U.K. passport agency begins trial on biometric IDs

The U.K. Passport Service (UKPS) on Monday launched its six month trial of biometric technology involving 10,000 volunteers, the same day that the U.K. government introduced its draft bill for potentially compulsory biometric identity cards and a central database of all of its citizens.

As proposed by U.K. Secretary of State for the Home Department David Blunkett last November, ID cards will carry biometric identifiers in an embedded chip, which is then linked to a “secure national database” called the National Identity Register.

The draft bill introduced Monday will be followed by a period of consultation, where the public and politicians can voice their concerns or support of the proposal. The finalized bill will be introduced to Parliament sometime in the last three months of the year and will most likely become law before the next general election, which is expected to take place in the second quarter of 2005, Blunkett said.

The database would be created by 2010, and by 2013 ministers would decide if the ID cards would become compulsory for everyone through the use of biometric passports or driving licences. Though citizens would have to own and pay for the ID card, they most likely would not be forced to carry it with them at all times, Blunkett said.

Blunkett has repeatedly hailed the biometric ID cards as a powerful weapon in the government’s fight against identity fraud, illegal workers, illegal immigration, terrorism and for combating the illegal use of the National Health System (NHS) as well as other government entitlement programs.

The draft bill did not include any estimates for the costs of implementing the biometric ID card program, but past official estimates have put it anywhere between

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