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May I take the right hon. Gentleman back to the issue of the common travel area with the Republic of Ireland? He was not as explicit about that as he might have been If the House votes for the Bill, is not it the case that we are heading towards a scenario in which, in 10 years' time or so, there will be three categories of people in the UK? First, citizens of the UK will have to have the identity card. Secondly, people from outside the UK and the Republic of Ireland will have to have a passport to be in the country legally and in practice at that time it may in cases be a biometric passport. Thirdly, citizens of the Republic of Ireland will be able to enter Northern Ireland or the rest of the United Kingdom, live there and do whatever they like with no document at all. Is not that a major hole in the intended comprehensiveness of the Home Secretary's system, and is not it an anomaly and an unfairness that will be difficult for the British people to accept?
I do not think that it is a major hole. There is no doubt that the Irish Government, the Dail, will look at the issues and decide what they want to do, but it is not necessary for us to say in the House that we shall require Irish citizens coming to the UK to have the same ID card as us. That would not be an appropriate course for us to follow. Equally, as was pointed out
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earlier, we have no obligation whatever to give any data held under our system to any foreign Government. The hon. Gentleman is entitled to say that we should work towards a situation where the joint travel area evolves well in a good working relationship. I agree, and that is what we shall do.
The next stage of my argument relates to the benefits that the ID card will bring, because I do not think that they have yet been clearly set out. First, I shall set out the benefits to every individual who has a card. That builds on the point made about access to services by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones). It will be a benefit to the individual to be able to make clear their identity in financial transactionsfor example, opening bank accounts and in a wide range of other transactionswithout having to produce a series of proxy documentation. In terms of obtaining public documents, I have already mentioned driving licences, passports and Criminal Records Bureau certificates. There is no doubt in my mind that the card will help individuals who need and want those documents.
For the reasons that I set out earlier, to have a card will be of major benefit in terms of international travel, whether for travel to the United States without a visa or more widely elsewhere in the world. Proof of identity in relation to law enforcement is also a benefit to the individual. Access to public services, as decided by those service providers, whether a library or any other form of public service, is another example of such a benefit.
My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Alison Seabeck) raised the issue of identity fraud. She is entirely correct. In 2004, an average of 50,000 people in the UK were victims of impersonation fraud. On average, it takes each victim 60 hours to resolve their case and clear their name. ID cards will make it more difficult to perpetrate identity theft and the high-quality verification service will reduce the time that it takes to deal with the damage. The British Bankers Association has stated that general banking losses due to identity fraud amount to £50 million. Those are substantial issues and show that the card will be of benefit to the individual.
The benefits to society include more effective crime fighting in a wide variety of ways; reducing serious and organised crime, people trafficking, money laundering and drug dealing; and reducing illegal migration and benefit fraud. Some hon. Members have been sceptical about the benefits of the card in dealing with terrorism, but I shall consider as an illustration the widely aired suggestion that ID cards did not stop the terrorist bombings in Madrid.
In fact, ID cards helped the Spanish police to identify who was responsible for the Madrid bombings, because in order to buy a mobile phone in Spain a person has to verify their identity with an ID card. According to the Spanish police, ID cards were a key element in tracking down the bombers. The cards also helped to identify the victims of the bombing so that their families could be informed.
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Of course, Spanish ID cards do not contain the biometrics that we are discussing, so they can be forged more easily than the kind of card that we are describing. Our ID cards will be more successful. It is no coincidence
Jean-Louis Bruguière, France's top counter-terrorism investigatorit was reported in The Times on 1 Juneclaimed that identity cards would help Britain to protect itself from terrorist attacks. The head of Interpol said that in cases of terrorism multiple identities have been used by terrorists. The quantification of the benefits depends on the assumptions that we make and the programme that is established, but they are of the order of at least £0.5 billion a year. It depends on how fast the various benefits come on streamthe Criminal Records Bureau benefits and so onbut in sum, the benefits of this ID card system, first to every individual who has one, and secondly to the society, are real and substantial.
Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate) (Lab): My right hon. Friend has referred to banks and to libraries, and he has referred to the ability of an ID card to prevent acts of international terror, but he has failed to tell the House how. Must every library have a machine that can ensure that the ID card that is presented is accurate? How are these cards to be verified in every single aspect of national life, from banks to libraries, to police stations, to accident and emergency, to hospitals, to doctors' surgeries, and who is going to pay for the machines that can read them?
Mr. Clarke: In each case, it will be a matter for the authority providing a public service to consider whether it is in its interests to have an ID card system. For example, if Camden council decides that it is beneficial to Camden council to have a different form of ID check in its libraries from the system that currently exists to ensure that people do not steal books, it will decide to put in the readers that are necessary. We are not requiring the authorities to do it; no one says that they have to do it. They will make a decision. [Interruption.] I hear a sedentary intervention saying that we are requiring people to carry cards. That is simply untrue, as I have said before, and that is precisely the point about this whole approach. My point, and it is a very serious point when we look at the benefits, is that each organisation will make its own assessment as to whether there is a benefit in having an ID card system.
Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green) (Lab): I am very grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way. When the Leader of the Opposition told The Daily Telegraph last December that he had taken advice from senior police officers and security chiefs regarding the security of British citizens and that he could not disregard that, was he right then, or is he right now to ask my right hon. Friend to disregard it?
To be quite candid, I decided not to go into this type of partisan political point, first because it is obviously alien to my character and is not the kind of thing
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that I would want to do, and secondly because it would be unfair. The hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) made the point earlier that he voted against his party in December 2004 and intends to continue doing so. The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) has reversed his position.
Mr. Clarke: From a sedentary position, the hon. Gentleman makes the position quite clearand the embarrassed smiles of Opposition Members also make it quite clearwhen he says, accurately, that the party is on side now. The right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) has to explain his stewardship of the party over that period, and that really is a matter for him. I will not give in to the temptation that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Steve McCabe) has offered me by suggesting that I deal with the matter in a particular way.
Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): May I bring the Home Secretary back to the benefits to the citizens of this country, particularly some of the most vulnerable? The Disability Rights Commission has said that the Government's own research
If libraries and other public services are going to depend on access to the identity card system, some of the most vulnerable disabled people in society will be among those who will be denied the alleged benefits.
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