Trevor Mendham

UK Compulsory National Identity Cards (ID Cards)

Briefings - Charles Clarke, 28/06/2005

This is page 7 of my personal response to Charles Clarke's speech at the Second Reading of the misnamed ID Cards Bill on 28/6/2005 Click here for page 1.

Charles ClarkeResponse from Trevor Mendham
Geraldine Smith (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Lab):
On people trafficking, international terrorism and illegal immigration, if identity cards are so helpful and so essential, why is this scheme voluntary?
Mr. Clarke:
We hope to make it compulsory over time; we have set that out very clearly in the Bill. We have not waved a magic wand and made it compulsory now because the process of issuing ID cards for the whole population takes a good deal of time. But if you look, Mr. Speaker, at the great tragedies of which my hon. Friend has extensive experience - that is obvious from the way that she is talking about some of the people-trafficking issues - or other events that are equally shocking, such as the tragedy of the people who died in the container going across the channel
Geraldine Smith rose

Mr. Clarke: I will give way in a second.

If we look at the issues of people trafficking, there is absolutely no doubt: if we talk to those in any police organisation in the world, they will say that identity fraud, first, by the gangs who run such trafficking and, secondly, by the people who are being trafficked is a central weapon of their crime, and we should do everything that we can to stop that happening. My hon. Friend - I will give way to her again in a moment - effectively says "Do it faster!", and she has a powerful message. We can talk about doing it faster, but let us not draw the conclusion that we should not do it at all. Let us do better and make such things happen more quickly, rather than more slowly. Clarke is right, these tragedies are shocking.

Does he really believe that people traffickers who risk the lives of desperate people are going to be put off by the fact that their "clients" don't have ID Cards?

Perhaps Clarke could consider putting a fraction of the money he plans to waste on this scheme into better border controls.

Geraldine Smith:
I would also say, "Do not charge people from general taxation". On the Morecambe bay tragedy to which my right hon. Friend refers, is he aware that those Chinese illegal immigrants held permits to work and had false national insurance numbers? What would stop such people having false ID cards?
Mr. Clarke:
That was a terribly tragic situation, but I am afraid that my hon. Friend makes the case that I am seeking to make. The falseness that she describes - to be honest, it arises with a number of the documents of people working in this country illegally - is possible because we do not have a substantial biometric element in the identification cards that exist. The biometric element will make a material difference to people's ability to forge those documents.
"make a material difference"

Clarke is careful not to say that they will not be forged. They will, eventually. Biometrics, as Clarke admits, will simply make forgery more difficult.

It is the people traffickers, the organised criminals and the terrorists who have the motive and the resources to forge them.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Clarke:
This is so exciting. I will give way to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con):
The Home Secretary knows that the Home Office has a long record of difficulties with major IT projects. He well knows that evidence was given to the Home Affairs Committee by the United Kingdom Computer Research Committee, which said:
"we have deep scepticism about the Home Office's ability to specify, procure, implement a national, software intensive system on the scale that would be necessary."
Can the Home Secretary reassure the House that, in years to come, the permanent secretary of his Department will not appear before the Public Accounts Committee to defend himself against charges of massive cost overruns and massive increases in bureaucracy and difficulties with IT?
Mr. Clarke:
I can tell the House that the permanent secretaries of the Departments that I have been involved with always enjoyed coming to the hon. Gentleman's Committee to explain the situation, but I will come to the specific point in a moment.
Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Clarke:
I shall give way one more time, before making more progress.

Mark Fisher:
On the necessity of carrying a card, will the Home Secretary clarify two points? First, he cited the Spanish experience in saying that the Spanish only managed to get those people because having an ID card is a requirement to get a mobile phone in Spain. Is he saying that that would be the situation in this country and that people who want a mobile phone must have an ID card? Secondly, he told the House that a card will not be necessary to gain access to public services, but clause 15(1) says precisely the opposite: someone who provides public services may make it a requirement to see an ID card. Is it his intention to delete clause 15(1) in Committee?
Mr. Clarke:
First, the point that I was making about Madrid is very simple. Contrary to what some people allege, ID cards have had an impact in helping to address the issues of Madrid. I am not making any proposition about mobile phones or any other service,
Nor, I note, is he ruling it out.

Once universal compulsion is introduced there will be nothing to stop a future government introducing such a requirement. Or simply "suggesting" to the telcos that they introduce such a requirement themselves in the "public interest".

but I am saying that the suggestion that ID cards cannot address questions such as the appalling bombing in Madrid is not correct. The government keep making such assertions but provide absolutely no evidence to back them up. We keep asking "how?" and they have yet to answer.
On the second point, the fact is that we are saying in the legislation - again, we can discuss this in Committee if my hon. Friend has concerns about it - that organisations are entitled to use ID cards to identify people in those circumstances after they have become compulsory, but that it will also be possible for individuals to use other material if they wish to do so. Of course, the detail of that matter can be discussed in Committee if we make progress, but that is where we are. I disagree completely with Clarke's interpretation of the Bill.

Once universal compulsion is introduced, the protections of sections 15(2) and 18 fall away. The relevant wording is:

"except in cases where the individual is of a description of individuals who are subject to compulsory registration." (section 15-2)


"Each of the following is a case in which such a condition or requirement may be imposed in relation to or on an individual -
(c) where the individual is of a description of individuals who are subject to compulsory registration." (section 18-2)

If Clarke is proposing to delete those two sentences in Committee it would be a welcome move.

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