British Politics’s Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘police state

MP’s to use new ‘Reasonable Discretion’ law to avoid prosecution

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A draft Bill is due to get its second reading in Parliament on the 24th April 2009. This Bill is designed to exempt all public servants from prosecution, civil or criminal, if they can demonstrate Reasonable Discretion. In spite of the fact that this Bill, if drafted into law, will provide public servants with virtual immunity from prosecution, has anyone actually heard of it? Not me, that is for sure, so I would like to thank political blog, Power to the People, for highlighting this issue.

He is a summary of what the Bill (Exercise of Reasonable Discretion Bill 2008-09) aims to achieve:

The Bill aims to ensure that public authorities and public servants would not be subject to any criminal or civil penalty as a result of the exercise of reasonable discretion in the performance of their functions. Its provisions would cover public authorities, public servants and contracts for public services. The term public authority is defined by the Bill and includes the NHS, the police, local and central and devolved Government and non-departmental public bodies. The formal intent of the Bill is to indemnify public servants, central government, local government and other public agencies from legal action if they take decisions in good faith, as a result of the exercise of reasonable discretion, in the public interest.

The author of Power to the People says:

I would urge all fellow bloggers with an interest in justice to use their blogs to publicise this outrageous attempt provide public servants, especially MP’s with a ‘get out of jail free’ card. If this legislation gets through, as it undoubtedly will, then no public servant can truly be held accountable to the public, because a ‘good faith’ defence will always be available!

I am happy to oblige. Little wonder that more and more people believe that our Members of Parliament hold the public in such contempt.

Is government the servant or master?

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Gordon Brown says that banks should be the “servants of the economy and society and never its master“. What a pity he does not apply that same logic to government, because lets face it, that was supposed to be how things were. Instead, we have had nearly 12 years of a government that has lectured, cajoled, bullied and mislead its people.

This government has made promises to the people that is has not delivered on, then, quietly shelved the initiative without telling us. This government in general and Gordon Brown in particular has consistently failed to deliver on its financial targets. Whether we are referring to the economy, or something like child poverty. Rather than admit that they have failed, they simply re-write the rule book, no apology, no explanation, just carry on as if nothing has happened.  Just take a look at UK Plc’s debt mountain to see how government has manipulated the figures, with countless examples of ‘off-balance sheet’ accounting. PFI, public sector pensions etc.

When it comes to our civil liberties and right to privacy, this government has driven a coach and horses through everything that our forefathers fought for and we valued, all in the name of protecting us against the threat of terrorists. This, in spite of the fact that this country faced 30 years of terrorism from the IRA, without the need for draconian legislation. Now, as a result of this government believing that it knows best, or to put it another way, government is the master, not the servant, we can do little without being tracked by faceless government officials.

We have 4.2m CCTV cameras watching our every move, ANPR cameras tracking individual movements of cars and if you have an Oyster card, your movements will be recorded and retained. The details of every call, text message and email will be recorded and retained for use by government officials. As will your internet browsing habits. If you go on holiday, the government will now record where you went, for how long, how you paid and where you were seated. If you have young children, our government will record every detail of their educational needs, welfare, carers, psychological well-being and education results. This government wants to record the DNA of of every individual in the country that is questioned by the police, irrespective of whether they are subsequently charged, they then want to retain that information, even if the individual is acquitted.

This government wants to introduce ID cards, even though most people don’t want them. They want to use biometrics and even include a chip that could potentially record the movement of every citizen with a card. This government has allowed 780 individual government agencies and/or private companies access to our most private information, with little or no oversight. There are now 250 agencies that can legally break into our homes. This is a government that believes that it is the master and not the servant of the people.

Like it or not, this Labour government, with the tacit approval of any MP who failed to speak for the people, has run roughshod over the people of this country. Even now, no major party will speak up for the people, yes, they may make the odd comment, but they do nothing about it. None of the major parties have included in their policy an agreement to review and if necessary, repeal legislation that has wrecked our liberty and right to privacy. It is high time the people of this country said that enough was enough, members of parliament are supposed to serve the public, government is the servant, not the master and we demand the return of our liberty and our right to be free from an overbearing, know it all state.

