|Baroness Scotland||Response from Trevor Mendham|
Much of the cost of introducing identity cards will need to be incurred in any case to
keep our passports up to acceptable international standards. This will include the plans
we have already announced for the introduction of personal interviews for all first-time
passport applicants. It really does make good sense for us now to build on the existing
plans for biometric passports to provide our own biometric identity card scheme. This is a
"Much" is an interesting word. It is my belief that most of the cost will be incurred in
setting up and maintaining the Register and related infrastructure. This, as explained
below, is outwith the scope of the international passport standards.
Some 80 per cent of adults already hold a passport. On our current plans this would allow
for the issue of the first identity cards in 2008 by a new agency incorporating the United
Kingdom Passport Service and working closely with the Immigration and Nationality
Directorate of the Home Office.
And it's that 80% per cent figure that blows away any pretence by the Government that the first
phase of the scheme will be "voluntary". How can it be voluntary if 80% of the population
are forced to register when renewing a passport?
The Bill defines biometric information at Clause 43 as being data about external
characteristics. These include facial biometrics, fingerprints and iris images.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, will my noble friend give way? Does she know why DNA has
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, DNA has been excluded because it is clear that if
DNA material were to be included, it would go beyond simply making this a means of
This is the most astonishing cheek. The entire Bill goes way beyond simply a means
Baroness Ludford: My Lords, the noble Baroness is making a connection between the
international requirement for biometric identifiers on passports and the ID cards that the
Government wish to introduce. However, can she confirm that the ICAO standard for
passports is just a digitised photograph? It does not include fingerprints or any other
biometric identifiers. I think that that point needs to be made clear if the ID card is
purported to be based on international passport requirements.|
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, of course the ICAO digitised photograph requirement
is one thing, but the noble Baroness will know that three methods are currently under
consideration. The first is the iris image, the second relates to facial recognition and
the third is fingerprints. By fashioning our scheme so that it can respond to those three
different types of identification, we are better preparing ourselves for the future.
Baroness Ludford raises a vital point which Baroness Scotland attempts to brush
aside. Just to be clear:
The ICAO standards for passports require only a digitised photo.
There is no requirement for iris scans. There is no requirement for
fingerprints. The government is choosing to implement these "just in case".
In particular there is no requirement for passports to be linked to a huge,
intrusive National Identity Register. The government is choosing to implement this
incredibly expensive database. It is the database that is the real threat and it is
the database that the government really wants.
My noble friend is right to point out that DNA is not being used. As I said, there has
been much debate and concerns have been expressed about the inappropriate use of such data
and whether they are truly to be used simply as a means of identification only. We think
that by restricting the data to facial biometrics, fingerprints and iris images, we will
draw a line that makes it crystal clear that this is for identification and no other
If the scheme is truly only for "identification only", why does the database store not
just our current address but every address at which we have ever lived? Why does it
include details on nationality and residential status? Why does it include an audit trail
that gives the government a complete picture of where we go and what we do?
Biometrics are a new concept and some have asked us the obvious question: will it work? I
can reassure noble Lords that the National Physical Laboratory carried out a study in 2003
and published a report which concluded that:
"In principle, fingerprint or iris recognition can provide the identification performance required for unique identification over the entire UK adult population".
The words "in principle" are very significant there!
Not only that, but the United Kingdom Passport Service has also carried out a trial of
biometric enrolment of a sample of some 10,000 individuals to test the practicalities of
enrolling biometrics. This has included using a mobile enrolment unit that could travel to
rural areas as well as to offshore islands.
This was a small scale trial to test the enrollment technology and public
perception of the process. It sheds no light on the viability of such biometrics on a
national scale. And the results haven't even been published yet!
In addition, we are looking very carefully at the real and practical difficulties that
might be faced by some groups of individuals, for example the elderly, the housebound and
those with special needs because of illness or disability. I cannot give detailed answers
today on how we will deal with every one of those groups when the identity card scheme is
introduced. However, I can say that officials in the identity cards programme are in
contact with representatives of special interest groups, for example the Royal National
Institute for the Blind, and I give a commitment that we will look sensitively at all
genuine reasons for special treatment in the process of obtaining an identity card. We
have recently undertaken research among race, faith, disabled and other groups to identify
the special needs of particular groups in the design of the scheme. This includes people
with hearing difficulties, with impaired sight and with arthritis. We will be publishing
the research later this month.
The legislation allows for this and Clause 41(4) makes clear that any regulations made
under the Bill can make different provision for different cases, and can provide for
exemptions and exceptions.
This is, of course, welcome. However perhaps the government should have considered these
fundamental problems before trying to rush through the Bill?
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