Clause 27 - Possession of false identity documents etc.

Identity Cards Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:35 pm on 27 January 2005.

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Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 2:35, 27 January 2005

Amendment No. 195 would insert in clause 27, page 23, line 17, at end the words

'unless he has reasonable cause to be in possession of that document'.

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson Labour, Rossendale and Darwen

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 222, in clause 27, page 23, line 17, at end insert

'unless he has that person's permission and has good reason to have that document in his possession.'.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My amendment was poorly drafted by me when I had not taken on board requisite intention under the Bill. If the Minister agrees with me that the amendment is entirely unnecessary, perhaps he will nod.

Mr. Browne indicated assent.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I conclude by apologising to the Committee for having wasted 30 seconds. I shall not move the amendment.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 2:45, 27 January 2005

I beg to move amendment No. 233, in clause 27, page 24, line 2, leave out 'ten' and insert 'twelve'.  

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson Labour, Rossendale and Darwen

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 234, in clause 27, page 24, line 6, leave out 'two' and insert 'four'.

No. 196, in clause 27, page 24, line 8, leave out 'twelve' and insert 'six'.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

These probing amendments deal with the sentencing provisions. This clause creates some very serious offences. Amendment No. 233 would increase the potential term of imprisonment from 10 to 12 years for an offence under subsections (1) or (3). I will make no point on that, save that I plucked a figure out of the air to illustrate that these are grave matters. I would be interested to know the Minister's reasons for reaching a figure of 10 years for those offences.

We will debate what is covered by the term ''identity document'' when we come to clause 28. This point might be better made in a clause stand part debate, but those who deal in the apparatus designed to invent such a card are guilty of an extremely serious offence. It is not a bad parallel to consider on the one hand the drug dealer, and on the other hand the person behind the drug dealer with the necessary paraphernalia—that is the legal word—to enable the person further down the line to commit the offence.

I would like the Minister to talk a little about sentencing policy. How does he rate the seriousness of these offences, compared with many other offences that come before the courts? However, I assure him that it is the view of Conservative Committee members that certainly some of the offences under clause 27 are very serious and that they ought to be visited with very strong penalties.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) has spoken only on amendment No. 233, which is fair, but he is seeking to make a point on proportionality, and I will address that.

Mr. Malins indicated assent.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

However, I want to put it on the record that I resist all three amendments. I will give the hon. Gentleman an answer that is short and to the point, and that shows to him the point of proportionality from which others are drawing.

Ten years is a significant penalty; I think that the hon. Gentleman, who has had cause in another aspect of his life to impose penalties on people, would accept that. Any change to the penalty would put the offence out of step with similar offences in the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981; that is the answer that he seeks. Section 5 of that Act makes it an offence for a person to have in his possession an instrument that he knows or believes to be false with the intention of inducing someone to accept it as genuine and, by reason of so accepting, to do or not do some act to his or another person's prejudice, and the maximum penalty for that is 10 years' imprisonment. If the hon. Gentleman were to indicate to me by his body language that that sets the matter in the appropriate context, I would rest my case.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

That has been a helpful response. The Minister has put the matter in context. That was all I   wanted, and I thank him for doing that. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 27 ordered to stand part of the Bill.