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ID cards passed despite abstentions

The Telegraph | December 21, 2004
By George Jones

Government plans for national identity cards were approved by the Commons last night despite more than a quarter of MPs not voting.

Although Conservative and Labour rebels failed to derail the Identity Cards Bill, they provoked a highly embarrassing mass abstention.

The Bill was given a second reading by 385 votes to 93, a Government majority of 292, indicating that dozens of Labour and Tory backbenchers abstained.

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Of a total voting strength of 651, 173 MPs were absent or decided not to vote on one of the Government's flagship measures proposing the biggest changes to individual liberties for 50 years.

A wrecking amendment proposed by Tory and Labour rebels seeking to deny the Bill a second reading was rejected by 306 to 93, a Government majority of 213.

The revolt was a blow both for Tony Blair and Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, who backed the legislation despite the misgivings of many of his MPs.

Charles Clarke, the new Home Secretary, who inherited the plans from David Blunkett, said they would help tackle terrorism, fraud and trafficking in people, as well as making life easier for millions of people.

At one stage Bill Cash (C, Stone) brandished a copy of George Orwell's novel 1984 at the Home Secretary, challenging him to repudiate claims that the measure would effect a "sea change" in the relationship between state and individual.

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