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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 December, 2004, 07:52 GMT
ID cards plans pass first hurdle
ID card
Mr Clarke will not "pause" on the identity card scheme
An attempt to derail the government's controversial plans for identity cards has failed in the House of Commons.

In the first Commons vote on the scheme, MPs voted by 385 to 93 to give the bill a second reading.

New Home Secretary Charles Clarke has dismissed fears of a "Big Brother" state but 19 Labour MPs backed an amendment to block the bill.

The Lib Dems also opposed the cards, as did 10 Tory MPs who defied their leadership's support for the project.

The bill will go to detailed debate in the Commons before being examined by the House of Lords.

Former Tory Cabinet minister Douglas Hogg's call for the bill to be rejected was defeated by 306 to 93 in a separate vote.

The figures suggest several Conservative and Labour MPs abstained.

Jail terms

Ministers say the cards would help prevent terrorism, organised crime and the "near slave labour" caused by illegal people trafficking.

Opponents argue ID cards are expensive, have not prevented attacks elsewhere, including the Madrid rail bombing, and threaten civil liberties.

The first cards would be issued in 2008 along with biometric passports, containing details such as fingerprints or iris scans.

Ministers have suggested Parliament could decide in 2011 or 2012 whether to make it compulsory for everybody to own, but not to carry, the cards.

There is an entirely false claim that ID cards that will usher in a Big Brother society
Charles Clarke
Home Secretary

It would cost an estimated 415m a year to run a biometric passport scheme - and another 85m for ID cards.

In his first real test since replacing David Blunkett, Mr Clarke told MPs: "There is an entirely false claim that ID cards that will erode our civil liberties, will revisit 1984, will usher in a Big Brother society or establish some kind of totalitarian police state."

He was repeatedly pressed on how the scheme would help police if people did not always have to carry the cards.

Mr Clarke said officers believed the cards would make their job easier.

It sounds good but the practice is we will all have to pay a lot of money to have them.
Matthew Taylor
Lib Dem chairman

Conservative leader Michael Howard last week said his shadow cabinet had decided to back ID cards but admitted it was "not an easy issue".

Shadow home secretary David Davis said the Tories backed the principle of the scheme but wanted the details examined by a special committee.


Former Tory frontbencher Bill Cash said there was still "very deep" disquiet among senior Tories.

He brandished a copy of George Orwell's 1984 as he told MPs the plans would bring a "sea change" in the relationship between state and citizens.

And Labour backbencher Neil Gerrard claimed it was "almost inevitable" people would eventually be forced to carry the cards.

Lib Dem spokesman Mark Oaten warned: "This is about a change in society where if you look like an illegal immigrant or a terrorist you can be stopped...

"Where you will have to turn up to centres to have your fingerprint or your iris scanned, where if you visit your GP or accident and emergency department you will have to put in a scan and prove who you are."

Why Charles Clarke supports ID card introduction

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