PM stresses it will be for parliament to decide
He may be seeking wriggle room on issue, says Vaz
Patrick Wintour and Will Woodward
Senior Labour MPs yesterday seized on comments by Gordon Brown to suggest that he intends to shelve a compulsory universal identity card scheme. They interpreted his remarks at prime minister’s questions as a sign that he is cooling towards a compulsory scheme and may instead settle for a scheme that applies to foreign nationals.The prime minister’s spokesman insisted that the government’s policy and timetable on ID cards remained unchanged, after Brown had stressed that that it would be “for parliament to decide” on a compulsory scheme.
MPs have detected a less enthusiastic tone in Brown’s remarks on ID cards since the recent government data losses.
Speaking at PMQs today, the Tory leader, David Cameron, accused Brown of failing to give a “straight answer” on ID cards. “What’s your personal view? Are you in favour, yes or no?” Brown replied only: “It is the government’s policy to move ahead with this, but subject to a vote of parliament, depending on how the voluntary scheme works.”
Brown said in an interview at the weekend that the envisaged scheme did not involve compulsion – and added on Tuesday that compulsion was just an “option”.
Keith Vaz, the chairman of the home affairs select committee, suggested that Brown’s performance at prime minister’s questions indicated that he might be looking for wriggle room, adding that he believed Brown would use the imposition of ID cards on foreign nationals as a pilot.
A 2006 act allows for the registering and issuing of an ID card to be linked to the issuing of official documents such as passports and immigration documents. Around 8% of the adult population receive a passport each year, but further primary legislation will have to be laid before parliament to provide the powers to issue ID cards to the rest of the population. Meanwhile the Tories will today seek to exploit Labour embarrassment over recent increases in child poverty by championing many of the proposals made by David Blunkett, the former home secretary, to improve social mobility.
In an article in the Guardian, George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, supports Blunkett’s idea of giving good tenants of social housing a share of their homes, backs residents taking control of poor neighbourhoods, and says giving extra cash to poorer students echoes Tory proposals.