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Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:08 pm on 20th December 2004.

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Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary 5:08 pm, 20th December 2004

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The discussion is an important milestone in the lengthy dialogue that the country has had on identity cards. The debate is of long standing, but it has increased in intensity in the aftermath of the terrorist atrocities in the United States on 11 September 2001. However, the Bill needs to be considered on broader issues than matters of national security alone.

In preparation for the legislation, we have had a six-month public consultation exercise, an inquiry by the Select Committee on Home Affairs and further consultation on a draft Bill. The Government listened carefully to the many comments that were received. Changes have been made both to the Bill that we are debating and the plans for delivering the scheme.

I assure the House that the Government and I will continue to listen to and act on constructive comments and proposals as the Bill goes through its various stages, but I want to emphasise that, both in principle and in practice, the case for it is in my opinion very strong. Quite apart from the security advantages, there will be enormous practical benefits. ID cards will potentially make a difference to any area of everyday life in which one already has to prove one's identity. Examples are opening a bank account, going abroad on holiday, claiming a benefit, buying goods on credit and renting a video. The possession of a clear, unequivocal and unique form of identity, in the shape of a card linked to a database holding biometrics, will offer significant benefits of various types.

Moreover, the help that the cards can offer in tackling fraud will save tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money. Some £50 million a year is claimed illegally from the benefit systems alone through the use of false identities—money that could of course be far better spent on other public services.

Annotations

David reynolds
Posted on 28 Dec 2004 4:25 pm (Report this annotation)

The biggest difference between this ID card and all the others is "biometric verification", so I suggested, during their six month consultation, that the picture was unnecessary. Unfortunately not having a picture on the card will mean it will be useless for all the examples cited here as "when you need to prove ID". This ID card will be used as a picture ID card 99% of the time; can you honestly see yourself having a retina scan in Blockbusters? If this card is used like Charles Clarke states here then a forgery that does not have a working chip will still be very useful; those hardened criminals, the children, will no doubt be the biggest users to get booze and fags under age, not to mention getting 18 films at blockbusters.

Where does the £50m benefit fraud figure come from? This is one of those arbitrary figures plucked out of the air. Assuming this figure is correct then of that £50m most of it must surely be people claiming beenfit while working on the side. How does the ID card address this? Those people who work on the side don't use false ID, they usually work casual, poorly paid, cash in hand jobs and claim benefits under their own name. There has been the odd case of people claiming using multiple IDs and not working at all but they get caught, that is how we hear of them. The cost of the ID card cannot be justified even in part by suggesting it will save on benefit fraud. It won't.

Chris Lightfoot
Posted on 28 Dec 2004 5:10 pm (Report this annotation)

The usual claim was that the total cost of benefit fraud is about £1.something billion pa; it was repeatedly pointed out to the Home Office that very little of this is the result of claimants adopting multiple identities. A second estimate gave £50 million pa (i.e. less than 5% of the total) as the cost of fraud involving false/multiple identities. David Blunkett always quoted the larger figure in this context (despite frequently being reminded that it was rubbish); when Charles Clarke replaced him, he started to use the smaller figure.

David reynolds
Posted on 28 Dec 2004 6:43 pm (Report this annotation)

I stand corrected by Chris re £50million being a figure quoted by the Government as being lost soley to the use of multiple identities. But then if they know that already they must, oh never mind. :-/

chris pounder
Posted on 1 Jan 2005 9:03 pm (Report this annotation)

Note that if there is a check on the ID Card database, there will be a record (Schedule 1, para 9)where the authorities can find your bank account, your holiday details, your benefit claim, your purchases buying goods on credit and where you rent videos. The possession of a clear, unequivocal and unique form of identity, in the shape of a card linked to a database holding biometrics, will offer significant benefits of various types.

James Berry
Posted on 17 Feb 2005 6:28 pm (Report this annotation)

"The possession of a clear, unequivocal and unique form of identity, in the shape of a card linked to a database holding biometrics, will offer significant benefits of various types." Maybe. But no-one has managed to point to any real cost effective benefits yet.