LONDON, March 6 (UPI) -- Government plans to make possession of a national identity card mandatory for passport applicants were overturned Monday by the British House of Lords.
Members of Parliament's unelected chamber voted by a majority of 61 against the proposal, which they said broke the government's manifesto pledge that the ID card scheme would initially be voluntary.
It was the Lords' second vote against the proposal, which members of the elected House of Commons backed last month. The two chambers are now locked in a battle of wills, which will end only when one house backs down or the government uses the Parliament Act to force the bill through Parliament without the Lords' consent.
Under the controversial identity card scheme, all British citizens will eventually hold a biometric card containing data such as retina and facial scans and fingerprints, along with more traditional forms of personal information.
The government claims the cards, which will be linked to a central database, will prove an important tool in the fight against terrorism, identity fraud and organized crime.
Ministers have accepted the insistence of the opposition that a separate vote of Parliament be required to make the scheme compulsory. However they also want ID cards to be automatically linked to biometric passports -- being issued for the first time this week -- which opponents say amounts to "compulsion by stealth."
Liberal Democrat Lord Phillips of Sudbury said: "It's not often it's left to the opposition to make sure the government honors its manifesto pledges."
He said the description of ID card plans as voluntary "stretches the English language to breaking point."
The bill now returns to the House of Commons.