Government denies that British live in “a surveillance society”.

Justice Minister Lord Bach insisted the Government took its obligations under data protection and human rights legislation “very seriously”.

He told a Lords debate on personal data retention: “The use of personal data is essential for the delivery of efficient, effective and joined-up public services – to tackle crime, protect the public and help people get access to the benefits they are entitled to, to new opportunities in their lives, to developments and support.

“We want to create services that improve people’s lives and are simple and easy for them to use. The huge advance in technology makes that possible. The essential thing is to balance the provision of better services with the proper respect for an individual’s privacy in a free society.

“That balance is maintained by a strong legislative framework already in place – the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act.

“I don’t believe, for one moment, that we live in a surveillance society. We take our obligations under these Acts very seriously.”

Lord Bach said there had been “widespread misrepresentation” of the Government’s plans for a future national communications data base. He added: “We will set out our future plans on this, in a consultation document to be published shortly. they have not yet been finalised.”

He said reports were incorrect that British citizens travelling abroad would have to apply for permission to travel abroad or submit an itinerary in advance.

“If they had to do that, it would be a very serious restriction on their freedom. That’s not what they will have to do, although the newspapers say they will.”

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