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The first ID cards are here – but no one in the UK can read them

Thousands of ID cards have already been issued to foreign residents in the UK as part of the government’s £4.7 billion scheme, but no one can read the details stored on the

Thousands of foreign residents in the UK were the first people to receive ID cards late last year, as the UK government began to implement its £4.7 billion identity card scheme.

But the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) has admitted that not one police station, border and immigration point or job centre has a machine that can read the cards’ biometric chips.

The revelation is the result of a Freedom of Information request made by the technology site silicon.com. Yesterday, Home Office officials confirmed that there is still no firm timetable for the introduction of card readers.

A government minister has said that it would be up to police forces to decide when to invest in the technology, and that readers would be given to immigration officials over time.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The timetable for the roll out of scanners of biometric chips will be in incremental stages. Scanners capable of reading electronic chips for foreign nationals will be come more readily available as we ramp up the issuing of cards.”

Last November, the first cards were issued to some foreign students and people applying to renew visas issued on the basis of marriage. They were the first compulsory identity cards in Britain since the 1950s.

50,000 cards are expected to be issued to foreign nationals by April. The Home Office estimates that three million foreign nationals will carry a card by 2010.

The red and blue card bears the royal crest plus the shamrock, daffodil, thistle and rose to symbolise the four parts of the United Kingdom.

The card shows various personal details, including the bearer’s picture, name, date of birth, status in the UK and eligibility for work. On the reverse of the card is the bearer’s town and country of birth, gender and whether they have the right to UK state benefits.

The biometric details are the bearer’s two fingerprints. But these fingerprint scans can only be accessed by reading the biometric chip embedded in the cards.

The lack of proper technology to read the data stored in cards means that officials will be forced to continue to use traditional methods to confirm a cardholder’s identity – taking a fresh set of prints and checking them against existing databases.

Opponents of the government’s plans said that it was clear that the ID card scheme had not been thought through and that it was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Once again ministers have shown that the ID card project is absolutely farcical. What is the point of spending billions of pounds on cards that can’t be read in the UK?”

Yesterday, the government defended the scheme. A spokesperson for the UK Border Authority said: “ID cards will help protect against identity fraud, illegal working and immigration, crime and terrorism, and those trying to abuse positions of trust and will make it easier for people to prove they are who they say they are.”

 

 

The first biometric ID cards have now been issued in the UK, but no one has a machine that can read them.

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