'Erosion' of civil liberties tackled

A RADICAL "Great Repeal" Bill restoring civil liberties to the British public that Ministers claim have been eroded over recent years has been thrust to the heart of the new Government's social policy.

ID cards will be scrapped, CCTV regulated, Freedom of Information laws extended and a range of "unnecessary" criminal laws repealed in a hugely ambitious bill designed to roll back the power of the state for good.

The storage of DNA, internet and email records will all be reformed under the new legislation, and new safeguards introduced to prevent police and local authorities from misusing laws which were intended for anti-terrorism purposes. The historic rights to trial by jury and non-violent protest will be restored and enshrined, while libel laws will be revised to better protect freedom of speech.

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The new Freedom (Great Repeal) Bill has been widely touted by both Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg for some time, the latter first proposing such an act back in 2006. Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives had long accused New Labour of excessive legislation and eroding civil liberties.

Ministers said yesterday the Government should hold the "minimum of information" about citizens and roll back state intrusion wherever possible.

The key plank of the coalition's policy will be the swift abolition of Labour's controversial identity cards, which were expected to cost 5bn. Axing them was a key manifesto commitment for both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, and a stand-alone Identity Documents Bill will do so within a month of being passed.

The move is estimated to save 86m over four years with a further 800m in ongoing costs saved over the next decade. Cardholders who have already paid 30 each for a card in the scheme's trial stages will not get a refund, however.

Chris Sims, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "Information and intelligence are critical to preventing crime and protecting the public. But proportionality and minimal interference in the citizen's right to go about unhindered are also vital aspects of British policing."