The new Conservative-Liberal coalition Government today announced it intends to pass a “Freedom” or “Great Repeal” Act. This will:
- Scrap the ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the ContactPoint Database.
- Outlaw the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.
- Extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.
- Adopt the Scottish approach to stopping retention of innocent people’s DNA on the DNA database.
- Defend trial by jury.
- Restore rights to non-violent protest.
- A review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.
- Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.
- Further regulation of CCTV.
- Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.
- A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.
- End the detention of children for immigration purposes.
As a digital- and civil-rights campaigner this list fills my heart with joy. The successful passage of this Bill through Parliament would not end the need to champion human rights in the digital era* however it would be a famous victory for that cause: we could say with certainty that this election, that the ousting of Labour from Government, was the point at which the high-water mark of authoritarian social policy in Britain was reached.
Some fellow campaigners have today urged caution and are reserving judgement until the details of the Bill are published. I cannot fault them for their cynicism however I am filled with hope that today we have seen not only the dawn of a new politics in Britain, but a new era of liberty, freedom, privacy and respect for human rights in the UK.
I shall be raising my glass to the death of ID cards and the Database State tonight!
* Three omissions stand out: repeal clauses 11-18 of the Digital Economy Act; make the NHS Summary Care Record opt-in rather than opt-out; end the Vetting and Barring scheme, abolish the Independent Safeguarding Authority and reform CRB checks to make them fair. It’s possible that these will be included in the detail of the Bill.