A majority of people responding so far to a government consultation paper on entitlement cards and identity fraud favour the introduction of some form of identity or benefits entitlement card, Home Office minister Lord Falconer told peers.
So far more than 1,500 people had responded to the consultation, which was launched in July and will end on 31 January next year.
He was replying to Conservative Baronees Sharples, who said there was increasing fraud in every aspect of British life. especially disturbing was the fact that illegal immigrants have been using the identities of 1,000 dead babies to gain entry to the UK.
The minister agreed, saying an entitlement card would be useful in dealing with identity fraud and in reducing illegal working - not a complete answer but, depending on the scheme, it could help.
The consultation paper refers to a period of three years to bring forward proposals, and a subsequent period of up to seven years to introduce the appropriate technology, issue everyone with a card and introduce schemes to enable government departments and others to deal with the matter.
Lord Falconer acknowledged there were real benefits in civil liberties terms in introducing an entitlement card, but other civil libertarians took a different view.
He added: 'It is worth pointing out that the consultation document makes it clear that we are not considering a scheme that will require compulsory carrying of the card. All that we are talking about is a universal entitlement card for which people should perhaps register. We believe that the ability to prove one's identity easily without being compelled to carry a card has real benefits in terms of establishing one's position, sometimes against the state. That is a real benefit'.
Hansard 2 dec 2002: Column 957 - 960