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Ms Celia Barlow (Hove) (Lab): I shall endeavour to keep to the subject of the amendment, although other issues are involved. I believe that even hon. Members who are against ID cards would agree that they would be effective only if it became compulsory to own one at some time in the future. I welcome the Government's intention to have a separate vote on compulsion in some years' time. In the meantime, providing ID cards only to people who specifically ask for them would only reap certain advantages. A secure form of proving who we are would be beneficial for everyone who wished to have an ID card, but for them to provide their full benefit, we must not only encourage people to take them up initially but make them compulsory later.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Does the hon. Lady agree that if 80 per cent. of the population had already been forced to have an ID card because they required one for this or that reason, the vote on compulsion would be irrelevant anyway?

Ms Barlow: I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. All the investigations carried out by newspapers, for example, have shown that the majority of people are in favour of ID cards.

People renewing their passport will have to provide their biometric data. Why should we not encourage the take-up of ID cards and ensure that they become compulsory by issuing them along with passports? The two should be issued simultaneously. The Lords amendment would create uncertainty about when and how the second compulsory stage would be brought in, thereby losing that window of opportunity.

Much has been said about the cost of the scheme, although I appreciate that that is not the issue before us at the moment. However, many of my constituents in Hove and Portslade are extremely worried about that aspect of the scheme. It would be even more costly if we allowed several schemes—such as ID cards, driving licences and passports—to exist side by side. The Bill obviously merges the UK Passport Service with the new
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agency responsible for ID cards, which would also work closely with UKvisas and the immigration and nationality directorate. It would therefore be far cheaper to support the Government's proposal to issue an ID card automatically to people who apply for a passport or a driving licence. The biometric technology is there, so we should use it to issue ID cards.

Mrs. Dunwoody : Why does my hon. Friend say that the biometric technology is there? In fact, there is a great deal of evidence to show that the biometrics are very iffy indeed, and that they work only under certain conditions. I did a lot of detailed work with my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, North (Frank Cook) on a Bill that dealt with eyes in this regard.

Ms Barlow: I take the hon. Member's point—

Mrs. Dunwoody: Hon. Friend.

Ms Barlow: I take my hon. Friend's point. However, I must say that biometric technology has been tried and tested in this country. It is certainly being used at the moment with asylum seekers in my constituency, although perhaps not to the full extent that will be necessary when it appears on ID cards.

Mr. Garnier: The Government had a pilot scheme in Leicester, the closest city to my constituency, in which they tested the biometric technology for fingerprints and eyes. Among the Asian population, 20 per cent. of the biometric tests failed. Is the hon. Lady content with that?

Ms Barlow: Obviously, I am not. This is why there would be several different forms of biometric identification data on each ID card.

Stewart Hosie : Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Barlow: I would like to make some progress.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) said, it will be necessary to move towards compulsion in the broader interests of national and personal security. ID cards will be a vital tool in fighting organised crime. At the moment, the Home Office identity fraud steering committee says that the cost to the UK economy of identity fraud is £1.7 billion. Given the greater ease of foreign travel—in which Members on both sides of the House are interested—identity fraud is not only becoming more prevalent; it is allowing fraud crimes of increased enormity to take place.

Mr. Ellwood : Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Barlow: I want to make some progress. Many other Members are eager to speak.

I know from my constituency surgeries of the incredible pain and difficulty that identity fraud can create.

Lynne Jones : Is my hon. Friend aware that £62.8 million of the cost of identity theft is estimated to
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be the cost to the UK Passport Service of measures to counter such fraud? Obviously, that is much less than the cost of implementing this scheme. Moreover, the estimate of credit card payment fraud submitted by the Association for Payment Clearing Services is about a tenth of the Government's figure. A growing problem is "customer not present" fraud, which identity cards will not deal with at all

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. May I again remind Members of the amendment that we are discussing?

Ms Barlow: Without such a secure compulsory system, the £1.7 billion figure, which is expected to grow, will be set to rise every year. That is why figures such as those given by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones), which I have no reason to question, are irrelevant in the longer term.

Stewart Hosie : How can a compulsory identity card—given that biometric information is held centrally and locked in the card, and in a person's face, eyes and fingerprint—possibly deal with fraud involving a card transaction when the person is not present and neither he nor the card can be checked by a scanner?

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind Members once again of the amendment that is under discussion.

Ms Barlow: The hon. Gentleman obviously was not present for the Second Reading debate, when all that was explained.

While we all value our civil liberties, protection from criminals should be seen as a right—a compulsory right that our Government should be expected to protect. When identities are stolen, our privacy is stolen. When identities are stolen, our financial safety and security are under threat. ID cards—and compulsory ID cards—will protect our ability to live as free individuals in society, without fear of terrorism or financial crime. That is why I am glad that the Government have accepted the Lords amendments to remove the clauses on compulsion by means of the super-affirmative resolution procedure. However, I support the Government amendment to revise the definition of compulsion so that it refers to future primary legislation.

Mr. Cash: I want to make only a few simple comments.

I strongly object to the amendments, not because they take away two clauses—like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier), I can understand that—but because I do not welcome the Government's adoption of a de minimis approach. As I explained to the Minister, who is not present at the moment, the amendments make absolutely no difference to the principles involved. For practical purposes, this is just an exercise in tactical retreat. There is no difference between what is being said now and what was said on Second Reading, when my Front-Bench colleagues produced what could be described as the excruciating sound of reverse gears. I am glad, because there were issues of principle, but in this context my point about the Government is much more important.
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The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that he is accusing his Front Bench of flip-flopping and flip-flopping on the issue?

Mr. Cash: I would not put it in such gentle terms. I would simply say that I am delighted that my Front-Bench colleagues have taken the view that they have, and have resolutely stuck by it throughout the Committee stage and subsequently—unlike the Minister, who has come to water extremely slowly and reluctantly. The fact is that this is a political exercise—[Interruption.] I am glad that the Home Secretary sees the joke; the truth is that this is nothing more nor less than a tactical retreat.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that if anybody is guilty of flip-flopping, it is Her Majesty's Government, who have flip-flopped over their reasons for introducing this Bill?

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