Page last updated at 17:05 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 18:05 UK

Tory plans to cut 'surveillance'

A sample ID card
The Tories say they will scrap the ID card scheme

The Conservatives have set out plans to reverse what they describe as "the rise of the surveillance state".

They have pledged to scrap two new databases - the ID card register and ContactPoint - and strengthen the powers of the Information Commissioner.

The Conservatives say they want to restore public trust in the use of personal data by the state.

Their proposals come after a series of security breaches and concern about the amount of information that is held.

The National Identity register - which underpins the ID card scheme - would be scrapped, as would the ContactPoint database, which holds details of 11 million children and young people.

Other proposals include ensuring that government departments are routinely audited by the information commissioner, who would be required to report to Parliament.

'Worst of all worlds'

Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve, speaking at the launch of the party's Reverse of the Surveillance State policy document, said: "No-one is suggesting we should not harness IT or surveillance technology to strengthen public protection.

The state has encroached on the privacy of the innocent citizen, but delivered precious little in return
Dominic Grieve, shadow justice secretary

"I am not amongst those who nostalgically yearn for some luddite return to a pre-technological age. But, the government's approach to databases and surveillance powers is the worst of all worlds, intrusive, ineffective and enormously expensive."

He also criticised a new vetting system for volunteers which he said aimed to "protect the public through automated systems".

But he said: "Over-reliance on the database state has proved a woefully poor substitute for human judgment and care on the frontline of public service delivery.

"The state has encroached on the privacy of the innocent citizen, but delivered precious little in return."

DNA records

He said money spent on surveillance and building databases would be better spent on more "visible" policing, stronger border controls and increasing the number of prison places.

And he set out five basic principles guiding Tory policy in this area: "Fewer mammoth databases, that are better run. Fewer personal details held by the state, stored accurately and on a need-to-know basis.

"Greater checks and personal control over the sharing of our data by government. And stronger duties on government to keep our private information safe."

The Tories would have more credibility as opponents of the Big Brother state if they were not planning to reduce checks on police surveillance
Chris Huhne
Lib Dems

The Tories are also planning to restrict the storage of DNA records of innocent people, after a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.

The government has consulted on its own DNA reforms, and is due to publish the results shortly.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said: "The cases of criminals like Kensley Larrier and Abdul Azad demonstrate that we need to retain information on the DNA database."

Larrier is a rapist from the North of England who was convicted in 2005 after he was linked to a rape by a DNA sample taken from him three years earlier when he was arrested for possession of an offensive weapon.

Abdul Azad was convicted of a rape committed in Stafford on the strength of DNA evidence taken from him a year earlier in Birmingham when he was arrested for violent disorder.

For the Liberal Democrats, Chris Huhne said: "The Tories would have more credibility as opponents of the Big Brother state if they were not planning to reduce checks on police surveillance.

"The party that first backed ID cards and whose councils snoop with enthusiasm is not to be trusted with privacy or civil liberties."



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Climbdown on compulsory ID cards
30 Jun 09 |  UK Politics
MP's fears at child risk register
30 Jun 09 |  Somerset
Extent of data losses is revealed
19 Aug 08 |  UK Politics

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2016 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific