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'Big Brother' laws to be reviewed in Britain

world Updated: Jul 14, 2010 13:18 IST

The British government has unveiled plans to review anti-terrorism and surveillance laws of the previous Labour government, which it said had turned the country into a "Big Brother" for its own citizens.

The laws that are up for review include a 28-day detention without charge, stop and search and "Big Brother" snooping by town halls, arrest of people who take pictures of police officers or hold peaceful protests without permission outside parliament.

At the same time, the government will ensure that foreign terror suspects are not able to misuse the Human Rights Act.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, used by county councils to spy on people not complying with rules, including those who allow their dogs to foul public places, is likely to be scaled back.

Councils will have to seek permission from a magistrate to use it, and only for serious crimes.

In a statement, Home Secretary Theresa May has said the government would correct "mistakes" made by the Labour regime, which was allowed to "ride roughshod" over Britain's hard-won freedoms.

"National security is the first duty of the government but we are also committed to reversing the substantial erosion of civil liberties. I want a counter-terrorism regime that is proportionate, focused and transparent. We must ensure that in protecting public safety, the powers which we need to deal with terrorism are in keeping with Britain's traditions of freedom and fairness."

The government has selected Lord Macdonald, former director of public prosecution and an outspoken critic of the last government's legislative record, to review these laws.