Defeat for ID Cards

Once again, thank goodness for the House of Lords!

The Lords have overturned the requirement that a passport renewal would mean that ID cards have to be applied for as this broke the promise that the cards would be voluntary.

Liberal Democrat Lord Phillips of Sudbury said: "It's not often it's left to the opposition to make sure the government honours its manifesto pledges."

He said the description of ID card plans as voluntary "stretches the English language to breaking point".

From the NO2ID site:

Monday's debate focussed heavily on the massive database behind the cards and the passport itself, not least because of the Home Office's 'convenient' announcement of the launch of biometric ePassports. The Bill, however, does not limit creeping compulsion only to passports. If the Government turns down the Lords' amendment again - which is extremely likely - it will be confirming its unswerving intention to use potentially any official document to force people to register for an ID card.

Home Office projections show that they already intend to 'designate' the police (CRB) check for employment, driving licences and possibly even student loan forms in the first few years of the scheme. This would deny ordinary law-abiding people and their families their right to travel abroad, drive a car, work or volunteer, even to study and gain qualifications unless they submit to compulsory Registration during what New Labour promised at the election would be an initially voluntary phase.

NO2ID point out the successful launch of biometrics in passports today, independently of an ID card system - these have been linked in the past:

The necessary decision to introduce biometrics into existing identity documents has therefore already been made. Even without an identity cards scheme, the majority of the population would require to be enrolled in a biometric database via existing identity documents like passports anyway. The costs involved in this would be nearly the same as implementing a comprehensive identity cards scheme available to the whole resident population....

The last is disingenous at best - as today's launch shows, the cost of the passport is not nearly the same as the passport plus ID card.

As NO2ID point out:

The £51 cost of the new passports also reveals the government claims that passport price hikes to £93 would be needed to meet the ICAO requirements are a bare faced lie by Home Office ministers.

We now have passports which meet the ICAO standards and allow us to remain in the US Visa Waiver Scheme. Further use of such arguments to justify the introduction of ID cards will be a stunning display of contempt for the British people and parliament.

I might have said 'bare faced error' instead... but let's not pick nits.

This whole episode demonstrates again the virtue of a strong second chamber - the commons can have their way if they insist, but a strong second chamber can force them for frame better legislation - or to use the heavy tool that is the parliament act.

It is interesting how the government has found a whole new enthusiasm for Lords reform... we should be wary of any system in which the Lords are worried more about the next election and their party than about scrutinising legislation.

It's all rather sobering that all of this 'interesting' legislation, such as the legislative and regulatory reform bill, the ID card legislation, suspension of habeus corpus and the threats to remove jury trials (see also Liberty in many cases is being put forward by a government with a 67-seat majority based on just 36% of the popular vote and with the support of 22% of the electorate.