The Bill now goes back to the House of Commons next Monday 13th February 2006, where the MPs can either accept the Lords' Amendments or not.
Some minor amendments were passed at Third Reading.
Will there be the sort of Parliamentary "ping pong" between the Commons and the Lords, which happened with the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, which brought in the potentially tyrannical power of Control Orders, even against British citizens who have not been charged, let alone convicted of a crime ?
The most important amendment, which was a Government one based on a suggestion made previously by the Opposition Lord Phillips of Sudbury, was:
Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 2, line 34, leave out "physical" and insert "external"
This explicitly prevents using certain biometric identifiers, some of which have been used experimentally at airports, such as hand geometry i.e. the shape and length of the bones in your hand as revealed by a strong light, and any types of X-Ray images etc. in the National Identity Register, except in the "voluntary information" section e.g. the useless idea of putting your own blood group information on the database.
In real life, modern day ambulance crews take no notice of any alleged "blood group" information recorded on bits of paper, or in this case, on an inaccessible centralised government database (it will not be stored on the ID Card itself), especially as they all have access to rapid, automated blood group testing equipment, which they will use on the way to the hospital.
This amendment also specifically precludes DNA samples being required for the National Identity Register, by Order, as this, according to Lord Bassam would be an "internal" characteristic or biometric. Any future addition of DNA etc. to the NIR would require Primary Legislation, i.e. another Bill with a full debate by Parliament.
Lord Bassam of Brighton, the Government Minister, had the impossible task of defending the Home Office's credibility in the light of recent revelations:
The Earl of Northesk described the lack of confidence which we the public, have in the Home Office resulting from:
- the National Audit Office's unprecedented criticism of their failure with their new computerised accounting system and their rejection of the Home Office's financial accounts.
- the ludicrous "£1.7 billion" figure for "identity fraud",
- their unjustified campaign against Simon Davies which may lead to legal action for defamation.
Lord Bassam of Brighton:
I accept that there has been some dispute in the press over those figures, but for our part, we feel that the figure of £1.7 billion has in the main been agreed with all the key stakeholders. We have never claimed that the introduction of identity cards would impact on all of that fraud but it would certainly make a substantial difference
"some dispute in the press" is being "economical with the truth" !
Unsurprisingly, Lord Bassam kept well clear of any mention of Simon Davies.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is the Minister really telling the House that the Government believe that fraudsters will tell the identity card officer all their previous names when they apply for cards?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I would not speculate on that.
Then why put such a stupid suggestion in the Bill ?
We have also noticed, in our correspondence with the Home Office, that they tend to use locked .pdf file attachments:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:
Unfortunately, Home Office letters are never page-numbered. Perhaps one day it might manage that. When they are e-mailed to me, I put the page numbers in if I am allowed to. Usually I cannot, however, as the Home Office prevents you making any changes to its documents, so you have to download and save them.
If the Gouse of Commons has any sense, it will kill off this stupid Identity Cards Bill, and tekll the home Office to rethink their plans, and to properly consult with the public and with independnet experts, before they produce a costly disaster to our privacy, secirity and to the public purse.