm plans to use fingerprints in an entitlement card scheme. The consultation paper discusses the inclusion of biometric information as part of a scheme and fingerprinting is one of the options. In its discussion of the possible use of fingerprints, the paper explains that it would not be necessary to record fingerprints to the same standard used by the police. For example, there would not be a need to identify people using partial fingerprint records such as those retrieved from crime scenes.

Paragraph 3.29 of the consultation document discusses whether the police should have access to any biometric information, such as fingerprints, held on the entitlement card database. Most offenders are already known to the police, who have their own biometric databases of fingerprints and DNA which are more sophisticated than anything envisaged for an entitlement card scheme. It may also cause public unease and a lack of confidence in an entitlement card scheme if the police were to have routine access. However, there may be cases in very closely prescribed circumstances, such as in matters of national security, or the prevention or detection of very serious crimes, where the police might have access to the information. Specific views on this issue are sought in the consultation paper, point 15 (iii).

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