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Last Updated: Monday, 21 March, 2005, 21:39 GMT
Minister stands firm on ID cards
ID card
Cards would be introduced for all
The government is determined to press ahead with its plans to introduce a national ID card system, Home Office minister Baroness Scotland has said.

Having a "clear, unequivocal and unique form of identification" offered clear benefits, she told peers as she opened the second reading debate on the Bill.

The Lib Dems oppose the plans on civil liberties grounds, and the Tories have criticised the detail of the plans.

The Bill is expected to run out of time when a general election is announced.

The plans have already been agreed by the Commons, and received an unopposed second reading in the Lords later.

Why has the government set their own Identity Cards Bill up to fail?
Tory Baroness Anelay

But there is no mention of the ID Cards Bill in the government's draft Lords business between now and mid-April.

Baroness Scotland, however, told peers the government had no intention of "wavering" and that the scheme would begin on a voluntary basis in 2008.

An ID card linked to a biometric database had benefits for everyone, she said.

"That is why 80% of the public in recent surveys say they support the introduction of ID cards.

"The government is convinced that the introduction of ID cards is in the interests of the nation."

The minister said the scheme would help fight terrorism, detect crime, and control immigration .

Terror risk

It would also promote "efficient and effective" provision of public services.

She challenged the Tories, who backed the Bill in principle at its Commons second reading but opposed it at third reading, to come out in support of the legislation.

For the Tories, Baroness Anelay called for "proper parliamentary scrutiny" of Bills which bore within them "matters of constitutional importance".

"Why has the Government set their own Identity Cards Bill up to fail?" she taunted ministers, accusing them of planning to blame the opposition for its expected failure to become law.

She then re-stated the Tories' "five tests" for the bill on its clarity of purpose, security of the database, the workability of such a large IT project, its cost effectiveness, and protection of civil liberties.

The debate came as a London School of Economics report said the scheme was too risky and lacked the trust of the public.

The government's proposed system is so complex it could itself become a target of terrorists, the academics warned.

ID cards must truly benefit citizens rather than be a costly imposition, Professor Patrick Dunleavy said.




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