News Archive

ID Institution

by msecadm4921

Fraud prevention and border protection are among reasons for a national identity card, according to a speech by Liam Byrne MP, Home Office Minister of State for Immigration, to Chatham House on June 19.

He told the event:

If we persist with this public and private laissez-faire, it is frankly easy to see how, before long in Britain, the day will come when we have a mish-mash of unregulated, potentially unsafe systems, mushrooming in growth and size in a way that is just uneconomic.

*Unregulated – Because today no safeguards are really required or enforced. 
i. Who exactly would have your details? 
ii. Who could they pass on or sell your information to?
iii. What could they do with your fingerprints?
*Unsafe – because with low security standards laissez-faire schemes would continue to lay the public wide open to identity theft.
*The sheer complexity of the systems may mean that you will not be able to correct inaccuracies.
*Uneconomic – because there would still be many cards and many systems. 
*A proliferation of plastic, passwords and PINs.
*A world that’s harder to manage, not easier.  Systems with different technologies and languages that don’t talk to each other. 
*A world that is prone to a new and isolating kind of digital division.

My party has always been suspicious of growth in unregulated and unaccountable power and the risk of new inequalities. 
That is why we advocate a publicly accountable, national solution.  Something that becomes, in time, another part of our critical national infrastructure.

A 21st Century Public Good
Like the railways in the 19th century and the national grid in the 20th century, I think there are strong arguments for thinking of the National Identity System as a modern day public good – that very quickly becomes part and parcel of everyday life in Britain.
But I believe its success will depend on three ingredients:

*its usefulness in everyday life;
*accessibility to everyone from all walks of life and its
*accountability to the country.  Let me take each in turn.

Part of Everyday Life
To underline this point about use, I announced last December five joint ventures between the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) and others.
Six months later there is already excellent progress.  We believe the National Identity Scheme will help deliver: Criminal Records Bureau checks faster – particularly for those working with children and the vulnerable. 
We have now designed new ways to make verification more effective and efficient, and we are now trialling with over two hundred CRB volunteers. 
We think checks that take four weeks today could take four days with an ID Card.
Next year we will introduce Biometric Immigration Documents for foreign nationals. 
The card will let employers check identity and entitlement more easily, rather than having to grapple with the raft of over 60 different documents foreign nationals can use to prove identity at and the right to work today. 
Helping, I might add, the individual card holder to prove who they are, that they are entitled to work or study, open bank accounts and so on.
A pilot of a new Employers’ Checking Service is now underway. 
It will soon include employers from construction, from retail, from hospitality, from agriculture and from finance.  Early next year, a full service will go live.
Third, we are working with the retail industry to standardise proof of age checks for the sales of restricted goods, including knives, solvents and alcohol.
At the end of this month, we will be presenting our findings and recommendations to the Proof of Age Standards Scheme board, based on excellent engagement with industry and individual business.
Finally, we are developing blueprints for how both DWP and the Government Gateway can exploit ID cards and Biometric Immigration Documents.  Project initiation for both will begin next month.
So I can see already how secure identity will suffuse working life, private life and our use of public services.

But if the National Identity Scheme is to be the public good it could be, it must be accessible. 
The great risk of laissez-faire identity systems is the risk that they could exclude people deliberately – or price them out of secure access to things.
That is why we have to keep costs down.  Once in operation, the National Identity Scheme will be self-funding through fee income. 
It will not use funds intended for any other Government purpose. In any case, 70 per cent of the cost of the scheme would have had to be spent upgrading our passports as part of the global move to increase passport security and incorporate biometrics, in line with other international standards. 
But we have to keep our costs under scrutiny, and always propose the solutions we believe provide the public with the maximum value for money.

Finally, there is a requirement for accountability. The National Identity Register (NIR) will set new standards for best practice in protecting document, physical, staff and building security.
The IT systems holding the National Identity Register biographical and biometric information will be fully accredited by the government’s security authorities. 
But a system created to build public trust must be overseen by something trusted by the public.
That is why I believe we should examine whether Parliamentary oversight can be strengthened further.
A National Identity Scheme Commissioner will be appointed to oversee the operation of the Scheme and report annually on the uses to which ID cards are put and the confidentiality and integrity of information recorded in the Register.

But if we are to multiply the uses of the NIR, I think we should look hard at how the Commissioner or Parliament is involved – more dynamically than an annual report.  So I plan to meet those with views shortly to begin this conversation. 

In conclusion

In conclusion, I believe we already have proven success in improving security in our identity service. Last year, UK passports were successfully upgraded to the new, more robust, e-Passports. Maintaining confidence in the integrity of the UK passport has allowed our citizens to continue to enjoy visa-free travel to the US. 
And we are successfully rolling out interviews to crack down on fraudulent applications for passports.
But we have talked about this long enough. Now I believe it is time to get on with it.
In 20 years time, I suspect that the National Identity Scheme will be just a normal part of British life – another great British institution without which modern life, whatever it looks like in 2020, would be quite unthinkable.

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