Passport fee rise linked to ID cards

The cost of new UK passports is set to double to take into account the cost of compulsory biometric ID cards

The UK's biometric ID card scheme will cost the government £500m a year by 2008, leading to the price of new passports more than doubling to £85.

The home secretary, David Blunkett, revealed the costings for the controversial scheme to MPs at a Home Affairs Select Committee hearing yesterday.

The proposed cost of the standalone biometric ID card will actually drop to £15 but the cost of the separate passport will increase to £70 from its current fee of £42.

From 2007 everyone applying for a new or renewal passport will pay the higher total fee of £85 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 scheme, which includes a National Identity Register database of citizens' details, is predicted to be as much as £3bn, according to the Home Office.

Following Blunkett's response last week to criticisms of the scheme 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 US, consultant BearingPoint has been chosen to work on a new electronic US passport.

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

The project, which is being run by the Government Printing Office (GPO), will make US passports compliant with International Civil Aviation Organisation standards for biometric machine-readable travel entry documents.