Lib Dems demand end to ‘surveillance society’

The “surveillance society” must be rolled back, Liberal Democrats said today.

The party called for the immediate abandonment of the government’s ID card scheme, better regulation of CCTV and for DNA samples taken from people who have not been charged or convicted to be destroyed.

Debating surveillance and information at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, MPs and delegates condemned the government’s attempts to recede liberty in the name of security.

Backing the motion, justice spokesman David Heath argued the government appeared to be realising the Orwellian nightmare. He borrowed from Benjamin Franklin to argue those who sacrifice liberty for security, deserve neither.

He said politicians must not pass legislation that could be exploited by a less benign future government, warning not every home secretary would be that “nice Jacqui Smith”.

Mr Heath said Britons were already among the most surveyed people on earth, with around 20 per cent of the world’s CCTV cameras trained on British streets.

Liberal Democrats expressed concern over the collection of biometric data, through schools fingerprinting pupils and the National DNA Database.

While supporting the database’s crime fighting potential, delegates said only people found guilty of an offence should have their details recorded.

In a further swing at the government, Mr Heath said Britain was not, however, a police state as rural areas struggle to see any presence on the street.

The Liberal Democrats have attacked Gordon Brown’s commitment to ID cards throughout this year’s conference.

Prior to taking over at Number 10, Mr Brown seemed at one point poised to tone down the ID card scheme, but he has since embraced Tony Blair’s security agenda, including the extension of detention without charge.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said today: “Gordon Brown has attempted to make considerable political gain by striking a new tone on civil liberties, but in reality he remains wedded to an unchanged Blairite agenda that has seen an extraordinary erosion in the liberty of the British people.”

He continued: “Britain has long distinguished itself by its liberal belief in the rights of the individual against the powers of the state.

“By stealth, this government has given the state unprecedented snooping powers that affect each and every one of us. It is time that these powers were rolled back.”