Immigration minister Liam Byrne has taken the wraps off the long-predicted (in these parts, at least) plan to hit immigrants in the first wave of ID cards, and to force employers to police the system. David Blunkett first trailed this scheme in November 2004, (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/12/03/business_immigrant_checks/) while an IPPR report last year (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/03/31/ippr_irregular_migration/) recommended hitting immigrants with ID cards by 2008.
Notice the organisation Blunkett was speaking to? There's a coincidence. Liam "Charlie" Byrne (the Home Office's very own round-headed kid), trailing the proposed Borders Bill on Radio 4's Today programme, essentially followed the script of Blunkett's 2004 IPPR speech. There have for some years now been legal provisions for heavy penalties for companies hiring illegal immigrants, and it is the employer's responsibility to ensure that employees have the right to work in the UK. These provisions have however been virtually unenforceable, because of the number of different documents which can be used to 'prove' right to work, and the relative ease with which these can be forged. Byrne this morning told us that there were currently over 60 documents which could be used, and that biometric ID cards for immigrants would provide employers with "a fail-safe, easy method to check whether someone is here legally."