... and today another step was taken in a dark direction. Following the 'compromise' over ID cards, which is not really a compromise (it's the database that's the issue, not the plastic) I've done a little research into passport renewal. We won't have to get the plastic until after the next election (how convenient) but the database will come into play before then, and it's the database that is the problem.
Charles Clarke has said that "Perhaps I can also emphasise that fact that, as I have already made clear in debates in the House, anyone who feels strongly enough about the linkage not to want to be issued with an ID card in the initial phase will be free to surrender their existing passport and apply for a new passport before the designation order takes effect. Although I doubt whether many people would want to avoid the opportunity of obtaining an ID card when renewing their passport, the facility will be available. I hope that Lord Armstrong will consider those points before deciding whether to table further amendments in another place."
Andy Burnham has confirmed this: "British Passport holders may surrender their existing passport for renewal at any time they choose. The full fee must be paid and no refund can be given in respect of unexpired validity in the old passport. The UK Passport Service will add up to 9 months of unexpired validity from the old passport to the new one."
I for one will be taking advantage of that facility (wouldn't it be great if people could organise to send in the renewals within a day or two of each other, maybe some two months before deadline? - some time lag needed to ensure that the deadline is beaten)
Thinking about my passport photo, and that it's 'Head and Shoulders with plain background', it'd be nice if there was some way to sneak in a No2ID logo without falling foul of the rules about passport photos and having it thrown back. Any ideas?
Clarke and Burnham seem to contradict the advice of the UKPA which says: "You can renew a passport up to nine months before it runs out. If you do this we will put a credit on your new passport for the unused time (in whole months) that was left on your old passport the day the new one was issued." - however, if they insist on that then there are two ministers who have answered questions in the commons with untruths - and surely that can't be!
My renewal is summer 2008, so even if the UKPA is correct, that means renewal for me is at the end of 2007. I wonder when the database begins to kick in?
Contrary to what Clarke said, I'm expecting a surge in passport applications before the database deadline.
David Davies (Conservative) said: Shadow home secretary David Davis said the deal was "a major climb-down by the government" that made the legislation "just acceptable".
"Nobody who does not want an ID card need have one before the next election - and that in itself is worth having," he said before promising a Conservative government would repeal the legislation.
Hmm, I'm less convinced of that last statement given that "MPs later approved it in the Commons by a margin of 301 to 84.". Where's all the opposition? When Hansard is updated, I shall have to make a point of seeing how my MP voted... Given that there are 356 Labour seats, 198 Tory and 62 Lib Dem, with sundry others, the breakdown should be 'interesting'.
(Edit: For Visa Free travel to the US, mid October this year is the deadline for all passports being biometric - as such, biometrics are phasing in before that)