Atos Origin will provide support to the integration of systems for the new biometric passport database, and for controversial identity cards.

Under a new seven year deal, the services firm will be a subcontractor to IBM, which inked a £265 million (US$429.7 million) contract in April with the Identity and Passport Service. The database will hold fingerprints and facial images.

Atos Origin will focus on integrating systems and providing ongoing support. A value for the deal has not been disclosed.

The systems and hardware used will predominately be from IBM, with some biometric software from specialist Sagem Sécurité. There is a separate £385 million government contract with CSC for an application system for passports and ID cards.

IBM and Atos Origin will work on the fingerprint database for the UK Border Agency’s Immigration and Asylum system, until it is eventually completely replaced by the new biometric passport database.

James Hall, chief executive at the Identity and Passport Service, said: “This contract will provide a secure database for storing facial and fingerprint images for the next generation of biometric passports and will support the delivery of the national identity card.”

But the announcement comes at a time when the future of identity cards remains unclear. A week ago, home secretary Alan Johnson marked a possible U-turn for the government by saying identity cards will no longer be compulsory at any point for UK citizens.

That news came only weeks after the Conservative party contacted suppliers warning them that if it won the next general election it would scrap the scheme.

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