Tuesday, February 21, 2006

THE I. D. CARDS DEBATE!

MPs reject ID card costings call.

The ID Cards Bill suffered a number of defeats in the Lords. MPs have voted against making the government carry out a report on costs before introducing identity cards. They decided by a majority of 53 to overturn an amendment made to the ID Cards Bill by peers last month. But MPs called for a report on costs every six months for the first 10 years of the scheme being in place. MPs also backed ministers in making it compulsory for people to be given cards - and put on a register - when they apply for passports. Critics are concerned about the cost and civil liberty implications of the scheme and some commentators had predicted the votes would be closer. ID card plans, opposed by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, will now go back before the House of Lords.
An amendment, put forward by former health secretary Frank Dobson, requiring the government to produce a report every six months, was approved without a vote. MPs backed plans to put people applying for passports from 2008 on the ID cards register by a majority of 31. Around 20 Labour backbenchers rebelled against the government. MPs also decided by a majority of 51 to ensure all passport applicants are given ID cards.

Q&A: ID card plans
Interview: Info commissioner
Labour rebels in full

Earlier, MPs approved a government compromise requiring new legislation before ID cards are made compulsory for all. Prime Minister Tony Blair was not able to attend the debate after his plane was grounded by engine troubles in South Africa. He told the BBC: "I think we've won the argument on it. People have this idea that there's a problem in civil liberties with people having an identity card and an identity registered today when across all walks of our life this is happening. "And with the real problems people have today with identity fraud, which is a major, major issue; illegal immigration; organised crime: it's just the sensible thing to do."Last month, peers voted for the scheme not to go ahead until the full costs were known and for more security provisions for stored personal data.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke had said a stand-alone ID card would cost £30, while one linked to a passport would cost £93. But that figure has been disputed, most notably by a London School of Economics report estimating the cards could cost up to £300 each. Home Office minister Andy Burnham told BBC News that the vote showed support for the Bill was "solidifying". "We think it gives the vote a very clear mandate going forward," he added. "It's dispelled some of the doubts, the criticism, and we think the scheme can now move forward with confidence."
But shadow home secretary David Davis described the scheme as one of "creeping compulsion".
Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: "The government made a pledge at the election to introduce voluntary identity cards. Tonight they broke that pledge. "The only way in which people will be able to opt out of the system is by giving up their right to travel abroad.
"The fight against compulsory ID cards will continue in the House of Lords, where we will hold the government to their manifesto commitment." Before the debate got under way about 70 people were at a protest outside Parliament involving civil rights group Liberty and the No2ID pressure group.
BBC NEWS REPORT.

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