26 May 2011
Europe is in danger of making the wrong choices on new data protection rules, Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke said.The speech is available to download in full here.
Speaking at the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium, Mr Clarke reiterated the UK Government's commitment to restoring civil liberties, citing the Government's achievements in scrapping ID cards, and working to end the misuse of anti-terrorism stop and search powers.
He stressed that collecting data in the interests of national security must not come at the expense of UK citizens' basic freedoms, particularly the right not to have their personal data treated carelessly or even fall into the wrong hands.
The Justice Secretary also warned, however, that collecting data sensibly and sharing it safely across borders is a crucial part of efforts to tackle international crime and protect our security, and is entirely consistent with ensuring strong standards of data protection.
The EU is currently reviewing its data protection rules and Mr Clarke's speech made clear the Government's belief that it must be up to all Member States to decide the details of when to use and share data to keep their citizens safe – particularly in detecting crime and preventing terrorism. He also warned Member States of the dangers of unnecessarily prescriptive rules in this area.
Kenneth Clarke said: 'Imposing an inflexible, detailed data protection regime on the whole of the EU, regardless of the peculiarities of different cultures and legal systems, carries with it serious risks.
But he added: 'I am optimistic that there's a common sense solution on this. Our experience in the UK is that security, freedom and privacy are possible.'
While in Brussels, the Justice Secretary also met UK Members of the European Parliament and discussed data protection issues.
See also comment by Chris Pounder on the Amberhawk blog.