MPs and peers face a constitutional crisis next week when the Government prepares a fresh attempt to drive its identity card proposals into law.
Although the House of Lords is digging in against the scheme, ministers have taken the surprise decision to try to force through the ID Cards Bill at the earliest possible opportunity. They warn that further parliamentary wrangling could delay plans to issue the first ID cards in 2008-09.
The issue will come to a head the day after Tony Blair's showdown with backbench dissidents over plans to set up a new generation of independent "trust schools". Opposition parties suspect the rapid return of ID Cards Bill is not coincidental, with ministers calculating that potential Labour rebels will be focusing next week on education reforms. The Government was defeated by a margin of 61 in the Lords on Monday on a central element of the ID card scheme, an increase on the majority of 44 two months ago.
Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, has decided to overturn the defeat next Monday in the Commons, setting the scene for a tug-of-war between the two Houses. He has told colleagues he is prepared to keep MPs and peers sitting late into next week in an effort to force the legislation on to the statute book.
A Home Office source said: "We have had clear Commons majorities on the principle of the Bill. If the Lords refuse to give way, the question will become which House has precedence."
Peers voted to remove provisions in the Bill that would require all people applying for a passport to enter their details on the proposed national identity register. They insisted the measure amounted to "compulsion by stealth" and broke Labour's manifesto promise that the scheme would initially be voluntary.
After the Commons vote on Monday, the Bill will return to the Lords on Wednesday. If, as looks certain, peers refuse to give way, it will be sent back to MPs on Thursday, with the prospect of "parliamentary ping-pong" continuing between the two chambers.Reuse content