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Last Updated: Monday, 2 August, 2004, 00:52 GMT 01:52 UK
Biometric passports go on trial
Demonstration ID card
Critics say plans for an ID card carry risks for the individual
People can get their irises, fingerprints and facial biometrics recorded from Monday as part of a trial for a new passport.

The scheme will run for one week at Macclesfield, Cheshire, in a mobile facility that is to tour the country.

Co-ordinator, the UK Passport Service, hopes to sign up 10,000 volunteers during the tour.

Officials will assess the ease of incorporating biometric details into passports.

They will also investigate the practicalities of building a base for a future compulsory ID card scheme.

Draft legislation on the card scheme was published in April by the government, which aims to combat identity crime.

Volunteers can have their irises recorded
This is an ambitious, long-term project, and it is essential we get it right
Des Browne, Home Office
Home Office minister Des Browne said: "[This kind of crime] is a growing threat to all countries. It costs the UK 1.3bn a year, and facilitates organised crime, illegal immigration, benefit fraud, illegal working and terrorism.

"Only by planning ahead and taking steps now to create a modern, secure means of confirming identity can we ensure that in the years to come we will be able to take on the increasingly sophisticated methods used by criminals.

"This is an ambitious, long-term project, and it is essential we get it right. The trial site being launched in Macclesfield is a vital part of this."

However, current plans have been dismissed by the Tories as "ill thought through" and at least a decade from being realised.

As well as Macclesfield, the mobile unit will visit Peterborough, Sheffield, Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Swansea, Taunton, Torquay and Belfast.

The passport trial is already under way at four fixed sites: London Passport office, Newcastle Registrar's office, Leicester Post Office and the DVLA office in Glasgow.


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