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Identity Cards

Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 6 June 2006

2. Whether the introduction of identity cards in Scotland will differ from that in the rest of the UK. (74953)

The introduction of identity cards is a reserved matter. The procedures for issuing them will be the same in Scotland as in the rest of the United Kingdom.

What discussions has the Minister had with the First Minister and the Scottish Executive about the extent to which the Scottish Executive will have access to the national identity register?

It may help if I explain the constitutional position. Because the legislation involves an issue of identity and nationality, it is an entirely reserved issue, and has been introduced as such. Decisions much further down the line—as and when the cards become compulsory following a further Act of Parliament—on what services can be accessed will be for the House of Commons in respect of reserved matters and for the Scottish Executive in respect of matters that are devolved to them.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the people of Scotland deserve the same level of protection against terrorism and identity fraud as their fellow citizens in England and Wales?

My hon. Friend goes to the heart of the matter. It often amuses me when others seek to represent the people of Scotland as being wholly opposed to identity cards. I have never seen any evidence of that. Identity cards have been introduced because there has been a big increase in identity theft and fraud, because 30 per cent. of terrorist suspects have been using false identities, and because of ongoing problems of illegal immigration. That move will be welcomed in Scotland, as it will be throughout the rest of the United Kingdom.

The Secretary of State’s predecessor told the House on 28 March that most people in Scotland supported identity cards because they would be linked to social security payments in Scotland. Can he confirm that that will be the case?

Any introduction of identity cards, as and when they are made compulsory and as and when it is necessary to use them to gain access to social security benefits, will apply uniformly throughout the United Kingdom, because issues relating to social security payments are reserved.

Will the Minister join me in congratulating our colleagues in the Scottish Executive on doing their bit to resist the creeping Big Brother state by declaring that identity cards will not be required for access to devolved services in Scotland?

It is entirely within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament to make whatever arrangements it sees fit for access to services that the House of Commons has devolved to it. On the issue of identity cards, I note that the hon. Lady did not mention anything to do with terrorism, illegal immigration or fighting crime—which is hardly surprising, coming from a Liberal Democrat.