ID cards unveiled in Queen's Speech

The government is to press ahead with its plans for biometric ID cards and a UK equivalent to the FBI
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor
Legislation for national ID cards and the UK's version of the FBI were the key planks of the Queen's Speech today, which promised "security for all".

Both were widely expected to be included and the government will now press on to push both through Parliament before the next general election. The Queen's Speech is read by the Queen but written by the government and it sets out the legislative agenda for the next session of Parliament.

Speaking in the House of Lords, the Queen said: "My government recognises that we live in a time of global uncertainty with an increased threat from international terrorism and organised crime. Measures to extend opportunity will be accompanied by legislation to increase security for all."

The ID card scheme proposed by the Home Office will see the introduction of a standalone ID card containing biometric information such as iris scans, fingerprints and a facial scan by 2008. The £15 card will be mandatory and will be issued alongside all new and renewal passport applications, the cost of which will also rise to £85.

More significantly, a vast database of UK citizens' data called the National Identity Register will be created to underpin the ID card scheme.

But concern has been raised by technology industry experts about the pace and scale of such a high-profile and costly project as the £3bn ID card scheme, which would become the biggest IT project ever undertaken by the government.

Mark Blowers, senior research director at analyst firm Butler Group, said there are still significant questions about the rejection rates and read accuracy of some biometric technologies.

"There are still a number of issues which have the potential to derail David Blunkett's plans to tackle crime and terrorism," he said in a statement.

In the Queen's Speech the government also formally announced its intention to introduce legislation to establish the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), which has been compared to the FBI. The UK's computer crime squad, the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, will be one of the law enforcement agencies that will play a role in SOCA.

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