30 October 2005

Who's telling the truth?

"Yesterday, Charles Clarke announced that the cards will only hold the same information as a passport and that primary legislation would be needed to change this."

Chris Lightfoot said..

The first part of the statement is a red herring, as I pointed out to the Guardian last week; the second is simply a lie. s.8 of the Identity Cards Bill would give the Home Secretary the power to change what's on an ID card by secondary legislation. No amendment to remove that power was presented at Third Reading (such an amendment would have surely passed uncontested). Clarke was lying, and you didn't read the Bill to check.

Neil Harding said…

Chris, point it out to me, I've just read through s.8, and I can't find anything that says what you say it does.

It does however say this;

"The Secretary of State must not make regulations containing (with or without other provision) any provision for prescribing—

(a) the information to be recorded in or on an ID card, or

(b) the form in which information is to be recorded in or on such a card,

unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House."

Which seems to confirm what Charles Clarke said.

21 comments:

  1. Neil, this is just Orwellian.

    You are tying to demonstrate that Clarke wasn't lying when he said the change needed primary legislation. Yet you quote, in full, the draft provisions confirming that the change may be effected by secondary legislation.

    Either you don't understand that requiring a vote in both chambers of Parliament is not the same thing as, and considerably less onerous than, passing a piece of primary legislation, or you're a bare-faced liar.

    Now I don't think you're a bare-faced liar. This leaves me with a quandary: how is it that you can make a factual error like this when people are disagreeing? Does not the very fact of an inability to reconcile Clarke's statements with Chris's indicate a need to be careful in the assessment of the facts?

    There's a serious uneven-handedness in the way you operate: the slightest, flimsiest point in favour of ID cards (remember your misinterpretation of that hashed biometrics article? remember how easily you were swayed by the non-ID-cards-related passport/Forsyth story) is allowed to weigh much more heavily in the balance against the strong, coherent, well-referenced, well-evidenced and well-supported arguments of the people who've been posting on your blog.

    I just don't think you're being fair to the people who are putting in their time to this debate you're hosting.

    (I'm not going to use Chris's full name as it might look like I'm pretending he's not a friend of mine).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Which seems to confirm what Charles Clarke said.

    No, it doesn't, as Martin has pointed out.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Martin:

    "Now I don't think you're a bare-faced liar. "

    Unfortunately, I can't say the same. Neil has continued to use the BBC report to back up his claim of 80% support from the MORI poll after he was shown the horribly shaky grounds for that. (and given the actual link to the research on the MORI site).

    So I can only conclude that he is indeed a liar.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I really don't understand this - it seems to me that the data to be held is described elsewhere in the act - so quoting this part and saying it guarantees the same dataset as a passport will be on the card doesn't seem to make any sense. As to changes - it does seem that Mr Clarke/whoever would need to come back to Parliament - but surely he'd be coming back for approval of a piece of secondary legislation? Or am I missing something? Where's Neil?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Martin, as far as I know, requiring a vote in both houses of parliament to pass something IS primary legislation and avoiding parliament is secondary legislation. This bill clearly states it has to be voted on by both houses.

    This bill and Charles Clarke clearly state that it will have to pass through both houses for there to be changes. Charles Clarke clearly states this would be fresh primary legislation.

    If it has to be voted for by both houses of parliament, that doesn't sound particularly easy to me, and must mean that representative democracy is being consulted on the changes.

    In the case of distorted technology. I still think the hash technology can be useful.

    On the ID cards related passport/Forsyth story. Ive posted a reply to this next to your comment, pointing out that you can still apply for a passport with a replacement birth certificate.

    As for the MORI poll, all I stated was that it suggested massive support for ID cards, which it did.

    Claiming I'm being Orwellian and uneven-handed, I just don't understand. Seems in this case, you are guilty of this yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Neil, you are misstating what primary legislation means. For the UK, it essentially means an Act of Parliament.

    An Act of Parliament requires, in both Houses, a vote on Second Reading, a Committee stage, a Report stage (often a formality), and vote for a Third Reading.
    Before the two Readings, there's a debate. There's also a debate in the Committee stages. The whole process typically takes several months, during which time people can familiarise themselves with the legislation.

