ID cards to double U.K. passport fees

Costs tied to the country's controversial biometric ID card plan will cause the price of new passports to soar.
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor
The United Kingdom's biometric ID card plan will cost the government approximately $922 million a year by 2008, causing the price of new passports in the country to more than double.

Home Secretary David Blunkett revealed the cost for the controversial plan at a Home Affairs select committee hearing Tuesday.

The proposed cost of the standalone biometric ID card will actually drop to 15 pounds (US$28), but the cost of the separate passport will increase to 70 pounds (US$129) from its current fee of 42 pounds (US$77).

Starting in 2007, all U.K. citizens applying for a new or renewed passport will pay a higher total fee of 85 pounds and receive a separate compulsory ID card, containing either iris, facial or fingerprint biometric data, in addition to their passport.

The total cost of rolling out the ID card plan, which includes a National Identity Register database of citizens' details, is predicted to be as much as 3 billion pounds (US$5.5 billion), according to the Home Office.

Following Blunkett's response last week to criticisms of the plan by the Home Affairs select committee, the ID card bill is expected to be included in the Queen's speech later this month.

Separately, in the United States, consultant BearingPoint has been chosen to work on a new electronic U.S. passport.

The new passport will contain an embedded chip containing existing data on U.S. passports as well as a digital facial image and "biographic" data.

The project, which is being run by the Government Printing Office, will make U.S. passports compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization standards for biometric machine-readable travel entry documents.

Andy McCue of Silicon.com reported from London.

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