|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: No, we have not in any way done so. At the moment, we have a moratorium that does not allow insurers to have access to genetic tests, which will be up in 2008. At some point we will have to legislate on whether people should have access to that genetic information. Until we know where that is going, with identity cards that have a central database which, linked to another database, could create an incredible source of information about which the general public know nothing about the future intentions, we should be circumspect.
When we talk about polling, did we ask our citizens whether they knew or thought that it could be used in the ways in which it could be used? I suspect not. That is why I would like at the very least to have this kind of review built into the system; but I would really like a proper public debate about where we are going at this important moment in time in our development of technology.
Lord Lyell of Markyate: This is a probing amendment and, in my view, it is extremely helpful. At this early stage, the suggestion of an annual review on what is a very difficult subject has a great deal of merit. However, in this discussion on the costs and benefits, I should like to probe for a moment the issue of the benefits. Many serious points have been raised about the costs and I shall listen carefully to what the noble Baroness says in answer, but when we come to the benefits, we should consider carefully what the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, said about how the legislation would assist the police. My first parliamentary excursion was to try to be elected as a Conservative MP for Brixton. I am afraid that it failed, but I lived on the edge of Brixton and my question comes from that.
Let us suppose that a police officer in Brixton or any similar community stops a young man or woman of whatever ethnicityit does not matter what it isto try to find out who they are and what they are doing. At present, it does not seem that the provisions of the Bill will help in the slightest. The likely outcome of the Bill is that all of us who want passports and driving
15 Nov 2005 : Column 980
licences will have to apply for a card in a semi-compulsory way, but a very large number of the younger people in, say, the Brixton area will not apply for a card. They are not obliged to carry a card, so what is the police officer going to do? How many years will it be before this legislation is of the slightest assistance to the police, the security services or anyone else? As people will not have applied for a card, they will not have registered, and their fingerprints and other biometric information will be available only if they happen to have a criminal record, which is the current position. So, at present, there seems to be a massive hole in the supposed benefits of the Bill, whether one is talking about national security, the detection of crime or the other points listed in subsection (4). I much look forward to the answer.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have had a very interesting debate lasting one hour and 20 minutes. I shall turn my attention primarily to the amendment and shall seek to answer many of the questions raised.
We have the advantage of having at least three days in Committeethe noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, tells me that it is five, so there will be even greater pleasure for us. It would be helpful if we could approach these issues item by item and seek to debate each difficult and knotty problem as it arises in its place. I am aware that a number of issues which will come up in debate on later amendments have been conflated within this, the first, amendment. I shall try to answer the issues which seem to me to spring primarily from Amendment No. 1 and, if the Committee will permit me, I shall touch lightly on the issues which we shall have the delight of exploring more fully later.
Before I start, perhaps I may put to rest a few myths. The firstI hope that this will reassure my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shawsis that the subject of DNA will be raised in a later amendment but it does not appear in this Bill. It is not included in Schedule 1 to the Bill and there are no powers in the Bill to take DNA samples. I hear my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours saying "unfortunately" but I want to lay that to rest now. The Government have decided to put limits on the Bill. Secondlyagain in response to my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The ShawsI can say that there are no general powers for the police to stop and search people for an unspecified reason and demand that they provide proof of ID. That is not contained in this Bill and the situation will not change following the introduction of ID cards.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Members of the Committee will know that Clause 1(5) sets out the parameters of matters that can subsequently be changed in Schedule 1. Nothing that is outside Clause 1(5) can form part of those matters that can be changed in Schedule 1. I anticipate that there will be a
15 Nov 2005 : Column 981
debate about whether Clause 1(5) is sufficiently tightly drawn, but for the purpose of this general discussion, those are the parameters. The police already have powers to stop and search individuals, such as where there are reasonable grounds
Lord Lucas: Reading the Bill as it is, it is clear that identity comes under Clause 1(5) and identity is physical characteristics that are capable of being used for identifying someone. What else is DNA?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I have been absolutely clear about this. If Members look at the way in which these matters are clarified, they will see that we have set out the issues that can be so identified. For the purpose of clarity, and so that there can be no misunderstanding, DNA does not fall within the parameters of the Bill.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: Does the Minister expect that if a DNA sample were taken from someone, after the Bill comes into force, the top of the file would have a person's identity number on it? If that is the case, it could be cross-referenced with ease.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is clear that the biometric identifiers that will be used, as I said at Second Reading, are the face, two eyes and 10 fingers. I almost feel as though I am talking about a child's game"hands, knees and face". That biometric data will be available and could be checked against other data that the police may obtain to verify the identity of an individual. If, for example, the noble Lord were to pretend to be me, and if he gave my name but had his facial characteristics and size, they would be able to check that he did not have the terrible burden of being me, but was in fact his delightful own self. Those details can be checked for verification, but that is what one will be able to dochecking and verifying.
