Lords block ID cards again

Government defeated as peers vote against "compulsion by stealth"...
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor

Government defeated as peers vote against "compulsion by stealth"...

Peers in the House of Lords have again defeated government proposals to make it compulsory for people renewing or applying for passports to register for an ID card.

The Lords voted 227 votes against 166 votes in favour of retaining an amendment to the Identity Cards Bill that would make it voluntary for people to register for an ID card and the national identity register (NIR) when applying for a passport.

The government argued that the House of Lords should not oppose the bill again and instead abide by the Salisbury Convention not to block an election manifesto pledge that has been approved by MPs in the House of Commons.

MPs had rejected the Lords' amendments last month to make it completely voluntary for citizens to register for an ID card and put their personal and biometric details on the NIR when applying for or renewing a passport.

But Liberal Democrat peer Lord Phillips of Sudbury said the government had gone back on its election manifesto pledge to roll out ID cards "initially on a voluntary basis" and argued that forcing people to register for an ID card when renewing or applying for a designated document such as a passport is "compulsion by stealth".

He said: "This bill, via designation, would mean that ID cards would be rolled out initially on a compulsory basis as people renew their passports."

Conservative peer Lord Crickhowell said linking ID cards to passports in this way amounts to "creeping compulsion" for the 85 per cent of the population that use a passport.

Defending the compulsion measure, Home Office minister Baroness Scotland of Asthal said it is "essential" not to allow people to opt out of the national identity register in order for the scheme to deliver its stated benefits of fighting terrorism, illegal immigration and fraud.

She said: "If we provide an opt-out we put all these benefits at risk and certainly delay them. The benefits will grow steadily as more and more people obtain cards. By linking it to passports it means there will be a manageable rollout of the ID cards scheme."

In a vote earlier in the day the Lords gave in to the government on the issue of the cost of the scheme after Home Secretary Charles Clarke agreed at the last vote in the House of Commons to report to parliament every six months on the ID card costs.

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