Wednesday, January 31, 2007
The question of whether it's necessary or desirable to take school
children's fingerprints has not made it on the agenda for Parliament.
Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West and the Liberal Democrat
schools spokesman, requested a Parliamentary debate on school
fingerprinting last Thursday.
"Legal opinion, including that of the British Educational Communications
and Technology Agency, has stated that this practice contravenes
the Data Protection Act 1998. Does he agree that it is time to debate
this important subject in the House?" Mulholland asked Jack
Straw, leader of the House of Commons.
Straw refused, claiming ignorance: "I am not aware of the
practice [of fingerprinting children at school], but obviously
people have accepted it," he said.
"There is a problem with ensuring people's identity, and
one of the ways of doing that is to use biometric data,"
he went on, "Security in libraries is a big issue for younger
and older people."
The matter could be left for an adjournment debate, Straw said.
In a written statement, Mulholland said: "It is precisely
because of that ignorance among many MPs that I want to have a
He said the DfES, which has promised to issue guidance for schools
that want to fingerprint pupils, should consult with schools and
parents before doing so.
"I'm concerned that there won't be proper consultation because
ministers' top priority won't be children's rights but mitigating
the political difficulty it would cause to admit that they'd allowed
illegal practices to continue under their noses."
Mulholland has already tabled an Early Day Motion on school fingerprinting,
to which 30 MPs have added their names.
It noted the MPs' "alarm" at schools taking biometrics
off of children "as young as three".
"Collecting the data from children under 12 without parental
consent directly contravenes the Data Protection Act. No child
should have biometric information taken without the express written
permission of their parents," it said.