In future, Whitehall departments would face tougher privacy rules to protect the individual against loss of their personal data, shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve will say today.

Private information would only be shared on a “need to know” basis and for limited periods of time,.

Launching a policy paper entitled “Reversing the Rise of the Surveillance State” he will accuse ministers of trying to run government “robotically”.

And he will outline a string of measures aimed at restoring “human judgment” to frontline public services. They include:

Scrapping the National Identity Register, which will contain personal details of all ID card and passport holders;

Ditching the ContactPoint database - which holds the names, dates of birth, schools and home addresses of all 11 million children in England;

Rolling back the use of controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) powers by town hall officials to access personal communications data;

Nominating a minister and senior civil servant in every Government department to take responsibility for data security;

Beefing-up the powers and role of the privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner;

Consulting on a new “best practice” standard for private companies on protecting personal data.

In addition, any new powers to share data between agencies or departments will require primary legislation - ensuring the opportunity for debate in the House of Commons.

All proposals involving data collection or sharing would be subject to a “Privacy Impact Assessment”, involving consultation with the Information Commissioner.

Speaking to an invited audience at Microsoft’s central London office, Mr Grieve will say the “over-reliance” on the surveillance state was a “poor substitute” for human judgment.

“This Government’s approach to our personal privacy is the worst of all worlds - intrusive, ineffective and enormously expensive.

“We cannot run government robotically. We cannot protect the public through automated systems.

“And we cannot eliminate the need for human judgment calls on risk, whether to children, or from criminal and terrorist threats.

“As we have seen time and time again, over-reliance on the database state is a poor substitute for the human judgment and care essential to the delivery of frontline public services.

“Labour’s surveillance state has exposed the public to greater - not less - risk.”

The past decade has seen unprecedented growth in the amount of data held by the Government on private individuals.

Earlier this year Richard Thomas, the then-Information Commissioner, warned of “creeping surveillance” in both the private and public sectors.

He said extension of surveillance had taken place “without sufficient thought to the risks and consequences”.

The Rowntree Foundation has warned that a quarter of major public sector databases are “fundamentally flawed” and breach data protection and rights laws.

They called for the national DNA database, the ID cards register and ContactPoint to be immediately scrapped or redesigned.

A series of data loss scandals, including that of CDs containing personal details of all 25 million child benefit recipients, have raised further questions over the security of Government-held personal data.

Ministers have been forced by a European Court of Human Rights judgment to re-examine the scope of the DNA database and are set to limit the maximum period of time innocent people’s details are held.

Outrage over the use of RIPA powers prompted the Home Office to look again at the rules surrounding their use.

In future, officials are likely to be banned from using them to investigate minor offences such as “bin crimes” and dog fouling.

But the Tory proposals, if implemented, would represent a major shift in the principles by which THE Government handles and obtains personal data.

Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, a new campaign group, welcomed the report.

He said: “Families are becoming increasingly concerned about the way in which the state accumulates and retains personal information on their lives.

“It’s good that the Conservatives are alive to the Government’s excessive surveillance and data gathering and their pledge to scrap the National Identity Database is particularly encouraging.


Home Secretary Alan Johnson said information needed to be retained on the DNA database to help catch murderers and rapists.

He said it helped link Kensley Larrier to a rape in 2004 after his DNA was taken following his arrest for possessing a dangerous weapon two years earlier.

And it also helped convict Abdul Azad of rape after evidence on the victim was found to match his profile which had been kept when he was arrested for violent disorder and released without charge.

Mr Johnson said: "Despite talking tough, what David Cameron and the Conservatives are proposing would mean that men like Larrier and Azad would have been left on the streets.

"I believe in a fair balance between individual liberty and tackling crime, but letting criminals literally get away with murder or rape is not a risk I am willing to take."

But civil rights group Liberty said Mr Grieve was "right to recognise the numerous ways in which the vital human right to privacy has been diminished over time".

Policy director Isabella Sankey said: "We will keep reminding him how easily governments are tempted from the promises of opposition and compromise the liberties of the most marginalised first."

“However, the report says nothing about the worrying problem of excessive CCTV recording and chooses to limit rather than remove powers to monitor citizens through data chips in rubbish bins and other household goods.”