|Baroness Scotland||Response from Trevor Mendham|
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Our identities are
precious and need to be protected. The Identity Cards Bill establishes a clear legislative
framework for an identity cards scheme that will enable everyone aged 16 and over and
resident in the United Kingdom to hold a biometric identity card, linked to a national
Baroness Scotland correctly quotes the title to the Bill, however that title is misleading.
The so-called "Identity Cards" Bill is actually a "National Identity
Register Bill" - the cards are secondary.
The use of the word "enable" is also misleading since the scheme is
intended to become compulsory. Many people such as myself who don't want an ID Card
will not be enabled but compelled.
Clause 1 establishes clear statutory purposes for the scheme so that there is no
possibility of confusion as to what it is for. Clause 1(3)(a) makes it clear that the
purpose of the identity cards scheme is, first, to provide people with a convenient method
of proving their identity. That is exactly why most people want identity cards. |
As the Baroness herself says later, the Bill lists five justifications. None of these
stand up to scrutiny. Hardly a "clear" purpose.
Again, the word "provide" is misleading - it will enforce such a method. If the
government really believe "That is exactly why most people want identity cards" then the
scheme should be voluntary.
Current means of identification are simply not secure or reliable enough. This was pointed
out clearly in Identity Fraud: A Study, published by the Cabinet Office in 2002. However
good the security printing of existing documents is, there is always a risk that they can
be forged. Existing documents cannot link an individual to a single, unique identity,
whereas a biometric identity card scheme will allow each and every one of us to prove
conclusively that we are who we say we are whenever we need to prove our identity. Anyone
who has teenage children will know the importance to them of being able to prove their
age. A biometric identity card will do that quickly and easily. |
It is true that biometric technology today is more secure than other methods. How long
will that last? If this scheme is introduced then it will immediately become a target for
organised crime and well-financed terrorists.
The reference to teenage proof of age is irrelevant. I would support a young
person's proof of age card
providing it were 1) voluntary, 2) for a specific purpose only, 3) not linked to an
intrusive database. The proposed ID scheme fails all three of those important tests.
Photographic identity documents are increasingly required in a wide range of
circumstances; for example, by low-cost airlines, even for domestic flights. That creates
problems for people, often elderly people, who do not have a current passport or
photo-card driving licence. Identity cards will fill the gap.|
True. But that does not mean they are the only way of filling the gap. There are
simpler, cheaper and less intrusive ways of allowing people to voluntarily prove their
We cannot stand still in the knowledge of the threats that we all face from identity
fraud. Not only does it cost the country an estimated £1.3 billion per year, but it
creates real concerns for those of us at risk and real problems for the victims of
fraudsters. Not surprisingly, sales of shredders have increased dramatically in recent
years, as people have realised the importance of shredding personal and financial
documents. A recent report published in Which? showed that a quarter of those questioned
knew someone who had had their identity taken and misused or had experienced that
personally. It is no wonder that the same survey showed that more than two-thirds of us
were concerned about identity fraud.
|It's true that the government has had much success selling Identity Theft as a scare
story. However it evaporates under examination. See here for
As a guard against financial fraud, reliable proof of identity is rightly needed before a
bank or building society account can be opened or a large financial transaction made. By
removing the need to rely on existing documents such as passports or insecure documents
such as utility bills, biometric identity cards will provide the answer.|
Why "rightly"? These are restrictions that the government have imposed on the financial
services industry in a vain attempt to crack down on money laundering. As a result, millions of
innocent people are inconvenienced. The government has created a problem that ID Cards
will help to "solve".
In accordance with standards laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation,
our own biometric British passports with a facial image biometric will be introduced in
about a year's time. These will become a requirement for international travel. For
example, the United States has already made clear that countries which do not provide
their citizens with biometric passports will be excluded from its visa waiver scheme. Thus
if the United Kingdom were not to introduce its own biometric passports, British citizens
visiting the United States would first have to obtain a visa.|
The government is, as usual, conflating the very limited requirement for biometrics on
passports with its own huge, intrusive National Identity Register. See Baroness Ludford's
Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for
giving way. Is there any intention to achieve reciprocity in this respect? Do the British
Government intend to make similar demands of American citizens?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the British Government have not come to a view on
that, but it is important to acknowledge what the position is in relation to the
international community. It is not only the Americans who have taken this view. Noble
Lords will know that our other European partners are also looking at biometric data in
relation to passports. We may soon face a situation where the main way in which identity
will be verified will be by using biometric data. That is the reality, irrespective of
what our American colleagues across the water choose to do.
It is important to recognise that if the United Kingdom does not introduce its own
biometric passports, British citizens travelling not only to the United States, but also
elsewhere, may in due course find themselves in more difficulty than is necessary.
The term "face a situation" is interesting as it implies the situation is out of the
government's control. But as a key player in the international community and a country
"at the heart of Europe", the UK is involved in setting these standards. It's a bit rich
to then turn round and try to blame everyone else!
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