National ID cards look to be a step closer following Home Secretary David Blunkett's confirmation that UK passports will include microchip records of the holder's fingerprints and eyes.
The scheme to include so-called biometric technology in EU passports over the next two years was agreed at a meeting of European leaders in Paris. The Home Secretary (pictured) is known to be keen to see the technology expanded to include his plans for a national entitlement card.
Tony Payne, chief executive of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers' Associations, said the Home Office should now commit to the entitlement card scheme as soon as possible.
He said: "It would be a great help to the trade in preventing cheque card fraud as well as help licensees to identify underage drinkers."
It increases the likelihood that UK citizens will eventually carry a single, chipped card that could act as a passport, driving licence and ID card proving entitlement to state benefits.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "At the moment, the two proposals are separate. The plan for biometric technology has been in the Passport Office's forward plan for some time, while we're still consulting on the entitlement card scheme."