Andy Burnham's response to Lynne Jones' letter of
Lynne Jones MP
House of Commons
IDENTITY CARD SCHEME
for your letter of 12th March 2006. I
wanted to address some of the points that you made in your letter.
to link the issue of passports and identity cards have a long history. It has been made
explicit in consultation documents and proposed legislation, both before and after
the general election. This should, therefore, not come as a surprise to anyone. Thus, your
claim that the Government has acted by sleight of hand remains unfair. I am happy to
summarise the history here:
In July 2002
the Government issued its first consultation document about a card scheme and one of the
options canvassed was for a universal scheme linked to passports.
2003, the Government announced the decision in principle to introduce identity cards
and it was then made clear that there would be a two stage scheme and, in the initial
stage, as well as introducing a voluntary plain identity card for those who do not have a
passport, we would link the issue of identity cards to the issue of more secure
passports. Identity Cards: the Next Steps, the policy document published
in November 2003 (Cm 6020), which you have made clear in parliamentary questions that you
have read, states at paragraph 16 (ii) that: -
more secure passports
to the scheme on a compulsory basis so that they will be
acceptable forms of identity card. By linking the card scheme to widely held identity
documents, most people will get a card conveniently and automatically as they renew an
2004 we published the draft Identity Cards Bill and the same word must
was included in subsection (2) of Clause 5 as we are now debating. We were again very
clear that in the first stage of the identity cards scheme there should be no possibility
of obtaining a designated document, such as a passport, without an identity card.
Paragraph 2.17 of the consultation paper on the draft Identity Cards Bill published in
April 2004 (Cm 6178) said that: -
document such as a passport has been designated as an ID card, this will be the only form
in which it will be available i.e. there will be no non-ID card
variants. It would undermine confidence in the system if there were to be identity
documents available on demand at different levels of security.
2004 we introduced the first Identity Cards Bill which was agreed by the House of
Commons and passed at Second Reading by the House of Lords in March 2005. The same
provision requiring applicants for passports or other designated documents to obtain an
identity card was included in that Bill.
In May 2005
this Bill was re-introduced and, yet again, we made it absolutely clear that, once
designated, obtaining a passport would also mean being issued with an identity card.
do not accept your suggestion that Ministers have given a misleading impression in
relation to the biometrics to be used in the Identity Cards Scheme. There can be no doubt that biometrics for travel
documents will become a standard feature in the future, and the United States has already
made clear that all countries wishing to continue to take part in their Visa Waiver
program need to issue biometric passports to their citizens.
accept that there is no requirement upon this country to incorporate the 13
biometrics into passports. However, the Government is not introducing biometrics simply
because it is being forced to do so because of international commitments. The fact is that
utilising multiple biometrics will not only increase the security of the identity cards
scheme, but will also mean that the scheme is more inclusive. Those individuals who have
difficulty in providing one sort of biometric may well be able to provide another.
would like to make it clear that the Government does not plan to store more biometrics on
the passport document than is required by international standards. However, these standards do not specify what
information what information should be recorded on the database as part of the issuing
process. The UK Passport Service has always
recorded more information on its database than appears on the passport itself. The passport database records details of the names
and place of birth of the applicants parents for example. I am sure that you will agree that the Government
should take all reasonable and cost effective steps to prevent individuals from applying
unlawfully for passports in false names. Independent
and reputable experts have stated that the recording of only two fingerprints would be
insufficient to guard against this type of identity fraud.
This is the reason for recording all ten fingerprints. This approach is entirely consistent with
international standards as these relate only to the data that is recorded on the document
One of the
leading existing biometric systems already in operation for the travelling public is the United
States US VISIT system, which currently requires all visitors to the United
States to enrol 2 index fingerprints on arrival. However, it was announced by the United
States Secretary of Homeland Security in evidence to the Senate Committee on Commerce,
Science and Transportation on 19th July 2005 that in the future, first-time visitors to
the United States will be enrolled in the US VISIT system by submitting ten fingerprints,
even though subsequent entries to the US will continue to require a two fingerprint scan
In addition NIST (National Institute of Standards and
Technology) is trialling iris technology in the US. The technology has been deployed in several pilot projects including
screening of frequent travellers at several U.S. airports and is sponsored by the Homeland
My Rt Honourable Friend, the Home Secretary has
responded to your point regarding the use of biometrics in other countries in a written
response to your Parliamentary Question. In addition, the use of multiple biometrics has
been accepted in principle in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)
Blueprint for machine readable travel documents which has been accepted by the 188 ICAO
contracting states and includes the face as the primary mandatory biometric and iris or
fingerprints as secondary and optional biometrics.
