[holding answer 17 July 2006]: The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) is engaged in a range of initiatives designed to enhance the security of the passport issuing process and the UK passport itself. Because of the nature of fraud and the way in which criminals operate in seeking to obtain passports illegally, IPS takes a holistic approach to enhancing security. The initiatives which are under way are therefore designed to ensure that each part of the passport operation contributes to the security of the whole system and ensures the integrity of the UK passport.
The IPS corporate and business plan for 2006-16 which was published on 21 April 2006 describes these initiatives and sets out its strategic objectives for fraud prevention. This programme of work includes:-
Introduction of more secure passports incorporating biometrics identifiers. The first UK e.Passport was issued on six March, and rollout to all customers should be completed by the end of August;
Introduction next year of mandatory interviews for first time adult passport applicants. Enhancement of management information, monitoring and sampling processes to enable the development of fraud reduction and identity authentication targets and objectives;
The application, from March of this year, of the social footprint approach to confirming an individuals identity through the personal identification process (PIP);
Using facial recognition technology to identify fraudulent duplicate applications;
Continuing to improve the arrangements for the reporting of lost, stolen and recovered passports, and the storage and the sharing of that data with UK Border Control, and Interpol, and other agencies;
Building on the 80 per cent. reduction in losses of passports in the post through the use of secure delivery, the implementation of measures including improved address management to further reduce losses;
Continued development of PIP to deliver a more comprehensive biographical footprint check including on line access to UK birth and death records, and naturalisation/registration records;
Further development of IT systems to build on the automatic checks of applications that already take place, to better link passport records to an individual; and
Planning for the introduction of fingerprints in passports by 2009 including use of this technology to detect fraudulent duplicate identities.
Data sharing and the positive validation of passport data is critical to the fight against fraud. The IPS has developed Omnibase which provides secure web access to passport information for FCO consular posts abroad, UK’s Border Control authorities, The Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency, Criminal Records Bureau and other Government Departments. From July of this year, and building on successful pilots, IPS plan to extend this passport validation service (PVS) to financial institutions who receive passports as evidence of identity from customers opening bank accounts, seeking mortgages or undertaking other financial transactions. The pilots have already shown that PVS can support users in the identification of suspicious passports and prevent fraud.
Finally, supported by the powers in section 25 of the Identity Cards Act that target the misuse of identity documents, IPS is continuing to work closely with the police service, UK Border Control and other Government Departments in operations to tackle fraud.