British Politics’s Blog

The ravings of an individual, UK voter frustrated with our politicians

Posts Tagged ‘home office

Big Brother Britain by Stealth

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Proof, if any were needed, that this Labour government will bring in ID cards by any means necessary was provided by a recent statement given by Home Office Minister, Meg Hillier at the Biometrics Conference.

She was quoted as saying that there was “nothing to stop” drivers’ licences or other documents from being designated to work as ID cards and went on to say “In time it is possible to designate the driving licence or other documents to be counted as an ID card.” The only conciliatory note in her comments was that there were no plans to do so before 2012. Cold comfort for those who believe, as I do, that this Labour government is simply obsessed with gaining more and more control over the views, activities, intentions and minds of the electorate.

As Cornelius Tacitus, senator and historian of the Roman Empire was quoted as saying “In a free society, the rights and laws protect the individual from the government. In a dictatorship, the rights and laws protect the government from the people. The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.”

Hillier explained that once an ID Card system was in place, it would be used for proof of age, criminal records bureau checks, for bank loan applications, for employers, as well as maternity allowances, tax returns, TV licences and incapacity or unemployment benefit claims. Of course, we all know that this will also include biometric data.

Under the Identity Card Act 2006, the Home Secretary can designate documents that will require anybody applying for them to be placed on the National Identity Register (NIR), the backbone of the ID card scheme. In other words, they could refuse to issue, for example, passports, drivers licenses and so on, unless, or until we agree to join the National Identity Register. This, presumably is designed, to counteract the growing movement of disobedience, where people are signing a pledge not to do anything to support the introduction of identity cards.

Phil Booth, national co-ordinator for pressure group NO2ID, said: “It is clearly a compulsory scheme if in order to continue driving, travelling abroad or get a loan you have to be registered on the scheme“.  He added that “it is coercion up to the point of compulsion.”

Add this database, with the Big Brother Database, monitoring all forms of communications, mobile calls, text messages, email and internet browsing, together with the children’s database, ContactPoint and the mobile phone register, added to vehicle tracking through ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition), 4.2m CCTV cameras and a National Health Database that will hold all of our medical records for our lifetime and you really start to get a picture of just how much control this government wants overs its citizens. We need to ask ourselves why, what are they so afraid of? It cannot be to protect us against terrorism, because lets face it, for 100’s of years, this country has been under threat from outside influences, yet we have survived and prospered, without this level of state intelligence and policing.

If we value our civil liberties, which clearly this government does not, then we need to be vocal and we should consider supporting pressure groups such as NO2ID, Statewatch and The Open Rights Group.

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Boris Johnson sees off Sir Ian Blair

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Welcome news today that Sir Ian Blair has finally resigned. Throughout the last 2.5 years, he has been dogged by bad press, mostly of his own making. Virtually from day one, he could not resist the opportunity to get his face in front of the TV camera and we could be forgiven for believing that he had political aspiratations once his tenure in office was complete in 2010.

None of this is likely now, with the resignation of Sir Ian Blair, ostensibly because he did not have the confidence of London Mayor, Boris Johnson. He could also have added others to that list, because he did not appear to have the confidence of his rank and file police officers either, perhaps because he was too much of a political animal or the fact that there were persistent claims that he was distant and aloof. Whatever the case, in spite of himself, it is claimed that there have been crime reductions in London, but that says as much about his team as Ian Blair’s leadership skills.

The fact remains that there are some 167,000 police officers in the UK and we do not want to see them behind their desks, sitting behind the wheel of their top of the range cars or, or for that matter, senior officers in front of the cameras preening themselves. Our police officers or whatever rank need to be on the streets, policing our villages, towns and cities. For me, the fact that Sir Iam Blair was forever in front of the cameras claiming credit for his force, said it all, he simply did not understand what the public want, policing, not politics.

I am pleased that Boris Johnson has taken the initiative and spoken for the people of London. Lets face it, no-one can really have confidence in the claim that crime has fallen in London, because these figures are all too often incorrect, because of the crime that does not get reported. Why? Because the public know that in most cases, we shall just be given a crime reference number and sent on our way, that of course is not exclusive to London, but elsewhere as well.