Indeed, it is interesting to note the opinions of
participants in the UK Passport Service biometric enrolment trial on this issue,
especially as that trial was intended as a test of the enrolment process and participant
reaction to it, rather than a test of technology. After enrolling 13 biometrics,
participants were asked questions about their experience and biometrics in general. The
overall conclusions were that:
1) the majority of participants were not very or
not at all concerned about having their biometrics recorded prior to enrolment
2) across all three biometrics, the vast majority found their
expectations either met or bettered
3) across all three biometrics, the number of participants
fairly or very concerned about having their biometrics taken
dropped after participation, and dropped dramatically in the case of the visually
4) over 80% of the participants were either in favour or
strongly in favour of the recording of facial image, fingerprint and iris biometrics being
adopted for passport purposes.
there are certainly issues in the trial that will be used to inform the approach taken by
the Identity Cards Programme, the overall conclusion regarding the participant experience
was very positive. Interestingly, when asked if they saw biometrics as an
infringement of civil liberties, a very large majority disagreed. Furthermore, 92%
felt they would prevent identity fraud and 83% felt they would prevent illegal immigration
and illegal working.
the issue of the use of a central database as part of the Scheme, I am happy that you
concede that central databases have been used both in the United Kingdom and abroad to
hold identity information to enable governments or the private sector to provide services
to individuals. The concept is not new and the personal information held on the National
Identity Register will be far less extensive than what is held on many central databases
today, yet will be collated and recorded in a more secure and reliable manner than occurs
question whether there are live central databases with an audit trail in
existence. Of course, the vast majority of people use such databases frequently and as a
matter of course when they use a credit or debit card. Such databases hold extensive audit
logs of transactions and a great deal more sensitive personal information about an
individual than the National Identity Register is intended to record. Additionally, most
national registers, passport databases or national insurance databases are live
central databases with audit trails as they must make changes to an individuals
entry and record the details behind that change in an audit log. Indeed, many central
databases around the world deal with far more complex issues such as judging entitlement
or financial transactions than the confirmation of a piece of information that would be
held on the National Identity Register.
audit log proposed for the Identity Cards Scheme is being maintained as a safeguard to the
individual. It allows an individual to check where
and when information has been verified or provided to an organisation and will also ensure
that any complaints about inappropriate checks against the Register can be investigated.
your claim that the audit log will be extensive misinterprets the schemes
purposes. It is envisaged that Identity Cards will be used when it is necessary to verify
identity. That is not an every day occurrence
for the majority of people while the use of credit cards and mobile phones the use
of which is fully logged as shown in itemised bills and statements - occurs daily.
However, situations where verification of identity is required tend to involve important
transactions which could be open to abuse. Hence, the audit log is important to keep
record of such occasions.
also legislative safeguards which oversee the provision of information from the audit
log. The Bill ensures that provision of
information without consent will be properly regulated and subject to independent
oversight. Unauthorised disclosure of information from the Register is a criminal offence
under clause 29 of the Bill.
the legislative protection, the accreditation process provides specific safeguards. The
Identity Cards Agency will be accrediting user organisations based on the type of
information they are requesting provision of, as well as a justification of why they are
requesting it. We will also reserve the right to audit any user organisation processes to
ensure they remain compliant with a sanction for those who are misusing information being
the removal of accreditation and other subsequent enforcement measures including criminal
prosecution where appropriate.
the implication behind your statement would be that the individual should not be able to
use a system where they can verify their identity electronically. Instead, although a
reliable electronic source would be in place, people should continue to use less reliable
paper documents such as utility bills that can be easily forged. Furthermore, you imply
that such people should not be able to review records of when they have verified their
identity, in a way that they would review transactions in their bank account. That simply
cannot be right.
stand by my view that your statements that the Identity Cards Scheme will make identity
fraud worse are misinformed. As I stated to you in my reply to a Parliamentary Question,
a range of
security risk assessments have been undertaken on issues such as the physical, logical,
procedural, personnel and systems aspects of the Identity Card Scheme. Such assessments
have been conducted by specialised security experts, including a number from the
Communications Electronic Security Group. Thus, while I happy to listen to the comments of others, the advice from experts that
have actually examined our intended approach does not corroborate them. With relation to
the specific issue of biometrics in this context, I would once more refer you to the
operation of programmes such as US Visit that use biometrics on a central database.
