29/06/2005

ID cards bill survives Commons vote

The government’s controversial Identity Cards Bill has survived a House of Commons vote, in spite of a rebellion by some Labour backbenchers.

Folowing the close vote Tony Blair said that he was prepared to "listen to concerns" about the ID card issue.

In the Commons vote the government majority of 67, already drastically reduced following May’s General Election, was more than halved to 31, with 20 rebel Labour MPs voting against the Bill.

Former International Development Secretary, Clare Short, other ex-ministers Glenda Jackson and Kate Hoey, Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Robert Marshall-Andrews were all among the rebels who voted against the proposals.

The ID cards Bill eventually secured a second reading by 314 to 283.

The vote followed a heated House of Commons debate.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke attacked claims, put forward in a report by the London School of Economics, that the scheme could cost up to £19.2 billion – over three times the amount estimated by the government. According to the report, this meant that ID cards could cost as much as £300. However, Mr Clarke said that new passports, containing the same biometric data, such as iris scans and fingerprints, would cost between £60-£65, with ID cards costing only around £30 more.

Yesterday, Mr Clarke said that there would be a cap on the cost of the cards, but did not state an actual figure. He also suggested that people on lower incomes might pay less for the cards.

The Home Secretary also addressed concerns over the affect the cards would have on civil liberties, stressing that no-one would be forced to show their ID cards on the street and that private companies would not be able to access the register of information contained on the cards.

However, Shadow Home Secretary David Davis accused the government of ‘chipping away’ at civil liberties, while Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Mark Oaten called the cards “an identity tax” and said they would become Tony Blair’s legacy in the same way that poll tax became Margaret Thatcher’s.

(KMcA/SP)

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