ID cards bill rises from the ashes

The government's plans for a national ID card and associated database of citizens' personal information will be reintroduced in Tuesday's Queen's Speech

Tony Blair will reintroduce the national ID cards bill in the Queen's Speech on Tuesday but a senior government official has admitted that concessions will have to be made to ensure its passage through parliament.

The bill was dropped before the General Election after the government ran out of legislative time to push it through the House of Lords. Then Blair's massively reduced majority in the House of Commons raised questions over whether renewed opposition from rebel Labour MPs and the other political parties would kill the ID cards plan altogether.

But the first hint of concessions to appease opponents came in an interview with Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain at the weekend.

Hain insisted there is still strong public support for ID cards but said Labour's reduced majority will have an impact on any new legislation.

"I think we can now build a consent at the beginning and that will be very healthy for everybody concerned," he said.

Concessions could include a strengthening of the Information Commissioner's powers of scrutiny over the ID card scheme and beefed up protection around which parties have access to the information held in the national identity register that will underpin the ID cards.

That should be enough to appease most of Labour's own MPs who voted against ID cards last time with today's papers reporting Hampstead and Highgate MP Glenda Jackson as saying the rebels won't be trapped into getting into a "virility test" with Blair over the bill.

But the cost of the ID cards plan is still likely to remain a sticking point for other opponents in the Commons, with the Liberal Democrats making a key election campaign pledge to ditch ID cards and put the money into front-line policing.

The latest government figures on the ID cards scheme, as outlined in the Regulatory Impact Assessment by the Home Office put the cost at some £5.5bn over 10 years.