Gordon Brown on Civil Liberties

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Whilst browsing the No.10 website, I came across a transcript of a speech given by Gordon Brown on the 25th October 2007 at the University of Westminster. I make no apologies for being selective in what I have reproduced because they are his words, not mine. Readers are then free to decide which, if any, of these commitments he has delivered on, or reneged on in light of recent announcements and laws on the subject of liberty, freedom and privacy. Over to Gordon Brown, the unelected prime minister of Great Britain…

I believe that together we can chart a better way forward. In particular, I believe that by applying our enduring ideals to new challenges we can start immediately to make changes in our constitution and laws to safeguard and extend the liberties of our citizens

To include:

respecting and extending freedom of assembly, new rights for the public expression of dissent

respecting privacy in the home, new rights against arbitrary intrusion

in a world of new technology, new rights to protect your private information

“…crucible of great events, have, in my view, forged over time a distinctly British interpretation of liberty —— one that asserts the importance of freedom from prejudice, of rights to privacy, and of limits to the scope of arbitrary state power, but one that also rejects the selfishness of extreme libertarianism and demands that the realm of individual freedom encompasses not just some but all of us

So instead of invoking the unique nature of the threats we face today as a reason for relinquishing our historical attachment to British liberty, we meet these tests not by abandoning principles of liberty but by giving them new life

To claim that we should ignore the claims of liberty when faced with the needs of security would be to embark down an authoritarian path that I believe would be unacceptable to the British people.”

In my view, the key to making these hard choices in a way that is compatible with our traditions of liberty is to, at all times, apply the liberty test, respecting fundamental rights and freedoms, and wherever action is needed by government, it never subjects the citizen to arbitrary treatment, is transparent and proportionate in its measures and at all times also requires proper scrutiny by, and accountability to, Parliament and the people.”

First, it is the British way to stand up for freedom of assembly, speech and press.”

Wherever and whenever there are question marks over the ability to express dissent I believe that the balance should be with those taking action to defend and extend the liberty of individuals and their freedoms to express their views within the law.”

“…there is a case for applying our enduring ideas of liberty to ensure that the laws governing the press in this country fully respect freedom of speech.”

When anything is provided without cost, it does risk being open to abuse. However the Government does not believe that more restrictive rules on cost limits of FoI requests are the way forward.”

The advancement of individual liberty depends upon the protection from arbitrary interference of the person and private property and, above all, the home. ”

I share the concerns about the need for additional protections for the liberties and rights of the citizen.”

And this is how he ended his address;

The challenge for each generation is to conduct an open debate without ever losing sight of the value of our liberties.  Indeed the character of our country will be defined by how we write the next chapter of British liberty – by whether we do so responsibly and in a way that respects and builds on our traditions, and progressively adds to and enlarges rather then reduces the sphere of freedom.

And as we make these decisions, we must never forget that the state and the people are not equivalent. The state is always the servant of the people. We must remember that liberty belongs to the people and not governments.

It is the challenge and the opportunity for our generation to write the next chapter of British liberty in a way that honours the progress of the past – and promises a wider and more secure freedom to our children.”

I can’t help wondering if the man that is running our country, is the same one that spouted these words, because to me at least, they seem incompatible with each other. You can make up your own mind!

Democracy has already disappeared

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Much has been said over the weekend regarding the Damian Green affair, with most commentators suggesting that our democracy is damaged, at stake or in peril. I would not argue with any of these descriptives other than to say our democracy was under threat a good deal earlier than this high profile incident.

Whether it is detention without charge, law officers being able to store telephone call details, text messages, email content and web browsing habits, or the ability of the police to take DNA off a subject even if they haven’t been charged. All of these new laws have been brought in, ostensibly to aid the fight against crime and terrorism, but as we have already witnessed, neither the police nor the government are shy of using anti-terror laws in completely inappropriate circumstances. As each new piece of legislation has been passed, so we have had to wave a fond farewell to some of the fundamental rights that we have lost in the process. Rights that we have enjoyed for hundreds of years. Yet crime is not falling and terrorism remains the same threat as it was before.

The government has become the ‘bitch’ of the police service, giving them have whatever they want, whether it be detention without charge, 30,000 taser guns or the ability to monitor telephone calls on the say so of a senior officer rather than a judge. Opposition parties, by contrast, have acted like the governments lapdogs, providing a less than spirited defence of the rights of the individual. In an effort to preen themselves in front of the TV cameras, or gain a few column inches from a compliant newspaper, members of parliament have forgotten that they are responsible for upholding the rights and liberties of the citizens of this country. They have failed miserably….look at how many departments that have been labeled “not fit for purpose”, now consider how this label could be identified with most of the government and a large number of other MP’s!

