Peers stand firm against ID cards

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A trial of strength between peers and MPs looms today after the House of Lords threw out for the third time Tony Blair's plans to introduce identity cards .

The Government repeated its determination to drive the scheme on to the statute book last night and will ask MPs today to overturn the latest Lords defeat.

With little sign of either House backing off, the impasse over the Identity Cards Bill threatens to develop into a constitutional crisis.

The Lords voted by 218 to 183 yesterday, a majority of 35, to reject proposals to require all people registering for a biometric passport to include their details on the new register that will underpin the cards.

Peers protested that the proposal amounted to an attempt to introduce a compulsory ID scheme by stealth. But Home Office ministers insisted it is an integral element of the scheme.

The Tory spokeswoman Baroness Anelay of St Johns said: "We believe quite simply that there are other and better ways of securing our safety, reducing the fraudulent use of services and managing migration."

The stand-off sets the scene for a lengthy spell of "ping-pong" with the Bill going back and forth between the two Houses.

The prospect that eventually the Government may have to use the Parliament Act to get the Bill into law sparked angry exchanges over the right of peers to challenge MPs.

Lord McNally, leader of the Liberal Democrat peers, protested: "It is very important in the relationship between the two Houses that this House retains the right to say 'no'.''

Andy Burnham, a Home Office Minister, said: "This has now been backed by the House of Commons three times. The time has come for the Lords to give way so we can get on with the job."