Matt Warman – 2021 Statement on Digital Identity

The statement made by Matt Warman, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in the House of Commons on 19 July 2021.

I am pleased to inform the House that the Government are today publishing a public consultation on enabling legislation to strengthen digital identity use for the whole economy.

More and more people, in all walks of life, are using products and services online. People expect these transactions to be simple, quick, safe and personalised. However, people in the UK often still have to use a combination of paper documents issued by Government, local authorities and the private sector—and a mixture of offline and online routes—when opening a bank account, claiming benefits, starting a new job or applying for a school place. And these steps often need repeating for each new transaction.

Voluntary online authentication, identity and eligibility solutions can increase security, ease of use and accessibility. They are central to transforming the delivery and efficiency of public services and people’s ability to operate confidently in an increasingly digital economy.

The Government are committed to realising the benefits of digital identity technologies without creating ID cards. We have committed to put in place the necessary framework and tools so that digital identity solutions enhance privacy, transparency, confidence and inclusion, and that users are able to control their data, in line with the principles published in the 2019 call for evidence response.

In our response to the call for evidence, we committed to enabling businesses and individuals across the economy to use digital identities securely and with more confidence. This is only achievable by putting in place a legal framework and regulatory infrastructure.

The consultation DCMS is publishing today follows up on that commitment. It sits alongside the UK digital identity and attributes trust framework, which was published as a first draft in February 2021, opening the way for legislation. Digital identity legislation is needed to underpin a governance framework in law, to enable Government to allow checks by industry against data it holds, and to create confidence in the validity of digital identities. We have worked extensively with industry, civil society, and academia to get to this point.

The consultation sets out our plans to create a digital identity governance framework. Creating a governance system which can build trust in digital identities is vital. This trust will drive innovation and growth in the UK economy and good governance will ensure that the digital identity and attribute principles are upheld.

We are also consulting on our intention to create a permissive legal power for Government-held attributes to be checked safely and securely by non-public sector organisations for eligibility, identity, and validation purposes. This will allow digital identities in the UK to be built on a greater range of trusted datasets and ultimately provide people with a choice of how they use this data to prove their identity.

Finally, we are proposing to establish in law that digital identities and digital attributes can be as valid as physical forms of identification or traditional identity documents. This builds on our commitment to enable the use of digital identities in as many areas as possible and to build confidence in their validity.

Further details can be found in the consultation, available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/digital-identity-and-attributes-consultation.

A copy of the consultation will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.