As a consequence of this governments preoccupation with gaining more and more state control, we as a people have become all the poorer. Not in economic terms (that was for different reasons), but in terms of freedom. Our right to privacy has gone forever, because this government has allowed nearly every aspect of our lives to be monitored and/or recorded and then allowed upwards of 800 agencies, both public and private, access to that information. It is an outrage. Worst of all, every MP that failed to speak up for the people of this country on this issue have been complicit in our demise, further, every newspaper editor that has failed to raise these issues for fear of losing scoops from a minister have failed their readership.

Of course you can’t get the genie back into the bottle, but members of parliament on all sides should seek to use the Damian Green affair as a signal that a complete review is now needed of all legislation passed that has provided government and the police service with unprecedented powers over the people of this country. British citizens are supposed to be the masters, not the servants, New Labour policies have dispensed with this long held tradition. Purists may say I am wrong, but it is my contention that when so much power has been passed to government and the tools or agents of government, such as the police service, security services and so on, the people of this country become the servants of state, not the other way around.

We may retain the vote, but little else and if we allow further removal of our rights, we could end up being a basket case like Zimbabwe, with question marks over our entire electoral system. Melodramatic maybe, possible most certainly, after all, Hazel Blears has already indicated that she wants the legal power to prevent publication of certain stories in the mainstream media and has pointed out that she is not in favour of bloggers. Who 20 years ago would have guessed that we could lock people up for a month with no charge, seize the assets of another country using anti-terror laws, monitor and store every telephone call, text message and email, force identity cards on a reluctant public? The list goes on, but you get the picture, it isn’t just possible, we are already well on our way.

If ever there was a justification for a public enquiry, something I do not normally advocate, it is now. It should be wide ranging and concentrate on the legislation that has been drafted by this government which as a consequence of its introduction, has removed, reduced or eroded the civil liberties and rights of the people of this country. Further, they must look at what the original intention was and find out how these laws have been used, abused or mis-used. This enquiry must then have the power to order that government introduce legislation to allow either an amendment to, or the repeal of any legislation that is not as intended or has simply gone too far.

David Cameron could lead this charge and I suspect he will have a great deal of support, certainly from the public and most likely from the LibDems and a few Labour backbenchers. Or, he could let the opportunity pass by and be picked up by Nick Clegg. For as sure as night follows day, there will be a massive public backlash when it starts to sink in just how many of our rights have been sacrificed in a fight against terrorism, something, incidentally that this country has faced for most of its existence.

If as a consequence of the Damian Green affair members of parliament only seek an exemption for MP’s, then I think the public will have a very good idea who our elected members look out for and it would most certainly not be us. They could be reminded of this at the ballot box assuming we manage to retain that right. Don’t laugh, it could happen, just look at our ruling elite!

Prostitution, pimps, trafficking and criminal intent

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There is an interesting post over at Power to the People on the government announcement that they intend to introduce new legislation to protect women that have been forced into prostitution by people traffickers or pimps. The post does not cover the rights and wrongs about prostitution, but instead the issue surrounding a fundamental change to criminal law, in that there is no need to demonstrate intent only “strict liability”.

The following paragraph probably sums up best the argument contained in the post:

I am no law expert, but by introducing a “strict liability” clause into criminal law, (I believe it is already used in civil law), means a serious criminal offence can be committed without there being any intent. Now I know that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but this legislation means that even if a man asked the necessary questions and was given the appropriate responses, he is still playing a game of Russian Roulette, with odds that would not be lawful in a casino! Worst still, the man doesn’t even need to have sex in order to commit the offence, he just has to conduct the transaction.

If true, this is a very worrying precedent being set by government ministers, perhaps made worst by the fact that Harriet Harman is actually a QC. She more than anyone must know the consequences of a piece of legislation that can find a man guilty of rape simply because he conducted a transaction for sex with a prostitute.

Surely this is what is wrong with this government. They try and intefere in everything, with little or no knowledge of the problems, issues or implications. It is always a sledgehammer to crack a nut, draconian and penal laws introduced against a backdrop of political correctness or a wish to grab the headlines. The Big Brother Database was one way in which this government attempted to run roughshod over the civil liberties of the people of this country. Now they seek to introduce a strict liability clause which means that no ‘act’ has to take place for a very serious offence to have been committed which could result in a life sentence.