Studies conducted by the US National Institute of Standards & Technology have
demonstrated the accuracy of that system. The Government accepts that biometrics are not a
panacea but they do have the ability to improve our level of identity assurance
significantly. Indeed, contrary to your claims, work by acknowledged biometric experts at
NIST, the UK National Physical Laboratory and Germanys BSI demonstrates, that
produced results with regard to the accuracy of biometric matching and stability of
biometrics are consistent with the needs of the Identity Cards Scheme.
the issue of costs, my letter at no time stated or implied that passport holders would
subsidise the costs of the Identity Cards Scheme. What was stated was that the cost of
implementing identity cards would be higher if it were not linked with the issue of
passports. The issue of passports and identity cards require similar processes and
procedures. Issuing these documents together will create efficiencies and achieve
economies of scale that will lead to the most cost-effective way to deliver both
programmes. In addition, by linking the issue
of Identity Cards to passports and immigration documents, the Agency will be better able
to manage demand, as information is available relating to the volume of these documents
that are issued.
would refute your suggestion that the Home Office is making up the scheme as they go
along. Although the high level policy
decisions in relation to Identity Cards have been taken, it is reasonable in my view for
the detailed decisions of the Scheme to be made at the appropriate time as the work of the
Programme progresses. It is unreasonable to
expect that final decisions on all the finer details of the scheme to have been decided
some years before the first ID Cards are issued or indeed even before the primary
legislation is in place. We should also
not constrain potential suppliers by specifying in detail how components of the scheme
should work. This would run counter to all the
best procurement advice.
although final decisions have not yet been taken, the business case contains detailed
assumptions relating to all aspects of the scheme which we believe to be accurate. KPMG agreed that the assumptions in the business
case were robust and appropriate for this stage of the programmes development. I do not believe it would be appropriate to release
details of the assumptions in the business case as it could prejudice the Departments
ability to obtain value for money in the forthcoming procurement phase.
letter also raises a number of points concerning answers to Parliamentary Questions. I will attempt to deal with each of these in turn. While it is correct that no final decisions have
been made in relation to the number of enrolment centres that will be required to support
the Identity Cards Scheme, detailed assumptions have been made on this issue and they are
included within the business case. We cannot
however release information concerning the assumptions included within the business case
for the reasons which I have already mentioned.
relation to the points you make regarding an automatic replacement of Identity Cards, I am
afraid that you have conflated two separate issues which has led you to misunderstand the
points that various Home Office Ministers have made. With
respect to PQ 138663 answered by my Honourable Friend Beverley Hughes, the answer stated
that the validity period of an ID Card was expected to be 10 years. However the answer went on to state that it might
be necessary to replace the card after a period of 5 years as it was not then certain
whether the chip technology would last for 10 years. It
was on that basis that a free replacement card would be issued and this was the assumption
set out in Command paper 6020. However, we are
now advised that chip technology with a validity of 10 years is feasible, therefore the
issue of a free replacement card should no longer apply.
PQ asked by you (6179) on 28th June 2005 asked whether a free replacement card
would be issued once the validity period had expired.
This question resulted from your misunderstanding of the assumption made in
Command paper 6020, and I hope that I have now
clarified this issue satisfactorily. It has
never been the intention to issue a free ID card once the validity of the old one had
expired. As with passports, it is expected
that ID Cards will have a validity period of 10 years and individuals may renew the ID
card once it has expired, but naturally, as is the case with passports at present,
individuals will have to pay a fee to do so.
is indeed correct that no final decisions have been made in relation to the fees that may
be charged for lost, stolen or damaged cards. However,
detailed assumptions on this matter have been included within the business case but it
would not be appropriate to make those assumptions public at this time.
is also correct that no detailed plans or cost estimates have been undertaken in relation
to possible exemptions when the Identity Card Scheme becomes compulsory. I do not accept your reasoning that the lack of
detailed plans and cost estimates indicates that the Home Office are making the
scheme up as they go along. Ministers
have consistently stated that ID Cards will begin to be issued in 2008, and there is no
planned date for when they might become compulsory. It
is not unreasonable therefore in my view for there to be no detailed plans concerning
possible cost exemptions for a compulsory scheme that may well be some way in the future.
relation to the figure of £584 million estimated annual running costs for issuing
Passports and Identity Cards to British Citizens, and your point in relation to the
benefits of the scheme, assumptions underlying the Identity Card Scheme are regularly
refined. However, as I said in my reply to
your PQ in which you asked what changes have been made to the scheme since the estimate
was calculated, the changes that have been approved since then have had no overall upward
impact on this figure. This applies both to revisions to the costs or the
impact of any further work to the benefits of
the Scheme. In addition, following an
amendment agreed to in the House of Commons, the Identity Cards Bill will now require
estimated figures to be given in a report to be laid before Parliament every six months. These figures will take account of both the refined
cost estimates and quantified benefits of the Identity Card Scheme.
reference to consultation, the Home Office has consulted widely throughout the gestation
of the proposal and the current requirement setting phase. Indeed, on top of the initial
consultation process, it has put formal structures in place to ensure the voice of truly
acknowledged expertise is heard within the programme.
