The Government takes the problem of identity fraud very seriously. There is no single offence of identity fraud. On 7 June 2006 we brought into force sections 25 and 26 of the Identity Cards Act 2006 which created new criminal offences of being in possession or control of false identity documents. These offences relate to a wide range of identity documents, including passports, driving licences, ID cards and immigration documents. The maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment for an offence of possession with intent to use the document for establishing registrable facts about another person, such as name, address, date of birth and other personal details, and two years imprisonment for possession without reasonable excuse. Investigation of offences under these provisions are already underway and statistics on the number of prosecutions and convictions will be published in due course.
There is also a range of other criminal offences to combat identity fraud. These include, for example, the offences in the Theft Acts of 1968 and 1978 of obtaining property by deception (property includes money), obtaining services by deception and obtaining a money transfer by deception. The number of these offences that were committed using a false or stolen identity is not recorded centrally. However, identity theft and identity fraud questions were incorporated into the British Crime Survey in 2005 and the results should give us more information on the number of victims and the types of fraud that are being committed.
There is a wide range of activity within the Home Office, Identity and Passport Service, other government departments, law enforcement agencies and the private sector to tackle identity fraud. This includes our plans for identity cards and the improvements we continue to make to the security of the UK Passport which are now issued with a digital facial image.
The Home Office established the Identity Fraud Steering Committee (IFSC) in 2003 to work with public and private sector organisations, to identify and implement cost-effective measures to counter identity fraud, and to co-ordinate the activity in this area.
In addition to all the above, in the current financial year, a budget of £200,000 has been specifically allocated within the Identity and Passport Service to fund identity fraud reduction activity, such as our campaign to raise awareness among the public of how they can protect themselves against identity fraud and what to do if they become a victim. Funding for future years has yet to be allocated.