It is hard to decribe just how technologicaly ignorant the Home Secretary and, presumably the Prime Minister appear to be. Yet another throway soundbite this week promised "e-borders".
The Home Secretary pledges in his statement to develop new electronic border controls. He says that a system of automatic tracking of travellers entering and exiting our country will provide monitoring and data. Will he explain what he is saying? Is he today announcing the re-introduction of embarkation controls? If so, of course, we welcome that adoption of Conservative policy, as an effective measure to control immigration. "
Yes, when we have got in place the electronic border surveillance, we intend to reintroduce embarkation controls, which were abandoned 10 years ago, as hon. Members know, under the former Conservative Government. However, that was understandable because, without the new electronic surveillance and computer system, such controls were a complete waste of time. If we do not know who has come in, there is no point in trying to track who goes out. If we do not have identity cards, we do not know who is here anyway, we cannot know whether they are legitimate or not in terms of drawing down on services."
The current "e-borders" plan consists of yet another experiment next year, for the voluntary pre-checking of business class passengers at Heathrow, confusingly called IRIS (Iris Recognition Immigration System)
What is the budget for "e-borders" ? It is not spelled out in the 5 year plan.
Judging by the costs of the similar but less sophisticated. US-VISIT system, which the US Government is wasting at least $10 billion dollars on, it seems that this is Yet Another Home Office Technology Project Disaster in the making, without a clear objective or a clear implementation plan or budget.
The talk of using the National Identity Registry if it ever gets built, is totally misleading. This system is not planned to be able to track European Union nationals who stay in the UK for under 3 months, so there are at least 400 million people who could be travelling to and from or through the UK without ever being on the National ID Register or having a biometric smartcard residence permit etc.
On the subject of the ID Card scheme itself:
"The Home Secretary again raises ID cards in his main document. Does he not agree that the ?3 billion cost of introducing them would make our country safer much more effectively if it were spent on more police and more technology for them?"
"It is absolutely true that we will ask people to make a contribution towards biometric ID cards, but as I explained to the House at considerable length earlier in the year, the system will be associated with updating the security on passports, which we have to do. We will thus introduce biometrics on passports at the same time as ID cards, so it will cost an additional ?4 per person, over a 10-year period, to issue the card rather than simply having a biometric passport. We do not have to spend ?3 billion because, as people renew their passports, they will pay as they get the biometric cards. I thought that I should explain that at length so that people understand the system and realise that we are not diverting money from what we are doing elsewhere."
It is very disappointing to see the so called Opposition letting Blunkett off the hook like this. Of course he is "diverting money" from our pockets through a not so stealth poll tax, which would be better spent on other things in Government or even better, left in our pockets to spend as we wish.The Home Office has refused to publish the cost estimates for its scheme to within the nearest ?2 billion!
These estimates do not even take into account the knock on effect on other Government departments which will be forced to use the scheme and who will have to find the money for a massive infrastructure of Secure Biometric Smart Card Readers, staff training, changes to their IT systems etc. which will easily triple the Home Office cost estimates which relate only to the issuing of the ID Card and the unjustified and intrusive centralised Big Brother database at its heart.