MPs urged to speak out against identity cards

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The Independent Online
More than 100 Labour and Tory MPs opposed to proposals to force Britons to carry identity cards have been urged this week to stand up for their beliefs.

Legislation to introduce "voluntary" ID cards will be passed by the House of Commons this Thursday, with backing from the Government and the Shadow Cabinet.

Their combined votes will easily outnumber the Liberal Democrats and Labour and Tory rebels who oppose the measure - although government whips will then have their work cut out to get it past the House of Lords.

Campaigners against the scheme have compiled a list of 40 Tories and 63 Labour MPs who have written to voters in their own constituencies expressing doubts or outright opposition to ID cards, but who failed to vote against the measure when it was brought to the Commons. The first vote on ID cards was held on a Thursday just before Christmas, when many MPs were out of Westminster.

Phil Booth, national co-ordinator of the pressure group No2ID, which is campaigning to prevent the introduction of identity cards, said: "We have targeted all the MPs who have gone on the record as saying they are against ID cards but didn't turn out to vote against them, to make them electorally answerable for their actions."

If the law is passed, its effect will be felt immediately by people applying to renew their passports. They will discover that the cost has leapt to pounds 80, and that their address, date of birth and information such as fingerprints will be retained for the rest of their lives on a new National Identity Register.

The scheme is likely to be extended later to include other groups, such as students applying for loans or motorists renewing their driving licences, until eventually the entire population has been entered on the ID register.

Although the scheme is highly controversial, it is being introduced with relatively little publicity because Michael Howard instructed Tory MPs not to oppose it. In doing so, he had to overrule the objections of numerous members of his front bench, including the former cabinet minister John Redwood, who has been an outspoken opponent.

Another former cabinet minister, Peter Lilley, recently published a pamphlet entitled "The Case Against ID cards", claiming: "The Government's plan for compulsory identity cards is a bad idea, in a bad Bill, introduced for the worst possible motives. This could be Labour's poll tax. The introduction of compulsory ID cards in peacetime has been the preserve of fascist and communist states. Such plans have always been intended to control their citizens."