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Ex-MI5 boss, House of Lords give ID cards thumbs down

By Lucy Sherriff

Published Thursday 17th November 2005 17:01 GMT

The House of Lords voted to reject the ID cards bill yesterday. The second house wants the draft legislation amended so that restrictions are placed on who would be allowed to use the cards to check a person's identity.

Peers were also unhappy that Home Office ministers said that they could not reveal the full cost of the plans. Baroness Scotland did reveal that the scheme will cost the Home Office 584m a year.

The defeat came as ex-MI5 chief Stella Rimington said that ID cards will be of no use in the fight against terror.

Speaking at the Association of Colleges annual conference in Birmingham, she said ID cards would not make us any safer:

"ID cards have possibly some purpose," the BBC quotes her as saying. "But I don't think that anybody in the intelligence services, particularly in my former service, would be pressing for ID cards.

"My angle on ID cards is that they may be of some use but only if they can be made unforgeable - and all our other documentation is quite easy to forge. If we have ID cards at vast expense and people can go into a back room and forge them they are going to be absolutely useless."

Downing street has said Rimington is entitled to her views. Meanwhile the Lib Dems took advantage of her remarks to call again for the plans to be abandoned, and the Conservatives cautioned that the cards could be counterproductive.

Related stories

Home Office 'confident' of ID card costs (9 November 2005)

Much of UK biometric passport data for archive, police use only? (31 October 2005)


UK IT chief calls for downscaling of ID card plans (31 October 2005)


Info Commissioner criticises ID Cards Bill (28 October 2005)


South Africa pushes electronic ID cards (26 October 2005)


UK ID card a recipe for massive ID fraud, says Microsoft exec (18 October 2005)


ID card debates need reframing (18 October 2005)


Copyright 2005


Biometrics push passport fees past 50

By Lucy Sherriff (lucy.sherriff at

Published Thursday 17th November 2005 15:34 GMT

Passport fees are set to soar to 51, thanks to a 21 per cent (9) increase to pay for the inclusion of biometrics and other security measures. The increase will come into effect as of 1 December, the Home Office said.

The money will be used to fund better background checks and face-to-face interviews with first time adult applicants (as from 2006), the department added. This is in addition to the cost of including facial biometrics on a chip embedded in the booklet.

Bernard Herdan, chief executive of the UKPS, said that background checks and face-to-face interviews were necessary to "protect the integrity of the British Passport".

"The anti-fraud measures that the new fees will support will create a huge deterrent to would-be fraudsters. They will help us detect and prevent fraudulent applications, and make our passports even harder to misuse or forge," he added.

To make us all feel better about the prospect of having to shell out more cash to travel abroad, the Home Office has helpfully compiled a list of international prices for machine readable passports here (pdf) (

 . Check out the site and you will discover that in Japan, the same document would set you back more than 80, while Spain charges its citizens no more than 11.

Home Office minister Andy Burnham said: "It is a price worth paying in order to protect passport holders from fraud and afford them continued convenient international travel."

The new passports will be rolled out over a six month period after which production of non-biometric passports will stop.

Related stories

Much of UK biometric passport data for archive, police use only? (31 October 2005)

Is it a passport, an ID card, or a fiddle? A minister explains (25 October 2005)

No2ID catches up with Home Office roadshow (28 September 2005)

Regulators call for global data protection law (20 September 2005)

UK Gov must meet biometric standards on ID cards (30 August 2005)

UK biometric ID card morphs into 30 'passport lite' (8 July 2005)

Copyright 2005

Patriot Act 'compromise' makes matters worse

By Thomas C Greene in Washington (thomas.greene at

Published Thursday 17th November 2005 16:33 GMT

First, the good news. Revisions to the so-called "Patriot" Act now circulating on Capitol Hill will give Congress some limited oversight on the use of national security letters, by requiring the FBI to report periodically on their use.

Now the bad news. The gag rules have been enhanced on these letters, which allow surveillance without a judge's approval or even a reasonable suspicion that the target is a criminal. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, their use has gone up a hundredfold since "Patriot," with something like 30,000 per year now being sent. They are, essentially, fishing licenses that the FBI gets to issue to itself, without judicial oversight. Only now there will be real penalties for resisting them, and for disclosing their receipt - in perpetuity. And this power might become permanent, to boot.

Other offensive provisions, especially related to electronic eavesdropping and data mining on a mass scale, originally scheduled to sunset at the end of this year, will either become permanent, or be extended for seven years. But why the hurry to ram all of this through, and even to worsen it? Why not authorize the Act for two years at a time, and let it evolve in step with public opinion?

The reason why it has to be authorized forever (or for a very long time) is because public opposition has been growing steadily. The more the public learns about it, the less they like it. Periodic re-authorizations would eventually result in the Act's being watered down over time, and this democratic process is something that the Administration is dead set against. So it's now or never, some legislators feel.

A further reason is very real Republican fear of losing their grip on Congress in next year's mid-term elections, and a natural desire to win points with the expedient of some cheap, tough-on-terror bluster. And Democrats will fall into lock step as well, because they're even more frightened of appearing soft on terrorism, especially now, when the Republican administration's blunders and scandals have weakened the party enough for Democrats to have a real shot at Congress. (Although it is not for the Democrats to win, but for the Republicans to lose, which they appear to be doing with steady determination.)

And so it appears all but certain that the country will be stuck with this most un-American act for a very long time, because most members on both sides of the aisle are too soft to risk looking soft.

Related stories

'Patriot' Act may get partially declawed (

Terrorist watch list incomplete and inaccurate (

US gov wants to refang Patriot Act (

Library use an open book as Pat Act renewals loom (

Copyright 2005