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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 February, 2005, 19:15 GMT
Identity card plans clear Commons
ID card
Cards would be introduced for all
Controversial plans for identity cards have been passed by MPs.

The Tories abstained from a crucial vote on the scheme, though some of their backbenchers joined Labour rebels and Lib Dems in opposing the measure.

Tony Blair says the proposals are "long overdue" and are the best way to fight terrorism, organised crime and immigration abuses.

The Identity Cards Bill will introduce a single, universal ID Card for all UK citizens.

'Strategic blunder'

The report stages and third reading of the bill were debated on Thursday and it now moves to the House of Lords.

Michael Howard and his shadow cabinet had backed a scheme in principle, despite reports of strong opposition from some front benchers.

But shadow home secretary David Davis explained Tory MPs would abstain because ministers had failed to give assurances on how the scheme would work in practice.

He said the government had "failed to answer serious questions about practical issues to make this ID system work".

And he accused Labour of "playing politics" with the issue.

The ID card issue shows a total failure of both breach and strategy by Michael Howard
Des Browne
Immigration Minister

Tony Blair believes Mr Howard has committed an "enormous strategic blunder" which paves the way for Tory peers to join forces with Liberal Democrats in the Lords to kill the bill.

Mr Blair told MPs on Wednesday: "When organised crime and terrorism is far more sophisticated than ever before, I don't think it is wrong or a breach of anyone's civil liberties to say we should have an identity card."

Most people carried a form of identity with them anyway, he said.

'Opportunism'

In the Commons Home Secretary Charles Clarke attacked Mr Davis and the Conservatives saying their decision to abstain was a "betrayal of the interests of this country".

And he warned: "If in the final event, it does come to the case that we are not able to carry the legislation in this Parliamentary session, we will know quite clearly that the reason will be the decision of the opposition party, and their decision to put peace internally within their party ahead of the national interest."

Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrats home affairs spokesman, said: "The Tories are an absolute shambles on ID cards.

"This is breathtaking opportunism. First they were for ID cards, now they are sitting on the fence. It is no wonder that the public don't see them as the opposition to Labour any more.

"It's time they had the courage to join the Liberal Democrats in opposing this expensive and illiberal measure."

'Expensive excuse'

UK Independence Party leader Roger Knapman rejected the idea that ID cards would help in fighting terrorism and said they were the "latest expensive excuse to meddle in peoples lives".

"As for helping to tackle immigration and asylum problems, the government has yet to explain how issuing ID cards will help when it openly admits it has no idea of the true number of illegal immigrants already in Britain."

The Identity Cards Bill was passed by MPs at its third reading by 224 votes to 64 - majority 160.

A total of 19 Labour MPs and 11 Tories rebelled against their respective party whips.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why Charles Clarke supports ID card introduction



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