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Blunkett and ex-CPS chief turn on Home Office

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David Blunkett, who as Home Secretary led the government's push for compulsory ID cards, will tomorrow call for the scheme to be curtailed, according to a report.

Instead he will propose that only foreigners be made to hold an ID card. UK nationals should only be required to hold a passport, Blunkett will argue.

He will make the call during a speech on security and liberty at the University of Essex tomorrow, The Independent reports.

A coalition of campaign groups has put ministers under increasing pressure on civil liberties issues in recent weeks, set to culminate with the Convention on Modern Liberty at the end of this month. The House of Lords Constitution Committee recent report on surveillance society also chastised the government's record on civil liberties.

Blunkett will reject the "surveillance society" label, but urge a broad Labour rethink to counter the critics.

He say he "remains to be convinced" by proposals for a vast central database of internet traffic data. Such a multibillion-pound system will be one of the options suggested in Jacqui Smith's forthcoming consultation on the Interception Modernisation Programme, it's reported.

Jack Straw's new Coroners and Justice Bill, which mandates widespread data sharing by government departments and agencies, should also be clipped, Blunkett will say, while arguing its intentions are benign. The Bill's provisions were criticised as too wide and its safeguards as too weak by the Information Commissioner last week.

Blunkett will call for greater powers for the Information Commissioner's Office to protect citizens from "private enterprise surveillance and intrusion, coupled with data theft, fraud and information and data insecurity". A recent expansion in the Office's remit did not go as far as the Commissioner Richard Thomas had lobbied for.

Blunkett's apparent public change of heart on ID cards comes the same day that Sir Ken Macdonald, the recently retired Director of Public Prosecutions launched a scathing attack on the government's legislative priorities. Writing in The Times he said financial crime had been ignored for years because "it was easier to throw increasingly illiberal soundbites at a shadowy and fearsome enemy".

"Forget the paranoiac paraphernalia of national databases, identity cards and all the other liberty-sapping addictions of the Home Office. Forget the rhetoric and do something useful," he wrote.

"Let's have fewer terrorism acts, fewer laws attacking our right to speak frankly and freely. Let's stop filling our prisons with junkies, inadequates and the mentally damaged. How apposite in 2009 to have, instead, a few more laws to confront the clever people who have done their best to steal our economy."

The Home Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Blunkett and Macdonald's interventions. ®

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