Saturday 8 May 2010

Exclusive – the new Government’s cunning data protection plan?

Stumbling back from a Westminster pub late last night, I might have picked up an interesting document, freshly thrown out along with a dozen pizza boxes. Some poor sods were obviously working all through the small hours, hammering out what appears to be a draft of something or other. Poor buggers, I might have thought to myself.

Then, I might have read it. What was it? Data protection gold dust. It might have been the section in an early draft of the Lib Dem/Tory agreement that was being worked on in a nearby office. The section – or should I call it “Appendix 26” could have been entitled “common views on data protection.” And what could it have contained?

On data protection

Wherever possible, we believe that personal data should be controlled by individual citizens themselves. We will strengthen the powers of the Information Commissioner to penalise any public body found guilty of mismanaging data. We will take further steps to protect people from unwarranted intrusion by the state, including:

• Cutting back intrusive powers of entry into homes, which have been massively extended under Labour.
• Curtailing the surveillance powers that allow some councils to use anti-terrorism laws to spy on people making trivial mistakes or minor breaches of the rules.
• Requiring Privacy Impact Assessments of any proposal that involves data collection or sharing;
• Ansuring proper Parliamentary scrutiny of any new powers of data-sharing.
• Extending Freedom of Information legislation to private companies delivering monopoly public services such as Network Rail.

On civil liberties

We will:
• Scrap ID cards, and plans for expensive, unnecessary new passports with additional biometric data, the National Identity Register and the Contactpoint database, which is intended to hold the details of every child in England.
• Replace the Human Rights Act with a UK Bill of Rights, subject to final approval in a referendum.. We will restore the civil liberties that are so precious to the British character.
• Review and reform libel laws to protect freedom of speech, reduce costs and discourage libel tourism.
• Regulate CCTV, stop councils from spying on people by curtailing their powers of entry into private homes, stop unfair extradition to the US, defend trial by jury.
• End plans to store your email and internet records without good cause.
• Remove innocent people from the police DNA database and stop storing DNA from innocent people and children in the future, with the slimmer and more efficient Scottish system as our model.
• Roll back Labour's surveillance state, curtail powers of entry for state officials, and introduce new protections over the use of personal data.

On cutting crime with more and better police

We will:
• Get more police on the streets.
• Help the police to be more effective at catching criminals, spend less time on bureaucracy and more time preventing crime, reassuring the public and helping keep everyone safe. We can't go on with the police filling in forms instead of fighting crime.

On terrorism and defending our security

We will:

• Reach out to the communities most at risk of radicalisation to improve the relationships between them and the police and increase the flow of intelligence.
• Scrap control orders, which can use secret evidence to place people under house arrest
• Reduce the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 14 days.
• Make it easier to prosecute and convict terrorists by allowing intercept evidence in court and by making greater use of postcharge questioning.
• Establish a National Security Council to co-ordinate responses to the dangers we face, which will be chaired by the Prime Minister.
• Create a National Security Adviser and a new National Resilience Team for Homeland Security;
• Develop a National Security Strategy and oversee a Strategic Defence and Security Review that implements that strategy.
• Establish a new Permanent Military Command for Homeland Defence and Security to provide a more structured military contribution to homeland security.

That didn’t take too long to cobble together. Less than 20 minutes, I guess. Let's hope they sort out the appendix on the economy just as quickly. Oh yes, and the one on electoral reform too ...