The Justice ministry confirmed today that Jack Straw has asked cabinet colleagues to scrap controversial clauses in a bill that permitted wholesale sharing of personal data between government departments without the subjects' knowledge.
The decision hands civil rights campaigners a partial victory. A Justice spokesman said, "The Justice Secretary has asked cabinet colleagues to withdraw clause 152 from the (Coroners & Justice) Bill and launch a further consultation."
They wanted two other clauses, 153 and 154, as well as a whole section of the bill scrapped.
Virtually the entire medical profession as well as the Bar Council and Information Commissioner's Office had come out against the clauses, warning that they could undermine public trust in government information systems and lead to a Big Brother society.
"Absolutely no part of the purpose of this legislation was to extend a Big Brother society - quite the reverse - but I understand people's anxiety," Straw told the Observer.
Straw will now ask information commissioner Richard Thomas to run the next consultation. This would clarify where government bodies could share information - for example, to provide a single point to report a death in the family.
The Scottish government last week to withdraw its support for the bill.