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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 April, 2005, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
'No decision' on passport prints
British EU passports
Changes to passports are planned in the next few years
New passport applicants could still have to provide fingerprints despite the government dropping its ID card plans, the Home Office has confirmed.

"Fingerprinting does not need the ID Cards Bill. No-one is forced to have a passport," the Home Office said.

As passports are issued by Royal Prerogative the change does not require new laws, but the Home Office stressed a decision had not yet been made.

Labour has said it will re-introduce ID card plans if re-elected on 5 May.

Digitised photograph

The plan to introduce fingerprinting is among a number of changes being considered for passports.

By the end of 2006, there will be face-to-face interviews for the 600,000 new applicants who come forward each year.

This will have been preceded in 2005 by the introduction of a microchip storing a digitised photograph.

The ID card scheme would cost an estimated 3bn and see each UK citizen issued with a "biometric" card bearing fingerprints and other personal details which would also be stored on a new database.

Opponents say that the plans will infringe citizens' privacy but ministers insist they will help tackle illegal immigration, organised crime and terrorist groups.

A Home Office spokesman said: "No final decision has yet been made on the inclusion of a second biometric such as fingerprints or irises in passports.

"As the UK Passport Service plans state, this is something under consideration as countries around the world move to tighten passport security."

Government drops ID card plans
05 Apr 05 |  Election 2005
Blair presses 'overdue' ID cards
09 Feb 05 |  Election 2005
Gaelic first for new UK passports
07 Feb 05 |  Scotland
US implements new passport rule
26 Oct 04 |  Americas

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