    A vote in each House of Parliament is not the same thing. Different conventions apply to such things (particularly with respect to what sort of amendments you can get away with making); there may be very little time allowed for scrutiny of a proposal put through by such a mechanism.

    I withdraw the imputation that what you were saying was Orwellian; it makes no sense if you didn't realise what the difference between primary and non-primary legislation is.

    As to the passport/Forsyth thing, by introducing your new point you still haven't rebutted the assertion that ID cards are unnecessary to solve the problem.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Martin, thanks for clearing that up for me. It seems I was wrong on this point, I apologise to you and Chris. I didn't realise that a bill voted on by both houses of parliament could be secondary legislation.

    So Charles Clarke is telling porkies is he? Or maybe the Guardian made the same mistake as me?

    If Clarke is lying about this, then that is very bad indeed and I will re-consider my whole attitude to the govt's position.

    It is essential that govt's don't lie. Not absolute bare faced lies like this, when the evidence is there to see. Is it still possible that the law will be ammended to include Clarke's assurance?

    The govt have made a very poor effort to garner understanding of ID cards amongst the public. They have done this on a number of bills, it doesn't necessarily mean bad legislation or a bad law, but it is bad practise.

    I understand the problems of the distorting media, but the govt have just kept too quiet on this. They have let NO2ID and other opponents get one hell of a headstart in the debate and that is never good.

    They have done the same on a number of other good ideas that they have had to drop. The way this is going, I wouldn't be surprised if this went the same way.

    I'm still in favour of this bill going through, but if they state something categorically, they should carry it through. I will be keeping an eye on this bill to see if there are amendments on this primary legislation point.

    As for the passports/Forsyth thing. It is obviously going to be much harder to get hold of a ID card than a replacement birth certificate.

    The whole point about having biometrics and a register is to stop people having extra identities. They may be able to have a false identity in name, but with the biometrics duplication would show up. We have something like 85 million NI numbers in this country but only 45 million adults. Obviously something is wrong. ID cards will stop this abuse.

    ReplyDelete
  8. As for the passports/Forsyth thing. It is obviously going to be much harder to get hold of a ID card than a replacement birth certificate.

    This is the bit I don't get - why not just spend some cash on tightening up the replacement birth certificate procedures?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Peter Clay (Ã)1/11/05 12:16 pm

    Thankyou for conceding Martin's point on the exact meaning of secondary legislation. It's reassuring to meet someone intellectually honest in the blogosphere :-)

    I'd agree that the government has done badly about convincing people of the benefits of ID cards. This is because every time something is chosen as the flagship reason (prevention of terrorism, benefits cost control, NHS cost control, immigration control) it turns out that either the cost of the problem is smaller than the cost of the scheme or that the ID card would do little to help with the problem. It's the dodgy dossiers all over again.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh, and why can't I have my name in upper case on this blog?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Peter, Thanks for your kind comments. I have no idea why it won't let your name be upper case.

    Cheers for saying I was intellectually honest, I know most here thinks I'm in the pay of some evil stalinist Labour conspiracy to rob us of our liberties, but I genuinely do think ID cards are a good idea. I may be wrong in thinking this, but its what I believe. I do take on board people's comments and if I've got something wrong, like I have here, then I admit it.

    What's the point in lying to yourself? All I'm interested in is the facts. I've learned a lot and I hope others have appreciated hearing a positive view of ID cards. Even if they don't agree with me, I hope it has made them think more deeply about the rights and wrongs of this issue.

    Urko,

    "This is the bit I don't get - why not just spend some cash on tightening up the replacement birth certificate procedures?"

    Its not quite as simple as that. If you have genuinely lost your birth certificate, how can you prove your identity? Its very difficult, this is why they have to allow replacements and why criminals with a bit of knowhow can get false IDs.

