Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:28 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 8:28 pm, 28th June 2005

I have listened to the whole debate. I listened particularly carefully to the Home Secretary. He laid out five sections in his speech, including Big Brother society, the costs, the benefits, and the success or otherwise of IT projects. What he failed to do, other than in passing in the section on benefits, was to address the justifications in the Bill—national security, the prevention and detection of crime, the enforcement of immigration controls, unauthorised working, the provision of public services and so on. As was said by Glenda Jackson, who is not in her place, the Home Secretary failed to explain how identity cards or the register would assist in any of the stated reasons for the introduction of the measure.

On national security and terrorism, several hon. Members have made the point that most terrorists use their own identities. Most of the bombers on 9/11 used their own identities, and some of those responsible for the attack in Madrid had the requisite residential documentation, while others simply used tourist visas. There is no intention—at least not in the short term—to butcher the UK tourist industry by requiring all visitors to have biometric visas. Intelligence gathered both here and abroad will identify terrorists and stop terrorism, not ID cards.

The ID card system would make terrorists who want to come here from abroad more dangerous. If people have forged, fake or stolen papers that are sufficiently robust to allow them entry to the UK, their papers are likely to be sufficiently robust to allow them entry in the future. In that case, issuing an ID card would turn an illegal, fake or false identity into a real, legal one, which might allow terrorists to operate with impunity and to move unhindered because they can prove to the authorities that they are who they claim to be. Far from tackling terrorism and offering more security, ID cards offer a false sense of security and much more complacency.

On the prevention of crime generally, including identity theft, the Government have made no convincing argument about how ID cards will stop crime, catch criminals or prove cases, unless a criminal leaves their ID card propped up on the mantelpiece after they have stolen the DVD player. ID cards will not deter a single criminal, unless the Government envisage allowing the police to stop people who they believe are acting suspiciously or engaged in a crime and request to see their ID card, which would, of course, require the card to be mandatory. There are two flaws in that argument: first, the police presence on the ground would be the deterrent, not the request to see the ID card; secondly, if the police have reasonable suspicion that someone is about to commit a crime, they already have the powers to stop and question them. If the Government were serious about tackling crime, they could take the £500 million for ID cards in Scotland, which is a conservative estimate, and employ 1,500 police officers on the beat for the next 10 years.

On identity theft, The Economist reported on 2 June that the cost of fraudulent applications for bank accounts and cards, the hijacking of bank accounts and other such crimes is £36.9 million. Earlier today, we heard that benefit fraud related to identity theft costs some £50 million, which, as Mr. Mitchell has said, is a long way away from the £1.3 billion that the Government have previously quoted. The Economist stated that the Government's figure includes

"the cost of dealing with immigrants who arrive in Britain with false documents."

ID cards would not stop one single person arriving in the UK with false papers or reduce the cost of addressing the issue by a single penny.