ID interview centre gets green light

PROTESTERS today failed to block the conversion of offices in Ipswich town centre into an interview centre that they believe is central to the government's plans to introduce identity cards.

PROTESTERS today failed to block the conversion of offices in Ipswich town centre into an interview centre that they believe is central to the government's plans to introduce identity cards.

Ipswich council approved an application to turn offices at Crown House, next to the town's main swimming pool, into an interview and administration centre for new passports which are being introduced from next spring.

Officers and councillors agreed that while they may have reservations about the government's identity card policy, there were no planning grounds to oppose the application by Mapeley Abi Provider who would own and manage the centre on behalf of the Home Office.

Campaigners from the pressure group No2ID protested outside the borough's Grafton House offices in Russell Road before and during the meeting as Geoff Brace, from Ipswich put the case against the centre.

He said government estimates that it would handle 16 people a day were a serious under-estimate. He thought the number would be nearer 50 to 70 a day - and could be as high as 300.

This could cause traffic problems for people trying to reach the centre.

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However Labour councillor Sandy Martin said the building was ideally placed to handle visitors - being between the town's largest multi-storey car park and the main bus station.

A spokesman for the Home Office said that from next spring all adults applying for their first passport would be interviewed to ensure they were not assuming someone else's identity.

He said: “These centres will not replace existing passport offices or the role of post offices in applying for passports.

“Adults who apply for their first passport will be invited to attend a centre for a short interview, taking about 10 minutes, to establish that they are who they claim they are.”

He said that if identity cards were introduced then the centres could also be used for interviews for those cards.

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