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Identity Cards

Volume 459: debated on Monday 30 April 2007

1. When he plans to announce the timetable for the introduction of compulsory identity cards throughout the UK. (134273)

Identity cards can be made compulsory for all United Kingdom residents only after further primary legislation. However, we will start issuing identity cards to British citizens from 2009, alongside compulsory biometric immigration documents to foreign nationals from 2008.

I thank the Under-Secretary for that response. We understand that the cost of the identity card scheme will be more than £5 billion and that, to date, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not given his commitment to the resources necessary to make it compulsory throughout the country. What faith can people have in identity cards or in the Under-Secretary’s timetable when the Treasury could pull the plug on the scheme at the drop of a hat?

The Chancellor, the Treasury and the whole Government support the policy of introducing identity cards and I think that the hon. Gentleman is well aware of that. Perhaps he could tell us why—

Do “foreign nationals” for whom the biometric documents will be issued include citizens of the Irish Republic?

The identity card scheme will apply throughout the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. [Interruption.] It is intended to apply to people of any nationality who are legally resident and aged 16 or over. We were in regular contact with the Irish authorities, including the Irish embassy in London, during the passage of the Identity Cards Act 2006. The principle of the common travel area, which covers the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, will be unaffected.

Will the Under-Secretary explain why the ID card cost report, which was due to be published a month ago, did not appear, even though the Government have a legal obligation to ensure its publication?

The costs will be presented, as we are committed to doing, in the cost report, which will be published shortly, and in the Identity and Passport Service annual accounts for 2006-07. The hon. Gentleman can rest assured that the report will be before him soon.

May I revert to the question that the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) asked? Will citizens of the Irish Republic be among the first tranche of people who have the documents— yes or no? Who else will be in the first tranche?

The introduction of ID cards in Ireland is, as the hon. Gentleman knows, a matter for the Irish Government.