Identity cards and the Irish – Part two

The Identity Cards Bill will have its second reading later this afternoon, so I suppose I’d better fulfill my promise to have a look at the stance of the Northern Ireland MPs on the issue.

The most significant player will be the DUP who have 9 seats. Frank Millar of the Irish Times had a very interesting report on their stance yesterday. It looks as if they are viewing the vote as a chance to test their parliamentary leverage, and to push for concessions such as seats in the House of Lords.

The Democratic Unionist Party will oppose the Blair government’s to introduce ID cards for every citizen of the United Kingdom, if the British database is to be shared with the Irish authorities.

This emerged last night as DUP sources confirmed the party is in negotiation with ministers about its possible support for the controversial bill, which is due to receive its second reading in the House of Commons tomorrow.

The assumption in London is that if the British scheme gets parliamentary approval, the Irish government will be abliged to follow suit if the Common Travel Area between the UK and the Republic is to be maintained. (Irish Times)

I’m not sure what the SDLP’s three MPs are planning to do. They abstained during the second reading of the bill which fell in the last Parliament.

Justice spokesman Alban Maginness had this to say at their party conference in February.

This Party should have no problem with the introduction of identity cards in the battle against criminality and fraud, so long as there are sufficient safeguards. The present draft legislation falls short on that. In principle we should support cards, but not without being satisfied that they will not be abused and measures introduced to prevent abuses. (SDLP)

the sole Ulster Unionist MP, Lady Hermon, has a reputation for voting with the Government, and indeed supported the identity cards bill in the last Parliament.

It doesn’t look as if the vote will be close enough for Irish votes to be decisive. This analysis by the website explains why. Essentially, there are only about 20 proven Labour rebels on identity cards, not enough to kill the bill even with Government’s reduced majority of 66.

However, the debate does seem to be turning sour for the Government, so perhaps some new rebels will emerge as the bill progresses.



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