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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 February 2008, 13:57 GMT
Clegg attacks 'surveillance' UK
Fingerprint being taken
Fingerprinting of children by schools is "scandalous" says Nick Clegg
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has accused Gordon Brown of turning Britain into a "surveillance state" during prime minister's questions in the Commons.

He also urged an end to the "scandalous fingerprinting" of children at schools and the removal of more than a million innocent people from the DNA database.

Mr Brown, who earlier promised a quick report on the MP bugging row responded by asking if the Lib Dems backed CCTV.

He added: "We are taking the steps to protect the liberties of citizens."

Mr Clegg told the prime minister controversy surrounding the bugging of Labour MP Sadiq Khan, on a prison visit to a constituent, "shouldn't come as a surprise to you".

'Urgent' security needs

"After all, it is this government that has turned the British public into the most spied upon the planet - 1,000 surveillance requests every day, one million innocent people on the DNA database and 5,000 schools now fingerprinting our children," he said.

"Is that what you meant when you spoke so stirringly a few months ago about the great British tradition of liberty?"

You seem to see no limits - you are creating a surveillance state
Nick Clegg
Lib Dem leader

Mr Brown hit back: "I take it you and your Liberal authorities support CCTV?

"I take it they support the action taken on intercepts when it is necessary to do so for national security?

"I take it that you accept that only 1,500 intercepts have been commissioned by ministers as a result of urgent security needs?"

Mr Clegg said Mr Brown did not seem to see any limits. "You are creating a surveillance state," he said.

He asked why he had "consistently refused" to give the information commissioner more power.


Mr Brown said he hoped the Lib Dem leader had looked at the protections that had been put in place where surveillance and intercepts are involved.

"That includes authorisation by a senior officer, the right to appeal to an independent tribunal, a commissioner for surveillance who looks at matters and reports annually," he said.

"We are taking the steps to protect the liberties of citizens - I hope you will support that."

During the weekly questions Mr Brown also came under fire from Conservative leader David Cameron for not taking decisions.

Mr Cameron said Mr Brown had set up 52 policy reviews since becoming prime minister last summer when, he said, what people wanted was decisions.

Mr Brown defended the setting up of reviews, saying that there were so many because his government were to make the changes the UK needed for the long-term.

Later, a spokeswoman for the DCSF said: “It is ridiculous to suggest that headteachers who choose – in consultation with parents - to introduce simple systems to help speed up school lunch and library queues are somehow spying on their pupils”.

The issues surrounding a 'surveillance society'


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