Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary 3:31 pm, 28th June 2005

I will give way to a number of Members when I come to the end of this passage, as I have been doing.

In the case of Europe, facial image and fingerprint biometrics, in line with those standards, will be required in passports issued by EU states under Council Regulation 2252/2004. Facial biometrics must be introduced by August 2006, and fingerprint biometrics three years after the technical specification has been agreed. All EU member states will have to introduce the same biometrics into the EU common format residence permits and visas for nationals of non-EU states.

The United States has issued a further deadline for visa waiver programme countries to introduce facial image biometric passports from 26 October 2006. Biometric passports, or e-passports, incorporate an integrated circuit chip capable of storing the biographic information from the data page, and a digitised photograph or other biometrics. Once all those United States requirements are implemented, nationals of those countries not issuing biometric passports will require a visa to visit the United States. The current cost of a United States non-immigrant biometric visa is £100, requiring a personal visit to London or Belfast and currently taking 31 working days to make an appointment for fingerprints to be recorded, and a further three days to issue a visa.


Richard Johnson
Posted on 29 Jun 2005 10:14 pm (Report this annotation)

Why on earth is Europe requiring facial biometrics when they are rather unreliable? Word to the wise, people's faces *change*. They get older, they put weight or lose weight, they grow beards or shave them off, etc, etc.

Joe Bunting
Posted on 30 Jun 2005 10:37 am (Report this annotation)

The facial biometrics required by Europe is simply a copy of the passport photo to be stored on the passport in an electronic form as well as the normal photo which does not really constitute the huge changes to passports which the Minister pretends would be required.

Chris Lightfoot
Posted on 2 Jul 2005 11:42 pm (Report this annotation)

The ICAO passport standard does not really require the storing of biometric information in the sense that an "iris code" or a "facial biometric" are biometric information. What will be stored is simply pictures of the face (and optionally the eyes and the fingerprints).

The reason for this is that there are no common standards for the biometric data and therefore the base images from which the various formats of biometric information can be derived must be supplied at each point where a biometric check might take place, which means storing them in a chip on the passport.

This has the slightly unhappy consequence that there will be enough information in the passport to forge the holder's biometrics (for instance by printing an iris pattern onto a contact lens, or whatever). The chip on the passport will be readable by radio from some tens of meters distance.

Ralph Marchant
Posted on 9 Sep 2005 7:54 pm (Report this annotation)

I don't know about anyone else but I for one think that the Americans are bullying smaller nations into changing national policy by enforcing their daft visa policy. If ever there was another good reason for resisting this ludicrous act it's to show that we won't stand for this show of cultural imperialism at its worst! Let the US shoot their own tourism industry in the foot.