Monday, January 16, 2006

Lords demand to know cost of ID cards

Like Al Capone and his tax returns, it may be the financial details that finally kill the government's ID card proposals.

The Lords today demanded that the government stop its outrageous cover-up of the cost of their legislation, passing an amendment to the Bill that requires detailed financial estimates to be certified by the National Audit Office and approved by the House of Commons before the Bill can proceed further.

Lord Phillips, leading for the Liberal Democrats on the Bill, writes in today's Guardian:

The amendment to be debated today will tap into cross-chamber insistence that resisting calls for estimates of the full costs of such a massive initiative not only prevents proper scrutiny but aborts discussion of alternatives. It also seems to be unprecedented. The Home Office minister Baroness Scotland tried to justify the intransigence on the grounds of commercial secrecy during the tendering process. Besides wondering at the presumption of embarking on tenders long before the bill is through, to think that commercial convenience trumps parliament's right to know is a baleful reflection on our democratic ill-health.

Lord Rees-Mogg, writing in the Times, is grimly determined that this should mark the start of a fightback against excessive state control:

In the history of Britain there have been many periods when liberty was threatened. The immediate threat is a government with a lust for control, with little respect for liberty or for the House of Commons, but enjoying the opportunity of using new technologies for social control. The British are certainly less free than we were in 1997 or 2001. The fightback will be laborious and difficult, but there is a new mood. We do not want to reach 1984 25 years behind schedule in 2009.

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