Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/06/06/passport_forgery_loophole_fix/

UK passport forgery free-for-all ends tonight

Loophole Office moves to plug the gap that wasn't there

By John Lettice

Posted in Media, 6th June 2006 17:33 GMT

The Home Office has plugged an embarrassing legal loophole while continuing to deny that the loophole ever existed. As of tomorrow (7 June) it will again be illegal to forge a UK passport, or alternatively, if it never stopped being illegal, tomorrow it will stop being illegal and start being illegal again instantaneously.

Perhaps we should go through that again. The Identity Cards Act passed earlier this year apparently (i.e. that's what it says) repealed the section of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 which covered passport forgery. This was spotted by Criminal Law Week (reported here), but denied by the Home Office. Home Office Minister Tony McNulty however today issued a Statutory Instrument to plug the hole that the Home Office claims didn't exist. And spare a thought for Tony before we pass on - the sole survivor of the previous Home Office ministerial regime used to front ID cards in his capacity as Immigration Minister. Busted from that by new boss John Reid, McNulty now does policing - but ID card legislation seems to be following him round the Home Office anyway.

Gleeful No2ID National Coordinator Phil Booth points us to a Home Office circular to Chief Police Officers which determinedly claims that the offences it's repealing now "have not already been repealed."

Somewhat tediously - but we're feeling completist, so we'll indulge him - Booth points out that Section 44 of the Identity Cards Act 2006 clearly states that it repeals Section 5, subsection (5)(f) and (fa) and subsections (9) to (11) of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981. "All other sections, bar this one and sections 36 and 38 - which came into force two months after the passing of the Act - are subject to order, i.e. a Statutory Instrument will need to be issued. UKIPS [the Identity and Passport Service] clearly can't read its own legislation" (more information at No2ID).

The Home Office alibi for doing it now while denying there had been a loophole to plug, incidentally, is contained in the circular. Briefly, the new batch of offences covers a wider range of forged and fraudulent documents, and these are therefore much better than the old offences they're repealing now, but haven't repealed already. Honest.

We note that the Telegraph report (link above) refers to the adjournment of a forged passport case because of the notaloophole. Should judges obstinately refuse to accept that a three month absence of illegality never existed, we will no doubt be hearing about it soon.

Your loopholes tonight: Yesterday, DWP Under-Secretary James Plaskitt announced that from July a "right to work" condition will be added for National Insurance number allocation. So anyone applying for a number in association with employment will be refused one if they do not have the right to work here. This plugs what the Government thinks is a loophole, but we don't. It does not however address the problem of what you do about people who're in work, while IND figures out whether or not they have the right to work in the first place. Announce that, James... ®