Trevor Mendham

UK Compulsory National Identity Cards (ID Cards)

Briefings - Charles Clarke, 28/06/2005

This is page 5 of my personal response to Charles Clarke's speech at the Second Reading of the misnamed ID Cards Bill on 28/6/2005 Click here for page 1.

Charles ClarkeResponse from Trevor Mendham
Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP):
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the letter that he sent to our party on this issue, which we have found helpful. But will he confirm to this House that none of the data that we are discussing can be dispensed outside this United Kingdom? The Taoiseach has made it clear that the Irish Government are going to go for this and reference has been made to some form of cross-border arrangement. That would be very serious indeed, when the members of the security forces and others walk with the threat of the IRA on them. They would not need to gather news about threats; they would get it if Government data were available. I would like an assurance on that from the Home Secretary.
Mr. Clarke:
I am happy to give that assurance. As I said in a letter to the hon. Gentleman's colleague, the Identity Cards Bill does not allow information to be provided from the national identity register to any foreign Government. That is the position - full stop. That is the state of affairs that applies, so I can give the firm assurance that the hon. Gentleman seeks.
True. But the Bill does allow the security services unaudited access to the database. Is it totally inconceivable that they might then choose to informally share that data?
David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con):
In that case, can the Home Secretary explain to the House how the common travel arrangements will work without any exchange of data between the two Governments?
Mr. Clarke:
I can certainly explain that I have had informal discussions with Ministers of the Irish Government on this matter. The right hon. Gentleman is right that issues need to be discussed to achieve it. [Interruption.] I hear the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) shouting, "Why have we not done it already?" from a sedentary position. It is for this House and this country to decide how to proceed with the Bill, but how developments would take place in respect of the joint travel area is a matter not only for us, but for the Irish Government. The hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) asked for assurances, which I have given him, because it is certainly the case that we would not release data from our databases to the Irish Government. That is the case - pure and simple.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab):
May I take the Home Secretary to the day on which the scheme becomes compulsory? People from the United States, France and Mongolia will possess passports and related documents that entitle them to be in the UK, whereas my right hon. Friend and I will have identity cards. However, people who commute from Donegal to Derry or Doncaster, or from Dublin or Cork to London each week for working Monday to Friday will not possess and cannot be required to possess the identity card. Justice Minister McDowell may be pursuing biometrics for the European passport, but I am told that there is no way on God's earth that the Irish Republic Parliament will introduce compulsory identity card systems - not now and not in a decade. How, then, will it work?
Mr. Clarke:
My hon. Friend, with all due respect, misunderstands my point. The joint travel area system works now in a variety of different ways to ensure that the data are used in a proper way. The establishment in the UK of an identity card, which is an important element in the whole process, will help that system work even better. Full stop. That is all that needs to be said about it.
Clarke continues to conflate passports (documents for border crossing) with compulsory ID Cards (documents to be used by everyone everywhere within the country).

There is certainly some overlap between biometric passports and the government's ID plans, however biometric passports do not necessarily lead to ID Cards. They are most certainly not an "important element in the whole process".

Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab):
May I press the Home Secretary a little further on the issue of capping the charge? One of the reasons why public support for the principle of identity cards appears to have slipped is that so much misinformation has been put into the public domain over the likely costs. Will my right hon. Friend give us an assurance that the public will not be expected to pay more than 28 or 30 at today's prices when the ID cards are introduced?
Mr. Clarke:
I agree with my hon. Friend that some of the fantastic figures circulating around in the media have given rise to the concern that he expressed. I am prepared to say that it is right to give an assurance about the cap, but I am not prepared to say at this stage precisely what the cap will be. Before the Bill leaves the House, however, I will give such an assurance.
Salter is helping Clarke to set up the straw man of card issuing charge to be knocked down as a "concession". In fact the charge per card is irrelevant, what matters is the huge cost to the country of implementing and maintaining the scheme as a whole.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab):
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his customary generosity, but I would like to probe him further on the cost. He says that the cost of a biometric passport will be about 65 and the cost of an identity card between 25 and 30, which comes to about 95 top whack. May I make the Home Secretary an offer? My passport expires in December 2011. If I write him a cheque for 100 now, will he agree that if the cost is more than 100 at that time, he will meet the extra? If it is below, he can either keep the extra, courtesy of myself, or give it to charity. Will he make that deal?
Mr. Clarke:
I am always interested in side deals with my hon. Friend, who is a talented and skilled financial operator. I will look into seeing whether a side deal is possible, but I am not going to arrange one on the Floor of the House this afternoon.

Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock Chase) (Lab):
Surely the issue of cost changes if we move to compulsion. Having a card would then cease to be a matter of convenience and become a matter of necessity. Although a state may decide properly that it wants its citizens to have an identity card, it should not then also require them to pay for it.
Mr. Clarke:
That is an entirely reasonable point and would be taken into consideration when the House came to consider proposals for compulsion. My view - for what it is worth, although I give no assurances - is that the charge would be significantly less than the amounts that have been mentioned, but I agree that at the point when a decision has to be made about compulsion, the question of charging would be a legitimate aspect for discussion.
Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow) (Lab):
The cost of course depends on the model that is adopted. We have heard much about international requirements for biometric passports. I do not have a particular problem with having a passport with a biometric element: the problem is the database that lies behind it. What international requirements are there that would lead to the construction of the sort of database that is proposed in this country? I am totally unaware of any such requirements.
Mr. Clarke:
There are none. I do not make the argument for the identity card process that we propose on the basis of an international requirement that we should do it. The argument that I was making about the international environment was about biometric passports. I argued that in the context of the cost factor, because many people have confused the cost of an identity card with the cost of a biometric passport plus an identity card. There is no international requirement or, indeed, suggestion that we should move towards an ID card system as a result of some international process elsewhere. However, it is important to be aware as we take our decisions in this country of the international trends in crime and other matters, and how best we can deal with those.
"There are none"


Respect to Clarke for such a frank, straightforward admission.

The government is introducing the mother of all databases not because of any international requirements but simply because it wants to do so.

It is the database that is the real threat; it is the database that the government really wants.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con):
Many Opposition Members voted against the Second Reading of the previous Bill as a matter of principle and will do so again tonight. However, given that cost is a highly sensitive issue, will the Home Secretary give a categorical assurance to the House that full consideration will first be given to using the post office and Jobcentre Plus networks for the enrolment of citizens before seeking to secure substantial new premises that would inevitably greatly add to the cost of the scheme?
Mr. Clarke:
I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that precisely that idea is under consideration.
Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Devonport) (Lab):
We have heard much this afternoon about the cost of the passport to individuals, but there will be a broader cost. I would welcome my right hon. Friend's comments on the precise impact on the wider economy of identity fraud. Some 3 to 5 per cent. of all fraud involves identity fraud and we all have constituents who have suffered the misery of that crime. How much does it cost our economy?
Mr. Clarke:
My hon. Friend is right to say that identity fraud is a big issue, but I will deal with that in the next passage of my speech, if she does not mind

Several hon. Membersrose

Mr. Clarke:
I shall give way twice more.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North) (Lab):
One can envisage a situation in which, even when identity cards are not compulsory, poor people become more and more disadvantaged - as they become more widely used - when opening bank accounts and accessing services. What steps will my right hon. Friend take to ensure that our poorer citizens are protected from that possibility and are able to access ID cards, if they wish to do so, in a way that is affordable and not too complex?
Mr. Clarke:
My hon. Friend is entirely correct and that is why I made specific reference to that point earlier in my speech, when I addressed the business planning for the introduction of the card. I referred to the need to be sure that the charge, when finally set, takes account of the circumstances of less well-off citizens. My hon. Friend is right to raise that point and many other colleagues have also raised it. The assurance that I give is that when we come to look at the precise business plan for a charging regime, the particular point that she has made will be taken fully into account.
"able to access ID cards, if they wish to do so"

Do Jones and Clarke seriously expect us to be loudly demanding a state issued licence to live?

Do they really think we are eager to let the government know where we go and what we do?

Do they expect mass protests from people who insist on being scanned, indexed and filed like so many head of cattle?

Jones's point is actually quite valid. The answer is not to tinker with the fees but to ensure that access to bank accounts and services can not not be made dependant on ID Cards and the National Identity Register.

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