Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for an offence in respect of specialist printing equipment and related materials; and for connected purposes.
This Bill is an important step in tackling identity crime. Such crime enables criminals at all levels, from opportunistic criminals to those involved in immigration offences, serious organised crime and terrorism, to hide their tracks and evade detection.
Everybody knows someone who has been a victim of identity crime in one form or another, and we are all at risk of becoming victims. Indeed, figures published by the National Fraud Authority last year show that almost a third of UK adults have been a victim of such crime at some point. Of the 4.3 million people who were victims in 2012, 2.7 million actually lost money, with an average of £1,200 lost by each person. For the most vulnerable members of our society the damage caused goes much further than the loss of money. The NFA also estimates that 27% of UK adults have been a victim of such fraud. None of us is immune from this crime; Jeremy Clarkson, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg have all reportedly been victims.
As criminals seek to stay ahead of the game by obtaining the latest specialist technology to make false documents, they rely on members of the specialist printing industry to supply it to them. They obtain it either by tricking suppliers into thinking they will use the equipment for a legitimate purpose or by looking for someone to collude with them. The industry is aware of elements within it that knowingly supply equipment or materials to these criminals, for criminal purposes, believing that they are beyond the reach of the law. The Bill sends the message that they are as bad as the criminals themselves. It closes a very sad gap in the law and will support our police in their work. By supplying this equipment to persons who will use it to commit crime, these elements enable some of the most serious crimes that affect our country and the safety of our people to happen.
The police have numerous recent examples of illegal document factories being uncovered. The documents found include passports, driving licences, birth certificates, immigration documents, European Union identity cards and national insurance number cards—the list goes on. In none of these cases has the police been able to prosecute anyone who has supplied the specialist equipment to the criminals, even when there was evidence that they knew what the equipment would be used for. That is why the Bill is urgently needed. The industry and the Metropolitan Police Service set up Project Genesis in 2007 and identified the need for this new criminal offence. Wider consultation on the proposal with the industry shows that there continues to be strong support for it. The vast majority of the industry is made up of decent, hard-working people who believe that those who knowingly supply equipment to criminals are bringing their industry into disrepute.
The industry mainly consists of small micro-businesses, which can suffer significant losses themselves when they are targeted by fraudsters. Criminals who make false documents often try to dupe businesses into supplying this specialist equipment to them and often pay with stolen credit cards resulting in a loss to the supplier. One company reported losing £10,000 worth of equipment because fraudsters conned it by using what appeared to be genuine credentials. By implementing the measures in the code of conduct agreed by Project Genesis, that business was able to protect itself from becoming the victim of payment fraud again as it was better able to spot suspicious behaviour. The measures include simple indicators such as checking that the delivery address is the same as the address on a company’s website, so that a fraudster is identified if they pretend to represent a legitimate company.
The Bill covers the manufacture of documents that can be used for identity purposes, including passports and immigration documents; travel documents, including driving licences and blue badges; security passes; national insurance number cards; currency; credit cards; and birth, death and marriage certificates. Those are documents that provide the holder with access to various services and benefits across both the public and private sectors. In the wrong hands, false versions of those documents can cause untold damage, including enabling illegal immigrants to merge into our society and fraudulently access public services to which they are not entitled. Crime committed through the use of false documents can have a serious impact on businesses, particularly small businesses, which can seriously impact on the economy. The Bill provides a simple and targeted measure to deal with this serious problem.
The geographical extent of the Bill will be for England and Wales. The Home Office is working with the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland and the Crown dependencies on these measures and has committed to keep them informed of progress. False document factories are a cross-border problem, so the Bill will apply to supply for the purpose of criminal activity occurring in any jurisdiction. If a supplier in England and Wales sells equipment to an identity fraudster knowing that they will use it to manufacture false documents, they will be prosecuted, whether the manufacture itself happens in England, Scotland, France, or even Australia.
The Metropolitan Police Service has examples of raids on false document factories where documents relating to thousands of false identities have been found. But in none of those raids have they been able to prosecute those at the beginning of the chain who supplied the goods to the fraudsters, even though the suppliers knew that those would be used to make false documents.
The Bill will empower the police to deal effectively with those who seek to profit from criminal activity without regard to the consequences of identity crime. I commend the measure to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That Mr David Amess, Mr Brian Binley, Fiona Bruce, Rosie Cooper, Mr Roger Godsiff, Sir Edward Leigh, Dr Julian Lewis, Mr David Nuttall, Sir Bob Russell, Dame Angela Watkinson, Mike Weatherley and Mr Mark Williams present the Bill.
Mr David Amess accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 September, and to be printed (Bill 93).