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03 Aug 07. Invitations to tender to build and run the planned national identity card system are to be published in the next few weeks, the Financial Times has learned, in a move that will provide final confirmation that the controversial scheme is going ahead. The start of the procurement process – expected to lead to contracts worth about £1bn over 10 years – will dash the last faint hopes of opponents that Gordon Brown might drop the project or attempt to gain some of the benefits by having an identity database without the physical card.
But in his Commons statement on security last week, Mr Brown said “the first biometric ID cards will start during 2009”. James Hall, chief executive of the identity and passport service, told the FT: “We hope to be starting the procurement process very shortly.” In a bid to keep costs down and the initial technology relatively simple, the cards will use fingerprints rather than the more complex iris technology as the initial identifier. But with 100,000 frequent-flyer passengers now registered with the iris-reading system at Heathrow, Mr Hall said “if in due course we want to move to a second biometric, iris would be the obvious place to go”. The IPS is continuing to refine its thinking, he said, and is determined to keep the scheme cost-effective. It is planned to use framework contracts that will be able to adapt as new technology comes forward. The first part of the procurement process, which is likely to lead to four or five major contracts and some subsidiary ones, is likely to involve some months of further dialogue with suppliers on precisely how the scheme will work. Contracts to follow next year will include building and running the identity database, which will draw biographic information from the passport service and the work and pension department’s customer information service; providing the cards; and creating the core application system, which will run in 69 offices the passport service now uses to gather biometric data for the latest-style passports. (Source: FT.com)

01 Aug 07. The Government’s electronic borders programme to screen people before they travel to the UK moved closer today as the Border and Immigration Agency published details of its plans and the 1,000 plus arrests, which a trial of the technology has helped deliver. The assessment estimates a £1.2bn cost for the system which has already screened 29 million passengers. Immigration minister Liam Byrne said: “We’re creating an overseas border control with tougher checks before travellers board a train, plane or boat for Britain. All our tests show it works and there’s over 1000 arrests to prove it. Now we need to go further with full scale screening of travellers. “The electronic-Borders programme will provide a critical aid to security and counter terrorist work. By locking passengers to their identity we will create a new offshore line of defence, helping genuine travellers but stopping those who pose a risk before they travel.” The e-Borders programme brings together key agencies and allows them to check advanced passenger data against watch lists. This will be done on a real-time basis between the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs, Police and UK Visas, building on the announcement last week that Britain will have a unified border control at the point of entry.

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