    This is why biometrics are so important. There is no real advantage to having a false identity unless you can have multiple identities. So whatever name people register in, their biometrics prevents them from 'changing' their identity. This is the important factor.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Neil - I did want to say that whilst I oppose what you say on ID cards I do agree with a lot in your blog, particularly the stuff on Thatcher. In way this makes it more painful to hear you say this stuff about ID cards. But I do thank for being something of a lone voice in favour - I really want to understand what those in favour have as a justification.

    I don't think you are part of some evil stalinist Labour conspiracy - I am a Labour Party member too.

    I don't, however feel you have advanced a single credible argument for why I should let the government spend a huge amount of my money on taking my identity details and leasing them back to me. They should be working for me, not the other way around.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Urko, Cheers for liking some of the posts.

    I'm sorry you feel I haven't advanced a single point in favour of ID cards that has persuaded you.

    I think I have made some good points.

    I've pointed out the oddity of people complaining about the ID database but saying little or nothing about the fact there is already a lot more information out there that invades our privacy far more than the NIR will.

    I've pointed out how very large databases (RBS/Natwest, 15 million people) in the private sector can overcome fraud problems and still be worthwhile.

    I've pointed to 4 advantages the NIR database will have that will make it more likely to be a success.

    I've pointed to how successful ID schemes are abroad and how as a result of not having ID cards we have the largest ID theft in Europe.

    I've pointed to the worldwide move towards biometrics and how EU and US regulations are compelling us to move in this direction.

    I've shown examples of how the biometrics technology is advancing and works in the US. I've also pointed out how new developments in crytography will make the situation more secure.

    I've pointed out how easy it is to get multiple identities using replacement birth certificates and how biometrics crucially will stop this by making duplication impossible.

    I've pointed out that there were over 100,000 cases of ID theft in 2004, a 500% increase from the 20,000 cases in 1999. It is the fastest growing crime, there will be 1.1 million cases by 2008 at the present growth rate.

    I've pointed to how its ridiculous to suggest the govt has got some controlling alternative motive and how they would be crazy to push a scheme that would lose them the election.

    I've pointed out the scheme is voluntary and that the people will have a say in the next general election before it becomes compulsory.

    Overall it is difficult to come up with specific benefits about an unknown crime. But the fact there are 85 million NI numbers and only 45 million adults, gives us a scale of the savings that might be out there.

    At the end of the day, I believe it will save us taxes, the benefits will outdo the costs. I can't prove this categorically and I can't prove that the NIR won't be a failure BUT I believe the potential benefits are so great that it is worth the gamble. The Labour govt won the last election promising to introduce ID cards, that is democracy.

    Maybe I should introduce some perspective here. I am in favour of ID cards but I'd rather a bill on electoral and constitutional reform was going through parliament than ID cards. But apart from that, I support ID cards.

    I'll try and find some more information on costs v benefits, because I feel this is where you are suggesting I have failed to persuade you.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've pointed to how successful ID schemes are abroad and how as a result of not having ID cards we have the largest ID theft in Europe.

    Actually, you haven't. The best you can claim is that these schemes are successful on their own terms -- that is, with appropriate penalties, it is possible to compel people to pay for identity cards and register their details in a central database with high probability. That's not an interesting claim, though. Those schemes are only successful in a useful sense if they definitely achieve something which could not be achieved without them. Are those European countries with ID cards crime-free paradises? No. Is it free of terrorism? No. Illegal working? No. Identity fraud? No. Racism? No. There is no evidence that these ID card systems do their host countries any good.

    "Lots of other countries have ID cards" is not an argument for implementing ID cards here, even if the scheme proposed here were identical to that in some particular other country.

    If you are going to argue on the basis of "identity fraud" you will need (a) to define it; and (b) to provide some comparitive statistics, having controlled for other social and economic aspects.

    I've pointed out how easy it is to get multiple identities using replacement birth certificates and how biometrics crucially will stop this by making duplication impossible.

    Oh come on, even the Home Office people now admit that anyone reasonably determined will be able to get multiple identities in the face of the full face, iris and fingerprint biometrics of the NIR. The facial biometrics on the ICAO passport are worthless for preventing multiple enrollment.

