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Papers, please
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Here's the text of the letter I just wrote to my MP.

Dear Mr. Wilson,

I am writing to you to express my opposition to current legislation which requires employers to snoop on their employees.

I work for a small, privately-held company. Recently, all employees received a memo from one of the company directors instructing us to submit copies of our passport photo pages in order to prove that we are eligible to work in the UK. As a person who is protective of his identity documents, I queried this new policy with my line manager. Following a meeting with the director, my manager informed me that recent legislation requires all employers to be able to prove that their employees are all eligible to work in this country, and that the company can be audited for compliance at any time, facing severe penalties for non-compliance.

I find this legislation odious for the following reasons:

1/ it is an inversion of the presumption of innocence. Rather than presuming that all workers are legal except in the face of evidence to the contrary, all workers are now presumed illegal unless they prove otherwise, and all employers are presumed lawbreakers unless they audit their entire workforce.

2/ the legislation requires employers, who are private citizens and not government agents, to obtain identity documents from their employees and hold onto them, possibly for several years. This opens up the possibility of identity fraud. I have no reason to suspect that my employer will abuse my personal information, but people who work for less honest employers may not be as fortunate. A brief lapse in a company’s security could be abused by a malicious employee. Although the amount of personal information (signature, place of birth and passport number) available on a passport photo page is small, even a small leak of information is still a leak. Were it not for current legislation, the possibility of this information being accidentally leaked would be zero. As things stand, the possibility, although small, is very real.

3/ it is an attempt to cover for previous failures. It would not be necessary for employees to prove their eligibility to work if other measures (e.g. border control, issuing of National Insurance numbers only to eligible people) were properly implemented. Current legislation is attempting to fix the symptom of those problems instead of fixing the problems themselves. Surveillance is being used to cover up incompetence. Unfortunately for the British public, more surveillance seems to be the government’s default response to most problems these days.

I hope that you will take every opportunity in Parliament to speak out against legislation such as this, and that your party will commit to repealing existing legislation in your next election manifesto.


Stephen Williams.