Vulnerable girls forced into prostitution are entitled to and must be protected. However, the laws are already there for the police to use, so why don’t they? If 70% of the girls are working under duress, then the police should have no problem bringing prosecutions. I don’t know how many ‘sex transactions’ take place everyday, but if 70% of them could lead to a serious offence being committed, surely the courts will be inundated with criminal cases. Also, we need to start building new prisons now, because I suspect, that this law will not stop the oldest profession in the world. In a worst case scenario, it could make the girls more vulnerable and drive it underground where it will be impossible to protect them.

Those that sponsor or support this bill in its current form should hang their heads in shame for they seek to change a fundamental aspect of criminal law in this country and fail to achieve the objective set. As for Jacqui Smith and Harriet Harman, they should resign immediately, because they have demonstrated that they are not fit for the high offices that they hold.

Has Hazel Blears been reading our blogs?

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Based on an article written by Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears for The Guardian newspaper, it is a reasonable question. Especially given she naively attacked political bloggers a couple of weeks ago. Now she appears to have used these same blogs for her own research into what is wrong with politics. In this particular article, she was specifically taking a swipe at the BNP, no doubt because they make an easier target than other mainstream political parties. But, as we know, her comments could apply to any party that is gaining votes at Labours expense. Here is a summary of some of the points she made.

  • Politicians from all parties must work hard to win back the trust and confidence of disaffected voters by proving that mainstream politics has the answers they seek
  • Politics required a revival of local political culture, a significant shift of power from the centre to the community and politicians who look and sound like the people they represent
  • Estates have been ignored for decades; voters taken for granted; local services that have failed; white working-class voters who feel politicians live on a different planet

Now of course, delivering rhetoric is one thing, delivering solutions is quite another. As we know, Hazel Blears may be vocal and enjoy getting her name in the press, but lets face it, not many people hang onto her every word. So whilst it is a pity that a more serious politician did not make these comments, lets hope one of them can read, because she does get to the root cause of why so many people feel both disenfranchised and disaffected with politics.

Of course there are many other issues, such as the creation of a nanny state, the constant waste of taxpayers money, the government’s introduction of Big Brother, voyeuristic, privacy invading, civil liberty busting programmes designed to control and oppress the people of this country, as well as, of course, the complete screw up of our economy. However I believe there are two comments that she made that are particularly relevant today and those are ‘politicians need to look and sound like the people they represent’ and ‘voters feel politicians live on a different planet ‘ . 

These two comments could not be applied exclusively to the Labour Party, although that would be an excellent start, they would apply to MP’s of all parties. With only a few exceptions, once our members of parliament are elected, and they enter the house of commons, they really start to believe that they are a cut above everyone else and power goes to their heads. The only time they become ‘human’ again, is when they are begging for our votes! Most MP’s are, or become in a very short period, pathetic self-serving, self-righteous, self-obsessed dickheads, interested in the position, rather than the responsibility or why they were put there.

Nonetheless, as always, Hazel is keen to highlight problems. However as with most Labour MP’s (and David Cameron), short on ideas of how to address them. May I suggest therefore, that a good start is for the main political parties to start selecting the person they want to represent them at election time and in parliament, from ordinary citizens, rather than career politicians or party activists? Party activists and career politicians lose their personality or individuality on the way, learn to do as they are told, rather than what is right and more often than not, are the very people that see getting the job as more important than doing it. Better surely, that prospective MP’s are selected based on a passion for their local community, values and making a difference, rather than simply seeking a political career?

Anyway, at least we know that whilst Hazel Blear may not like the home truths that arise from those prepared to take the time to comment on political issues, at least she is prepared to accept some of them may be quite pertinent. Even if she is not capable of making a difference.

Welcome to Big Brother Britain

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Well all is not as it seems. This is not a sign in the arrivals hall at Heathrow, although it probably should be, instead it is a big welcome to the new political blog Big Brother Britain & Civil Liberties. The initiative of the author of Power to the People, with contributions from David Davis, it is destined to become a leading site for resisting and highlighting attempts by the Labour government to do away with our long held and highly prized civil liberties.

There are quite a few blogs that deal with civil liberty issues and political blogs that touch on so called Big Brother issues, however, this particular blog is intended, as I understand it, to bring all of these topic under a single umbrella. The author has made it clear that he is keen to have as many people as possible contributing posts and comments in order that it can quickly become an authorative reference site and be used as a campaigning blog.

I have agreed to write posts for the Big Brother Britain blog and I would urge others to offer similar tangible support. Together with the RESIST initiative introduced by Shrewd Mammal, there is a real opportunity for some momentum if people with similar concerns get behind this initiative and support, contribute to and visit the blog.

