Identity problem

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The latest in a long line of New Labour home secretaries, Alan Johnson, insists that the £20billion ID cards and national database project is going ahead because new biometric passports will make the idea of identity cards "ubiquitous".

If this is the case, then all the more reason to scrap ID cards and the national database. Let us copy America and Europe and stick with biometric passports only. Why have ID cards and an expensive database as well?

If this is not the case, can someone please explain what on earth Mr Johnson is talking about?

BARRY TIGHE

Hermon Hill

Spawater

It is simply wrong of James Hall, CEO of the Identity and Passport Service, to suggest that the personal information stored on the National Identity Register is equivalent to the data already collected for passports.

The passport database requires only a single name and address at the time of application, together with a copy of the holder's passport photograph.

Schedule 1 of the Identity Cards Act 2006 describes 50 classes of information that may be stored on the ID database. This includes every name by which an applicant has been known, every place of residence, a photograph, signature, fingerprints and "other" biometric information (eg iris scans), national insurance number, driver number, passport and identity card numbers issued by other countries.

Unlike passport applications, anyone enrolling on the ID database will be subjecting themselves to severe financial penalties for failure to keep the authorities notified of any new details.

Furthermore, the ID database will store information of a kind that no government department has ever had access to before, except where the security services have placed suspects under targeted surveillance.

The national identity register's audit trail will record every occasion on which an identity is verified, such as stays in hotels and visits to clinics, providing a detailed profile of every citizen's life.

Constant misrepresentation of the nature of the scheme by ministers and civil servants is to the government's great discredit.

DR GERAINT BEVAN

Glasgow

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