Blunkett targets six million passengers in e-borders pilot

The government is stepping up its drive to introduce biometric ID cards with David Blunkett, the home secretary, using last...

The government is stepping up its drive to introduce biometric ID cards with David Blunkett, the home secretary, using last week's Labour Party conference to announce Project Semaphore.

The £15m trial will mark the first stage in the government's electronic borders programme, which Blunkett said "modernised border control using cutting-edge technology, which will work alongside biometric ID cards from 2008 onwards".

The pilot scheme will electronically log the movements of 6 million targeted air passengers as they enter or leave the UK.

The government is also going ahead with the iris recognition immigration system, which is designed to speed up the admission of "pre-assessed" travellers to the UK. A pilot will be established this year and the system is due to be fully operational next summer.

Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor Vincent Cable criticised the drive towards biometrics. "We really do need to be persuaded that the technology is credible and the economics make sense," he said.

Richard Bacon, Conservative member of the Public Accounts Committee, said, "If you wanted to run a project successfully, you would follow the principles of project management, which is building a good business case before you start spending millions of tax-payers' money."

The announcement came days before the USauthorities began taking fingerprints and photos of all UK citizens entering the US.

In August the Commons home affairs select committee criticised the government's £3.1bn ID card programme as poorly thought-out and lacking clear objectives.

Questions about the business case for the project have yet to be answered, the committee warned.

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