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David Cameron underlines the Conservative commitment to rebalance power of the individual over the state

CAMERON COLOUR Earlier in the year, some wondered about the potential impact of the recession on the debate about civil liberties.

And at lunchtime today, according to a report on the Today programme, David Cameron is due to make a speech in which he will emphasise the need to rebalance the relationship between the state and the individual in favour of the individual.

On issues such as the DNA database, the surveillance state and the way councils have used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to snoop on private citizens, the Conservative leader will promise reforms to the legislation to shift the balance towards the rights of the individual over the state.

In addition, he will embrace the spirit of freedom of information legislation and seek to extend it with a "right to data", meaning that the public will have the right to access all kinds of data, such as police clear up rates and information relating to outcomes across different hospitals.

I'll update this post later today when we have more detail.

2pm Update:

David Cameron has now made the speech are here are some key extracts:

"The last twelve years of Labour Government have diminished personal freedom and diluted political accountability... Today we are in danger of living in a control state. Almost a million innocent citizens are caught in the web of the biggest DNA database in the world – larger than that of any dictatorship.  Hundreds of shadowy powers allow officials to force their way past your front door.  And soon we will be forced to surrender our fingerprints, eye scans and personal information to intrusive compulsory ID cards. Every month over a thousand surveillance operations are carried out, not just by law enforcement agencies but by other public bodies like councils and quangos.   And the tentacles of the state can even rifle through your bins for juicy information".

"Conservative government would constantly ask two essential questions: Does this action enhance personal freedom? And does it advance political accountability? And at the heart of our programme for government will be our intention to change fundamentally the balance of power between the citizen and the state so that ultimately it’s people in control of their government, not the other way round."

"We will make some important changes.  The next Conservative government will revoke the unjustified and unreasonable powers that let people enter your home without your permission. We will change the law that allows councils to snoop on people for trivial matters. We will review the use of the Terrorism Act’s Section 44, and the stop and search powers contained within it. We will change the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to strengthen the right to trial by jury. And we will review the operation of the Extradition Act - and the US/UK extradition treaty - to make sure it is even-handed and works both ways."

"If we want to stop the state controlling us, we must confront this surveillance state. So the next Conservative Government will scrap the Contact Point database of children’s details. We will scrap the ID Card scheme. And we will remove innocent people’s records from the DNA database."

"In the first year of the next Conservative Government, we will find the most useful information in twenty different areas ranging from information about the NHS to information about schools and road traffic and publish it so people can use it. This information will be published proactively and regularly – and in a standardised format so that it can be ‘mashed up’ and interacted with."

He concluded by summarising his position as "the next stage in our radical redistribution of power".

This is progressive Conservatism in action, a traditional suspicion of state power combined with a clear grasp of the modern world producing the right approach, and the right plan of action to increase personal freedom and political accountability, restore trust, and help bring about the new politics we need so badly.”

This is all good stuff from David Cameron and to be applauded. It surely now cannot be in doubt that the civil liberties/smaller state agenda championed by David Davis whilst he was in the shadow cabinet is still very much going to be pursued by the party.

Jonathan Isaby

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