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Parliament won't debate school fingerprinting

Just no time

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The question of whether it's necessary or desirable to take school children's fingerprints has not made it on the agenda for Parliament.

Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West and the Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, requested a Parliamentary debate on school fingerprinting last Thursday.

"Legal opinion, including that of the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, has stated that this practice contravenes the Data Protection Act 1998. Does he agree that it is time to debate this important subject in the House?" Mulholland asked Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons.

Straw refused, claiming ignorance: "I am not aware of the practice [of fingerprinting children at school], but obviously people have accepted it," he said.

"There is a problem with ensuring people's identity, and one of the ways of doing that is to use biometric data," he went on, "Security in libraries is a big issue for younger and older people."

The matter could be left for an adjournment debate, Straw said.

In a written statement, Mulholland said: "It is precisely because of that ignorance among many MPs that I want to have a debate."

He said the DfES, which has promised to issue guidance for schools that want to fingerprint pupils, should consult with schools and parents before doing so.

"I'm concerned that there won't be proper consultation because ministers' top priority won't be children's rights but mitigating the political difficulty it would cause to admit that they'd allowed illegal practices to continue under their noses."

Mulholland has already tabled an Early Day Motion on school fingerprinting, to which 30 MPs have added their names.

It noted the MPs' "alarm" at schools taking biometrics off of children "as young as three".

"Collecting the data from children under 12 without parental consent directly contravenes the Data Protection Act. No child should have biometric information taken without the express written permission of their parents," it said. ®

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