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Home secretary Jacqui Smith has told Parliament that she wants police forces to introduce handheld devices quickly and to increase collaboration on IT.

In a debate on the Queen's Speech on 4 December 2008, Smith said that police forces have already introduced 10,000 handheld devices and will bring in a further 20,000 over the next 18 months.

Responding to Labour MP and home affairs select committee chair Keith Vaz, who said every officer should have a handheld device and they should be nationally compatible, Smith said: "If he looks at the speed with which we have funded and developed the ability of police forces throughout the country to have handheld devices, he will see that I share his ambition to roll out this important system quickly."

She added that that National Policing Improvement Agency is working on the compatibility of handheld devices and information databases.

"Just as police forces must look to their neighbourhoods, so they must also look to each other to collaborate where needed to tackle crime at all levels and to ensure the best use of resources," she said. "We will legislate to strengthen the provisions for collaboration, whether in the back office or on the front line of operations."

She dismissed reports that the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill announced in the Queen's Speech will include the power for police officers to demand proof of identity from anyone at any location, if they had ever been out of the country.

Conservative civil liberties campaigner David Davis MP asked whether she intended to require people to carry identity documents within the country. Smith replied: "I am extremely happy to scotch the rumours, as he puts it, because the intention is to enable identity checks only at the border. I am sure that we will have future opportunities to make that even clearer than we have up to this point."

Smith's shadow, Dominic Grieve, welcomed this, but renewed the Conservative Party's opposition to government plans which he said were turning Britain into a "surveillance society".

"The home secretary is introducing ID cards – at a cost that we believe, on an independent assessment, could rise as high as £19bn at the worst of economic times – that will be incapable of stopping terrorists, illegal immigration or benefit fraud," Grieve said.

"We are developing a database state and hoarding an increasing volume of data on our citizens, but the prime minister readily admits that he cannot promise that every single item of information will always be safe, which, on the current record of the last year, is a gross understatement."

He welcomed the ommission from the Queen's Speech of a bill expected to allow the government to collect and store communications data centrally, and the European Court of Human Rights' ruling against the retention of DNA on people who are arrested but not charged or are found innocent.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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