Lords vote for ID cards opt-out clause

Government defeated for a fifth time by peers...
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor

Government defeated for a fifth time by peers...

The parliamentary battle over the ID cards bill remains deadlocked after the House of Lords again defeated government proposals that would force people applying for or renewing passports from 2008 to register for an ID card.

Peers voted by 219 votes to 191 votes in favour of an amendment to the government's proposed ID card legislation that would allow people to opt-out of putting their biometric details on a national identity database when they renew their passports.

It is the fifth time peers in the House of Lords have rejected what critics call "compulsion by stealth". The ID cards bill will now return to the House of Commons yet again where MPs will vote whether to accept the opt-out compromise or to reject the changes made by peers.

The latest amendment was proposed by independent cross-bench peer Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, who argued that the number of people who would choose to opt-out was unlikely to be significant enough to delay or derail the government's ID card scheme.

Home Office minister Baroness Asthal of Scotland argued that if people did not want to be forced to register for an ID card then they could choose to renew their passport - even if it has not expired - before the 2008 cut off date for the introduction of ID cards.

But Conservative peer Baroness Anelay of St Johns said that would result in a "financial penalty" for ID card objectors by forcing them to shell out needlessly for a new passport to avoid being entered on the national identity database when ID cards are introduced from 2008.

She argued that the opt-out amendment would preserve a "vital element of personal freedom".

Lord Armstrong said the amendment provides a way to break the parliamentary impasse by offering a compromise that gives the government most of what it wants in the ID cards bill while still giving people the option of initially choosing whether to register for an ID card.

But Baroness Scotland warned peers against blocking the bill again and said the House of Lords should give way to the will of MPs in the Commons because they "have the mandate of the people of this country".

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