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Straw bends on Coroners & Justice data-sharing proposals

Legislation dropped - but are proposals really dead?

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Since then, it has been downhill all the way. The BCS was first off the mark, claiming in December 2008 that the bill "runs counter to the intentions and provisions of the Data Protection Act (DPA)" and "severely curtails the independence of the Information Commissioner". More recently a group of eight influential health care organisations, including the BMA, wrote to the Ministry of Justice. They said: "In our view the Bill will undermine the presumption of confidentiality, corrode trust in the doctor-patient relationship and could have a disastrous impact on both the health of individuals and the public."

At base, they were seriously concerned that, fearing confidential information could be passed on from GP to government, patients would start to clam up.

Things got worse, as respected public body GeneWatch weighed in against the measure, briefing MPs to the effect that it would create a DNA database by stealth.

Clearly under pressure – and perhaps looking for a quick PR win in advance of the Convention on Modern Liberty - Jack Straw let it be known, at the end of February, that he would be tabling several amendments to build in safeguards to the Bill when it reached its report stage in the Commons (March).

The final straw (ahem), however, may have been the announcement by the Scottish Government (pdf) that it would no longer be supporting the measure. Or perhaps it was the Facebook Group that finally proved too much.

After reviewing so much hostile data, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said this morning: "Jack Straw let it be known last week that he will be asking Cabinet Members if it is OK to remove clause 152 from the Bill and launch a further consultation."

Clause 152 is dead - but be warned, that doesn’t mean it won’t sneak back in the autumn under some different guise. ®

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