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ID cards bill sent back to UK Commons for fourth time as constitutional crisis looms

[JURIST] [JURIST Europe] A classic legislative tug-of-war between the UK House of Lords and House of Commons continued Monday as peers once again sent the controversial Identity Cards Bill [official PDF text; JURIST news archive] back to MPs after a majority of 36 voted to keep the cards voluntary through 2011, overriding a Commons-endorsed government plan to require ID registration for all British citizens applying for passports. Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland of Asthal [official website], a spokesperson for Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour government, furtively reminded peers that their role is to “question and test, but not to over-rule.” Commons leaders can use the Parliament Act [official PDF text] to force a bill into law when Parliament's two Houses are deadlocked, but they are hesitant to do so because that could precipitate a constitutional crisis, and in practical terms it would hold up the enactment of the ID cards for at least another year.

This is the fourth time that the ID cards bill has been rejected by the Lords. One of the reasons for the Lords’ opposition is Labour’s earlier promise that the ID cards would be voluntary while later tying them with passport registration, allegedly making them “compulsive by stealth”. The Independent has local coverage.

Tatyana Margolin 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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