Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
THURSDAY 11 DECEMBER 2003
Q140 Janet Anderson: Do you think
you have learnt any lessons from some of the things that have
happened in the past? I was just thinking about passports and
when the asylum databases were combined, the three databases,
have you learnt lessons from what went wrong there, you think,
which will inform what you are doing here?
Katherine Courtney: Certainly
we are drawing lessons not only from projects that have gone wrong
but also from projects that have gone well, in the public sector
and in the private sector. Quite importantly, the team that has
been brought together to manage this programme bring a wealth
of expertise from the private sector, which is where I myself
have come from, as well as across Government and having been involved
in other major Government initiatives in the past. And then finally,
I should say that the Office of Government Commerce oversight
that we have invited in is providing us again with access to best
practice, information and learning from other Government initiatives.
Q141 Janet Anderson: Do you think
that there will be a need for an independent assessment at some
point, or do you think that you will have built sufficient safeguards
Katherine Courtney: I am not sure
I understand what an independent assessment is?
Q142 Janet Anderson: At some point
would you perhaps commission an independent assessment, an outside
assessment, to assess whether it was, in fact, working as you
Katherine Courtney: Certainly
we have, within the proposed governance framework for this programme,
a whole raft of oversight both within the Home Office and independent
advice from outside. No decision has been made whether we would
commission a particular independent assessment.
Q143 Chairman: You noted earlier
that the OGC Gateways go from 0 to 5, that is because it is Gateway
6 would tell you the system was really going to work, is it not,
and we never quite get there? I mean this is the same OGC framework
that signed off the Criminal Records Bureau, I think, was ready
to run. So do you have complete confidence that the OGC Gateways
are sufficiently robust to say "Yes, we can push the button
on this one and it is ready to go"?
Katherine Courtney: I know that
OGC Gateway system is a fairly new process. It has only been in
operation for the last couple of years and I, coming in from outside
of Government, cannot really speak on how effective the process
is. What I do know is that, from my own background, I have confidence
that a programme like this, it is possible to deliver a programme
of this size and complexity within plan and effectively and successfully.
Nicola Roche: I think also the
OGC reports to this senior responsible owner for any programme
within Government. In this case it is our Permanent Secretary
of the Home Office. So the ultimate decision and the advice that
goes to Ministers, yes, it takes into account OGC, but it is not
just solely resting on that. So if we did have concerns, there
would be . . .
Q144 Chairman: Have a look at the
advice we got on the Criminal Records Bureau. Could you just tell
us what your background is?
Katherine Courtney: Certainly.
I have spent the last 12 years in the technology sector leading
major development programmes both for major companies like Cable
and Wireless and BT and also have been involved in the start up
of several new technology ventures. Most of those were rolling
out new businesses on an international basis which requires a
great deal of not just complexity in terms of the technical systems,
but also in terms of the cultural and business process issues
Q145 David Winnick: How were you
brought into the Home Office? Was it an advertisement or other
Katherine Courtney: Yes, there
was a recruitment process and I saw an ad in the Sunday Times
and applied for the job.
David Winnick: As good a way as any to
get a job.
Q146 Mr Prosser: Just on the question
of safeguards, and we have already heard people suggest that any
card could be fraudulently used and that nothing will be secure,
a spokesperson from Migrant Helpline recently said on regional
television that he has already got the evidence that the ARC cards
which are distributed to asylum seekers, which have got biometric
imprints on, are already being fraudulently used and being counterfeited.
Do you have any evidence of that at all? If not, I wonder if you
could let the Committee know what the actual situation is?
Nicola Roche: I do not know about
the specific case with the ARC card, but we will certainly look
Clearly our job in this testing and feasibility stage is to make
sure that any possibility of fraud is rooted out. We can already
see where people might be thinking of it and are closing that
off, but we will want to do really rigorous testing and keep on
doing it as the card is used and upgrade as we need to.
Q147 Chairman: Finally, what are
the consequences of the Scottish Executive's policy, who said
they would not make use of the card compulsory for devolved services?
Nicola Roche: That was fully discussed
by Government as the decision was taken. The operation of devolved
services are a matter for the Scottish Executive in the case of
Scotland, it is a decision for them and we know that is going
Q148 Chairman: Without, as it were,
some of the advantages of holding the card which you described
earlier for England and Wales, does that mean that you would expect
the take up of the card to be less in Scotland precisely because
you do not need to use it, for example, to register with the Health
Nicola Roche: People who live
in Scotland will still be renewing passports and driving licences,
so they will get the identity card through those documents, as
will 16 year olds.
Q149 Chairman: But in the voluntary
bit, as it were, there may be slightly less take up because there
is less reason to have it?
Nicola Roche: There might be,
but they will still be required to produce identity in a range
of circumstances and may find the ID card helpful.
Stephen Harrison: I think just
to add to that as well, the vast majority of services are devolved
in Scotland but, for example, social security benefits and so
on . . .
Q150 Chairman: Are national.
Stephen Harrison: . . . remain
the responsibility of Westminster.
Q151 David Winnick: Do you know why
the Scottish Executive came to that decision?
Nicola Roche: I would not be able
to give a comment on that, no.
David Winnick: We will try and find out.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed
for getting the inquiry off to a good start.
4 Note by the Rt Hon David Blunkett MP, Home Secretary:
The Immigration Service say that they have seen very few cases
of suspect ARC cards. Of the ones they have seen, only two were
in fact forgeries, and only one of these was of a quality which
may have deceived untrained personnel. Back
See Ev 258-259. Back