Parliament must control this passport to snoop
London Telegraph | March 21, 2007
Holders of a British passport, even the EU-friendly claret-coloured ones introduced in 1995, still bask in the comforting knowledge that Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State "requests and requires" all those whom it may concern to "allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance" as well as affording "such assistance and protection as may be necessary".
But for a new generation of passport holders, such a stirring validation of the right to travel is about to be transformed into something very different. For new passports - issued no longer by the Passport Office, but by the Orwellian-sounding Identity and Passport Service (IPS) - will be little more than a template for the new national ID card.
Take a look at the hoops through which new applicants will have to jump. Filling in the application form is just the start. Once the IPS has established that the applicant exists and is entitled to a passport, he will be invited to call a 24-hour advice line to arrange a face-to-face interview at one of 69 new centres (costing £180 million).
The "interrogation" (their word) will take between 10 and 20 minutes, though it will be conducted in a "non-threatening manner"; how very comforting. A list of up to 200 personal questions will be drawn on to authenticate people's identities.
And that is the nub of this intrusive and costly (£66 for a passport, plus the travel costs) new process. The Government is in fact installing the machinery for its misguided and ludicrously expensive system of ID cards - the Labour measure, incidentally, that Daily Telegraph readers most want to see repealed.
From next year, all new passport applicants will have their details added to the ID database and the year after that everyone applying for a passport - whether their first or a renewal - will have to attend one of these "authentication centres" to have their fingerprints taken.
Should citizens of a mature democracy really have to be treated quite so much like common criminals? The Government's justification for this monstrous level of intrusion is to fight passport fraud and terrorism. Noble aims, but given this Government's sheer incompetence, can anyone be confident that these Draconian measures will have an impact on either?
Recent court cases have, it is true, exposed the ease with which terrorists can obtain passports using fraudulent identities. But it is also worth recalling that the four terrorists who perpetrated the July 7 atrocities in London were British citizens holding legitimate UK passports.
In fact, this is simply the most sinister example of Labour's insatiable appetite to control - and a testimony to the failure of Parliament to protect individual freedom and liberty.
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