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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: The noble Baroness has made the point a number of times and it is of considerable reassurance. Is she willing to give a general assurance that this Government will never attempt to impose the requirement that an ID be carried?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Certainly, there is nothing in the Bill which would enable us to do so. Of course I cannot bind my successors in title. I can certainly say that there is no intention to do so. The Bill makes that quite secure. It is not possible. We absolutely understood that one of the things people on all sides of the House, both in this place and in the other, were really concerned about was the idea that they would have to carry the ID card with them at any point and that a police officer could demand to see it. Therefore, we have sought to make this secure so that it would not be so demanded.
The Earl of Erroll: What is wrong with producing a driving licence? It has my photograph, my signature and everything the police officer would want, including whether I am permitted to drive that car, which the ID card will not have. So that is the document he really wants to seeand it identifies me.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: That is a perfectly proper thing to say. Noble Lords will know that if you are stopped in the street regarding a motor vehicle incident the police officer is currently entitled to say "Produce your details to the local police station within a certain number of days". Nothing in the Bill changes that. Many people will find it useful. In order to avoid the necessity of producing documents laterperhaps identificationthey can choose to produce the ID card. They will not have to, but it would obviously save a lot of time if it was used in that way. But it would not be compulsory.
To come back to some of the problems we face, particularly in relation to terrorism but also in relation to how organisations such as al-Qaeda work, its
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training manuals require its operatives to acquire false identities to hide their terrorist activities. Judge Jean-Louis Brugueiere, who is France's top counter-terror investigator, was reported in the Times on 1 June 2005 as saying that identity cards will help Britain to protect itself from attacks by Al-Qaeda sympathisers. It is surely right that we should provide the police and the security services with the best support we can to help safeguard national security. That includes this Bill.
However, the addition of the word "terrorism" to the reference to national security in Clause 1(4)(a) is unnecessary. Terrorist acts are crimes. We cannot get away from that. The Bill already provides for the scheme to be used in combating terrorism through the reference to the prevention and detection of crime. Preventing terrorism is also covered by the existing reference in Clause 1(4)(a) to national security. I add that the statutory purposes of the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ, as set out in the legislation, do not contain a separate mention of terrorism; and to suggest that it is needed in this context might cast doubt on whether anti-terrorism work was within the lawful activities of those bodies.
Lord Crickhowell: The noble Baroness makes a reasonable point about al-Qaeda operatives, but am I not right in thinking that in order to get the identity card that she wishes them to have, they will have to apply for a passport or a driving licence or apply to be on the register? It seems to me rather unlikely that any potential al-Qaeda bomber is going to do any of those things. So, until the whole thing becomes compulsory, which we are told will not be for some considerable time, there will be no impact on al-Qaeda operatives, will there?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is not just obtaining new passports. It will now be necessary for new passports to contain biometric data. The ability for operatives to act improperly will continue. What we are seeking to do, appreciating the challenges with which we are now faced, is to set in train a method of dealing with this both in the short and the longer term, which we believe will be truly successful. The whole lead-in time, as I have said on a number of occasions, will enable us, first, to establish the passports, as they currently are, under a voluntary scheme and then to ensure that the scheme has the integrity and soundness we will need before we make it compulsory. We will go through those stages. But, we see this as a current and long-term need. The sad truth is that we do not believe that the difficulties with which we are currently faced will simply evaporate in a year or two and make all this unnecessary. That is not the reality of the world in which we currently live. That is why I mentioned the issues in relation to GCHQ, which are set out in legislation, and the fact that this is a real issue for us.
The second effect of the amendments would be to limit the usefulness to the police of the national identity register and the introduction of the identity cards by changing the reference from "crime" to "serious crime" and defining that to mean an
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indictable offence. We have dealt with why that will not be helpful. I see the noble Baroness nodding her assent to that fact. The reason we jointlyif I can take the noble Baroness's assent to thatwould not think it wise to limit the use of the scheme in this way is that the public would think it very odd indeed if we seemed to be tying the hands of the police by limiting the use of the identity card scheme to serious crime.
The noble Baroness referred to what I said at Second ReadingI think at col. 13 of Hansard. What I said then was quite right because it related to the provision of information from the audit log, which is set out in paragraph 9 of Schedule 1. I remind her of that. I have the extract here, but I am sure that if she reads it again she will see what I was trying to express.
