No right to be forgotten: Hughes

The EU risks losing the moral high ground to criticise authoritarian regimes if it creates a "right to be forgotten" online, Simon Hughes has warned.

Simon Hughes is expected to say that referring to a right to be forgotten is not accurate or helpful
Simon Hughes said the judgment did not give an "unfettered" right to have links deleted

The justice minister said the Government was opposing moves to introduce such a rule in negotiations between the 28 member states.

The comments, in evidence to the Lords Home Affairs Committee, follow a landmark ruling by European Court of Justice that search engines like Google have to consider requests to wipe links to news stories.

Concerns have been raised that legitimate material will be effectively censored as Google is swamped by thousands of demands from individuals.

Mr Hughes stressed that the judgment did not give an "unfettered" right to have links deleted.

"It is also clear in the legislation that there will also sometimes be a public interest in retaining the information," the Liberal Democrat said.

"There is no right given by the judgment for people to have their personal data deleted from the search engine results.

"There is no unfettered right.

"There is no right to be forgotten.

"Not in the law of the UK, not in directives, not in the judgments of the court."

Mr Hughes said the Government was keen to balance the right of privacy with the right to freedom of speech, and was trying to hammer out a coordinated approach to the issues with other member states.

"The government is currently negotiating with our 27 partners to get a new law, which is the new directive," he said.

"We would not want, the UK would not want, what is currently in the draft, which is the right to be forgotten, to remain as part of that proposition.

"We want it to be removed.

"We think it is the wrong position."

Mr Hughes went on: "We have criticised the government of China... for closing down people's right to information.

"There are other countries with strict information access.

"It is not a good position for the EU to be in to look as if it is countenancing restrictions in the access of the citizen to access to information because it could be a very bad precedent."