ID card bill savaged by the Lords, again

Peers have placed further restrictions on the government's ID card plans

The House of Lords has dealt another blow to the government's ID cards bill by voting against making it compulsory for people to have their biometric details included on the National Identity Register (NIR) when they apply for a new passport.

The latest defeat for the government comes just a week after peers blocked the ID cards bill until the Home Office makes the full costs public and allows the National Audit Office to scrutinise the scheme.

Although the government claims ID cards will initially be voluntary, it wants to force anyone applying for a new passport to give their fingerprint and iris scans for inclusion on the ID card database: the NIR.

This measure came in for criticism during the House of Lords' debate on Monday, and peers voted by 186 votes to 142 in favour of an amendment that would prevent the government making the issuance of new passports conditional upon citizens consenting to their details being included on the NIR.

Crossbench peer Viscount Bledisloe, said during the debate: "One would be debarred from the freedom to travel around the world unless one chose to go on some other government register."

Home Office minister Baroness Scotland of Asthal said the House of Lords should not block a bill that was an election manifesto pledge but Conservative peer Baroness Anelay of St John's argued that the government had presented it to the public as a voluntary, rather than compulsory, scheme.

Lady Anelay said: "That is not what this Bill does. It says if you apply for a passport you must apply to go on the National Identity Register and therefore have an ID card. What is voluntary about that?"

Independent Labour peer Lord Stoddart of Swindon accused the government of undermining the freedoms won by those who had fought for the UK in World War II, saying the measures had "elements of a fascist state".

The government suffered a further defeat by 198 votes to 140 over an amendment that would require a separate act of parliament before ID cards could be made compulsory. The Identity Cards Bill currently only needs a further vote by MPs to make the cards compulsory.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Phillips of Sudbury said in a statement after the vote: "This is a great victory for civil liberties. No one spoke in favour of compulsion during the debate, except for the [Home Office] minister. I hope this defeat will cause the government to think again about its flawed and expensive scheme."

Lady Scotland maintained the government had been "utterly straightforward and frank" about how ID cards would be rolled out.

A former US spy yesterday warned of the dangers of ID cards, saying they would do little to improve national security and would lead to abuses of government power.

The government is expected to try to overturn the amendments when MPs vote again once the bill returns to the House of Commons. If the Lords continue to block the bill and no compromises are agreed the government can invoke the Parliament Act to force the bill through.