    I've pointed out that there were over 100,000 cases of ID theft in 2004, a 500% increase from the 20,000 cases in 1999. It is the fastest growing crime, there will be 1.1 million cases by 2008 at the present growth rate.

    See above. You have quoted this, but you haven't provided any useful source or any description of what you consider to be "identity theft". Without doing that you can't claim (as you implicitly do) that the NIR would solve this problem. As has been pointed out, most "identity theft" is actually cardholder-not-present fraud, and identity cards aren't any use against it.

    I've pointed out the scheme is voluntary and that the people will have a say in the next general election before it becomes compulsory.

    Not in the Bill -- if passed, the Home Secretary could order compulsion at any time. There would be no requirement for an intervening general election. It's not much good saying "the government's policy is X" when they are currently in the middle of forcing through Parliament a Bill which says "the government's policy is Y" and Y is incompatible with X.

    Overall it is difficult to come up with specific benefits about an unknown crime. But the fact there are 85 million NI numbers and only 45 million adults, gives us a scale of the savings that might be out there.

    As has been pointed out elsewhere, it's not surprising that there are more NI numbers than people in the working population, since everyone who has worked in the UK at any time in their life should have one, even if they have since moved abroad. There presumably is fraud in relation to multiple NI numbers, but I doubt that accounts any significant fraction of that 40 million "extra" numbers.


    I hate to say this, but you seem to have learned the worst of New Labour rhetoric from this government. Pick some claims -- whether or not they are true or intellectually justifiable is irrelevant -- and repeat them, again and again, in the hope that repetition will convince the audience. That may work for Charles Clarke on "Today", but it's unlikely to work here, in the presence of people who are reasonably informed about this issue. You should not, for instance, keep repeating your claim about rates of identity fraud without substantiating it; it is not good enough to source today's claim about ID fraud by quoting yesterday's.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I've pointed out the oddity of people complaining about the ID database but saying little or nothing about the fact there is already a lot more information out there that invades our privacy far more than the NIR will.


    Fine I'll say something then. I object to the amount of data certain companies have on me, that I did not give them. Whenever possible I opt out of these things, for example I don't use loyalty cards, and when phoned by sales people I ask to be taken off their list.

    The NIR is a whole lot worse than this though:-

    1) No opt out.
    2) Data is far more expansive than and concentrated than that stored on other databases.
    3) I (and every other taxpayer) will be paying for this collosal white elephant.

    Your argument is also akin to saying because people can use telescopes to spy on their neighbours we should all have glass walls.

    I've shown examples of how the biometrics technology is advancing and works in the US. I've also pointed out how new developments in crytography will make the situation more secure.
    But we're going to be using biometrics as soon as the cards come in, and THEY DON'T WORK NOW!

    At the end of the day, I believe it will save us taxes, the benefits will outdo the costs.

    I'm not willing to spooge billions of pounds on IT contractors who already have a shocking record in IT projects to find out whether this is true. My guess? This isn't true.

    I've pointed to how successful ID schemes are abroad and how as a result of not having ID cards we have the largest ID theft in Europe.

    How are they successful? Because they exist? That is not a good enough criterion for success.

    The vast majority of Identity theft will not be affected in the slightest by Identity Cards as you probably well know.

    Maybe I should introduce some perspective here. I am in favour of ID cards but I'd rather a bill on electoral and constitutional reform was going through parliament than ID cards. But apart from that, I support ID cards.


    And this is the strongest support I have been able to find for the governments ludicrous scheme anywhere, in real life and on the net. It makes me think that the government maybe are crazy and should lose the next election.

    Having said all that, I appreciate finding your site, as I've said I've not found anyone willing to argue for the Identity Cards and the National Identity Register.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Addressing your points one by one:

    Yes, there's already a large amount of privacy-invading data out there. You can find my name, address, phone number, employer, and photos of me through Google. But that doesn't tell how often I go to the doctor, why, what benefits I recieve, what I'm paid, or who I associate with; all of those will be linked to the NIR.

