» Tuesday, June 28, 2005

ID Cards

Put to him that the Prime Minister had said that we had to have ID cards in order to meet US requirements, yet the head of the Passports Service said that wasn’t the case because we were already going to do that, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that it was wrong to focus exclusively on the US. This issue wasn’t focussed exclusively on the US. As he had said yesterday afternoon, at various degrees we already had European countries going down the road of using biometrics. We had never pretended that in terms of identity cards that the legislation was purely necessary for passports. What we had said, and we had addressed this in relation to cost, was that in terms of ID cards, the vast bulk of the cost was taken up by the costs associated with passports, not with ID cards. The Prime Minister delineated yesterday how much of that cost would be born by the ID element alone. It was wrong to characterise this as purely in response the US, it was an international trend and it was a trend that was developing all the time. Asked which countries were demanding that we had biometric data, the PMOS said that, as we said yesterday afternoon, countries as diverse as Italy, Spain and Belgium, were amongst those, and there were others as well, who were going down the fingerprint road. Put to him that we wouldn’t have to show our passports in those countries, the PMOS said that was increasingly becoming the EU standard, that was the important thing. The international trend was going in that direction.

Asked about the claims that the passport office would have to do 4.5 million interviews a year. The PMOS said that the passport office had made it clear that this would not be a big bang. There would be a gradual roll out, starting from the end of next year, when 600,000 first time adult applicants would be interviewed. In terms of the passport agency, the organisation has come a long way from the well-documented difficulties in 1999. Last year it was one of four nominees (and the only UK organisation nominated) for the prestigious international Carl Bertelsmann award for public sector efficiency, and became the first organisation to win a fifth ‘Charter Mark’. This month UKPS has also taken the top place for the second year running in a customer satisfaction benchmarking exercise, this year beating public and private sectors organisations such as ASDA, Tesco, DVLA, Amazon, and eBay. UKPS processed a record 6 million passport applications in 2004, while delivering continued high levels of customer satisfaction. 99.9% of standard applications had been processed within 10 days. UKPS also beat other targets, with 95% of customers seen within 20 minutes of their appointment time (against a target of 92%) and customer satisfaction rate of 97% (against a target of 93%).

Asked what the prime motivation for biometric ID, the PMOS said that it was a combination of factors. People may find this confusing but reality often was. Whether it was identity fraud or because of the international trend in terms of passports, or because it made it easier deal with to issues such as benefit fraud, identity theft and so there was a combination of technical and identity issues which were pushing us in the same direction. We were not alone in this, if you took an international perspective; the trend was the same in other countries as well.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news


  1. Interesting. There’s no requirement for these biometrics in passports: the ICAO only requires a digitised photograph, no chip, no database. The US-VISIT program insists that we have a chip, but nothing else (and that’s only so that visitors to the US don’t have to get visas). The EU requirements add fingerprints to that, but we have no obligation there, as we’re outside the Schengen treaty.

    Spin, spin, spin.

    Comment by Owen Blacker — 28 Jun 2005 on 11:01 pm | Link
  2. To be fair, the digital photograph in the ICAO passport is described as a "biometric". (Don’t mention the ~50% error rate in doing facial-geometry biometric matching….)

    Comment by Chris Lightfoot — 29 Jun 2005 on 8:12 am | Link
  3. Are the benefits, in terms of savings of taxpayers money, projected to exceed the various projections of the costs? What are these savings and where do they come from?

    It seems to me that I am already tagged and numbered in numerous ways and MI-5 would have no trouble in tracking my car numberplate, discovering where I’ve parked, following my mobile phone movements and webbing-out to all those people in contact with me, reading my mail, watching me on one of the hundreds of thousands of CCTV cameras that litter the place, capture all my communications, invade my computer, view all my financial transactions and tax records, read my medical details, find out my travel, driving and family history and even bug my person and house using my own digital telephone systems – even catching my mobile phone photos – without even leaving their brutalist, ugly offices along the Thames. So what’s new?

    The only benefit to the existing system appears to be the potential speed and high probability that they can correctly identify if I am on one of their naughty boy lists or entitled to some welfare or health freebie – or indeed, entitled to be here at all. Surely most seriously evil people will avoid the dust storm I leave in my wake so they will actually have to stop them by chance to catch them, ID cards or not. Are such benefits and savings so really so massive?

    Have they told us what they think they are going to do down the line when they find a few hundred thousand illegals? Are they seriously going to try and throw them and their children, who may well have been born here, out? Where to? Unlikely we would we stand for such fascist barbarity. More likely, and infinitely preferable, that they give such people amnesty and citizenship in the vast majority of cases. So what’s the point if they have to legitimise most of those they catch? Why not declare an amnesty today and then just beef up the border controls?

    Comment by Mr Pooter — 29 Jun 2005 on 10:06 am | Link
  4. I have been following the ID card proposals – and reading the Bill – since the first mention of ID cards.
    I oppose the ID card scheme because there are 100s of reasons why it can’t work and it will waste OUR money.

    My conclusion is that Tony Blair wants to be remembered in the History books.
    He will be remembered a person who didn’t know what questions to ask before he entered an illegal War looking for WMD that patently didn’t exist and who didn’t know what questions to ask before he started the Identity Tax Riots of 2006.

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 29 Jun 2005 on 12:53 pm | Link
  5. I doubt there will be riots and certainly not in 2006. Before the nay sayers get to stir up trouble the system has to survive the Lords, budgetary tightening, a general election and the inevitable computing and logistical cock-ups and increased costs such a mammoth project is certain to bring. There’s a long time between now and planned compulsion.

    Even if it does get over the hurdles the next step will be to ease people into it. This is easily done by slowly tightening the noose: ID cards required for passports/ then driving licence applications & renewals/ speeding fines/ criminal cases of all kinds eg for asbos, bailees and probation/ then for DHSS/ NHS treatment student loans/ new bank accounts/ share dealing/ land transactions/ mortgages/ government jobs /for access to public buildings etc etc. If they were clever they would tie it in with PIN codes and enable those who wanted to use it in conjunction with web purchases and so forth as a back-stop ID system for credit cards. It would help you prove the forged card payment using your correct security numbers was exactly that.

    They can make it useful and they can make it essential well before they make it compulsory. It will become too inconvenient not to have one.

    Those self-publicists flamboyantly pledging never to apply for one will, in the main, slowly fade away as they realise they cannot, for example, obtain a mortgage without one. At least that’s how they must be hoping it will pan out.

    Comment by Mr Pooter — 29 Jun 2005 on 3:49 pm | Link
  6. We have to have a biometric passport to meet US requirements. That is NOT, as Tony well knows, anything to do with an ID card. There are reasons as to why we might need an ID card most of which have to do with imagined "security" and some of which have to do with CONTROL and that is maybe where Tony and his friends are coming from.
    ID cards remind one of ASBO’s – as with many ideas emanating from people who have never had a real job – they don’t work in reality. Look at the cost of ASBO’s – and 40% are violated. What is happening to the violators? Need we say more? There are no answers when real questions are asked. The King has no clothes and its about time we realised that.

    Comment by Roger — 30 Jun 2005 on 12:46 am | Link

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