Second-generation biometric passports will be scrapped alongside ID cards and the National Identity Register by the new Tory-LibDem government, probably as part of a merger between the LibDem Freedom Bill, and the Great Repeal Bill advocated by some sections of the Tory party. It isn't as yet entirely clear what will be in this Bill, but there is sufficient common ground between the two parties for it to be one of the easier tasks for the new government.
Both parties went into the election committed to scrapping ID cards and the NIR, and though the LibDems were the only major UK party to pledge to add biometric passport enhancements (adding fingerprints, and possibly other weird stuff if you believe Meg Hillier) to the bonfire, the UK has no international obligation to deliver a second-generation passport. They would have been a tempting and easy cut for the Tories if they'd been able to govern on their own.
Although both parties intended to scrap the NIR, it's not yet clear how the new government will do this, and it's more complicated than it looks. The LibDem Freedom Bill deals with the whole ID matter thus:
(1) The Identity Cards Act 2006 (c.15) (which establishes the National Identity Register) is repealed.
Which is commendably brief, but doesn't address how the Identity and Passport Service (which will need a new name, for a start) will be constituted after that Act is repealed. IPS could be turned back into something along the lines of the old Passport Service, but that will also need to be legislated for, and the organisation's switch from a document-centric to a person-centric approach (which occurred before the ID Cards Act was passed) means that it will continue to be about identity unless someone does something about it.
It could also continue to be about collecting personal information and storing it, unless somebody does something about that. Essentially the organisation soon to be formerly known as IPS needs a new mission, and the new government needs to decide whether or not it is an appropriate vehicle for developing some form of non-threatening Identity 2.0 scheme, and whether it is appropriate for it to retain some form of passport-associated residual NIR. We'd say the answer to both of these is no, incidentally - but over to the Great Repealers*. ®
*Who now include Teresa May, appointed Home Secretary this morning, and Ken Clarke, Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary.
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