The noble Baroness rightly says that this is a probing amendment. She does not wish me to look too closely at the way in which the amendment is phrased and I do not propose to make any proper or improper criticisms of it. I take it on the basis on which she has put it forward. It seeks to establish an annual review process for the Secretary of State on the costs and technical capacity of the identity cards scheme. I am afraid I do not accept that this is the best or most proportionate way to provide assurance about the development and delivery of the identity cards scheme.
First, even 12 months after the Bill is passed the scheme would not be in operation and it is difficult to see how such a report could be laid before Parliament without going into detail about how the costs and technical aspects of the scheme are being developed and considered. That could affect the Government's ability to get best value from the procurement process if early reports gave too much information prematurely. Secondly, there are already safeguards in place to ensure that the scheme develops in a cost-effective way and that the technology is robust enough to deliver the scheme. The programme is already
15 Nov 2005 : Column 982
subject to regular OGC Gateway Reviews. The OGC Gateway process is being improved to reduce the risk of failure by identifying omissions, making recommendations, and viewing the whole life cycle, thus ensuring the project is on track to deliver. In addition, within the Home Office there is a new centre of excellence in programme and project management. We have also
The Earl of Northesk: I hope that the noble Baroness can clarify a point on the Gateway process. Is it not the case that a number of IT projects, despite having received a red light at various stages of the Gateway process, have none the less gone forward?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The whole purpose of the Gateway process is that if issues are identified as needing to be dealt with, they are dealt with appropriately before the relevant project continues. That gives an opportunity for reflection, change and improved delivery. We understand the process and the need for care, not least becausemy noble friends have mentioned thisthe Passport Office has been subject to criticism in the past. Those criticisms were taken seriously and were dealt with. The service that we now have from the Passport Office is supposed to be, and is acknowledged to be, excellent. It is second to none and is secure. I remind the Committee that it is proposedas the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, indicatedthat passports with biometric data contained therein will be available next year. Much of the work that we had to do to prepare for the delivery of that project has been done, and will continue to be done, as it has to be delivered whether or not we have an ID card scheme. We have also recruited experienced individuals from the public and private sectors to deliver the identity cards scheme.
The Government's Biometrics Advisory Group will review biometric aspects of the identity cards programme. Sir David King, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, will chair the Biometrics Advisory Group, which is being established as a panel of internationally eminent specialists in biometrics and related technologies. The Home Office also has its own Centre of Expertise in Biometrics led by the recently appointed Home Office chief biometric officer.
To complement all this, an independent assurance panel will cover project management, finance, procurement and the other aspects of the programme not covered by the Biometric Assurance Group. It will be chaired by Alan Hughes, a former chief executive of First Direct Bank. The rest of the panel will be made up of people with a similar level of expertise and experience in their field.
My noble friend Lord Foulkes, among others including noble Lords opposite, asked me to speak of the benefits of the Bill. We have always maintained that the benefits of the scheme outweigh the costs and that, if that situation changed, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said:
On the public and their interests, I affirm what has been said by a number of my noble friends regarding the way in which the public view this matter. We produced in October a document entitled Identity Cards: an assessment of awareness and demand for the Identity Cards Scheme. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will get his very own copy of it after this debate. I am more than happy to ensure that a number of copies of the document are put in the Library or in the relevant office so that they can be collected. I affirm that that document contains an indication that, as a number of my noble friends have indicated, there is a thirst for ID cards, notwithstanding the concern that some have raised about costs.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|