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Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:19 pm on 20th December 2004.

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Photo of John Denham John Denham Chair, Home Affairs Committee 6:19 pm, 20th December 2004

That issue can be addressed in Committee. I see no reason to do what my hon. and learned Friend suggests. In fact, all criminal convictions are already immediately accessible on the police national computer. It is hard to see why the Government would wish to do that. If somebody is, for example, taken to a police station and arrested, and if the police identify that individual using the national identity register—that is, after all, what it is there for—it will take a mere matter of seconds to establish whether that person is also on the police national computer. I do not see that as a fundamental objection.

It seems to me that the reason for the card is this: if we believe, as I do, that terrorism is a significant threat; if we believe, as I do, that the facts of illegal immigration, illegal working and abuse of access to public services are not only major issues in their own right but significant social issues for our society, because people perceive all that as being unfair, unchallenged and something that should be dealt with; and if we see criminal identity fraud as a problem, we need to listen to the agencies who tell us, as they told the Select Committee, that having a robust system of personal identity will, in the words of the famous Sir Robert Mark, when talking about motor car tyres, make a "significant contribution" to solving the problem.

That is what the Select Committee was told. It was not told that terrorism would be abolished, nor that identity fraud would disappear, nor that there would be no benefit abuse, nor that there would be no illegal working. It was told that because it would be easier to tackle points of identity, a robust identity system would be desirable. That is why, in principle, the Bill should go ahead.

I will give way very briefly to Mr. Gale. I realise that it will cost me time.