Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary 3:31 pm, 28th June 2005

I will give way again later, but I want to make some progress.

The next stage of my argument relates to the benefits that the ID card will bring, because I do not think that they have yet been clearly set out. First, I shall set out the benefits to every individual who has a card. That builds on the point made about access to services by my hon. Friend Helen Jones. It will be a benefit to the individual to be able to make clear their identity in financial transactions—for example, opening bank accounts and in a wide range of other transactions—without having to produce a series of proxy documentation. In terms of obtaining public documents, I have already mentioned driving licences, passports and Criminal Records Bureau certificates. There is no doubt in my mind that the card will help individuals who need and want those documents.

For the reasons that I set out earlier, to have a card will be of major benefit in terms of international travel, whether for travel to the United States without a visa or more widely elsewhere in the world. Proof of identity in relation to law enforcement is also a benefit to the individual. Access to public services, as decided by those service providers, whether a library or any other form of public service, is another example of such a benefit.

My hon. Friend Alison Seabeck raised the issue of identity fraud. She is entirely correct. In 2004, an average of 50,000 people in the UK were victims of impersonation fraud. On average, it takes each victim 60 hours to resolve their case and clear their name. ID cards will make it more difficult to perpetrate identity theft and the high-quality verification service will reduce the time that it takes to deal with the damage. The British Bankers Association has stated that general banking losses due to identity fraud amount to £50 million. Those are substantial issues and show that the card will be of benefit to the individual.

The benefits to society include more effective crime fighting in a wide variety of ways; reducing serious and organised crime, people trafficking, money laundering and drug dealing; and reducing illegal migration and benefit fraud. Some hon. Members have been sceptical about the benefits of the card in dealing with terrorism, but I shall consider as an illustration the widely aired suggestion that ID cards did not stop the terrorist bombings in Madrid.

In fact, ID cards helped the Spanish police to identify who was responsible for the Madrid bombings, because in order to buy a mobile phone in Spain a person has to verify their identity with an ID card. According to the Spanish police, ID cards were a key element in tracking down the bombers. The cards also helped to identify the victims of the bombing so that their families could be informed.

Of course, Spanish ID cards do not contain the biometrics that we are discussing, so they can be forged more easily than the kind of card that we are describing. Our ID cards will be more successful. It is no coincidence—


Mr Jones
Posted on 29 Jun 2005 9:20 pm (Report this annotation)

Any self-respecting terrorist with half a brain would steal a phone, and have it illegally unlocked. As far as I am aware, it is not necessary to present your ID card to the person you're robbing!

But, that point aside, even if you do have a purchase record tied to an ID card, how does being able to identify a terrorist help when they've blown themselves up with the target? It is not uncommon for suicide terrorists to guide a plan through to completion (just look at September 11th, not to mention the horrific attacks in Israel).

Is the objective here going to be the prevention of terrorist attacks, or simply being able to identify an individual who probably has no obvious ties with the rest of the group, for precisely this reason. If it is the latter, you may as well not bother - the terrorists will win. In fact, by introducing ID cards, you could argue that they have already won.

Richard Johnson
Posted on 29 Jun 2005 10:05 pm (Report this annotation)

"The cards also helped to identify the victims of the
bombing so that their families could be informed."

What relevance has this? Are we saying that, with disasters in Britain, we were unable to identify the victims because of the lack of id cards? What nonsense.