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Lord Warner: My Lords, as my noble friend knows, we have delegated responsibility for these hugely increased budgets which have been provided by the Government to people at the local level. It is up to them to make their judgments about local priorities within national standards and within national targets. I sympathise with the points he has made, but it is down to people at the local level to make these decisions.

Earl Howe: My Lords, is not the difference between today and 1997 that in 1997, and until recently, there were mechanisms in the system which afforded trusts a
 
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measure of flexibility when they were running a deficit, whereas today Ministers are saying that trusts in deficit will not be bailed out? Was not, therefore, the King's Fund right last week to say that what the health service urgently needs are mechanisms to deal with hospital failure if and when that happens, and those mechanisms simply do not exist at the moment?

Lord Warner: My Lords, the main difference is that in 1997 we were spending about £30 billion on the NHS and now we are spending £70 billion on it and moving towards the European average. The other difference is that we are being transparent about poor performance and exposing these deficits, rather than the smoke and mirrors system which operated on NHS finances in an earlier day.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords—

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, far be it from me to support the Liberal Democrats, but the Minister failed to answer the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, and I am interested in ministerial answers. She was asking about the costs of the management teams which are sent in to failing authorities.

Lord Warner: My Lords, I apologise; as I said, I did not hear the noble Baroness's question correctly. Now that I have had it elucidated to me, I must say that the cost is commercially in confidence.

Consolidated Fund Bill

3.07 pm

Brought from the Commons, endorsed with the certificate of the Speaker that the Bill is a Money Bill, and read a first time.

Identity Cards Bill

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]

Clause 8 [Issue etc. of ID cards]:

Lord Phillips of Sudbury moved Amendment No. 141:


 
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The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 141 and the first amendment in the next group to be debated, Amendment No. 145, are probing in nature. There are several parts of the Bill, I think it fair to say, which bamboozle a lot of us, and if they bamboozle us, they will certainly bamboozle the great British public if the legislation emerges in its present state.

Amendment No. 141 seeks an explanation from the Government about what is meant by Clause 8(2)(b). Clause 8 deals with the issue of identity cards; it starts by saying what an identity card is. Subsection (1)(a) states that an identity card,

and that it records registrable facts—so far, so good. Subsection (2)(b) then says that it carries data,

I am an old dog, legally speaking, and I have laboured hard to understand quite what that concatenation of Latinate words means, but I am still baffled. I look forward to hearing what the noble Baroness says and I hope that her brief is of limpid clarity.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: What does that mean?

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: The noble Lord should not come from Brighton; then he would understand what it means.

Who makes the application and who responds to it? Applications for information are made by whom? What will the Government prescribe in terms of individual entries? This whole clause is riven by references to prescription of this and that, which means that we do not have in front of us all the detail, which all comes hereafter. Will the Government undertake not to allow third-party access to paragraph 9 information—the highly sensitive information referred to in paragraph 9 of the first schedule—except where expressly allowed by the Bill? Finally, what does the last phrase mean? With that, I think that I have bamboozled the Minister if I have not bamboozled everyone else. I beg to move.

The Earl of Northesk: It may be convenient to the Committee if I speak to my two amendments in this group. My purpose here is to delete paragraph (b) of Clause 8(3) via Amendment No. 143 and substitute it with the text of Amendment No. 142.

At first blush, this might strike one as an idiotic thing to do. After all, it is to be supposed that a principal motivation in having encrypted data on the actual ID card is to provide appropriate protections against the possibility of it being forged or used fraudulently. But there is another side to the coin. Given current drafting, the individual has no means of satisfying himself that the information about himself on the ID card is accurate and proportionate. Indeed, in many ways there seems to be a similar lacuna in respect of information in the register. To that extent,
 
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encrypted data on the card could create a degree of ambivalence about whether it would be Data Protection Act compliant.

Moreover, if the scheme is to be "convenient"—I make no apologies for returning to this theme—and trusted by the public, transparency and accountability need to be built into every aspect of the scheme. It is therefore wholly reasonable to suppose that the individual should be empowered to know what information about him appears on the card. Logically, if encrypted data are used, the individual has no ready means of accessing or reading the material to satisfy himself of its veracity. In effect, the card would lack appropriate levels of transparency and accountability. With that in mind, there is a legitimate argument that encrypted data should not be permitted. Against that background, I hope the Minister can offer me some comfort on the point.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Although I hope that I will be as lucid as the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, would like, I confess that on my third day at the Dispatch Box, lucidity is something to which I cannot proclaim to still have hold.

Amendment No. 141 reflects a misunderstanding of subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 8. Those subsections do not confer any power to use the card or the information on it for particular purposes. Those issues are dealt with in other parts of the Bill. Subsection (1) contains the definition of an identity card, so if a card meets the description of both paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (2), it is within the definition of an ID card in subsection (1) and it is therefore an ID card for the purposes of the Bill. I invite the noble Lord's attention for that purpose to Clause 43(1). It is necessary because an ID card may take a number of forms; for example, a stand-alone identity card or a document such as a residence permit for third country nationals. It will be within the definition of an ID card if it is issued by the Secretary of State or as part of or with a designated document, so it records registrable facts and can be used to check against the information in the register.

3.15 pm

Amendments Nos. 142 and 143, in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, would have the effect that the ID card would not be able to contain any information of which the individual to whom the card was issued was unaware and would not be able to contain any information in an encrypted form. I assure your Lordships that we have no intention of storing identity information on the ID card that is not known to the individual. There will be some technical information on the card's chip that we do not envisage revealing in explicit detail to the individual. Such information concerns the card's security features and its ability to be read by specific card readers—and the reasons for that are absolutely clear. But that information certainly contains no additional identity information and, if I may respectfully say so, that
 
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technical data is nothing new. Such features are absolutely common in the use of credit or debit cards today and are central to how the cards function.

The encryption of information stored on the ID card is necessary to ensure that data on the card's chip is secure and that approved readers alone are able to access it for clearly designed purposes. For example, without encryption the ID card would not meet International Civil Aviation Organisation standards for basic and enhanced access control to information on the chip of the card, and therefore would not be valid for travel. Additionally, without encryption, the possibility of implementing remote authentication technology with a potential of combating identity fraud for those using the Internet would be lost, as important technical information on the chip would be completely unprotected.

With that lucid explanation, I hope that the noble Lord and the noble Earl will be satisfied.


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