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Biometric ID card bill on its way ‘in a month’

David Blunkett said (on April 7) that he was pushing on with plan for an ID card, with a draft bill to hit Parliament within months. The ID cards will contain biometrics and may be in the wallets of UK citizens by 2007 at the earliest. Blunkett told Radio Five Live that the introduction is necessary to give the government better control over immigration and prevent terrorists using multiple identities.

Blunkett, however, acknowledged that getting compulsory ID cards into law wouldn’t be an easy process. “It would be very surprising if there were not misgivings,” he said. A number of high-profile Cabinet colleagues have expressed objections to the scheme, including Home Secretary Jack Straw and Trade and Industry Minister Patricia Hewitt.

He also admitted there were practical issues to be overcome before the cards were made compulsory. Among them, that Parliament could only vote on the issue of making the cards compulsory when 80 per cent of UK citizens carried them anyway and that estimates of how much the introduction would cost the taxpayer differ wildly – from around £1bn to around £3bn.

While biometrics are high on the UK government’s love list, the rest of the Europe is taking a step back from the idea.

The civil liberties wing of the European Parliament has delayed proposals for biometric passports until the tail end of this year, after elections to the parliament have taken place. MEP Ole Sørensen said

The European Parliament is [currently] not in a position to endorse the proposals… We need proper democratic scrutiny of this far-reaching legislation, which in the worst case scenario could represent a step towards systematic registration of EU citizens’ personal data.

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