    The very large databases: it's not a criminal offence not to inform them of your address. They are regulated by the Data Protection Act.

    Your 4 advantages (new system, face to face, 5 year plan, daily use):
    I've commented on that post and you've not yet replied.

    ID cards in Europe are completely different. No other country in Europe has a biometric database. Quite a few of them (e.g. Hungary, Germany) don't have person numbers, just ID card numbers, or have regulations governing what use may be made of the number. In Germany the address registration scheme (which recently broke down) is separate from the ID cards scheme. The UK scheme would be unconstitutional in Germany.

    Your paper that links lack of ID cards to "ID theft" also says that the UK and US do a lot more transactions over the phone or internet, compared to the continental system. You'd only get the anti-fraud benefits where people are required to present the card: if the card isn't involved the risk is as high as the old system, yes? So we could achieve the fraud reduction only by requireing an ID card with every transaction. That is, banning online banking. Or you could just ban online banking without needing an ID card scheme.

    "The worldwide move towards biometrics and how EU and US regulations are compelling us to move in this direction": this isn't an advantage. It's this sort of thing which makes people anti-European. We want to choose our laws, not be pushed into them.

    Voluntary: if it gets implemented as a voluntary scheme, it'll be very hard to stop it becoming compulsory. It's very hard to dismantle these things.

    "85 million NI numbers and only 45 million adults": interesting. Where does this
    number come from? I'd like to know more about this. Chris's explanation about temporary workers sounds plausible. How are NI numbers deleted when someone dies?

    (Remind me, what benefits does having two NI numbers give someone?)

    Now, the "ID theft" issue. There seem to be three aspects to this:
    - ATM card fraud. Surely this is the responsibility of the card companies?
    - benefit fraud (claiming for nonexistant multiple people). There are simpler solutions: the Afghani election system of ink on fingers would work nicely. From what I've heard, most benefit fraud is spurious incapacity benefit claims; ID cards won't make a difference.
    - Taking out credit on someone else's credit record.

    The latter is the interesting one, and is mostly a side effect of the way people can get cheap credit, over the phone or by post. ID cards won't help with that: suppose you add an "ID card number" to the form. It's just another piece of personal data to be stolen, and since ID card transactions are everywhere, an easy one.

    The real problem in this is that some poor bastard gets chased for the money that he or she doesn't owe. It should be made much harder to pursue people for money without conclusive proof that this is the person you actually lent the money to. The lenders would then have to deal with the problem (make the private sector pay for it!) in their own ways. For example, store a photo of the person holding up a sign saying "IO Loan Sharks Inc £1000 @ 12% (date)". This would have the beneficial side effect of making it harder for people to get themselves into excessive debt (often a cause of bankruptcy and CCJs).

    Note that this scheme doesn't require the people who want to avoid their "identity being stolen" to do anything or be in any database.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Neil - others have leapt in, but I must emphasise this - I was saying I didn't think you had a single credible argument for ID cards.

    Others on here have summed up the arguments far better than I could so I'll just stick to one point "other countries have them" Other countries have a range of unpleasant stuff - I don't see that as an argument for us to follow suit. The Americans don't have, and won't be getting biometric ID - why can't I use that as a equally valid justification against?

    ReplyDelete
  18. There are 44 million people on passport, driving licence, banking, criminal and medical databases in this country that the govt have access to. How has this been detrimental? And how will ID cards make this invasion of privacy worse?

    Answer me these two questions and maybe I will start seeing what your objections are.

    ReplyDelete
  19. urko: There are 21 rich developed liberal countries in the EU that have ID cards. It has obviously not affected there ability to be rich, liberal and developed democracies. That seems to contradict your predictions of doom that ID cards are supposed to bring, that is why it is relevant.

    ReplyDelete
  20. How many of those have biometrics? Zero. Nobody does. It's untested and unprecedented.

    How many of them have national identity numbers? Well, I know it's unconstitutional to have such a number in Germany and Hungary. Ask yourself why this might be.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Give them a chance, Peter, they are all considering how to implement biometric systems over the next few years, just as we are.

    ReplyDelete