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Volume 471: debated on Wednesday 30 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps his Department is taking to protect the public from identity fraud. (181262)

I have been asked to reply.

We are involved in a variety of activity to protect the public from identity fraud. A public-private sector work programme, the Identity Fraud Steering Committee, was set up in 2003 to co-ordinate this work. There have been a number of successes. Tougher criminal penalties have been introduced for driving licence and passport offences, alongside offences in the Identity Cards Act 2006 to target those who possess and use false identity documents and genuine documents belonging to someone else.

Face to face interviews of first time passport applicants over 16 years old are now taking place in 66 interview offices to verify the identity of individuals, and this is one of a series of measures to improve the prevention and detection of fraudulent passport applications. In addition the Passport Validation Service allows public and private sector organisations to check passports presented as proof of identity against the passport database, realising significant savings in its 18 months of operation.

More powers to share data to combat fraud have been enacted, and most recently the Disclosure of Death Registration Information Scheme was launched on 16 January 2008. We have sought to ensure better co-ordination in prosecuting fraudsters, and have worked extensively to raise public awareness.

Finally, our plans for a national identity scheme will provide people with a highly secure means of protecting their identity and help citizens to prove their identities easily, quickly and with vastly improved security.