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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I thank the noble Baroness for giving way. What is the quantum of disagreement? We have figures of £6 billion, £19 billion, £24 billion and £25 billion. Is the difference £1 billion or £15 billion? The figures are so huge and the LSE is such a renowned institution that most of us are left completely perplexed by this.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We say that our figures are sound. They are sound because they are based on actual costs. We have predicated them on the costs that we have now. We know how much it costs us to run the Passport Agency. We know the costs of the system that we intend to establish. Given the bracket of the £397 millionbeing how much we currently spendwe have extrapolated how much it would cost to add the extra 30 per cent. As I have said quite clearly, 70 per cent of this money is going to have to be spent already. I am happy to put in the Library a detailed exposition of the difference between our costings and the others. I referred to the letter written by Professor Angell of the LSE. We have now replied. There seems to be a basic error. We were surprised to discover, for example, that in the body of the report undertaken by the LSE there was no reference to one of the major reports on biometrics and the way in which that was dealt with in the United States. It is unusual for such a gap not to have been addressed. That is surprising, but the correspondence may elucidate some of the differences between us.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I am again grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. I think that the report was published in May 2004. The LSE group was aware
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of it and considers that it is not germane to this matter. I think that I am representing the group correctly. It is certainly not something it has overlooked.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: One of the curious things is that the LSE report did not provide any background information on how the figures were calculated. Indeed, the LSE has acknowledged that some of them were wrong and that some of the assumptions were guesses. That is surprising given that it is a major study. Professor Angell indicated that the matter was taken into account. I, of course, accept that in its entirety. However, the fact that it was taken into account was not reflected in the report, which is unusual and surprising. Those issues remain.
How will other government departments react? The costs will be incurred only to generate a net benefit to a particular department, for example, increased efficiency, better customer service or reduced fraud. It would not be right to regard these future costs as part of the planned cost of issuing identity cards, any more than the cost of providing passport readers at ports should be seen as part of the cost of issuing passports. Decisions on the passport readers are a matter for the Immigration Service, looking at its own business case justification for spending the money set against the benefits that speedier passage of passengers would achieve. Exactly the same cost-benefit judgment will need to be made in relation to ID card readers.
The legislation before us today is enabling legislation to allow a system of identity cards to be introduced. The Bill will not be the final word and the Government will need to be reassured at every stage that the scheme has sound financial viability. Of course, expenditure on the ID card programme is subject to the normal audit procedures of departmental expenditure exercised through the National Audit Office. I entirely accept that we should be discussing costs as part of the process of passing the Bill. However, we must also recognise that, constitutionally, estimates to be agreed by Parliament for the development and running of the ID card scheme remains a matter for the elected House and not your Lordships' House. We feel that the figures we have to date are sound and have been interrogated with propriety. As my noble friend indicated, the Government are sure that we will implement this measure only if we are confident that these figures are going to be within the realms of what is reasonable. We believe that they are.
Baroness Noakes: I thank all Members of the Committee who have taken part in this interesting debate which has helped to illuminate some of the areas of difference to which we will want to return on Report. The noble Baroness said that the costs of £584 millionwhich we have to accept as an odd averagewill be 70 per cent of the total costs. So we have to take entirely on trust that everything that would not be required for the passport is going to amount to the 30 per cent addition; that is, the whole of the cost of running the register, the whole of the interconnection to other departments and, indeed,
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other organisations, and the way in which it will be used. We find that quite difficult. The figures that the noble Baroness gave did not help me to understand that these figures were of the right order of magnitude. However, in the amendment I was not trying to answer that question; I was saying that insufficient information had been made available to Parliament to allow Parliament to do that. I fully accept that it is for the other place to have control over supply, but I do not believe that it is wrong for your Lordships' House to have a proper interest in the costs involved in implementing such major legislationespecially legislation such as this which will have a major impact on people's lives via their pockets, given the charging provisions in Clause 37.
Two reports have been referred to: the London School of Economics report and the KPMG report. The London School of Economics report comes out with figures that are very much higher than the Government's. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, that that issue needs bottoming-out. I do not believe that we have yet achieved that. I am almost embarrassed to talk about the KPMG report. When I used to ply my trade as a jobbing accountant one did reports from time to time, and one was asked from time to time to publish the kind that can be put in the public arena. That raises hugely difficult issues because reports are generally meant to be read as a whole. I am used to looking for the code of what is not in there. Paragraphs 2.2 and 2.3which cover the scope, the exclusions and the assumptionstell one quite a lot about what the KPMG report does not tell you about costs. We have to bear that in mind.
We are not going to agree on whether this House should be allowed to see not only Home Office costs but costs arising across Whitehall. We cannot see an artificial distinction so that the Government, having divided up into departments, can then say, "We will only talk about departments". The noble Baroness said that it did not even include the Immigration Service's total costs. That seems to me a very partial view on life. I said at the outset that this was a probing amendment to explore the issue of costs in more depth than has been done to date in Committee. For my purpose it has been most useful, and I look forward to returning to this issue on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Before the House resumes, I invite noble Lords to make a note in their diaries. We complete the Committee stage of this Bill. Noble Lords will remember that we had an initial demonstration of biometrics in this House on 14 November, which I attended. A further demonstration will be held in Committee Room 3 on the Committee Corridor starting at 10 am on Thursday, 12 January 2006. I hope that noble Lords will take advantage of that opportunity if they wish to see how the biometric information is undertaken.
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