Hope, or expectation?
Feb 16, 2009
Bishop Hill in Civil liberties

I've been away for a long weekend, and have come back to find that the colleagues in the blogosphere have been keeping up the pressure on the civil liberties front. Chris Dillow's piece on the coming police state is well worth a look.

With Labour now trailing badly in the polls, a Tory landslide seems all but certain, so there is at least hope that things might change. My thesis for tonight is that, while hope there may be,  expectation of any great change on civil liberties is a position that is not warranted by the facts, and is not therefore an adequate response to big government encroachment on the realm of the individual.

While I was rude about David Davis's absence from the media during the Wilders affair, a commenter on that thread pointed out that subsequent to my posting he had staked out the civil liberties argument on Question Time and that is certainly welcome. The rest of his party (with certain honourable exceptions) have been pretty craven in their silence. During my recent absence they have restricted themselves to issuing statements about food labelling and bonuses in state-owned banks.Before that it was a task force on maths teaching headed by B-list television celeb - a policy (if we can dignify it with that title) that would not have been out of place in any of the last ten years of Labour government.

Is this reticence part of a wider campaign among the Tories to simply let Labour lose the next election by giving them no firm Tory policy positions to attack? Or perhaps Conservatives agree with the arguments that the war on terror necessitates an expansion of the state security apparatus to levels unknown outside the communist bloc? We simply can't know what the Tories' true position is. The problem is that David Cameron has shown himself quite ready to go back on campaign promises after he is elected, so even if a statement were to be made, it is hard to know if we should believe him anyway.

Can we really face the prospect of going into the next election merely hoping for the best from the Conservative party? For me, civil liberties campaigners need to publish a list of legislation that should be repealed as the first action of an incoming government. No votes for anyone who doesn't sign up to it. The LibDems have of course already mooted a Great Repeal Act, but that was frankly not great enough. The encroachments of Brown and Blair go much further and much deeper than can be countered by the repeal of a dozen acts of Parliament. It's also worth noting that the website they set up at the time (2006) is now defunct.

Here's a partial list of suggestions (pinched from here).

  1. Restrictions on protests in Parliament Square.Sections 132 to 138; Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005
  2. Identity Cards:Identity Cards Act 2006
  3. Extradition to the US: Part 2, Extradition Act 2003
  4. Conditions on public assemblies: Section 57, Clause 123, Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003.
  5. Criminalising trespass. Sections 128 to 131, Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005
  6. Control orders: Section 1, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.
  7. DNA retention. Sections 78-84, Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, Sections 9-10, Criminal Justice Act 2003
  8. Public interest defence for whistleblowing. Official Secrets Act 1989.
  9. Right to silence: Sections 34-39, Public Order Act 1994 - England and Wales
  10. Hearsay evidence: Sections 114-136, Criminal Justice Act 2003

Plus more here

  1. Serious Organised Crime & Police Act 2005, Part 4
  2. Anti-Social Behaviour Acts 1998 - 2003 in full
  3. Crown copyright
  4. Drugs Act 2005
  5. Misuse of Drugs Acts (all)
  6. Prevention of Terrorism Acts 1973 to present
  7. Anti-Terror, Crime & Security Act 2001
  8. Racial & Religious Hatred Act 2006
  9. Freedom of Information Act 2000, s. 36
  10. Protection from Harassment Act 1998
  11. Sexual Offences Act 2003

To which I would add

  1. RIPA Act
  2. Civil Contingencies Act

I haven't examined most of these in any detail, but it's fair to say there are many familiar names there. I'm sure this is just scratching the surface.



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