Clarke backs down over plan to make ID cards compulsory

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Indy Politics

Plans to compel people to produce their ID cards have been postponed indefinitely in an attempt to save Tony Blair from another embarrassing defeat at the hands of rebel MPs.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, will publish proposed amendments to the Identity Cards Bill today, which will mean that there would have to be a separate Act of Parliament before the new cards could be made compulsory. Mr Clarke had intended to introduce the cards ­ expected to cost around £93 each ­ on a voluntary basis first, with a view to making them compulsory later. Under the original legislation that would have required only a simple vote by MPs.

But government whips, who have been working overtime to try to avert another damaging defeat, warned him that MPs were in no mood to accept what many regarded as an unnecessary and expensive intrusion on personal liberty.

In a speech to Labour's spring conference in Blackpool today, Mr Blair will argue that providing security is just as important as the party's aim of building a fair and just society.

He will try to head off a double defeat at the hands of his own MPs next week, when the Commons will debate identity cards and a new offence of glorifying terrorism. Ministers admit both votes will be close.

Mr Blair will say: "Labour is the party of opportunity and solidarity, but there cannot be opportunity without security. There cannot be strong communities without security."