Opposition MPs attacked the government last week after it emerged that the Home Office plans to introduce a simplified biometric card for foreign nationals, rather than a fully fledged identity card system, in 2008.
The Home Office is positioning the new card, a biometric residence permit announced as part of the home secretary’s immigration reforms, as the first stage in an incremental introduction of a full ID card programme.
However, officials have conceded that the residence permits will record a simpler range of biometrics than the proposed national ID cards. They will initially operate on a separate database, rather than forming part of the planned national ID cards database.
The Home Office was unable to say when the full ID cards scheme, including the National Identity Register, which will hold biometric records and personal details of the entire UK population, will be rolled out.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg accused the government of a lack of transparency on the programme.
“If these projects are done in separate stages using different parameters for the identity information provider, there is a clear risk you get two parallel projects rather than one paving the way for the other,” he said.
Clegg also criticised the Home Office for delaying publication of the results of its market soundings with suppliers and businesses over the ID card programme, until after parliament’s summer recess.
A Home Office spokesman said, “The process of considering the results and implications of the exercise has taken longer than expected.”
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