ID cards are compulsory
No they're not. Yes they are. No they're not...
...yes they are, after MPs last night voted for ID Cards to be introduced with "creeping compulsion".
That means that anyone who wants a new passport will have to get an ID Card as well. If you are the government, that means the cards are voluntary: you can always choose not to have a passport.
MPs laughed at Home Secretary Charles Clarke last night when he insisted yet again that passports were voluntary documents.
He won the day, anyway. MPs were voting whether to keep amendments made to the Identity Cards Bill by the House of Lords, which would have made it a voluntary scheme in the strictest sense of the word.
Those same amendments had already been rejected by the House of Commons once. The Lords stuck them back in last week. Last night they were struck out again, in a vote of 310 to 277.
This effectively closes most windows through which the civil libertarians could conduct their opposition to ID cards.
There are strong forces that would have made compulsion difficult to avoid - the sheer scale of investment going into the project creates its own irresistible momentum, for example.
The government has effectively reduced the chances of any effective guerilla opposition to the scheme building over its gradual roll out with passports in the next 10 years. By then, when it is likely Parliament will vote on whether people should be punished for not having an ID card, most people will have been forced to carry them with their passports anyway.
The bill will go back to the Lords, who are likely to graciously rubber stamp the will of the Commons.®