Governments Biometrics Assurance Group, chaired by the Governments Chief
Scientist and consisting of internationally eminent specialists in biometrics and related
technologies reviews the biometric elements in the Scheme.
Independent Assurance Panel covers project management, finance, procurement and the other
aspects of the Programme not covered by the Biometric Assurance Group. This is chaired by
Alan Hughes, a former Chief Executive of First Direct Bank. The Chair of the Independent
Assurance Panel also serves as a non-executive member of the Identity Cards Programme
the schemes development is also scrutinised by the Principal Users Group (PUG) and
the Private Sector Users Group (PSUG) which represent the opinions of public and private
sector organisations who will make use of the scheme. There are over 50 organisations
involved in these forums.
There is continuing dialogue between law
enforcement agencies and the Identity Cards Programme to ensure that their requirements
are considered as the Scheme develops as well as co-operation with acknowledged experts in
the field of fraud prevention and security. As you are aware, the Communications
Electronics Security Group is involved in this work.
All of this consultation is in addition to the
work that has been carried out with Intellect. While any advice that emerges from market
sounding conducted with Intellect is viewed in the light of other research and advice, it
is important to gain input about what is possible from firms that have practical
experience in the area. Indeed, if the Governments proposals were considered not
feasible, I have no doubt that Intellect would not hesitate to say so. Indeed, the Office
of Government Commerce strongly recommends that market sounding takes place with industry
suppliers in advance of large procurement process. If it were not to take place, the
Government could be considered to be negligent. I can only say that we are listening to
the experts at OGC and are working to follow their advice.
In consideration of all of these measures, I
cannot accept your claim that [the Government] has not talked properly to the
industry about their requirements and whether they are realistic is well founded.
reference to your comments on revealing a cost breakdown, it is interesting that your
letter touches on the very reason why it is important that cost breakdowns are not
revealed. As you state, companies will wish to compete for the contract. That competition
will be around providing the best value for money considering both price and service
levels. To reveal what the Government is prepared to spend removes an important element of
what drives the competition between bidders to provide the best solution at the lowest
price possible, not just the price that the Government may be prepared to spend.
of your other points on this topic appear to demonstrate a misunderstanding of how large
procurement processes work. As you state,
companies regularly announce contract values but naturally, this can only occur after they
have signed the contract, not before the procurement process has commenced as they will
not have signed a contract with a value to announce.
while you point out that the price of biometric equipment can be found online, this
analysis fails to consider that such prices are for individual, off-the-shelf products.
The contracts signed with suppliers as part of the procurement process will need to meet
the specific requirements of the Identity Cards Scheme and thus neither the final price
nor the product specification will be directly comparable to off-the-shelf products
available on the internet. Thus, costings based on products found on the internet would be
a knowingly inaccurate representation of the Scheme to the public and to potential
reference to your points on witness protection, the Home Office has developed plans on how
to deal with such cases in consultation with experts in this area including the police.
This work indicates that there is no threat posed to such individuals by the Identity
Cards Scheme and that their needs can be accommodated with the Schemes operations.
However, as I am sure you are aware, the details of such plans or consultations cannot be
revealed as the release of such information would jeopardise the effectiveness of such
arrangements. Clause 27 of the Bill relates to
I can address one point. Your letter appears to contend that organisations can perform
lookups on the system without an individuals consent. This is not
correct. The Government has made clear on several occasions in both Houses of Parliament
that such organisations will not have direct access to browse the National Identity
Register. Instead, they will be able to apply to be provided with specific information for
limited purposes. They will need to submit a request for approval over a secure system and
this request will be reviewed against established criteria before the information could be
provided. Thus, your scenario of a coerced policeman is being addressed within
that framework in addition to all the other protections police forces would have in place
to avoid such situations from taking place. As
has been made clear on a number of occasions, the audit log will record
details of all occasions when information has been requested from the register. This will naturally include details of who
requested the information. It is my view
therefore, that this will act as a deterrent against any unlawful attempts to obtain
information from the National Identity Register.
with reference to the letter from your constituent, Mr. Andrew Hawker, I can confirm that
he is a regular correspondent to the Identity Cards Programme, having written to officials
over ten times. Answers to his points on calculation of benefits and cost breakdowns have
been provided in previous letters. My officials will ensure that Mr. Hawker receives a
further reply to any additional points he has made.