Tories and Lib Dems to abandon NIR?

biometric blunders

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Both the Lib Dems and Tories have been making promising noises regarding the National Identity Register (NIR).The Register has an interesting discussion on some aspects of the NIR/ID/passport debate relating to the three main parties and also how confusing the subject is and that's not just for the politicians!

The passports we have containing a chip are called 'biometric' passports even though they do not contain any biometric data other than a photo. Under ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) rules, the passports we have at present are satisfactory. Also, as we have an opt out from EU asylum and immigration rules, we can manage as we are. Hence we need to have clear information from both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives as to their intentions regarding the passport database.

According to Labour, most of the cost of the ID scheme is accounted for by the switchover to biometric passports, and a National Identity Register-type database will need to be retained in order to store the personal data necessary to operate biometric passports. The addition of fingerprints, says Labour, is necessary in order to fulfil our international obligations. But this would appear not to be true.

Chris Grayling has expressed the intention to collect the minimum of data necessary for a passport application, and would appear to be retaining the option to back out of collecting fingerprints.Mr Grayling said: "Clearly, data collection will be necessary for biometric passports" and The Register interprets for us that when Grayling says "the biometric passport option" he actually means the revision 2 biometric passport with the addition of fingerprint biometrics. He hasn't got properly on top of what a biometric passport is, but that's the case with most MPs (and me!)
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In March, a LibDem position paper said "The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) only requires that passports are machine readable and contain a facial image. Liberal Democrats would... adhere to the ICAO standards." Now Chris Huhne seems to be talking about fingerprints in passports but not on a database.

Nonetheless, at least both the Tories and Lib Dems are talking about scrapping the NIR and appear to be strongly against data sharing. So it's hurrah for the time being.

Meanwhile our increasingly irrelevant Parliament approved fines of up to £1,000 for those who fail to tell the passport and identity service of changes in their personal details including address, name, nationality and gender.