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IPS misses its ID cards for foreigners target

Database contract goes to Big Blue

The Home Office has confirmed that it has issued half as many ID cards to non-EU foreign nationals living in the UK as planned.

The trial of the cards was to issue between 40,000 and 50,000 cards by the end of March, but it has only issued 22,500.

Identity and Passport Service Service chief executive James Hall insisted the system was working well except for the "odd wrinkle", according to the BBC. A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said 42,000 people had been registered and had their biometrics taken but were still waiting for the cards

Hall also said the agency was considering adding Chip and PIN to the ID card.

Hall said: "One of the reasons for the format of the card is we have the opportunity to put it in to card readers and potentially use it in existing networks such as the ATM network.

"We are in discussions with the financial services industry and, if they come forward with a compelling view of the rationale for chip and pin for them, that's definitely something we'll take extremely seriously.

"If we conclude that chip and pin is a key part of making it useful, there's no technical reason why we couldn't do it."

We were unable to get any more details from the Home Office as to how this might work or who they are talking to.

The Home Office also revealed two more successful bidders for parts of the project. CSC gets £385m to sort out application and enrolment systems for processing card requests. This will include the ability to apply online, background checks, a system to report lost or stolen cards and new IT and phone systems for the IPS.

IBM scores £265m to make the database at the heart of the system. This will store fingerprints and facial biometrics for anyone applying for either a passport or an ID card. IBM will also replace the UK Border Agency's current fingerprint system for asylum seekers.

The two companies were chosen from a short list of five selected last March. The IPS interviewed each supplier 50 times before awarding the contract.

Lobby group NO2ID criticised the decision to make the announcement while Parliament is not sitting.

Phil Booth, National Coordinator of NO2ID said: "Despite knowing that the ID scheme will be scrapped under any change of government, the Home Office is ploughing ahead with its gold-plated white elephant.

"The new style contracts are calculated to obscure exactly what is going on, but the IPS appears to thinks it can lock future governments into its empire-building plans by throwing away the perfectly good passport systems we have."

A Register reader emailed us claiming that the unsuccessful bidders were not impressed with the decision to announce the contracts through the Home Office website. It is usually considered good manners to break the bad news to unsuccessful applicants over the phone.

The cost of creating a national biometric database and related cards is estimated at £4.7bn. Cards are currently being trialled by non-EU residents and airport staff at Manchester and London City airports. ®

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