Jack Straw, the Secretary of State for (In)Justice, appears to Governing Through Weekend Newspaper Briefings, again, with the news that the controversial Clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill, which could have effectively destroyed the Data Protection Act, is to be dropped from the Bill.
The Daily Telegraph / Sunday Telegraph appears to be the Chosen Weekend Newspaper, for this round of media spin, backed up by The Observer.
Neither of these reports are given much prominence, and other newspapers and the broadcast media are ignoring this story.
Note that the Ministry of Justice official website makes no mention of this weekend "announcement", and, of, course, there has been no Ministerial Statement made in Parliament.
Spy Blog will not celebrate until it is confirmed that Clause 152 has actually been removed entirely, and that nothing similar is proposed in its place.
The Government has been forced into an embarrassing U-turn over plans to share vast amounts of private data about individuals.
By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 11:13PM GMT 07 Mar 2009
Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, is to shelve proposals which critics said would have led to patients' confidential medical records being passed to third parties.
A spokesman for Mr Straw said the "strength of feeling" against the plans had persuaded him to rethink.
The proposals will be dropped entirely from the Coroners and Justice Bill, and a new attempt will be made to reach a consensus on introducing a scaled-back version at an unspecified stage in the future.
"He has looked at it and he now wants to withdraw the clauses. We have asked Cabinet colleagues to agree to this," said Mr Straw's spokesman.
"Jack recognised the strength of feeling and he recognised that the clause was drafted in a way that was too wide, and so needed to be looked at again.
"He understood that this issue had touched a nerve for a lot of people, and he understood why."
The Guardian / Observer has also tagged along a little later:
* Gaby Hinsliff and Jamie Doward
* The Observer, Sunday 8 March 2009
Jack Straw last night scrapped controversial government proposals that could have allowed patients' medical and DNA records to be shared with police, foreign governments and other bodies.
In a victory for civil liberties campaigners, the justice secretary bowed to public pressure over the data-sharing provisions in the forthcoming coroners' bill, which would have allowed public bodies to exchange data without the knowledge or consent of individuals involved. Doctors and the Bar Council had joined privacy campaigners in warning of the potential risks to public trust.
The move will be seen as an olive branch to Labour MPs concerned about what they see as the erosion of civil liberties, and will raise eyebrows at Westminster where Straw is viewed as a potential future leadership contender.
Why is there no mention of all of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat and other opposition parties who oppose this ?
"Absolutely no part of the purpose of this legislation was to extend a Big Brother society - quite the reverse - but I understand people's anxiety," Straw told the Observer. "I have never had a piece of legislation that was not improved by public debate during its passage through parliament."
The Labour Government rejected any attempts to "improve" the Bill , during its passage through the House of Commons.
He will now launch a fresh public consultation on how to implement more limited proposals from a review chaired by the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, which would allow government bodies to share information where there is clear benefit - for example, to ensure that bereaved families do not have to contact a string of official agencies to tell them someone has died.
The recommendations of the Thomas / Walport Review on data sharing for very strictly limited data sharing, were simply ignored by the politicians and civil servants who approved the wording of Clause 152, so why will a "fresh review" be treated any differently ?
The U-turn follows the Scottish government's decision late last week to withdraw support.
Those of you who have taken the time and trouble to write to your MP opposing this evil Clause 152, might be interested in the House of Commons Committee Stage debate on Clause 152 on Thursday 26 February 2009, (during which there was no evidence of worried Labour MPs, as The Observer story claims).
It seems that even Labour MPs can be influenced this way e.g. David Kidney the Labour MP for Stafford (a Parliamentary Private Secretary for a Department for Work and Pensions Minister ):
Mr. Kidney: Although I have not had a huge number of representations from constituents, they have expressed concerns about the clause as drafted--two in total, although one mentioned the British Computer Society, which apparently also opposes the clause in its present form. I assume that the society has a reasonable number of members whom it is accurately representing in its objections to the present provision.
Column number: 382
One thing for campaigners and activists to remember, is that although an email or letter to your MP might have some effect, meeting them in person at their Constituency Surgery to hand in a copy of your letter or email, and to speak to them in person, is likely to be far more effective. Even MPs who slavishly toe the Government line, are likely to listen to you politely, simply to relieve the depressing tedium of their Constituency Surgeries, which can often seem to be more of a Citizens Advice Bureau complaints help line, trying to navigate the complexities and unfairness of state and private sector bureaucracy, rather than dealing with wider, national issues.