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.

UK government seek more control over citizens

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I have decided to take up the offer of fellow UK Politics blogger, Power to the People and copy, verbatim, his article in relation to the latest Data Communications Bill, due to be debated in parliament and supported by Jacqui Smith. This Bill seeks to further erode our right to privacy and to be free from state interference, with sweeping new laws regarding the storage of all email, internet browsing habits, telephone calls and text messages of the British Public. This government has spent 11 years, introducing law after law, permitting more state inteference, less privacy and causing blatant infringments to our civil liberties.

I wholeheartedly support the views of PttP and would also urge people to view his proposed letter, vary it, personalise it and then send it to your MP. Maybe we can have a voice after all?

Enough is enough, the UK is becoming a police state by our control obsessed government and we are sitting back and allowing it to happen. It makes me angry to see such lethargy. Everytime a new act is brought in, far more sinister aspects are buried in the detail, which further curtail our civil liberties, freedom and privacy. This has got to stop and now, state should not be permitted to control the people, it should be the other way around. As it stands, just 650 members of parliament are pushing some 65m people around, yes, I mean 650, because whilst this government may have a majority, the MP’s from other parties are not making enough noise about this massive intrusion into our lives, they should be fired, the lot of them. We are quick to condemn the bankers (rightly so in many cases), but we do nothing about the MP’s that have consistently introduced or supported Acts of Parliament that intrude into our lives, in a way that will affect us for many years to come. We must put a stop to it.

It is expected that plans to collect more data on people’s phone, e-mail and web-browsing habits will be included in the innocuouslysounding “Communications Data Bill”, due to be introduced in the Queen’s Speech in November. By all accounts, these proposals are supported by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, Gordon Brown and much of the Labour government. Once again, the government is expected to justify this gross intrusion into the personal lives of 65m people under the auspices of ‘counter-terrorism’, this is utter garbage, they know it and we know it. Yes, there are terrorists out there and they don’t wear badges, but this country has faced terrorism before and the security forces managed to investigate and prosecute without such laws.

I don’t know how many terrorists are out there, but it is not 65m and is probably less that a couple of thousand, why should the privacy and personal of 65m people be invaded by this government because of a few people that mean us harm? This whole thing needs to be put in perspective, more people in the UK die on the roads than as a result of terrorism, more soldiers are killed abroad, that in the UK as a result of terrorism, in fact, more people are killed in farming accidents that as a consequence of terrorism. This government have invested massively in the security services, allowing them to go on a substantial recruitment drive, there should be no need for a massive Big Brother surveillance operation of the entire population of the UK. Before some smart-arse suggests that it is this surveillance and investment in the security services that has reduced the number of terrorist incidents in the UK, I would ask them to provide further evidence that this is the case and then to put it into perspective. For example, it is well know that the airline industry work out whether safety mechanisms are worth introducing on their planes on the basis of a cost/benefit analysis. In other words, will the costs associated with an accident outweigh the cost of implementing the safety programmes. Fact of life, they all do it, they just rarely tell us!

Of course the government will issue the usual platitudes and assurances that they will not misuse this information, but can we believe them. The Icelandic authorities had their assets frozen using anti-terror laws, in spite of the fact that there were other laws that could have been used and would have been just as effective. A local council used anti-terror legislation to spy on the parents of a child that they throught was in the wrong ‘catchment area’. This list, trust me, goes on and on. We also know that this government ant it’s private sector partners are incapable of securing data, which means our personal lives could be open to all and sundry. Some will argue that if you have nothing to hide, then there is nothing to hide, these same people probably still believe in Father Christmas. As we know information, any information can be used in different ways, depending on the the intepretation of the recipient, how many times have we said or done something that was completely misrepresented?

I have nothing to hide, but I object strongly to my personal calls, web browsing habits and email being monitored and invaded by the state. Government’s could even misuse this information to find out how we intend to vote! It is an appalling proposal and it is high time the British public called time on the control obsessed government and it’s supporters, irrespective of which party they represent. This goes beyond party politics, it is a direct attack on the very fabric of our society and no-one will be safe from government interference if it is allowed to pass into law. If the government believe that this act is so important, then they should allow the British people to vote on it through a referendum, I believe they will get a resounding No…and they know it!

