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Lord Pendry: I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I was not suggesting banning, rather working within the code of conduct. Those who breached that code of conduct could then be banned. I said at the end of my speech that I would reflect on what the Minister would say. I hope that we can, if necessary, take the matter a step further on Report. I certainly take on board what the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and the Minister said. It is worthy of reflection. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 67 and 68 not moved.]

Lord Davies of Oldham: This may be a convenient moment for the Committee to adjourn until Wednesday 15 February at 3.45 pm.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Hooper): The Committee stands adjourned until Wednesday 15 February at 3.45 pm.

Written Statements

Thursday 2 February 2006


 
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Gypsies and Travellers

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Baroness Andrews): My honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am announcing today new guidance on enforcement and planning for site provision to address the problem of Gypsy and Traveller sites in inappropriate locations. This guidance sets out to address the shortage of authorised sites and strengthen enforcement against the problem sites that can cause real distress for local communities.

The Government are also developing new measures to strengthen planning enforcement. This includes examining ways to strengthen temporary stop notices, where alternative sites are available, and establishing a new task group on enforcement involving the police and local government.

Three-quarters of Gypsy and Traveller caravans are on authorised sites. But there are too many problem sites which can cause real distress for local communities. That is why we need stronger enforcement alongside more action from local authorities to identify alternative sites. Stronger enforcement and more alternative sites go hand in hand if we are to find a long-term solution to the problems some communities face.

The Government are setting up a new task group, drawing together central and local government, the police and other agencies to address the wide variations in the use of enforcement powers and champion best practice. The task group will examine the difficulties some local agencies face in effective enforcement.

The Government will also consult the group on proposals to strengthen temporary stop notices where alternative sites are available. The group will act as expert advisers to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and the Home Office on further measures to strengthen enforcement, where there is alternative site provision.

The new circular we are publishing today, Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites, provides that local authorities will need to identify appropriate land for Gypsy and Traveller sites through the planning system, to deal with the growing shortage of sites and prevent unauthorised sites in problem locations.

There has been a growing shortage of authorised sites since the duty on local authorities was repealed in 1994. Local authorities will have to assess the need for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation in their area. Guidance on carrying out accommodation assessments is also published today.
 
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Also published today is new ODPM/Home Office guidance for local councillors on enforcement against unauthorised encampments—where Gypsies and Travellers camp on land they do not own. This is the first in a new series aimed at addressing the wide variations in the use of powers by local authorities and police forces across England and enabling councillors to hold local agencies to account.

Further guidance will be published later this year covering enforcement against unauthorised developments—where Gypsies and Travellers develop their own land without planning permission—as well as antisocial behaviour such as verbal abuse and late night noise and environmental problems such as fly-tipping. Together, they will give police and local authorities clear instructions on how to use the range of powers available to them.

Copies of these documents will be available to download from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's website (www.odpm.gsi.gov.uk/gypsysites) and will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Identity Fraud

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today I am announcing an updated estimate of the cost of identity fraud to the UK economy. In 2002, the Cabinet Office undertook a study into the nature and extent of identity fraud and estimated that the total cost of identity fraud to the UK was £1.3 billion. It has, until now, been the most recent and current research on the problem. In the absence of consistent recording practices across the wide range of organisations affected by identity fraud, the Cabinet Office study had to make use of information which in some cases had been collected for different purposes but was nevertheless the best that could be obtained in the circumstances.

The Home Office Identity Fraud Steering Committee (IFSC) has completed a one-off exercise to update the Cabinet Office estimate for the purpose of establishing trends in the cost of identity fraud over the past three years. The new figure has been produced using the same methodology as the 2002 Cabinet Office study, but with more up-to-date figures where these are available. As with the previous study, it represents a best estimate of the scale of the problem.

The latest estimate is that identity fraud costs the UK economy over £1.7 billion. The table, which I have placed in the Library and which will also be published on the IFSC and Home Office websites, sets out a detailed breakdown of the component parts of the new figure. Because of the limitations of the method used previously to estimate the cost of identity fraud, the IFSC has agreed and implemented a new method to gather data on a more consistent basis to produce future estimates. We hope to have results from these new arrangements by early next year.
 
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Figures from CIFAS, the UK's fraud prevention service, show that there were more than 135,000 incidents of identity fraud in 2005, which is an increase of over 500 per cent since 1999.

The introduction of a secure national identity cards scheme using biometric information will make a step-change in protecting people from identity fraud. By linking a person's identity to biometric data which are unique to that person, a criminal claiming to be another person can be detected. The combination of a secure national identity register and a robust means of verifying identity will be an important safeguard for individuals, public services and the private sector against identity fraud.

Meanwhile, the Government are working actively with partners in the private sector and law enforcement to combat the growing threat of identity fraud. The Home Office, in collaboration with other government departments and private sector organisations such as the Department for Work and Pensions; HM Revenue and Customs; APACS, the UK payments association; CIFAS and the British Bankers Association set up the IFSC in 2003 to lead a cross-public/private sector work programme to tackle identity theft and identity fraud. The programme co-ordinates existing activity in the public and private sectors and identifies new projects and initiatives to reduce identity crime. Work is ongoing to implement measures against identity fraud that can be put in place in advance of an identity cards scheme.

All police forces in England and Wales have now established single points of contact with their colleagues in the Crown Prosecution Service and other government departments and agencies, including HM Revenue and Customs, to improve the investigation and prosecution of identity crime.

We are raising public awareness of identity fraud and how people can protect themselves from this type of crime. This includes the IFSC identity theft website (www.identitytheft.org.uk) which has had over 170,000 hits, and the identity theft leaflet which I launched last year. Since its launch, the leaflet has been co-branded and distributed by a number of organisations including the National Neighbourhood Watch Association and Barclays.

The Home Office, UK Passport Service (UKPS) and DVLA worked closely with APACS, the Finance and Leasing Association and CIFAS to support its project to produce Identity Fraud—The UK Manual. The manual includes examples of known security features from UK passports and driving licences and provides guidance to financial organisations to help spot forgeries.

UKPS has deployed a database of lost and stolen passports that is being shared with border authorities and police worldwide to help prevent identity fraud. UKPS is also trialling the validation of passports against the passport database when they are presented as evidence of identity when opening bank accounts. This helps to identify forged and lost and stolen passports which are being used fraudulently. In a two-month pilot involving five companies, 71 suspicious
 
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instances of passport use were detected, for example where the details on the passport differed from those held on the database or the passport had been reported lost or stolen.

We changed the law in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to align the penalty associated with fraudulently obtaining a driving licence with that for fraudulently obtaining a passport and made these offences arrestable. The maximum penalty for both documents is now two years' imprisonment. The Identity Cards Bill, which is currently before Parliament, strengthens the law on the possession and use of false identity documents which are often used by criminals to open false bank accounts.


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