The definition "serious crime" would be very unhelpful. Combating serious crime is a priority, but everyone must accept that the ordinary man or woman is as much affected by lower levels of crime and will expect us to provide the police with the tools they need, including a national identity card scheme, to combat that crime.
would limit the use of the register and, we believe, simply not work. We already have a serious crime threshold, at Clause 20(4). That is for quite a different purpose. It is to provide extra protection to the provision of information from the register to the police about the records of provision of information at paragraph 9 of Schedule 1. That, as I said earlier, relates to the audit log of where and when a check of an identity card has been made against the register. I accept that that information should be given a much higher threshold, whereas it would not make sense for the provision of basic information to be subject to a "serious" crime threshold. The noble Baroness is right to try to make that division, but that is where we think it should be.
The third point is that the amendment would limit the public interest in relation to terrorism and crime to assisting the Secretary of State to combat them. Of course the Secretary of State has a most important role to play in these matters. However, primary responsibility for fighting crime and terrorism lies with the police and the security services. It would be artificial and unhelpful to limit the definition to information,
The fourth point relates to the change to the reference to immigration and the deletion of the reference to the enforcement of prohibitions on unauthorised working or employment. That point was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Erroll. While the use of the scheme to combat illegal working in breach of immigration controls would to some extent still be covered by the reference to immigration controls, I do not think that it would be helpful to make that change.
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The use of identity cards to combat illegal working should be spelt out explicitly in the Bill. I know that illegal working has been an issue which the noble Baroness has been very concerned to stop because of the abuse that it involvesoften the abuse of human rights. I know that the noble Baroness has a degree of passion on that subject.
Removing that reference would not help employers and employees to recognise the importance of that aspect of the identity cards scheme. It would also limit artificially the use of the scheme to illegal working in relation to immigration control. There are other sorts of unlawful working, and identity cards would help employers properly to identify their prospective employees as a way of combating under-age working, and would ensure that tax and national insurance deductions are correctly allocated.
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. I have no problem with the list of public services in the amendment. Our concern is that it would limit the scheme unnecessarily if we were unable to show on the face of the Bill that one purpose of the ID cards scheme is to help the efficient and effective delivery of all public services. That is what the taxpayer and, indeed, the citizen expects. There are many other public services for which the use of identity cards to confirm someone's identity would provide benefits all round, for example, when applying for a criminal records check for someone working with children or vulnerable adults, or when anyone applies for a driving licence. It would be wrong to limit the scope of the scheme in the way proposed by the amendment.
We also believe that when identity cards are used to access public services, it would be much better to rely on the existing checks in the Bill. Clauses 15 and 16 mean that any regulation requiring an identity card to be produced to access a public service would be subject to public consultation followed by an affirmative resolution order. By restricting the statutory purposes of the scheme we risk restricting the usefulness of the identity card.
The noble Baroness asked about the race equality impact assessment. We published a full assessment on 25 May this year when the Bill was first introduced in the other place. We sent a copy to the CRE, and have offered to discuss it with the commission. We believe that many benefits will flow to all citizens in the community because service providers will be bound by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2002. It is intended to establish an accreditation scheme so that only those private sector organisations that have been approved can run the checks, and the other issues that have been put in place will greatly assist.
The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, and the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, again raised the issue of bank accounts. Opening a bank account is not a public service. A private organisation will be within the definition only if it is a public authority under the Human Rights Act, which is an organisation that
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performs public functions. The benefits to the private sector are encapsulated in the first limb of the statutory purpose in Clause 1(3)(a) referring to the convenience to the individual.
Clause 14 controls provision of information to the private sector with the consent of the individual. Much of the debate yesterday was about consent, when and how it would be given, and so on. The important point is that consent will be necessary. We need to bear in mind the fact that, when someone currently opens a bank account, the bank is entitled to ask for various kinds of information to be produced to verify the person's identity. Quite often a passport and a series of other things are asked for. Banks ask for proof of identity. We believe that the ability to produce an identity card, which has someone's biometric data and a clearer means of identification, will assist in that regard. That is helpful and proper.
I hope that I have managed to answer all the questions that were raised on the amendment. I understand that it was probing, but if there are other issues that the noble Baroness would like to explore, I shall be more than happy to write to her. I think that we have covered all the bases.
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