» Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Biometric Seminar

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) began the briefing by saying a few words about the biometric seminar that the Prime Minister would be hosting this afternoon.

The Prime Minister would set out plans for:

  • Raising the marriage entry age from 18 to 21.
  • Sponsored family visits, whereby a family would sponsor their visitor and face sanctions where the visitor overstays.
  • All foreign visitors, except EU, to give a biometric details before they arrive at UK shores, which would mean amongst other things fingerprint machines at ports as in the US.
  • A review of all visa regimes.
  • Time limited Olympics visas for that period.

The PMOS then gave Lobby a quote from the Prime Minister:

"The ease of modern travel means many more people can visit countries like Britain to work, study, meet relatives and friends, or for a holiday. Such visitors bring huge benefits to a society, but mass travel also brings new risks. It makes it more important than ever that we know with confidence who is entering our country. That is why biometric technology is integral to securing our borders so identities can be checked and fixed before people leave for Britain. We have to think beyond the idea of national borders as a line on a map; even guards every 50 yards around our borders would not tackle false identities. Once people are here ID cards are the only way of tracking them inside the UK. Biometric visas root out ID abuse before people arrive at our shores and ID cards for nationals prevent illegal working and ensure people only access services and jobs if they are entitled to do so."

Asked when these measures would come into force, the PMOS replied that in terms of the foreign visitors having to give biometric details before they arrived at UK shores, this would be fully enforced by 2011. The Home Office would have details of the other measures. Asked if these were measures that had already been announced, the PMOS replied that he was not aware that they had been announced before.

Asked what the sanctions there would be for a family sponsoring a visitor who overstayed, the PMOS replied that the journalist should check the details with the Home Office, but his understanding was that the sanctions would include fines and so on.

Put that when the US introduced stricter controls such as these, they noticed a drop in tourism, and would these measures lead to a similar effect, the PMOS replied that the precise point about this was not to discourage travel, but to recognise that travel was an inevitable and welcome part of a global world. But it did have to be regulated in a way that safeguarded everybody’s interests. You could recognise that a modern world means more travel, but a modern world also gave you the technology to regulate that travel in a way that firstly meant people did not have to stand in long queues, but also meant that we had a certain protection over identity. So it worked both for the citizen and the country.

Asked if proposals to take biometric details before people left for the UK would be linked to the current visa regime, and would be done by British Consulates, Embassies and High Commissions, the PMOS replied that the technology was being developed around the world, and yes, part of the visa regime review would be about this as well.

Asking if the raising of the marriage entry age followed on from the abolition of the Primary Purpose rule, and was this an admission that the Primary Purpose abolition was a mistake, the PMOS replied this was a recognition of looking at the figures, looking to see where there were problems, and working out the best way to deal with them.

Asked how many other European countries were planning to introduce biometrics, the PMOS replied that he thought that around 60 countries overall, not just in Europe, were introducing biometrics in some form or other. The trend was very definitely towards biometrics.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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