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UK Home Secretary backtracks on compulsory national IDs

[JURIST] [JURIST Europe] In an apparent political climbdown, UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke [official profile] has approved publication of proposed amendments to the controversial British Identity Cards Bill [official PDF text] that would require another Act of Parliament be passed to make the cards mandatory. The bill currently requires that anyone obtaining a British passport from 2008 onward also receive an ID card, putting their biometric data, including an iris scan and fingerprints, on record at a national database. The original bill faced strong opposition [BBC report] from some Tory, Liberal Democrat and even Labour MPs, who saw the scheme as an expensive and unnecessary intrusion into personal liberty and have been adamant in their goal to make sure the scheme remains voluntary. The government only narrowly won a preliminary vote [JURIST report] on the measure in June. British Prime Minister Tony Blair [official profile], who first introduced the ID card plan [JURIST report] last May, is slated to defend the issuance of national identity cards at the Labor spring conference on Friday. The bill was originally introduced to combat illegal immigration, terrorism, organized crime, and identity theft. The Independent has local coverage.

Angela Onikepe is an Associate Editor for JURIST Europe, reporting European legal news from a European perspective. She is based in the UK.

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