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Mr. Gibb: Given that the identity card database will have details of everyone's fingerprints and other biometric information, what assurances can the Secretary of State give that that database will not be used routinely by the police in their normal investigation processes so that, for example, a fingerprint left on a pen in a bank will not lead to innocent people being questioned and having to explain their whereabouts on the day that that bank was robbed?
Mr. Clarke: I can give the assurance that the law of the land requires that the police can operate only in accordance with the legal powers that they have at the moment. That is a very important requirement. It is right that police and security services should have powers as regards national security or serious and organised crimewhatever the issue might be. The House has agreed that it is right that they should have powers in those circumstances so that we can protect ourselves, butI emphasise the point that I made earlierthose rights are already set out in existing law and are not changed by this legislation.
Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): My understanding is that up to 51 separate categories of information will be required for the register. That seems excessive to many people. Can my right hon. Friend justify the inclusion of so many pieces of information?
Mr. Clarke: As my hon. Friend knows, the list is set out in the schedule to the Bill. I am happy, in Committee or elsewhere, to go through each of those categories and consider whether particular aspects are indeed necessary. That is a perfectly reasonable issue to address, but we need to be clear that the basic data on the database are about the identity of the citizen, including basic material about that person, and that is what the list of categories is about. I concede that, if there are areas where we could have less information, I will consider that in Committee.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): The Home Secretary has referred twice to national security and the protection of society, which appear in the Bill. If it is passed today, the system will not be on stream for 10 years. What on earth will become of us in those 10 years?
We fight all the time on all the issues that we have to tackle, including serious and organised crime and national security, to do our best to deal with the threats that our society faces. I observed that we live in an internationalised, globalised world. In all the matters for which I am responsibleserious and organised
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crime, immigration and asylum and counter-terrorismwe need to work internationally. We should improve our capacity to do that and that is part of the purpose of the Bill. However, it is not its whole purpose.
Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con): Will the Home Secretary give hon. Members two pieces of information? First, what, according to his experts, is the likely number of identity checks in any day or week? Secondly, what is the highest percentage accuracy that he can expect of the scheme?
Mr. Clarke: I shall deal with the second question later. The number of checks depends entirely on the extent to which and the purposes for which individuals use the identity card. If the question is about police identity checks, the number will be about the same as it is now. The police check identity in their work now.
In the information society in which we live, identity cards will be a means of helping to control it rather than adding to it. I want to give full particulars, dealing with personal protection, access to private companies, the role of the police and the position of ethnic minorities. All those points have been raised with me.
I shall deal first with personal protection. I want to make it explicitly clear that, under the Data Protection Act 1998, everyone has the right, without qualification, to check the record that is held on them. Moreover, the same right to check who has accessed the database that currently exists in data protection legislation will apply to the identity database in the Bill. I know that many of my hon. Friends in particular have been worried about those aspects. I therefore take the opportunity not only to set that out clearly and openly but to state that, in Committee, I am prepared to consider amendments that might make it more explicit.
I acknowledge that people have concerns because the matter involves the Data Protection Act and they are worried about what might be perceived as a potentially secretive database. I am keen to draw that out.
Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway) (Lab): One cannot obtain data under the Data Protection Act if the information refers to security or criminal matters. Under the Bill, the Home Secretary has the power to include, through secondary legislation, issues that relate to security and criminal matters. By definition, they would not be accessible under the Data Protection Act, yet they are the most important matters. Will the Home Secretary give his mind to that and let us know the answer?
I shall, but I want to reassert the point that I made a second ago. Protections under the Bill for
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the database for which it provides are the same as those for other databases under the Data Protection Act. As my hon. and learned Friend says, the Bill has implications for the way in which the police and security services operate, as does the Data Protection Act. However, there is no division between our proposals for the Bill and existing provisions under data protection legislation.
Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central) (Lab): If someone examines the data held on them and finds that they are inaccurate, what procedures exist for a fast-track tribunal system to correct that? Nothing can be more damaging for an individual than finding that there is information on the databases that can destroy one's credit rating, business and one's life. Will the Home Secretary ensure that the Government table amendments in Committee to establish a quick tribunal system to correct incorrect information?
Mr. Clarke: I can certainly give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks. The obligation to make the information correctto which his central point relatesis accepted, and we can include in the Bill a procedure to ensure that that is clear. I do not think that a tribunal case would be involved, because there is no interest whatsoever in putting inaccurate data on the database. If he feels that some aspects require an appellate structure, I will give thought to that, but it is in no one's interest for wrong data to be on the database. If a mistake of some kind is madewhich can of course happen, as he impliedit is important to correct it, in the interests of everyone including, as he suggested, the individual, but also the system.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Given that, even for the Home Secretary, this is the beginning of a new Parliament, and given all his undertakings to provide for detailed consideration in Committee, why is the Committee timetable so congested? It requires the Bill to be out of Committee three weeks from today. Why can he not further consider my suggestion on the last Second Reading that the Billcomplex as it is, and affecting every man, woman and child in the countryshould be referred to a Joint Select Committee of the Lords and the Commons for the most critical and detailed scrutiny?
I understand, although I am open to correction, that the Committee timetable was agreed through the usual channels. If that is not the case, we can certainly discuss it again. As I said earlier, there has been substantial debate on these matters in both Houses over a considerable period. That includes pre-legislative scrutiny going back to 2002. I believe that the procedures now being followed are correct.
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