In the light of further study of the operational implications, I hope shortly to introduce a procedure under which applicants for national insurance cards who have recently entered the country will be asked for their passports or other identity documents ; this procedure would be applied in those areas of the country where difficulties arise over the accuracy of immigrants' personal particulars.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. In view of some of the fears being expressed about this scheme, will he confirm that it has worked in the West Midlands without difficulty? Will he also confirm that if the scheme is successful it will remove the incentive for the illegal immigration trade, which is the prospect of employment in this country?
The answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question is "Yes". The answer to the second part is that my Department is undertaking to spread these procedures as I have said, so as better to carry out its own statutory obligations. I cannot predict what the outcome will be.
There is no question of my Department's acting as a policeman. It has a statutory obligation to issue insurance cards to the particular persons identified in the insurance cards. When an applicant cannot always speak English accurately and there is some doubt about the precise name under which he or she goes, because of the habit of using different forms of names, it is only reasonable to have some procedure for checking. As my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler) said, in part of the country a procedure has been in use for some time using passports to help my Department get the facts right.
Will not the Secretary of State acknowledge that the retrospective effects of the 1971 Act have made a lot of people illegal who, because of the six months' limitation, would otherwise have been accepted as being here legally? Will he assure the House that his Department will become no party to a situation where such people holding national insurance cards at the moment and working quite happily in the interests of the British economy are in any way hounded by the Department?
My Department is in duty bound to establish whether the person applying for a national insurance card is the person whom he or she purports to be and to get the identification correct. It is only if some breach of a law is thereby suggested that my officials have any duty to communicate with the Home Office. The prime purpose of this procedure is for the fulfilment of the statutory duties of my Department.