There looks set to be only 8 sittings of debate, a totally inadequate amount of time given the complexity and controversy that this Bill involves.
"1) during proceedings on the Identity Cards Bill the Standing Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 9.25 am on Tuesday 18th January) meet—
(a) at 2.30 pm on Tuesday 18th January; and
(b) at 9.25 am and 2.30 pm on Thursday 20th January, Tuesday 25th January and Thursday 27th January;
(2) the proceedings shall be taken in the following order, namely, Clauses 1 to 3, Schedule 1, Clauses 4 to 45, Schedule 2, New Clauses, New Schedules and remaining proceedings on the Bill;
(3) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.30 pm on Thursday 27th January"
"The motion was drafted in the usual manner, after consultation with the usual channels. It provides for eight sittings and, while arguably that might not be a generous allocation of time, it is sufficient to enable proper scrutiny of the Bill. We are willing to review the proposed timetable and, if necessary, to add extra time on Tuesday 25 January to the afternoon sitting. That will happen, I hasten to add, if more time is needed because, despite the terms of the motion, it is open to us to sit beyond 5.30 pm. There is no compunction for us to finish at that time."
" That the order of Committee of this morning be amended in paragraph 1(b) by leaving out ''9.25 am'' and inserting ''9.10 am''"
N.B. there is still the Report stage and the Third Reading to be completed before the Bill goes off to the House of Lords.
The Third Reading has been limited to a single day, but that day has not yet been fixed, but will presumably be before the presumed May 5th General Election is campaign is called perhaps in April. That will be the political crunch point at which the Conservatives and Labour backbench Members of Parliament could in theory just possibly rebel against their party front benches, and scupper the Bill, but that might be rather too much to hope for, given their shameful collective record of not standing up to the executive branch of government.
Will the House of Lords put as much effort into opposing this Bill as they did against the Hunting Act ?
Needless to say, despite a couple of promises by the Home Office Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Des Browne to clarify some details about Addresses, and possibly about Age related issues all the Opposition Amendments were withdrawn or defeated.
- Clause 1 The National Identity Register,
- Clause 2 Individuals entered in Register
- Clause 3 Information recorded in Register
- Schedule 1 Information that may be recorded in Register
have all been passed unamended by the Committee.
Des Browne seemed slightlty discomforted by the repeated use of the phrase by the Conservative Humfrey Malins "51 registerable facts" and he tried to claim that this figure from Privacy International's briefing was somehow wrong and that there are only 9 or perhaps 16 items on the list
"Clause 1(5) defines the registrable facts and lists nine, not 51, items of information. Even if one adds the definitions in subsections (6) and (7), the total reaches only 16 items. Those 16 items are the sorts of basic identity information that anyone would expect an identity card scheme to include, such as name, address, date of birth, nationality and, for foreign nationals, the terms and conditions of their leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom."
This is a dishonest arguement, as all the 51 items highlighted by Privacy International do in fact appear in the Bill and will be stored on the centralised database, even though they are not all listed in Clause 1.
There was mention of Police powers to demand an ID card, which Des browne claimed were not increased in any way by this Bill. When it was pointed out hat the existing police powers and the Serious Organised Crime Agency and Police Bill will make every offence and arrestable one, and that there are no real safeguards about a policeman's opinion or suspicion, he was not convincing, but the amendmennts were withdrawn anyway.
Des Browne also tried to claim thatthis was not a Big Brother database, an arguement he has not won, but the amendments were withdrawn anyway.
There were various mentions of the (inagequate) Data Protectiona Act
and about the Audit Trail, but these amendments were withdrawn.
There was mention of short term visitors from European Union countries and the special status of Irish citizens, but with no real clarification from the Government.
Des Browne also claimed that the Government must not be forced to correct data on the National Identity Register which it knows or suspects to be inaccurate. This is supposedly to protect people being hidden under a Witness protection scheme.
There was no mention of the the fact that MI6 Secret Service spies and secret agents or SAS type Special Forces are going to have their secret identities put at risk because of the Biometric Identifiers which they will have betrayed at from the age of 16, i.e. before they were recruited into their secret careers. Why anybody would trust the Home Office with operational details of Witnesses etc. who are under death threats is a mystery, after the Maxine Carr "secret identity papers left in a stolen briefcase" affair.
Des Browne claimed that there was no need for a Privacy Impact Assessment as called for by the Information Commissioner.