Thursday, September 25, 2008
Jacqui Smith today admitted that it will be impossible to include fingerprints of some people on the Government’s ID cards.
The revelation will raise new doubts about the effectiveness of the scheme.
But the Home Secretary claimed such difficulties were ‘wholly exceptional’ and said efforts to obtain alternative biometric data were under way.
Her admission, however, is likely to be seized on by opponents as further evidence that the £4.7billion ID card scheme will be unworkable as well as unnecessarily expensive.
The Home Secretary’s comments came at a Westminster news conference as she unveiled a first identity card for foreign nationals.
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It is blue and pink, the size of a credit card, and carries the royal crest and four flowers representing the nations of the UK: the rose, the thistle, the daffodil and the shamrock.
The card is due to be released in November for all foreign students from outside the European Economic area – the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – and to migrants seeking marriage visas.
The card is then due to be rolled out to all foreign nationals who visit from outside the European Economic area for more than six months by 2011.
Ms Smith said it would improve national security and help combat fraud and illegal immigration.
She said: ‘Many people want securely and quickly to be able to prove their identity and want to be able to check people are who they say they are.’
She denied that problems with obtaining fingerprints from a minority of people – such as the elderly or those with missing fingers – would undermine the scheme but admitted that the Government was still working to find a solution to such difficulties.
‘It is so exceptional that it will not undermine the fundamental nature of the scheme,’ she said.