Entitlement Cards, Home Office minister, Lord Falconer, said today at the
Privacy International Conference.
in favour of the Entitlement Card scheme on which a UK-wide public
consultation was launched in July.
Reaction to iris photographing as a measure to establish identity
more securely was very positive - 81 per cent of 450 volunteers who
experienced the technology in a trial would be in favour of its use.
Also, 64 per cent of the volunteers said that they were in favour of
a scheme where everyone had to have a card as a matter of course to
access government services.
The Entitlement Card consultation document proposes a card scheme
that would help combat illegal immigration, deliver public services
more effectively by making access more convenient, and would also
help to tackle the growing problem of identity fraud which is often
linked to organised crime.
The government wants to provide better access to services without
invading personal privacy and has already said that a large
government database is not on the table.
Lord Falconer said:
'We are in the middle of a UK-wide consultation, working with
stakeholders and getting the important issues around entitlement
cards debated in a number of ways.
'The response that is emerging from the first half of the
consultation and our work with stakeholders so far is very
encouraging. It is clear that the majority of people who have
contacted us to date do see a role for an Entitlement Card in helping
them both to access services more easily and establish their identity
more securely with the additional security measures available like
the use of iris photographing technology.
'People do have concerns about the growing problem of identity fraud,
which costs the taxpayer£1.3 billion every year, and tackling
illegal working and combating illegal immigration. The proposals for
an entitlement card, universally held by lawful UK residents, are
designed to address all these problems. In particular it could reduce
'pull factors' to the UK for illegal immigration and working by
giving employers a straightforward way to check eligibility for work.
We are one of only two countries in the European Union who do not
have any sort of identity card system in place and this makes us
'Around 1,500 people and organisations have already sent in their
comments covering a range of issues. It's going to be their views
that help the government reach the right decision on whether to
introduce an Entitlement Cards scheme, the detail of how the scheme
would work and the what sort of role in their lives they would want
this card to play.
'We believe entitlement cards would have a role in guaranteeing and
protecting our identity, but the important thing for the government
at this stage is, would the public find it useful to have a card
which helped to establish their identity more securely and give them
a convenient way of accessing services?
'We can only benefit from continuing to have an open and honest
debate on these issues.
'It is crucial to the government that any proposed entitlement card
scheme would not breach the fundamental privacy and civil liberties
we all benefit from. No agency outside government would have access
to any information unless the card-holders specifically chose to
allow the agency or company access. This would not be a means for
government departments to access each other's information
'The public already has a relationship with government in which they
have consented to give departments information so that they can
access the services to which they are entitled. What we are proposing
is giving people the choice to extend that relationship, if they
think it would make their lives easier.
'From the outset we have made it clear that the privacy of the
individual must be protected. We are suggesting that only the most
limited basic details - name, address, date and place of birth and
sex - should be stored centrally rather than duplicated as they
currently are across the Passport Service, DVLA and other government
departments. There would not be one government database that
contained all information on the population held by all departments.
'One other extra piece of personal information might also be recorded
- some form of biometric data, perhaps a photograph of the person's
iris. This would have two advantages. It could help to link the
person presenting the card to the card itself avoiding problems of
stolen identities. It could also stop people creating multiple false
identities or perhaps stealing another person's.
'There was a call for a type of 'identity card' following the events
of 11 September. However, I would like to reiterate what we said at
the time of the launch of the proposals for an Entitlement Card
Scheme in July, that these proposals are not a knee-jerk reaction in
the wake of terrorism.'
The consultation, which runs until 31 January, aims to assess whether
the public would find an entitlement card helpful in accessing
services, and would be effective in tackling illegal immigration. The
paper sets out practical options for an entitlement card, including
using existing photocard driving licences and UK passports to avoid
duplication of existing documents, and providing an 'entitlement card
only' for those who do not have a passport or a driving licence.
The government has ruled out the option of a card which would be
compulsory to carry, or any changes to police powers.
Other potential uses of an entitlement card detailed in the
consultation document are: a convenient travel card to use in Europe;
a proof of age card; a card to promote new ways of voting; and
The government wants the debate on the issues raised by this
consultation document to be as wide as possible and would like to see
as many responses as possible.There are many questions and issues
that the government would like comment on including:
'What services people would find most useful to link to a card and
which service providers in the public and private sectors would wish
to use a card scheme'.
The consultation period finishes on 31 January 2003. Comments should
be sent to:
Entitlement Cards Unit,
50, Queen Anne's Gate,
Or they can be sent via email to:
Full copies of Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud are available at
Photographing a person's iris and storing the picture on a card in a
microchip is one of the 'biometric' options proposed in the
government's consultation paper Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud.
The latest iris photographing technology has been available to the
public to experience in a Passport Office and a Post Office in
London. 450 people opted to try the technology and filled in
questionnaires about the experience.
The iris photographing 'demonstrator' is currently in the Passport
Office in Milton Street, Glasgow for two weeks.