Identity Fraud

– in the House of Lords at 3:11 pm on 4th March 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Conservative 3:11 pm, 4th March 2003

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to protect United Kingdom citizens from identity theft or fraud.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State (Criminal Policy), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System)

My Lords, the consultation exercise on entitlement cards and identity fraud which ended on 31st January asked for views on changing the law to make it an offence to use the identity of another person or a fictitious identity without reasonable cause. We are currently studying the responses received. We are also establishing a cross public-private sector work programme to tackle ID fraud. That will improve the checks on passport and driving licence applications and provide improved guidance on how those and other documents are used to verify identity. We are also looking at the feasibility of new IT systems such as a database of lost and stolen identity documents.

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very detailed Answer. In the light of Mr Bond's horrific experience and the incredible figure of 53,000 cases of identity theft reported in 2001, costing £1.2 billion, have the Government any plans to introduce compulsory ID cards? If not, why not?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State (Criminal Policy), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System)

My Lords, we published a consultation document last July on entitlement cards. We did not propose to make it compulsory to carry cards, but we are consulting on the issue of whether everyone should have one. We need to consider the extent to which such action can combat identity fraud and be useful in other ways as well. It is an issue that we need to address. The consultation ended on 31st January, and we shall produce the results in the next few months.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

My Lords, what happened to Derek Bond in a South African prison is deplorable. Many of these frauds are undertaken for the purpose of obtaining identification documents, in particular passports. The Minister is aware, I hope, that each passport application requires a counter-signatory. In this case, the American courts will deal with the perpetrator. However, what action do the Government propose to take in relation to those who countersigned that passport, which effectively denied Mr Bond his freedom?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State (Criminal Policy), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System)

My Lords, greater checks need to be made to ensure that passport applications are genuine, and that is already happening. The same applies to driving licence applications. Those countersigning an application need to make an attestation. If it is false, that constitutes a criminal offence. However, we need to go further and consider—as we are doing—whether using someone's identity should be made a criminal offence. That was one of the matters on which we consulted in the document that I mentioned in answering the noble Baroness's Question.