UK Liberty

Illegal working, national insurance numbers, foreign nationals

Posted in database state, ID Cards, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on January 18, 2008

This week I wrote about ID cards, biometric immigration documents, and foreign nationals.  The Government is pushing ID cards / biometric immigration documents as a means of preventing illegal immigration and working (see also).

But how complicit in illegal immigration and working has the Government been?  (I’m not suggesting it is a malign conspiracy, rather a matter of incompetence).

This week we heard that there is some confusion (also Telegraph) over whether or not national insurance numbers have been issued to those who shouldn’t have received them.  Apparently over 6000 were issued to illegal immigrants.  Before June 2006, NINO issuers didn’t check the immigration status of applicants (also see the Times).

Don’t worry:

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain (Secretary of State, Wales Office) | Hansard source

… Under Labour today, a national insurance number can never be proof of anyone’s right to work, … I repeat that, under Labour today, the national insurance number on its own cannot be an automatic passport to a job. It is an administrative mechanism whereby we can track people’s contributions to the national insurance system and record their entitlement to pensions and other benefits.

But the number can form part of a defence (756Kb PDF) to a charge of employing an illegal worker.  They also have other uses – as Danny Alexander MP pointed out, they are also necessary for the benefits claims.  And as he said,

If, however, there is still a loophole, a problem, a mistake or incompetence in the system for the allocation of national insurance numbers, there are potential implications for the benefits system that need to be examined.

The same goes for any system that relies upon the proper issuing of the numbers.

My point is that the £5.6+ bn identity cards and National Register scheme is in part a proposal to ‘fix’ problems (eg: illegal immigration and working; benefit fraud) that have occurred as a result of incompetence.

(Bizarrely, according to Mr Alexander, the benefits system prior to 1994 didn’t involve even verifying  NINOs even though it relied on them)

Now, hat-tip to Doctor Wibble for the heads up on the debate this week in the Commons on the issuing of NINOs.

David Davies (Monmouth, Conservative) | Hansard source

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. If the Security Industry Authority and the Home Office, which has been found to be employing illegal cleaners, cannot determine who can and cannot legitimately work in this country, how on earth does he expect a small shopkeeper, a restaurant keeper or a small businessman to do so?

Peter Hain (Secretary of State, Wales Office) | Hansard source

That is exactly why we need compulsory identity cards for foreign nationals, but the hon. Gentleman is opposed to that policy. As I will explain in a moment—clearly he does not understand the situation either—compulsory identity cards will be a crucial weapon in stamping out the illegal working that, in supporting his party’s motion, he professes to be concerned about.

Again, not all foreign nationals (arguably relatively few) would be issued with identity cards under Government proposals.  Furthermore (and once again), if there is a group of people who aren’t obliged to have identity cards (eg UK citizens before new legislation), Johnny Foreigner can just say he’s one of them.  How can the employer establish the facts?

Let’s also address the Ministers who keep pushing the idea that ID cards / biometric immigration documents are a great way of counting people entering and leaving the country (eg).

Why on earth do you need a system that has been proposed (the 50+ pieces of information etc, held on a central database) to count people in and out?  Of course you don’t, you just need a system at the borders that can count and distinguish between individuals.  It doesn’t even need to know or record anything else about the individual – all it needs to record is that on this date a person with this characteristic (a fingerprint, or iris scan for example) entered the country, and on this date a person with the same characteristic left the country.

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  1. […] Top Posts Thought for the dayOn the EU Reform / Lisbon Treaty and a referendumJack Straw on a British Bill of Rights and ResponsibilitiesOpennessIllegal working, national insurance numbers, foreign nationals […]


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