People often tell me that there is “not much we can do”, but there is. Our members of parliament are worried sick that they may lose their seat at the next election, we must emphasise to them that if they support this attack on our civil liberties that we guarantee they will. We must demonstrate to our MP’s that they should be more in fear of the wrath of the British public that the Chief Whip of their own parties. Opposition MP’s should do their jobs and oppose this draconian piece of legislation. We must also warn our local members of parliament that if they vote for this Act, that we will not vote for them, we must make it clear, that we have a voice, not once every 5 years, but throughout their tenure and that we will have it heard. Everyone that feels this Act is a direct infringement of our civil liberties, right to privacy and an attack on the very fabric of our society, should write to their MP and tell them so. I have provided a ‘draft letter’ which can be viewed, personalised and sent to your MP. Draft Letter to MP

I would also invite all fellow bloggers that feel as strongly as I do on this issue to reproduce this article in part or full, topped and tailed if they wish, to publicise this issue to as many people as possible. Let us all stand up and fight in this issue, and remind this government who is actually in charge.

Full Article: Power to the People

 

RESIST!

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Steady erosion of the rights of a UK citizen

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If you have ever felt that there is a steady erosion of the rights of a UK citizen, then an excellent article written by Shrewd Mammal will probably confirm your worst fears. The UN Charter of Human Rights outlines what we are entitled to expect from this Act, Shrewd Mammal has provided a summary of some of these rights together with his take on whether or not they apply to UK citizens. Shrewd Mammal – UN Charter of Human Rights.

For example, Article 9 states that “no one shall be entitled to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” Now consider how this fits in with the new 42 day detention rule. This rule is supposed to be for suspected terrorists, but anyone that does not believe the authorities will not abuse or ‘work’ this ruling needs to look at the way our other rights have been diluted or eroded over time.

Now consider Article 12. “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” Now consider this in relation to interference with our right to privacy, there are more CCTV cameras in the UK than anywhere else in the world.  It is worth reminding ourselves, that the UK has 1% of the worlds population, but 20% of the worlds CCTV cameras. That is a staggering 4.2 million cameras, or 1 camera for every man, woman, child and politician in the UK.

Internet service providers are required to snoop on their customers regarding downloads and emails, mobile phone service providers are required to retain call details, text messages and even GPS data (if available) for a period of up to 12 months (2 years if the EU gets its way). Council workers are entitled to look inside your bins to see what type of rubbish you are throwing out. Private companies such as those parking or wheel clamping companies are entitled to obtain your personal details from the DVLA in return for a fee.

The police are seeking to persuade the government to allow them to obtain a DNA sample from every citizen in the UK. However, they already have close to 2m DNA samples because anyone arrested for a minor offence, must provide a DNA sample and even if they are not charged or found innocent, the records are retained. Some will argue that is you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear from DNA samples, that ignores both our fundamental and supposedly entrenched right to privacy, and it assumes that the DNA information will not be subsequently sold or leaked (see DVLA information), or perhaps lost in the post!

Of course these  additional state powers are not limited just to the police. Government departments such as Custom and Excise, the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency and the Financial Services Authority are also routinely requesting information on internet and mobile phone customers. Even local authorities are entitled to snoop, for example, Last year, councils and government departments made 12,494 applications for “directed surveillance”, according to figures released by the Office of the Surveillance Commissioner. In one example, Poole Council authorised such a surveillance operation, where council workers subsequently spied on a family they suspected of living in the wrong school catchment area. This example truly places the whole thing into perspective.

The government wants to pry even further as it is trying to ensure that the next census, due in 2010 includes, for the first time, questions about income and people’s sexual habits. The supermarkets for example, are already tracing our buying habits through analysis of the ‘loyalty cards’ used by shoppers and of course, any information that is gathered and stored electronically must be released if required by a court order, or insom cases, depending on the government department, on demand. I won’t even bother covering the whole issue of ID cards.

But can we trust our government? It is woth noting that in 2006, a ‘world league table’ was published for the first time placing the UK at the bottom of the western democratic world and ranked alongside Russia for the poor protection of individual privacy, this did not take into account data losses. Interestingly the two worst-ranking countries in the 36-nation survey are Malaysia and China. More tellingly, the UK was the worst-ranking EU country and the only one in the black category, which defines countries demonstrating “endemic surveillance”. Also noteworthy, according to the Royal Academy of Engineering, is the fact that it is proposed the biometric data on new passports is stored on radio frequency microchips. This is the same technology which will be used for ID cards and could be used to eavesdrop. RESIST!

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