|Charles Clarke||Response from Trevor Mendham|
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I remind hon. Members that this Bill is based on the Bill that was read a Second time on
21 December 2004 and approved by this House on 10 February 2005, that the public debate started
under my predecessor in 2002 and that the draft Bill was subject to six months' public
I'm surprised Clarke wants to remind us of that. According to the government's own
figures, the result of that consultation was that 48% of the public opposed the scheme
and only 31% supported it.
and pre-legislative scrutiny by the Home Affairs Committee in 2004. The Bill has
been well debated.
Another surprising reminder from Clarke. The HAC supported the concept of ID Cards
but only by a majority. In an unusual move a minority of the Committee members issued a
seperate report condemning the whole idea.
Even the majority report that supported ID Cards in theory was highly critical of the
government's proposals in practice.
You can read the HAC report here.
The Bill is enabling legislation to provide the statutory authority for a national identity cards
system to be introduced to cover the whole of the United Kingdom, together with the national
identity register to record information on holders of ID cards. It also gives legislative
authority for expenditure on setting up the ID cards scheme and for charging fees.
Technically accurate but misleading. It is actually - as noted by the Lords Constitution
Committee - first and foremost an identity database Bill which happens to include
provision for ID Cards.
In brief, the Bill establishes the national identity register; provides powers to issue biometric
ID cards either linked to existing designated documents or as stand-alone ID cards; ensures
that checks can be made against databases to confirm an applicant's identity and guard against
fraud; sets out what information will be held - including biometrics - and what safeguards will
be put in place;
Fine so far but then...
enables public and private sector organisations to verify a person's identity,
with their consent;
Whoah! Hang on a minute - how did the word "consent" get there?
Section 18 of the Bill provides restrictions on private companies demanding to see ID
Cards unless they provide a "reasonable" alternative. But section 18-2-c eliminates these
restrictions as soon as universal compulsion is introduced. In the case of public
services, a similar thing happens at the end of section 15-2.
Once universal compulsion is introduced, your local video shop will be able to demand to
check your ID card before serving you.
Technically, of course, Clarke is right. It will be "consensual" - but only in the sense
that you could decide not to rent a video. If every supermarket decides to demand to check
your ID Card when you pay by plastic, what choice do you really have?
includes enabling powers, so that, in future, access to specified public
services could be linked to the production of a valid card; provides a power for it to become
compulsory at a future date to register and to be issued with a card, which includes civil
penalties against failure to register; creates a national identity scheme commissioner to have
oversight of the whole scheme; and creates new criminal offences on the possession of false
Clarke forgot to mention some of the other new offences created. One of these is forgetting
to tell the government when you change address - that could land you with a fine of £1000.
There has been general support for ID cards, but many serious, practical concerns have been
expressed on both sides of the House, and I intend to address five of those concerns on Second
Reading. First, I shall address the range of concerns around the Big Brother society - it has
been described in other ways. Secondly, I shall address issues of cost, which are a serious
concern for many hon. Members on both sides of the House. Thirdly, I shall set out the benefits
of the scheme for both individuals and society. Fourthly, I shall address the concerns about the
project's size, technology and scale. Fifthly, I shall deal with safeguards and legal processes.
I shall give way at various points in my speech in line with that structure.
Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con):
Does the Home Secretary agree that the Information Commissioner's remarks that the
"data trail of identity checks on individuals risk an unnecessary and disproportionate intrusion into individuals' privacy"?
Such identity checks are in fact and in law an intrusion into people's human rights. How can he
sign off the Bill as being compatible with the European convention on human rights?
I do not agree with the Information Commissioner, and I shall begin my remarks by
explaining exactly why.
We live in a society where information is held about all of us - everyone in this House and everyone
in this country - on a scale unfamiliar to our predecessors even as recently as 10 years ago.
A vast range of information exists in our society today, including information on the internet
that one can access simply by typing in a name, financial and bank details, health and medical
information, police and law enforcement-related material, travel-related documentation and
information about a person's telephone communications, driving licence, national insurance and
tax. That range of information cannot be uninvented, nor can the globalised world in which crime
is international but impacts on every community. Those are the realities with which we have to
Quite right - the situation is already bad. This Bill will make it far worse.
I have never understood the argument that because things are bad, because our privacy is
already being undermined daily, then it is somehow OK to make things worse and undermine
our privacy further.
If Clarke really understands the issues he has just outlined, he should be spending his
time finding ways to introduce a statutory right to privacy and allow us control of our
own information. Not just who accesses it, but whether or not it is collected in the first
We must address only two questions in considering how we deal with this so-called Big Brother
society. First, in relation to each category of information that I have just set out, what
protections currently exist for authorities to access data, for the right to see data, and for
the right to use a service, whether it is a cash machine or a passport?
No, no, no, no, NO!
The first question we should address is whether or not it is acceptable to collect
and retain this information in the first place, especially where explicit consent has not
been given. Only then should we consider issues regarding access to that information.
Clarke is ducking that issue and hence avoiding the question of whether or not it is
acceptable for the ID database to contain an audit trail in the first place.
In each of those areas there is a specific legal framework that regulates the information that
exists about all of us. The first point that I want to make very strongly indeed is that nothing
in the Bill changes any of those protections for any of those categories of data. There are
issues about each of those categories of data that people can legitimately discuss and consider,
but this Bill is not about those questions
Again, by talking about protections for the data Clarke is implicitly assuming that
collecting that data is acceptable. That is the fundamental problem with
Regardless of any safeguards, is it right that any government should in effect have a
complete record of where we go and what we do?
The second question is, can we verify that the information that exists about an individual
is indeed about that individual? That is where identity cards come in and where the Bill is
Again, an important question but not the most important one.
Clarke is assuming that it is OK for the government to collect huge amounts of
information about our private lives - so long as they do it accurately. I beg to differ.
We need to protect our society in this globalised world, for the simple reason
that, in many cases, identity can be stolen, whether it is a fraudster getting money from a bank
account, a people trafficker providing false documents for a trafficked person, or a smuggler
pretending to be their own father to deal with data. Such identity can be stolen. In other cases,
complicated processes are now needed to check identity because it is not secure - there are
examples as simple as opening a bank account, getting a pass from the Criminal Records Bureau or
getting a passport or driving licence.
Yes. We need to tighen up existing systems. We need to educate people about identity
theft. There are many things that can be done and are already being done to address this problem - "chip and pin" is
If this is the real reason for this Bill (and the reason does seem to change from week to week)
then the government should do an extensive study and consultation comparing different
possible ways of addressing this problem. They should compare the different options in terms of cost,
effectiveness and intrusiveness.
They should seriously consider the LSE report and the alternative system it proposes. Instead, the
government simply attempted to rubbbish the LSE report and dismissed their alternative
They won't consider alternatives, of course, because they know their scheme would lose.
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