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Public support is growing for the government's proposals on...
Public support is growing for the government's proposals on

Entitlement Cards, Home Office minister, Lord Falconer, said today at the

Privacy International Conference.

Indications of the response received so far show a 'two-to-one' split

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

fostering citizenship.


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,

Home Office,

50, Queen Anne's Gate,


SW1 9AT.

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.

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