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UK parliament approves ID card legislation after Lords compromise

[JURIST] The UK House of Lords and House of Commons [official websites] ended a political standoff Wednesday by adopting a compromise on the controversial Identity Cards Bill [PDF text; JURIST news archive]. The legislation had bounced back and forth between both houses of parliament in recent months with the Lords objecting to a Commons provision to effectively make the cards mandatory by requiring ID registration for all British citizens applying for passports. Wednesday's compromise mitigated the provision somewhat by allowing passport applicants to opt out of taking an ID card [Home Office backgrounder] until January 2010 so long as they register in a national computer database. Amended legislation reflecting the compromise was passed in the Hose of Lords, and then by the House of Commons. The agreement between the houses of parliament averted a possible constitutional crisis [JURIST report], as UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke [official profile] had threatened to use the Parliament Act [Guardian Q/A; UK Parliament backgrounder, PDF] to force the legislation through.

If the British government wants to introduce compulsory ID cards for all British citizens, separate legislation will be required. Prime Minister Tony Blair [official profile] has insisted that the ID card scheme is critical to combating terrorism, illegal immigration, organized crime, and identity theft. The ID cards bill received royal assent [press release] Thursday and takes effect on April 1. AP has more. The Guardian has local coverage.

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