Lib Dems help force Labour data sharing U-turn

by Stephen Tall on March 18, 2009

A big well done to Lib Dem MP Adrian Sanders for what his blog calls his “little victory” in helping to force the Government to drop proposals which would have allowed people’s details to be shared between organisations. The BBC reports:

The Lib Dems said plans for secret inquests in England and Wales were “misguided” and they would continue to oppose any moves which “undermined” the jury system. … They would have allowed ministers to apply for orders to remove data protection restrictions preventing the use of information for secondary purposes in certain circumstances.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw had argued that it would mean bereaved families would not have to speak to different departments and agencies many times over when a relative died. But the Liberal Democrats had said data sharing would not just be restricted to public bodies and people’s information could have been give to private companies in any country.

It’s not an issue I know a great deal about – but a chilling sentence in the Beeb report convinced me that the government plans really must have gone too far, for it reveals that even ‘former home secretary David Blunkett had raised some concerns about whether they were justified.’ If even that most authoritarian of Labour figures Mr Blunkett’s reckons it’s going a tad far, then, well, ’nuff said.

Here’s the moment of truth, as recorded by Hansard:

Mr. Sanders: Many of my constituents are very concerned about clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill, and I greatly fear that, whatever reassurance the Minister can give, unless there is some absolutely categorical mechanism for protecting information, people will not be reassured that their details are safe.

Mr. Wills: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I hope it will give his constituents some reassurance to know that we have withdrawn the clauses that they are worried about.