ID cards fan Blair-Brown dispute

DAVID Blunkett's plans for national identity cards are likely to fuel the flames of the increasingly sour relations between Tony Blair and his Chancellor Gordon Brown.

DAVID Blunkett's plans for national identity cards are likely to fuel the flames of the increasingly sour relations between Tony Blair and his Chancellor Gordon Brown.

Mr Blair rather favours identity cards. His Chancellor does not.

This week, Mr Blunkett – having got the idea approved by the Cabinet against stiff opposition from the Chancellor – announced that within four years, British citizens will be forced to supply fingerprints for ID cards.

The cost of a passport will rise from £42 to £77, with people renewing their passports forced to supply fingerprints and other information that will be incorporated into a chip on a biometric plastic card.

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Proper ID cards may not be a fact of life until at least 2013, but the Home Secretary estimates by then that up to 80% of UK adults will be carrying a biometric passport or driving licence.

But the plan is just the latest in a long line of ideological differences that have arisen between Tony Blair and his Chancellor.

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And the man best equipped to exploit these differences is new Tory leader Michael Howard, who will use the adversarial skills he learned in the law courts to cause the maximum discomfort to Mr Blair.

At Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Mr Howard raised the spectre of the feud between the two most powerful politicians in Britain. Mr Blair obviously knew such an attack would be raised – and so did his Chancellor, The body language of Messrs Blair and Brown could not have been more clear.

Ten there's the Mayor of London. Ken Livingstone won last time as an Independent, with old Labour war horse Frank Dobson humiliated in fourth place. Labour has already chosen Nicky Gavron for the 2004 contest, but Mr Blair – desperate for a major Labour success next year – wants Mr Livingstone back in the fold. His Chancellor does not.

Mischievously, Bracknell's Tory MP asked the perfectly straightforward question who he believed "would make a better Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone or Nicky Gavron? Mr Blair tried to dismiss this with the answer "Of course, I always support the Labour candidate."

Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Simon Hughes, while of course failing to credit the Tory MP with having had the intelligence to raise the matter, later joined in Mr Blair's discomfort.

"The Prime Minister will gain nothing from hedging his bets. Mr Livingstone

left the Labour Party because he broke his word and stabbed them in the

back. It is clear from conversations with Labour colleagues there will be

more blood on the carpet if Labour tries to bring him back," said Mr Hughes, by far the most effective Liberal Democrat in Parliament.

"The people of London voted for Mr Livingstone as an independent candidate.

If Mr Livingstone is to rejoin the Labour Party and stand as the official

Labour candidate, he also has to stand by all of Labours' policies - on

Iraq, on top up and tuition fees, on foundation hospitals, on council tax

and on the privatisation of the Tube."

"Having lost in Brent East, Labour are so scared of losing they are now even

prepared to contemplate bring Tony Blair's' pet hate back into the party.

Who can forget the bitterness of the Labour hierarchy towards Mr Livingstone

when he decided to stand as an independent candidate."

Politics in Britain has suddenly entered a whole new ball game. Mr Blair knows he has a battle on his hands – and so does his Chancellor.

GILLIAN Shephard, MP for Norfolk South-West and a former Agriculture Minister and Education Secretary, has taken over the Conservative Party appointment on the Committee on Standards in Public Life. The 63 year-old MP succeeds Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market for an initial three year appointment. Baroness Maddock is the new Liberal Democrat on the Committee, taking over from Lord Goodhart.

WAVENEY'S Labour MP Bob Blizzard wants the Government to intervene to force fast food outlets to use only biodeogradable packaging – but the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs believes such a move runs counter to plans to encourage degradable packaging. Rural Affairs minister Elliot Morley said in a written Commons reply that degradable plastics made from fossil fuels and specifically designed for disposal with no beneficial recovery potential "runs counter to the aim to increase recycling. In addition, if disposed of in landfill rather than, for example, being composted, biodegradable waste breaks down to release greenhouse gases."

BRENTWOOD and Ongar MP Eric Pickles is to present a petition to the Commons on the future of Ongar fire station. Residents of the town are objecting to Essex Fire Authority's proposal to downgrade it from full time to retained status. "The residents are preparing a petition and I have agreed that when it is completed, I will present it to Parliament. For it to have impact, it must contain as many signatures as possible," says Mr Pickles." Anyone who wishes to support this campaign can obtain copies of the petition from my web site"

SIR John Egan, the current president of the CBI, has accepted an invitation from Tony Blair and John Prescott to become their adviser on the Thames Gateway, the new development zone either side of the M25 in Essex and Kent. There are £2billion plans for 120,000 homes to be built and 180,000 jobs to be created by 2016.

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