The Commons Home Affairs committee is about to announce the inquiry, leader of the Commons Jack Straw told MPs.
The Information Commissioner last year warned the UK risked “sleep-walking into a surveillance society”.
It is thought the inquiry will include the impact of identity cards, the expansion of the DNA database and the large rise in the use of CCTV cameras.
Nothing on the website yet, but it will be one to keep an eye on.
Peers have effectively killed off the government’s plans to restrict trial by jury in complex fraud cases.
Lords have continued a 10-year battle with ministers by voting to delay further debate on the Fraud (Trials Without a Jury) Bill for six months.
MPs agreed the plans in January – amid strong opposition.
Yes, that was an interesting and close fought battle, with a majority of only 35 (281 to 246): among other things, the Tories and LibDems accused the Government of breaking promises made during the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill (as it was) 2003, with an argument over whether a ‘seminar’ hosted by the Attorney General constituted a ‘consultation’.
At the time, in attempting to move an amendment that would allow ‘special juries’ on fraud cases, Dominic Grieve MP (Beaconsfield, Conservative) summed up the situation as follows:
An assurance was given in 2003, as the right hon. Gentleman [he was responding to an intervention from Keith Vaz (Leicester East, Labour)] will recollect, that the provisions of section 43 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which could not be implemented without a resolution of both Houses of Parliament, would not be brought in, and that the Government would look to bring in further primary legislation and would carry out consultations before they did so.
The right hon. Gentleman may also be aware that there is considerable disagreement between the Opposition and the Government as to whether consultation ever took place. The Government’s understanding of the consultation was a one morning-long seminar to which people were invited without appreciating that that was the only formal consultation that would take place. …
That was not a productive process. The Government then announced that they would proceed by trying to get the affirmative resolutions on section 43. When they tried to do that, the Lords indicated that that was in breach of the undertakings given in 2003 and that they would not go along with it. Following that, negotiations took place.
I put it on record that the Attorney-General held meetings on two occasions with myself and other hon. Members, and that we had the opportunity to discuss in his chambers in Buckingham Palace Gate the issues surrounding the options, but without the wider consultation that I expected as a result of the assurances given in 2003 by the then Home Secretary,
the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett).
Back to the BBC:
Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has threatened to use the Parliament Act to force the bill onto the statute book in the next Parliamentary session.
Critics of the bill say the centuries-old right to trial by jury is a bedrock of the criminal justice system.
But the government says major trials put too much pressure on jurors – several high profile cases have collapsed, such as the £60m Jubilee Line case, which lasted 21 months.
They have been trying to persuade peers of the need to deal with the backlog of lengthy fraud cases, since coming to power in 1997.
The motion to delay the bill – highly unusual at this stage of a bill’s passage through Parliament – was approved by 216 votes to 143.
Labour’s Lord Brooke criticised the amendment, saying: “We have here a totally unelected House, which is flying in the face of what the elected people in the Commons have perceived to be the correct way forward.”
I’m not sure how, with a majority of only 35, such a claim can be made with a straight face. Or to put it another way, nearly half of those MPs who voted, voted against the Bill.
No, in my view such arguments are spurious at best.
Led by shadow lord chancellor Lord Kingsland, it means the Bill has effectively been seen off for the duration of this Parliament.
The bill had been approved by MPs, but peers argued that the commitment to change fraud trials was not in Labour’s manifesto, therefore they are not “bound by a constitutional convention”.
Moving the amendment, Lord Kingsland said: “Jury trial has been the central component in the conduct of all serious criminal trials for about the last 700 years.
“The contribution it has made to the preservation of the liberty of the individual and the legitimacy of government is quite incalculable in particular.”
He was backed by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Maclennan, who questioned why the government was persisting with legislation “in the face of the very grave anxieties” of MPs, lawyers and campaigners.
And Labour’s Baroness Mallalieu, QC, said the bill was fundamentally flawed, “which, in reality, sticks a knife into the main artery of our criminal justice system”.
Ministers want to allow prosecution lawyers to apply to the judge for trial without jury, subject to the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice.
Lib Dem Lord Thomas, a deputy High Court judge, warned: “If this (Bill) goes through, it won’t be long before there will be pressure to try any case that’s likely to last more than six weeks or three months by a judge alone.”
But Lord Goldsmith said it would apply to only “a small category of cases” adding: “This bill is not an attack on the jury system and, however constantly that proposition is repeated, it doesn’t make it true.
He said it would apply to only half a dozen a year. But even so, there are other cases that are as (if not more) burdensome than fraud, such as terrorism. It is entirely conceivable that an argument will be advanced that as terrorism is more serious than fraud, why can’t prosecutors apply for trials without jury in cases of terrorism?
“It is ultimately about justice, about ensuring that those who are responsible for fraud on the grander scale can be brought to account. We want the sharks to be caught and not just the minnows.”
He reiterated the government’s intention to force the bill through in the next Parliamentary session, using the Parliament Act.
But Lib Dem peer and practising barrister Lord Carlile of Berriew said: “By the time we reach the next session of Parliament we shall have a new prime minister, new priorities, new views and possibly new personnel in various offices.”
Other than the above I can add nothing to Not Saussure’s excellent article.