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The end of Freedom and Liberty in the UK


Andy @ Allerton
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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article3494185.ece

 

Jenny Booth, RIchard Ford and agencies

 

Foreign nationals will be required to obtain national identity cards by providing their biometric details from this year, the Home Secretary has confirmed.

 

From next year the scheme will extend to British people working in high-risk areas such as airports, said Jacqui Smith, who is today unveiling the first details of the timetable for the identity card.

 

From 2010, students and young people will be encouraged to provide their details voluntarily, she told BBC Breakfast, and from 2011 onwards, anyone applying for a passport will be added to the national identity register.

 

“Increasingly, we need to be able to prove our identity in a whole range of ways: when we’re travelling, when we’re opening a bank account or accessing government services," said Ms Smith.

 

“We’re all better protected if we can be confident that other people are who they say they are.”

 

The controversial ID scheme will eventually see everyone’s personal details stored on a plastic card with a microchip and will cost £5.6 billion over 10 years, according to Government estimates.

 

Whitehall officials fear that rolling out cards when people renew their ten year passports will be slow, as many people will not be automatically provided with an identity card until 2021 when their travel document expires. So people will be able to apply for a stand alone identity card without seeking a passport, under a plan which the Government hopes will lead to a speedier take up of the cards. The card will be valid for travel within the EU.

 

Whitehall officials believe that there is a large market for a stand alone identity card - which would be cheaper than paying for a card and passport, but would have the similar effect of getting people’s biometrics onto the national identity register.

 

Ministers believe this will speed up the issuing of the identity document to British citizens as people will apply before their passport expires.

 

Meanwhile, foreign nationals living in Britain who boycott the introduction of the biometric identity card later this year could face losing their right to stay under the Government’s plans.

 

A Home Office consultation paper published last month revealed that those who refuse to make or turn up to an appointment to scan their fingerprints and facial image will face a £250 fine, rising to £1,000 for persistent refusal. Those who fail to tell police if they lose their ID card will face a fine of £125.

 

Ms Smith will publish further details on the next steps of the ID card roll-out at leading think-tank Demos in central London later today.

It will include how the Home Office will begin the roll-out for foreigners who come from countries where there is the most widespread abuse of the immigration system.

 

The ID project has already been damaged by a series of scandals over the way Government departments have lost personal information, including the list of 25 million child benefit claimants mislaid by HM Revenue and Customs at the end of last year.

 

Asked this morning about the risk of losing the information, Ms Smith said: “One of the reasons why we worry about our details being lost, whoever it’s by, is because at the moment if somebody has what we call your biographical details - your name, your address, your date of birth - actually they can quite easily go and open a bank account in your name, or commit a crime using your identity.

 

“The fact that the national identity scheme links not just your details, but links it - incidentally on a separate database - to biometric information about you, to your fingerprints, means that it is much more difficult, even if someone does get hold of details about you, for them to use it to commit fraud or commit a crime.”

 

The Tories have criticised any move to require up to 100,000 British airport staff to apply for compulsory national ID cards, saying it would breach former Home Secretary Charles Clarke’s promise not to make ID cards compulsory without a vote by MPs.

 

The cards are expected to be compulsory for “airside” workers, such as airline staff, baggage handlers and workers in duty-free shops, bars and cafes.

 

Amid suggestions that people could have ID cards without having to hold the actual card, shadow home secretary David Davis said: “The Government may have removed the highly visible element but they have still left the dangerous core of this project.

 

“The National Identity Register, which will contain dozens of personal details of every adult in this country in one place, will be a severe threat to our security and a real target for criminals, hackers and terrorists. This is before you take the Government’s legendary inability to handle people’s data securely into account.

 

“Serial scandals of loss of data have destroyed people’s belief in this white elephant, while major commercial companies clearly have no confidence in the project. Jacqui Smith should ditch the bluster and own up to the reality that this project is as far away from fruition as it has ever been.”

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