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The Earl of Onslow: The one thing that has made me really blanch with horror is what my noble friend said about the failure of biometrics to be recognised. If there is a failure rate of 30 per cent when one's face is examined and so forth, that is extremely worrying. Do the Government take that into account? Are they aware of it? If the Government have different figures for failure rates will they tell us what they are?

9.15 pm

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I am going to shock the noble Baroness Lady Henig, by opposing the amendment. I do so with deference because the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, yields to no person in this House in his technical understanding of the impenetrabilities of this whole subject. But I am bound to say, as a simple lawyer, that "convenient" cannot mean convenient for the state; it must mean convenient to the individuals referred to in the subsection. I might have backed the noble Earl had he suggested an alternative word, but as he has not I rather agree with a previous speaker that it is better to have "convenient" than nothing at all because convenience to the citizen is something to be approved of.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My noble kinsman—I do not often have the chance to say that—who has been a kinsman since the 17th century, made an interesting case. I do not know whether he will divide the Committee on this amendment, but if he does not or if it fails to be agreed and the word stays in, it will be very interesting when we get to Schedule 1 to discuss whether people will find it convenient to have to include in their entry the numbers of 11 different government documents that relate to them and the date of expiry or period of validity of those documents. Those documents will be on the register and accessible to any government department that wants to look at them. I do not know whether people will find it very
 
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convenient either to put those in or have government departments chasing them because they all have the numbers, so it is a very interesting amendment.

Lord Lyell of Markyate: My noble friend has done a service to the Committee in focusing our thoughts on "convenient" because it cuts both ways. I am inclined to think that it is wise to leave the word "convenient" in, but we should look and read what has to be convenient. It has to be a "convenient" method for individuals to prove registrable facts about themselves. One of the most cumbersome registrable facts that later provisions of the Bill require are all of the addresses at which one has lived over a substantial period. Fortunately, a number of amendments have been tabled to limit that period and one hopes that they will be looked at favourably. Certainly, I will listen carefully to the arguments from the Government for going back many years.

It will be clear from my other speeches that I am particularly concerned with the section of society that is unlikely immediately to get an identity card, passport or driving licence. I am talking about the minority of 10 per cent or 20 per cent, some of whom will be frightened about asking for an identity card as soon as they begin to think about it. They may well think, as noble Lords have said in support of the Government, "I would like something to prove my identity. It gives me some status in society". However, when they discover that they will have to provide a lot of detail about their exact working status, that will be a source of anxiety for many people. The Government may say, "Ha, ha! That's a good thing". Perhaps that is part of the side wind of the Bill, but it will cause anxiety.

On the question of residence, going back to the 1970s when I lived in Lambeth, young black men were regularly required to leave home by their parents at about the age of 16 or 17 and went to live in empty dwellings, which were rife in Lambeth in those days in what were known as housing action areas—areas where housing was empty and the local authority took no action whatever. But that is where they went to live. However, among the people with whom they went to live, some were nice young men but some were undesirables. Under paragraph 7(d) of Schedule 1, there is a right to check up and record anything you find when checking out such information and it may be that you were living with someone who had a criminal record and you are a little worried about it.

All I am saying—and I will stop here—is that the word "convenient" has a great many important sub-aspects to it. I hope the Government will bear that closely in mind.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to my noble friend for tabling the amendment, which I support. I feel that it would bring honesty into the drafting of the legislation if that word were excised. He has done us a service.

At the Second Reading of the Bill in another place the Home Secretary put forward the idea that libraries might find ID cards a convenient way of tracking
 
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down borrowers who nicked their books. I find that an extraordinary response to Glenda Jackson and her inquiry at the time as to how the card might be convenient. I did not find that too impressive a justification for such a monumental scheme. I think it is a pity that the Home Secretary was not here tonight to hear that theory debunked so comprehensively by the noble Earl, Lord Erroll. To me it proves that this method cannot be convenient to the individual.

I accept entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, said—I do not accept that he is simple; I certainly accept that he is a lawyer—that the drafting here should reflect the convenience to the individual rather than the convenience to the state. However, overall the drafting leads me to feel that the state intends it to be convenient to the Government to have this information rather than convenient to the individual. The way in which it has been introduced into this paragraph makes it sound more like a government press release than legislative drafting. That is disappointing.

It would be wrong of me to go much further in underlining the case put forward, in a bravura performance, by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. In the words of the Law Lords I can only say, "I agree and have nothing to add".