The personnel problems that have come to light under Sir Ian Blair’s stewardship also plays testament to his leadership or management style, they can’t all be wrong, can they? It was his responsibility to manage his team and in my view, he failed and he has finally been made to pay the price. Let us hope that the next commissioner, will be a coppers, copper and one that understands that policing starts and finishes on the streets, not in front of the camera.

Tories vow to address the health and safety culture

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Not before time, a UK political party has committed to address the almost farcical health & safety culture that has built up in the UK, not least its affect on the ability of the emergency services to do their jobs.

I remember discussing the case of Jordan Lyon who drowned last year with an ex-fireman. This young boy drowned even though two Community Safety Officers were on the scene, because these ‘officers’ did not have the appropriate training. The ex-fireman told me that the fire service is also tied up with Health & Safety red tape, to the extent, that if a fireman was to enter the water to save someones life, without the requisite support, then he could have faced losing his job and pension. I was appalled. If you take on the job of a police office or a fireman, you know that at times, you will have to risk your life to save others, very often, it is a judgement call, to have that decision made by health & safety officials is deplorable.

Imagine the situation if all our armed forces were forced to consider the health & safety risks before they went into battle. When you join the army, you know that you may be called upon to fight for your country and lay your life down in that service. You are entitled to expect senior officers to complete a risk assessment and not waste young lives, but not a health & safety officer! Yet here we are, with health & safety officers placing a raft of conditions on police officers and fireman. The public are entitled to expect the emergency services to help us when we are in need, they have chosen that vocation, are paid to do the job and they know the risks. They should not be prevented from doing their jobs through red tape.

Clearly this government does not understand the implications of all this, although that is not particularly surprising, given they are so out of touch with the people of this country. I normally have a lot of time for Home Office Minister Tony McNulty, but here is what he had to say about the conservative proposals. “The lives of police officers and Police Community Support Officers are as important as those of the people they serve, and this government will back the police service in the day to-day operational decisions they make in protecting the public against crime and terrorism. “And we will ensure that the criminal justice system is firmly weighted in favour of the victim, not the criminal.” Yes, but these officers know the risks and they are paid to do a job, they should be allowed to get on with it.

I would suggest he ask the rank and file members of our emergency services as to whether or not they are in favour of all of these health & safety rules, whether they see it as the government protecting them, or unnecessary interference, in as much as it prevents an officer from making a safety assessment on the spot. There are 167,000 police officers in this country, yet we feel less safe than we did 20 years ago, why is that, could it be something to do with the fact that in many cases, police officers are prevented to go into a dangerous situation, unless they have back up?

We are constantly told that the emergency services deserve good salaries and pension schemes, because of the risks they take to protect the public, yet more and more, they are required to take less risk. Our police officers and firemen should not be risk averse, they must be brave, they are charged with protecting the public and they must be allowed to do so. With this health & safety culture of ours, we will never know whether lives are lost because officers don’t have the backbone to go in, or if they are simply following health & safety rules. I would hope that these officers are not hiding behind these rules, I am sure they are not, but unless they also make it clear that they do not want these restrictions, what is the public to think?

On top of all this, I believe there needs to be a very clear definition of ‘reasonable force’, it is currently very vague. There is a need for the public to act in cases when their are no police officers around, or the police are not allowed to act for fear of losing their jobs. Where the public do act, they must be protected by law, they should not live in fear of prosecution. In my view, reasonable force is any act necessary to prevent the threat and the benefit of doubt should always be given to the member of public that has intervened where a police officer couldn’t or wouldn’t.

But the conservatives should also deal with health and safety regulations in the workplace, this has gone so far, that it is simply killing small business who must either employ and health & safety officer or use the services of a consultant. Yes there must be rules because the public and employees are entitled to be protected, but health and safety has now turned into a massive industry and it is costing every single one of us. There needs to be balance. Once again, I hope the conservatives will be bold in their policies, there is no point in meddling, Health & Safety Regulations need wholesale reform.