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Smart Card Technology

Home Department written question – answered on 1st May 2002.

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Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Opposition Whip (Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the use of smart card technology in his Department and in the areas for which it is responsible; and what discussions he has had with private companies about the use of smart card technology within his Department.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Parliamentary Secretary (Home office)

holding answer 16 April 2002

The Home Department has a number of areas of business where smart card technology may be relevantly applied. In their work on drafting a consultation paper on entitlement cards and other methods for dealing with identity fraud which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced on 5 February 2002, Hansard, column 872W, my officials have discussed the use of smart card technology with trade associations and some private companies as set out in my answer to Simon Hughes on 1 March 2002, Hansard, column 1587W.

In the Passport Service and the Criminal Records Bureau smart card technology is not currently used, however, the Passport Service is currently investigating the potential use of electronic data storage in passport books and in a card form of the passport issued along side a passport book. The primary aim of this technology would be to improve document security by the addition of a machine readable biometrics templates. Smart card technology would be one option for data storage. Other options are optical memory, 2D bar codes and magnetic strip. The use of smart card (i.e. microcomputer chip) technology would be expensive but would also provide the opportunity to develop other applications, particularly if used on a passport card. These investigations have centred on technology standards and the experience of other Governments and organisations using electronic data storage for biometric templates. There have been no direct discussions about a smart card passport design with private sector companies supplying smart card technology.

In the Immigration and Nationality Directorate smart card technology is being used in the context of the Asylum Fingerprinting System and has been developed by the incumbent supplier of services.

In respect of internal operational business requirements smart card technology is part of proposals currently being made by incumbent Home Office Private Finance Initiative (PFI) suppliers to support security of mobile computing.

Technology decisions in the context of PFI contracts would not involve the Department in direct discussions with smart card suppliers.

The Home Office continues to liaise with the Office of the e-Envoy (OeE) on appropriate opportunities and uses of such technology and will respond to the proceedings and findings of the OeE Smart Card Working Group.

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