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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
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.