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Home Affairs Committee - Inquiry into "A Surveillance Society ?" announced

Bearing in mind our experience of being ignored in previous Home Affairs committee inquiries e.g.into the then "Entitlement Cards" and the Draft ID card legislation, is it worth making a formal submission to this Home Affairs Committee inquiry ?

Note the very short deadline for submission of any evidence - it is less than a month until Monday 23 April 2007 !

What exactly is the rush ? This is even less time than for a 12 week Public Consultation on a specific set of proposals.

Will the Government cherry pick any words of encouragement written by the Labour dominated Committee, and ignore any criticisms or damning evidence, as they have done with previous reports ?


Press Notice No. 18 (Session 2006-07), 27 March 2007, for immediate


The Home Affairs Committee today launched an inquiry entitled "A
Surveillance Society?"

The inquiry will consider the growth of numerous public and private databases and forms of surveillance with a direct relevance to the work of the Home Office. They either derive directly from the work of the Home Office and its related public functions or are controversial because whilst they offer the potential to play a part in the fight against crime their use may impinge on individual liberty.

The inquiry will be wide-ranging, considering the following issues:

  • Access by public agencies to private databases
  • Data-sharing between government departments and agencies
  • Existing safeguards for data use and whether they are strong enough
  • The monitoring of abuses
  • Potential abuse of private databases by criminals
  • The case for introducing privacy impact assessments
  • Privacy-sharing technologies
  • Profiling.

The inquiry will focus on Home Office responsibilities such as identity cards, the National DNA Database and CCTV, but where relevant will look also at other departments' responsibilities in this area, for instance the implications of databases being developed by the Department of Health and the DfES for use in the fight against crime.

The Committee's aim is not to carry out a comprehensive detailed review of the subject of the kind recently carried out by the Surveillance Studies Network on behalf of the Information Commissioner (and published in his report on The Surveillance Society in October 2006); but to build on the Information Commission's work in exploring the large strategic issues of concern to the general public, with a view to proposing ground rules for Government and its agencies.

UK Information Commissioner Richard Thomas's report: "A Report on the Surveillance Society" (.pdf 109 pages)

The Committee is seeking written submissions of no more than 2,500 words from interested parties, before it takes oral evidence on this inquiry. Organisations and individuals interested in making written submissions are invited to do so by Monday 23 April 2007. Further advice on making a submission can be found below.


Written evidence should if possible be in Word or rich text format-not PDF format-and sent by e-mail to homeaffcom@parliament.uk. The use of colour and expensive-to-print material, e.g. photographs, should be avoided. The body of the e-mail must include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. The e-mail should also make clear who the submission is from.

If people are unhappy about giving their personal details to this Committee, on the subject of surveillance and privacy, then email your submissions to us, using our PGP encryption key if you can, and we will pass them as anonymous contributions to the Committee (they know all our personal details already).

Alternatively, we hope that Privacy International, Liberty, FIPR, GeneWatch, ARCHrights, IdealGovernment and the NO2ID Campaign etc. will be making submissions, and ideally so should many other NGOs and Campaign Groups.

You may prefer to get your anonymous views incorporated into their submissions, if you have contact with such groups (look on the right hand column of the Spy Blog home page for some links)

Submissions must address the terms of reference. They should be in the format of a self-contained memorandum. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and the document must include an executive summary. Further guidance on the submission of evidence can be found at www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/witness.cfm".

Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere, though previously published work can be referred to in a submission and submitted as supplementary material. Once submitted, your submission becomes the property of the Committee and no public use should be made of it unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee.

Please bear in mind that the Committee is not able to investigate individual cases.

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to publish the written evidence it receives, either by printing the evidence, publishing it on the internet or making it publicly available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence. For data protection purposes, it would be helpful if individuals wishing to submit written evidence send their contact details in a covering letter or e-mail. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Note to editors: The Committee membership is as follows:

Rt Hon John Denham (Chairman) (Lab) (Southampton Itchen)
Mr Richard Benyon (Con) (Newbury)
Gwyn Prosser (Lab) (Dover)
Mr Jeremy Browne (Lib Dem) (Taunton)
Bob Russell (Lib Dem) (Colchester)
Ms Karen Buck (Lab) (Regent's Park & Kensington North)
Martin Salter (Lab) (Reading West)
Mr James Clappison (Con) (Hertsmere)
Mr Richard Spring (Con) (West Suffolk)
Mrs Ann Cryer (Lab) (Keighley)
Mr Gary Streeter (Con) (South West Devon)
Mrs Janet Dean (Lab) (Burton)
Mr David Winnick (Lab) (Walsall North)
Margaret Moran (Lab) (Luton South)

Media Enquiries:
Jessica Bridges Palmer,
Tel 020 7219 0724,
email: bridgespalmer@parliament.uk

Specific Committee Information:
Tel 020 7219 3276,
email: homeaffcom@parliament.uk

Committee Website:

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