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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 52B and 52E would require holders of identity cards to provide consent before information can be recorded on their card. I hope to provide noble Lords with some reassurance about what will be held on the card. Although perhaps well-intentioned, the
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amendments would undoubtedly hamper the effective operation of an ID card scheme, and would not build the desired public trust in the scheme that noble Lords seek.
The scenario envisaged introduces a pick-and-choose system for the contents of an ID card, which is unprecedented for official documentation. The information recorded on passports, driving licences, birth certificates, and so on, is largely uniform, and there is no evidence of significant public dissatisfaction with that approach. Similarly, banks and building societies do not ask customers what information they wish to place on the chip of their credit or debit card; nor have they reported that a clamour of people are wishing to find out. The same applies with enquiries on the information held on the machine reader zone on passports. Instead such a system may lead to unintended negative consequences, as the Government have previously stated.
It is intended that the identity card for British nationals will serve as a travel document that is recognised under International Civil Aviation Organisation regulations for travel within the EEA. In addition, identity cards for foreign nationals are intended to serve as residence permits. In order to fulfil those roles, the identity card will be designed to meet international standards that govern the format and information to be held on these documents. However, if the amendments were passed, there would be no guarantee that all the cards would meet those standards, creating confusion when handling those documents at key points, such as border controls.
Such lack of uniformity among the identity cards may also lead to problems. It would not only be operationally difficult to manage and drive up costs, it may also undermine trust in the scheme and create problems for the cardholder. Again, there would be confusion between the hundreds of variations of identity cards in circulation. User organisations and other individuals may also wonder why a person has chosen to include one field and exclude another, leading to unnecessary questions.
I reassure noble Lords that I appreciate their interest and concern about what information will be on the card. I assure them that the Government have no intention of placing any unusual or surprising information on the card. As we stated in Committee, we will not be placing any personal information on the chip that the cardholder does not already know about. Indeed, the Secretary of State does not have the power to place information on the card at will. Instead, Parliament must approve the information to be recorded on the card, as laid down in regulations subject to affirmative procedure.
In practice, the information held on the identity card for British nationals is not anticipated to vary much from the information found on a passport. In addition, it is currently anticipated that the format of the card and the contents of the chip will be explained in information materials made available to each cardholder, and an individual would be free to make a data subject access request under the Data Protection
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Act if they wished to make a further check. There will be, as the Government have stated, no address or telephone number held on the face of the card. If verification of address is necessary, it can be done against the register. What appears on the card will be set out in affirmative regulations.
The noble Baroness sees her amendment as benign, but her desire to break the link between the card and register, if these amendments were agreed to, would seriously undermine the effectiveness of the scheme. I do not think that is entirely what the noble Baroness wants; I hope it is not. Noble Lords on the main opposition Benches have said that ultimately they believe in a voluntary scheme, and I am sure that the noble Baroness would want that scheme to be effective. We happen to believe that the scheme can only be effective if it is ultimately compulsory, universal and uniform in its main aspects. I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, the Minister has raised some important points on residents and foreign nationals. I wish to study Hansard carefully; it may not be necessary to bring back the amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment simplifies the drafting and the purpose of Clause 8(2)(b). As previously discussed, the subsection specifies the use of an ID card. The amendment does exactly what it says; it removes all the words after "facilitating" to the end of the paragraph, and replaces them so that the text would read:
That replacement text enables the card to be used for the verification of registrable facts and thus the verification of an individual's identity, but no further. In short, it limits the card to the purpose of identification only. After all, is that not the basic premise of the Government's argument? They want people to be able to prove that they are who they say they are via the use of the ID card: for the use of public services; in the interests of national security; for the prevention or detection of crime; and the enforcement of immigration and prohibitions on illegal working. It will not allow those providing public services to access information recorded in the register that is not on the card. Indeed, is there a need for access to information other than proof of ID? Those who justify the need for access to other data on the register could do so under an application to the Secretary of State as set out in Clause 14(1). I beg to move.
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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I would like to support the amendment wholeheartedly, but unless I have misunderstood it, it is a bit of an Exocet under the water line of one major part of this Bill, which is the provision of a whole lot of other data to a whole lot of other people, unrelated to mere identification. I would love to think that at this late stage of the Bill we could bring it back to identification purposes and away from the larger information purposes, but I shall look forward to what the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, says with anticipation and a certain confidence.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, Clause 8(2)(b) includes in the definition of an ID card that data should be included on the card which will enable it to support a number of possible verification services considered for the identity card scheme.
I appreciate that Clause 8(2)(b) may appear long-winded, particularly in contrast to the short, sharper wording of Amendment No. 52C. However, I assure noble Lords that Clause 8(2)(b) is necessarily drafted in the way that it is, to accurately describe what is an ID card for the purpose of the Act. The definition does not of course confer any powers to provide information; those are set out in Clauses 14, 17 and 19 to 23. Subsection (2)(b) accurately reflects those powers. Amending the clause in the way proposed would not affect those powers. Nevertheless, we believe it is better that the definition of an ID card should reflect more closely what it is actually intended to do. As the Government have said previously, it is intended that the identity card scheme will offer a number of different types of verification services, from an electronic card validity check to a biometric verification, which may be used for a particular transaction depending on the level of risk and value involved.
Amendment No. 52C would limit the definition so that it only referred to allowing the citizen to identify himself by means of reference to the registrable facts held on the register. It will not always be the case that it is the registrable facts that are verified. For example, an electronic card validity check, PIN verification and a number of different options for remote authenticationwhich would be aimed at reducing online fraud, for examplemay not be covered. Such checks may depend on the data held on the card enabling a check of information on the register that is not a registrable fact but is held on the register. For example, that might be technical information or information held in paragraphs 6 and 8 of Schedule 1; that is whether a card is in force or not and different types of security information. That would then provide a confirmation message in return to the user organisation. Systems using methods such as PIN verification are an established part of life today and are evolving. I cannot imagine that noble Lords intend for their use to be closed off as a possible option for the identity card scheme.
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