In his book, "Round the World in Eighty days", Michael Palin reflects that in the Jules Verne original, all Fogg needed was a signed picture of Queen Victoria to permit him safe passage around the world and entry to each country he came across.
In similar vein, John Simpson, reflects on an Angolan soldier throwing his blue British (pre EU days) passport into the a muddy river. He reminds the reader that "From the end of the Napoleonic War in 1815 until the First world War, it was the chief distinguishing mark of a British citizen abroad that they did not carry a passport. They went where they wanted, merely announcing themselves at border crossings and being allowed through because they were British"
Simpson also then details how, for the next month he traveled only on the authority of a hastily typed letter by the Honorary Dutch Consul in Luanda. (A Mad World, My Masters)
Sadly things seem a little different now. Even Easyjet demand a passport to travel on their plane - or a photo driving licence (but only a full licence, a provisional will not do, despite requiring the same ID.....), and you also need one to buy alcohol, get into a nightclub, open a bank account, and even collect your post. So it is almost a National ID card anyway.
However, back to the main point. My passport ran out in Jan 2006, having been first obtained for my school French Exchange to Halluin in 1996, at the age of 14. I have managed to survive the past 2 years without it, being now a) too old to be challenged for alcohol; b) not been on a plane since 2003; c) not been abroad since 2005 and d) been with the same bank all along.
I am now considering whether to renew it soon, and thus give my Biometric data. It isn't the biometric data on the passport that worries me, I know where that is, but the government records of it. My one time Summer employers have lost the details of 25 million people, some friends have had the Dept of Health display their personal details to the whole world, the DSA has lost my personal and bank details, and my building society lost an (encrypted) laptop with my details on it.
Having now made that list, I guess handing a few more of my details over won't do me any harm....But the earliest I will need a passport will be Summer 2009 if i choose to do a foreign elective. I'm not planning a foreign holiday in 2008 (nor can I afford one) and if i renew the passport now, then I will lose 15% of it's value before I use it. I hope to have my full driving licence by March, so if I need to fly within the UK this summer (which I might) I can use that as photo ID for BA or Easyjet.
Any suggestions? I mean I survived without a passport for the first 14 years of my life, and only used it 8 or 9 times during the ten years I held a valid one.