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ID card deadlock comes to an end

BBC | March 30 2006

The battle over the government's controversial ID Cards Bill has ended after peers accepted a compromise deal.

Under the compromise, anyone who renews a passport will have their details put on a national ID database - but will not have to get a card until 2010.

That plan was backed by 287 votes to 60 with only Lib Dems still opposed to it.

Peers had five times rejected plans to force passport applicants to get cards. MPs and peers had faced an all-night sitting before the deadlock was broken.

'Delighted'

Earlier on Wednesday MPs had overturned the latest Lords amendment, but Home Secretary Charles Clarke indicated that he was prepared to accept a "workable compromise".

After the latest vote, Home Office Minister Andy Burnham said he was "delighted" the government had been able to give its backing to the compromise deal which was proposed by cross-bencher Lord Armstrong.

"The amendment preserves the integrity of the National Identity Register by ensuring that everyone who applies for, or renews a passport or other designated document has their biometric information and other identity details placed on the register," he said.

"However, it also goes towards meeting the concerns of those who have argued that the card itself should not be compulsory at this stage by allowing those who apply for or renew their passport before 1 January 2010 to 'opt out' of being issued the ID card itself, even though their identity details will be entered on to the register."

The bill will now return to the Commons where it is seen as a formality that it will be passed.

Parliament Act 'threatened'

Up until now, peers had firmly opposed plans to force all passport applicants to get an ID card, claiming the scheme was not "voluntary".

However, Mr Clarke argued the proposals were consistent with Labour's manifesto - a claim rejected by peers.

On Tuesday the House of Lords backed another compromise amendment by Lord Armstrong, which would allow people to opt out of the scheme until 2011.

But earlier on Wednesday, MPs rejected that compromise plan by a majority of 54.

Last March the Commons and the House of Lords became locked in a 32-hour marathon over controversial anti-terror laws - the longest sitting in Lords' history.

If the deadlock over the ID Cards Bill had not been broken the government could have used the Parliament Act to overrule peers and force the legislation through.

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