[JURIST] The British government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown has decided to drop from its immediate legislative agenda a controversial security database bill that would have required telecoms to keep records of all domestic phone calls, e-mails and Internet activity, according to British press reports Friday. The Communications Database Bill [draft materials] will not be part of the Queen's Speech to be delivered to parliament at the opening of its next session next month, but instead it or some variation will be brought forward for public consultation in January [Telegraph report] with a view to introducing it to Parliament later next year. This timetable may, however, make its future uncertain [Independent report] as Brown has to call an election no later than May 2010.
Critics – including some inside the government – have already assailed the proposed measure as an Orwellian infringement [Independent report] on privacy and civil liberties. Last month, the office of Lord Carlile, the Information Commissioner, took the extraordinary step [press release, PDF] of calling the bill a "step too far for the British way of life." Also in October, outgoing UK Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald warned against the expansion of government power in gathering intelligence [JURIST report] and prosecuting suspected terrorists, saying that present decisions about how the government should use technology to protect security are likely to be permanent. Recent high-profile news stories about losses of data by British government official and agencies [Independent report] have heightened concerns over the legislation.