Campaigners against the introduction of a UK biometric national identity card scheme have vowed to keep up the struggle, even if parliament passes the government's IT card bill next week.
Phil Booth, national co-ordinator for the No2ID campaign, urged people who opposed the government's plans to keep lobbying MPs. The third and final reading on the ID card bill will take place on Monday, 13 February.
"We're three votes wide at the moment, but it's very, very close," said Booth, who warned that some potential rebels could be influenced by a government climb-down over its education bill. "In the last vote, the government only had a majority of 31, and that was with 16 Tory MPs not voting….the best thing you can do now is write to your MP."
If the ID card bill does pass into law, the first cards should be issued in 2008.
"That would be a different phase of the campaign," said Booth, implying that opposition to ID cards could continue for years. Booth was speaking at an event in London organised by the Open Rights Group.
Booth's comments were made before it emerged that the government is prepared to make concessions to achieve a win on Monday. According to reports on Friday morning, the prime minister has agreed that a completely new bill would need to be passed before everyone would be compelled to register for an ID card.
Until now, the government had proposed that while ID cards would initially be voluntary, it would have only taken a single vote in parliament to make them compulsory.
This may allay the fears of some MPs, making a government win on Monday more likely. But it may also strengthen the resolve of those who believe that ID cards are dangerous, a waste of money and will increase the risk of ID fraud.
Richard Allan, a former Liberal Democrat MP, said that writing to an MP could change their mind and encourage them to take action.
"I saw this happen with software patents," said Allan. "At first, MPs ignored letters about it, but then their attitude became 'I will answer these people's concerns, even though I hate them.' Then it became 'Oh no, these letters are still coming, so I'd better do something about it.'"