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Stewart Hosie (Dundee, East) (SNP): 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 the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (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
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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 the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (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

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.

John Hemming : There are 73 million live national insurance records, but only 46.5 million people in this country are entitled to have a national insurance record, and the Government have confirmed in a written answer that they have no idea how many fraudulent records are in the register. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that evidence indicates that we cannot trust the Government to run an identity database?

Stewart Hosie: A number of IT projects and databases need to be cleaned up. I am not sure about the figures—the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) has said that the national insurance issue is being addressed—but the evidence does not suggest that the central data register for ID cards will be more accurate than the national insurance register.

I have mentioned people entering the country with false papers, which leads me to the Government's third stated justification for ID cards—the enforcement of immigration controls. It is worth noting that immigration into the UK is a managed process. I fear that this is not about immigration at all, and that the real concern is about asylum seekers, refugees and those who may not be here legally. The Government may wish to tell people fleeing oppression and seeking sanctuary that the UK is a less charitable and a harder place in which to seek protection and help. The introduction of ID cards may force such people, some of whom understandably arrive here afraid of authority, officialdom and Government, further into the recesses of society, working in the illegal economy, living in unregistered and overcrowded housing, and away from the people whose services they most require.

Most worryingly of all, as several right hon. and hon. Members have suggested, this might be about finding people who should not be here by searching out those
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who do not have an identity card. I am not suggesting that this Government would do that, but a future Government might, and we should look at unintended consequences. In such circumstances, I suspect that white MPs will not be stopped and asked for their identity cards, nor will New Zealand students working in bars in Islington, but the black and Asian populations of our towns and cities may be stopped and have their identity cards requested time after time. The sus laws have already been mentioned. This legislation has the potential to set race relations back by decades.

The fourth justification for identity cards is that they will prohibit unauthorised working or employment. The gangmasters who employ casual labour on a cash-only basis do not ask for national insurance numbers, pay through the pay-as-you-earn system or issue P60s, and they will not do biometric tests based on identity cards. Indeed, the idea that every building site, cockle beach or berry field will be equipped with a portable biometric reader is laughable. This is an unenforceable law. It will place additional costs and burdens on businesses that already comply, and do precisely nothing to stop the unscrupulous who already breach, break or ignore every employment law.

The final justification for the introduction of ID cards relates to the efficient and effective provision of public services. Having listened carefully to what was said throughout the debate, it appears to me that this is not about the efficient and effective provision of public services but about the restriction of access to public services for those who are not entitled to them. That may not be an unreasonable thing for the Government to do, but how can it be more efficient or effective to ask for an identity card—with the accompanying cost of a biometric reader in every hospital ward, doctor's surgery, dentist's surgery or well woman clinic—than simply to request the national health service number with which we are all issued at present?

I know that time is short, so I will come to my summary. SNP and Plaid Cymru Members believe that the Bill is flawed and will not work. It will provide no extra security—indeed, it may lead to a false sense of security, with fake identities becoming real and legal ones. It will not stop one single terrorist; intelligence, not identity cards, will stop terrorists and terrorist acts. It will not stop a single criminal or a single crime; it would require more police, not plastic cards, to do that. It is a disproportionate response to identity theft, and will do absolutely nothing to reduce the cost of those arriving in the UK with false papers. It risks forcing refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable people into the darkest corners of society and away from those whose help they need most, and it risks setting back race relations in this country by decades. It is an unenforceable law as regards bad and illegal employers who exploit their workers and ignore the law, and it is not about providing efficient and effective public services but about restricting access to them.

In short, we believe that this is a bad Bill that would make bad and unenforceable law. It has the potential to be 18 Greenwich domes or a giant poll tax. When it goes belly up, it risks pulling the Government down with it. I do not want to be partisan because there are honourable men and women on other Benches who may join us in the Lobby.
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The Bill risks being an expensive folly—a white elephant, which, at £5 billion, £10 billion, £15 billion or £18 billion might bleed the taxpayer dry. There is passionate opposition to the proposals in all parties. I say to the Government: withdraw them and think again. It is a bad Bill, which will be bad law.

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