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UK Lords reject controversial ID card bill

In the UK, Tony Blair's government was defeated by the House of Lords on March 6 over the controversial issue of national identity cards.

The peers voted by a majority of 61 to overturn the government's plan and make the cards voluntary. The bill will now return to the House of Commons for further debate. Both houses must reach agreement for the measure to become law.

Under government proposals, the cards would not be mandatory at first. Anyone applying for or renewing a passport, however, would have to pay for an identity card as well from 2008.

The opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers said this would introduce the cards by "stealth" and go back on Labour's original plan which was to have voluntary ID cards.

The cards - with data for fingerprint, iris and face recognition technology - are among the world's most ambitious experiments in biometric identification.

The government argues ID cards are essential to combat identity theft, abuse of the state benefits system, illegal immigration, organised crime and terrorism.

Critics say they are unworkable, expensive and undermine civil liberties. This was the second time the House of Lords has voted against the cards. The House of Commons has previously voted in favour of the bill.