Straw forced into retreat over ‘Big Brother’ data sharing plan
Justice Secretary seeks to allay fears of a drift towards a ‘surveillance society’
The Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, will make a U-turn over sweeping new powers which were to allow public bodies to swap the data they hold on individuals.
In a clear sign the Government is worried about growing criticism that it is creating a “Big Brother Britain”, Mr Straw is to rewrite his Coroners and Justice Bill to build in new safeguards to protect the public. He will table several amendments to the measure when it reaches its report stage in the Commons next month.
The climbdown comes after MPs from all parties and civil liberties groups warned that the Bill would mark a major departure from the principle that information collected for one purpose by the Government should not be used for another.
Critics are worried that the measure would pave the way for data sharing to be extended in future without fresh legislation. They claim that ministers would be able to approve public bodies handing over sensitive information to companies. Allies of Mr Straw revealed last night that he now accepts the provisions in the Bill were too broad. They said he has asked officials to draw up plans to tighten the provisions in an attempt to allay fears about a drift towards a “surveillance society”, and thus win public confidence in the measure.
However, the Justice Secretary insists that there is still a case for more data sharing to improve public services. For example, a Department of Work and Pensions project will ease the distress of bereaved families by ensuring they have to report a death to the authorities only once. Another scheme will allow families who qualify for free school meals to get help towards the cost of home computers to access government services, without providing documentary evidence about their incomes.
David Blunkett, who is regarded as a hardliner by civil liberties groups after introducing identity cards as Home Secretary, has lobbied Mr Straw to water down his Bill. He is particularly worried about a proposal allowing ministers to make “information-sharing orders” enabling “any person” to share information which includes personal data.
In a speech today, Mr Blunkett will warn that data sharing is a “major area of public concern”. The former cabinet minister will say: “It is not simply whether the intentions are benign – undoubtedly they are – but whether they are likely to be misused and above all what value their use may have.”
Campaign groups welcomed Mr Blunkett as an unlikely recruit into their ranks yesterday. But they warned that his proposal for the Government to replace plans for compulsory ID cards with proposals to force British people to hold passports would not overcome their objections.
- 1 Al Pacino on suffering from depression: 'It can last and it's terrifying'
- 2 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Perez Hilton apologises for publishing Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak
Jennifer Lawrence 'nude photo hacker' claims there are hundreds more celebrity images to come
Victoria Justice on naked photo leak: 'Let me nip this in the bud right now – pun intended'
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
Ariana Grande nude photos leak: Pictures are completely fake, say singer's representatives
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
£80 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Permanent post for a Key stag...
£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Geography Teacher urgently ...
£50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher or L...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organ...