Britain's Parliament Backs Compulsory ID

Should the government force passport applicants to register personal and biometric details on a national database? The battle continues

MPs have again voted in favour of compulsory ID cards by forcing passport applicants to register their personal and biometric details on the vast national ID database.

The government last night successfully overturned an amendment to the ID card bill made by peers in the House of Lords last week that would make it optional for people applying for a passport or other "designated document" to register for an ID card.

The peers' objection is that the government's election manifesto promised ID cards would be voluntary initially and that by linking them to passports — held by 85 per cent of the population — this would effectively make it "compulsion by stealth".

Home Secretary Charles Clarke insisted — to much laughter and jeers from opposition MPs in the Commons on Monday evening — that "passports are voluntary documents".

He said: "No one is forced to renew a passport if they choose not to do so. That will remain the case once we begin issuing identity cards alongside passports."

But Liberal Democrat MP Nick Clegg said the government is trying to persuade people that voluntary actually means compulsory.

Clegg said: "The government is saying that every time someone renews their passport, they must receive an ID card; that every time someone applies for a new passport to pop across to Calais, visit relatives abroad or go on holiday to sunnier climates, they must receive an ID card; and that every time someone goes abroad for business with a new passport, they must receive an ID card."

Conservative MP Edward Garnier went further and accused the government of "riding roughshod over common sense and justice".

He said: "They [the government] knew what 'voluntary' means but now they pretend it means something else.

"The government have changed their reasons for supporting not only identity cards but the national identity register, and they change their position on what they mean by 'voluntary' and what they think that they mean by 'compulsory' day by day."

The government won the vote to overturn the Lords' amendment with a majority of 33 and Clarke said peers should now drop their opposition to the ID cards bill.

But with Labour outnumbered in the House of Lords, a constitutional clash is on the cards later in the week when peers again vote on the bill, as they look set to continue their opposition to ID card registration being linked to passport applications.

A new survey of almost 600 readers this week found that 80 per cent now oppose ID cards, compared to 60 per cent who were in favour just over a year ago.