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ID Cards to be compulsory in Britain

'Creeping compulsion' retained

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The British Parliament has kicked out Lords amendments to the ID Card Bill that would have made their use voluntary.

The amendments were seen as a defeat for the government when they were made by the House of Lords on January 23. The Lords' attempt to make ID Cards voluntary was defeated by a vote of 310 to 279.

But the debate gave an opportunity for concerns to be aired regarding civil liberties, greedy IT suppliers, the inability of the civil service to implement computer systems that work, and the likelihood that the ID Card system would have gaping holes in it that would have serious implications for security and individual privacy.

The Lords had attempted to prevent the provision of cards being tied to the provision of passports and residency permits, a method opponents branded "creeping compulsion" and that shadow Home Secretary David Davis said would have the country wake up in 10 years time to discover it had "sleep walked into the surveillance state".

As the bill now stands, ID Cards will be compulsory, in spite of the government's manifesto commitment that cards would be introduced on a voluntary basis as people renewed their passports.

Cards will now be imposed on anyone renewing their passport - the voluntary element being that people could choose not to carry a passport.

The amendments would probably not have warded off compulsion indefinitely. The implementation of the scheme in any shape or form would create a momentum toward compulsion that would be difficult for future governments to resist, not the least in order to justify its estimated £6bn to £20bn costs.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke admitted the scheme was "designed to eventually become compulsory". A commitment had also been made to move to biometric identification in a UN security resolution.

As it is, Parliament will decide in 10 years whether to enforce an overt compulsion on British citizen's to carry ID Cards.

Until then, Clarke said, it would not be possible to exploit some of intended uses of ID Cards, such as securing the use of public services.

Nevertheless, it was noted that as 85 per cent of the population carry passports, it is likely that in 10 years a majority would have had to renew and would therefore be carrying ID Cards anyway.

The bill will go back to the House of Lords where further amendments may be made. ®

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