Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

A card-carrying welcome to EU

The Sunday Times - October 19th 2003

Compulsory identity cards should have happened long ago (News, last week) to strengthen our fight against crime, social security fraud, electoral fraud and illegal immigration -Britain's popularity as a destination partly reflects weak internal controls. And the police claim on-the-spot fining is not working through false identification.

We are obliged to admit all European Union citizens on the strength of their national ID cards, but it will be impossible to maintain security in this system unless all member states harmonise these documents. How else could our police verify the genuineness of 20 different EU ID cards from next May after enlargement? Foolishly, the government is lifting immigration controls on the 10 new states, unlike Germany, which is imposing a seven-year delay.

I grew up and now live in countries where such ID cards are compulsory. I have never been asked to produce my Belgian card inappropriately. Nor have I heard of any persons or political parties in the EU complaining that such cards infringe personal liberty.

We introduced photo driving licences without fuss and I believe the law abiding citizen has all to gain from ID cards.

However, let us make them cheap or free for low-income groups. How about a tax discount for all citizens who file online with their new ID number so that we can tackle bogus National Insurance numbers at the same time?

Dr Charles Tannock MEP (London region)
Conservative foreign affairs spokesman in the European Parliament