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24 May, 2005

By the back door, or: we've been ****ed

NØ2IDI'm not sure how I missed this last month, but it seems one of my major objections to the ID Cards bill has already been sneaked through without Parliamentary authority having even been sought.

From 2006, new adult applicants for UK passports will no longer be able to apply by post. Instead, each will have to attend a personal interview at a passport office (the current network of seven is being expanded by an order of magnitude) where he/she will also be fingerprinted. This will affect 600,000 people per year initially, but will soon be extended to those renewing passports; that's 5 million p.a.

Hence, a national fingerprints database will rapidly accumulate, to which it has been confirmed the police (and who else?) will have routine access, comparing fingerprints found at the scene of a crime against the new database without further, specific authority.

£415m is being invested in the passport service to introduce these new 'biometric passports' – which (coincidentally, of course) will make the implementation of ID cards themselves look cheaper.

[Update 25/06/05: Yep. The Prime Minister has said that "70% of the cost (of card implementation) would be spent on new biometric passports whether or not ID cards were introduced." Translation: 'we're spending the money anyway, so we might as well slip the cards in too'. That's not a reason for cards, it's an argument against including fingerprinting in the passport application process at all i.e. don't spend the money!]

This is all merely proposed, right? Objections can be raised before implementation, right?
Wrong. It has already happened. It seems that due to the intricacies of the UK system, passports are issued under the royal prerogative rather than legislation. Proper debate and Parliamentary assent are not required.

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