Are some of our Parliamentarians starting to get the message, that the current slide towards a society which is indistinguishable in practice from a totalitarian police state, might not be the best way forward ?
Not only is the the House of Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs now in the process of conducting an Inquiry into "A Surveillance Society ?", but the House of Lords Constitution Committee is also conducting an overlapping Inquiry.
Call For Evidence (Microsoft Word .doc):
the Committee has decided to conduct an inquiry on the constitutional implications of the collection and use of surveillance and other personal data by the State and (insofar as they can be used by the State) private companies, particularly with regard to the impact on the relationship between citizen and state.
The Committee invites interested organisations and individuals to submit written evidence as part of its inquiry, reflecting the guidance given below. Written evidence should reach the Committee as soon as possible and no later than Friday 8 June.
Scope of the Committee's inquiry
In particular, the Committee invites evidence on the following themes:
1. How has the range and quantity of surveillance and data collection by public and private organisations changed the balance between citizen and state in recent years, whether due to policy developments or technological developments? Which specific forms of surveillance and data collection have the greatest potential impact on this balance?
2. What forms of surveillance and data collection might be considered constitutionally proper or improper? Can the claimed administrative, security or service benefits of such activities outweigh concerns about constitutional propriety? If so, under what circumstances? Is there a line that should not be crossed? If so, how might that line be identified?
3. What effect do public or private sector surveillance and data collection have on a citizen’s liberty and privacy? Are there any constitutional rights or principles affected?
4. What impact do surveillance and data collection have on the character of citizenship in the 21st century, in terms of relations with the State?
5. To what extent are the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 sufficient in safeguarding constitutional rights in relation to the collection and use of surveillance or personal data?
6. Is there a need for any additional constitutional protection of citizens in relation to the collection and use of surveillance material and personal data? If so, what form might such protection take?
Submissions by e-mail are preferred (as attachments in Word) and should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. A single hard copy (single-sided, unbound) should also be sent to The Clerk to the Constitution Committee, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW.
Concise submissions of 1500 words or fewer are preferred.
Unlike the Labour Government dominated Home Affairs Committee (chaired by the decent and respected ex-Home Office Minister John Denham), this House of Lords Constitution Committee is chaired by a Liberal Democrat and only has a minority of Labour members, and includes the Crossbench peer, Lord Woolf, the former Lord Chief Justice, who has been critical of the Home Office / Justice Ministry re-organisation plans recently.
Should readers of Spy Blog bother to submit evidence or opinions to this Inquiry, as it is almost certain that the current NuLabour control freaks, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor / Prime Minister in Waiting Gordon Brown and Home Secretary John Reid etc. will ignore this inquiry report ?
The answer is probably a guarded yes, and we will probably send in a short submission.
As usual, if anyone is feeling too paranoid to identify themselves to the Committee, feel free to email us your submission anonymously, and we will send it in along with ours.