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It has been a very interesting debate, the balance of which has indicated the utility of the word "convenience". The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell of Markyate, and the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, all agree that the word is a good word in terms of scrutiny. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, for his assent in relation to the word "convenience". As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell, said, the word cuts both ways. This is not something which will be of convenience only to the Government; we will be looking at how convenient the processes will be for the individual, including the issues outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, in regard to how many centres we will have and where they will be. The word was not inserted lightly; it was quite deliberately put in. It is a good word because it emphasises the kind of value that we wish to add to these provisions, and convenience is a matter of some concern.

The scheme we are proposing is intended to become compulsory and will eventually result in everyone holding a biometric identity card that identifies them and them alone, and therefore the convenience of that process is quite important. It will thus become a useful method of providing identity and I cannot agree with the suggestion of the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, that it will not be convenient. I should say to the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, that I hear what he says in relation to the number of cards but I hope he will accept that the identity card will be the definitive way in which many people will be able to identify themselves to others. The data that we have produced and are contained in the most recent report of 2005 show the utility which individuals anticipate they will be able to benefit from.
 
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This is not by any means to suggest that as a result of having the identity card, we would then abandon all other cards, not least because we have the DVLA card—the driving licence—and a number of other cards which give one specific entry into specific services. But that does not in any way detract from the utility and importance of the ID card for all the reasons I have alluded to already.

The fact that we have no national identity card scheme is in many ways a major inconvenience. Most of our European partners already have identity cards so, say, for a French or Italian national, the easiest and most convenient method of proving identity is to use that state's own national identity card. That can also be used as a travel document within the European Union in place of a passport—another great convenience.

If the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, is concerned about the convenience of obtaining the identity card rather than the convenience of using it, then to maintain the highest level of integrity of the identity card scheme, it will be essential to have enrolment in person. I think that most people would accept that that is necessary to ensure that the United Kingdom identity card is issued to the highest standard. For a document that is valid for 10 years, we do not regard that as a major inconvenience. Most other countries expect people to make a personal visit to apply for an identity card or passport. Most people manage quite well to visit a registry office to register a birth or death or to visit a local driving test centre. Visiting a local identity card enrolment centre will not be much different.

I hear what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell, says about the number of previous addresses. Of course we shall have to consider those details in order to ensure that we have sufficient data to make the identification real. I understand his question about how many there should be to avoid it being over-burdensome. That is an important point.

I say to the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, and other noble Lords that biometric data are not the only identifier. We hope to use biometric data as an additional tool for verification. On two occasions the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, referred to the research that suggested that only 7 per cent of people supported these cards once they were told the cost. However, I say with the utmost respect—and I am sure he knows this—that that figure related to data that are now quite old. The most recent research was that published last month; it showed support at 75 per cent when people were made aware of the £93 unit cost of a passport-ID card package. This was a sophisticated piece of market research, where people were made fully aware of the issues such as having to travel to an office to record biometrics.

The figure of 7 per cent that was published was based on research conducted in 2002–03, which showed support at 79 per cent. The 7 per cent figure represented the number of people who said they were willing to pay more than £20. But I hope that the noble Earl will accept that the research undertaken then was far less sophisticated than that which we have now.
 
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The whole debate has moved on a long way since then and there is a much better basis for our knowledge and understanding. Therefore, the figure the noble Earl referred to is not as reliable as that which we published last month. We took the trouble to undertake that research because we understood the import of what people were saying. It was important to understand what people wanted, the basis on which they would agree to it and whether cost was a major impediment. The Government needed to know where that benchmark should be.

9.30 pm

In relation to biometric performance, one of the largest scientific studies today of fingerprints, with a sample size of 6 million, was conducted by the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology using data collected in operational circumstances, rather than laboratory conditions. It showed a performance consistent with the needs of a scheme on the scale of the ID cards scheme. Although it was one of the world's leading studies into the use of biometrics, the London School of Economics overlooked it in its report, which is curious because we know how assiduous that body usually is when looking at research that may be pertinent. I am surprised that the LSE does not appear to have alighted on that study. One reason why we treat the LSE study with caution is because it is just not as rigorous as one would normally come to expect.

The UK Passport Service biometric trial, which the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, mentioned, was not a trial of the technology. It was intended to learn more about the customer experience of recording biometrics, so we cannot draw definitive technical lessons from it about the performance of biometrics. We have a good operational base—


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