|Baroness Scotland||Response from Trevor Mendham|
I express my gratitude to the Joint Committee on Human Rights for its contribution to the
debate on the Government's proposals, and welcome both its letter to my right honourable
friend the Home Secretary and its subsequent report.
As my right honourable friend said in his reply of 8 February to the committee, which was
published in its report, the Government are confident that the identity card proposals are
compatible with their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. The fact
is that 21 of the 25 EU member states already have an identity card scheme. Apart from the
United Kingdom and Ireland only Latvia and Denmark do not currently have ID cards and
Latvia has already announced plans to introduce them next year (2006) and Denmark already
has a Central Person Register which contains identity and address details with a unique
number to identify every resident.
The committee took the view that it is not the compulsory issue of ID cards which raises
convention issues, but the storage and disclosure of information on the register. The
Government believe that the limitations which have been placed on the information which
may be held on the register and the safeguards which regulate the information which may be
disclosed from the register ensure that the interference with Article 8 is proportionate.
The government has continued to assert compliance with the ECHR despite the fact that
almost everyone else - from the JCHR through to the LSE - doubts this.
The National Identity Register breaks the fundamental principle of data protection, that
data collected and stored should be for a specific purpose and no more than is required
for that purpose. The National Identity Register will be a single database containing all
sorts of information for all sorts of purposes. The audit trail will give the government a
complete picture of where we go and what we do.
If that isn't a disproportionate invasion of our right to privacy then I don't know what
I can confirm to the House that a delegated powers memorandum on the Bill was submitted to
the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on 7 March of this year.
The Identity Cards Bill is a piece of enabling legislation and so it cannot be expected to
include all the detailed administrative procedures for the card scheme on the face of the
Bill. Although there are a large number of delegated powers - some 60 in all - many of the
separate powers relate to the same issue, for example the application process for an ID
card and the format of the card itself. Many of the precise administrative details will
depend on the continuing work of designing the scheme and will need to be finalised much
nearer the launch of the identity cards scheme which is currently planned for 2008. These
details will also, rightly, be subject to change and amendment after the identity cards
scheme is launched so as to take account of future developments.
In other words: "trust us".
The government are asking us to grant this and every future Home Secretary a blank cheque
on identity control.
Perhaps the design of the scheme should be thought through first so that such
issues can be properly considered before the legislation is rushed through?
The Government will, of course, look very carefully at the views of the Delegated Powers
and Regulatory Reform Committee on the Bill, when its report is published.
We intend that the first biometric identity cards should be issued in 2008 and there will
be further opportunities between now and then for your Lordships to look at the detailed
provisions to be set out in secondary legislation.
The simple fact is that the possession of a clear, unequivocal and unique form of identity
- in the shape of a card linked to a database holding biometrics - will offer clear
benefits to us all. That is why 80 per cent of the public in recent surveys say that
they support the introduction of ID cards.
The assertion of benefit is one with which I disagree.
As to the 80% support, that is because the government continues to talk about the identity
cards. Once people learn about the vast, expensive, intrusive National Identity Register
that support plummets.
I shall, of course, listen with great interest to the points that noble Lords have to make
both on the Bill itself but also on the practical implementation of the identity cards
scheme - something which we have become very accustomed to hearing from the noble Baroness,
Lady Anelay. However, the Government are convinced that the introduction of identity cards
is in the interests of the nation.
I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, will confirm her party's unequivocal support
for the principle of identity cards - which I understand is the clearly expressed view of
the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in another place.
The current debate on identity cards began over three years ago, and we have proceeded in
a measured way through consultation on the principles and, most recently, on draft
legislation. We have no intention of wavering, and the Government are now determined to
press ahead with the introduction of identity cards starting, on current plans, in 2008.
The Bill sets out a clear legal framework for the scheme.
Identity cards will provide a means for everyone legally resident in this country to
assert their right to be here and to help them gain access to the services to which they
are justly entitled. Identity cards will help to preserve national security and assist the
work of the law enforcement agencies. The Bill will enable the public to have the identity
card systems that they say they want. I commend the Bill to the House.
I believe that the government is trying to rush through this unnecessary, expensive and
dangerous scheme to avoid a repeat of what happened in Australia. There, initial public
support for a similar scheme turned into public protest which caused the plans to be
The more that people learn about the government's identity control plans, the less they
|<<< Back to page 3