Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Watch out for Big Brother: British Freedom Under Attack


“Men must be governed by God, or they will be ruled by tyrants.” William Penn


William Penn's words have recently come to mind as England has been inundated in a wave of legislation removing basic freedoms. Things have got so bad now that even mainstream liberal journalists are taking note and commenting on the situation (For example, see Henry Porter's articles HERE and HERE and Booker's article HERE.)

Here are just a few examples of the recent assaults on our freedoms.

UNRULY CHILDREN: LOOK OUT

On the 30th of April, Janet Hutchison wrote to The Independent complaining that her 11-year-old son was arrested, convicted and reprimanded for criminal damage.

Given that the boy’s fingerprints were taken, along with DNA samples, we might suspect the child was guilty of a crime. Actually, his offence was to accidentally break a neighbour’s window.

Meanwhile, the police of Lincolnshire have invented their own way to deal with unruly children. A Lincolnshire paper has informed parents that children between 10 and 13 who are involved in ‘low-level incidents of nuisance and anti-social behaviour’ will be liable to receive a ‘yellow card’ at the hands of the police. A repeat offence results in a ‘red card.’

If the behaviour persists after both football-style cards have been issued, formal proceedings will be taken against the child which could lead to an ASBO (anti-social-behaviour-order).

It is unclear what childish behaviour will constitute ‘low-level incidents of nuisance and anti-social behaviour’ in the eyes of the police. Lincolnshire Police’s PC, Nick Hanson, has said that this could include being ‘too loud in the street.’

As the maximum penalty for breaching an ASBO is five years imprisonment, parents in Lincolnshire are more than a little worried, especially those with loud children.

POLITICALLY CORRECT THOUGHTS

It is not just parents with noisy children that have cause to worry. Anyone whose thoughts and political viewpoints run counter to the Government’s agenda have cause to be concerned.

In a Speech given to the House of Lords on 9th February this year, the Bishop of Durham observed that our police are increasingly patrolling ideas and beliefs. ‘People in my diocese’, remarked Bishop Wright, ‘have told me that they are now afraid to speak their minds in the pub on some major contemporary issues for fear of being reported, investigated, and perhaps charged.’ (Click
HERE to read the whole speech.)

The instances of citizens being investigated by the ‘thought police’ are, of course, legion. What has only recently emerged, however, is the way the Government has tried to impose thought control on local councils.

Consider the case of the parish council of Belford, in Northumberland. In January, this council voted unanimously to write a letter opposing the Government’s plan to increase the number of wind turbines in their area.

A month after this, another turbine proposal appeared and, with it, a letter. The letter was from Liam Henry, the monitoring officer of Berwick-upon-Tweed council. Henry said that because the Belford council had opposed the previous proposal, they were now disqualified from discussing the new one. This, he argued, was because of something called ‘the common law of predetermination.’

Belford has not been the only council to fall victim to this rather unusual law, the brainchild of John Prescott and enforced by the Standards Board for England. This law disbars local councillors from discussing or voting on any issue if they have already declared a view. The grounds for this exclusion is that the voter invalidates himself by having a ‘predetermined’ position.

The principle of ‘predetermination’ also applies to specific individuals. Cllr. Riley was elected by the villagers in Longstanton to oppose the Government’s scheme to build a new town next to the village. Riley was surprised to be told that he was forbidden to debate, vote or privately discuss the scheme with other councillors, on the grounds that he had already committed himself to a position. He is currently being forced to undergo a ‘training course’ on Mr. Prescott’s ‘Code of Conduct.’ Bob Mills, a Powys county councillor, was told he would be barred from the council chamber whenever the issue of windpower came up because he had written a letter to the paper questioning the benefits of wind turbines. No such ban applies to those who support official policy.


THE SECRETARY OF STATE’S ERASER

This law about predetermined viewpoints has not yet been extended to include the protocol of national elections. However, the
Identity Cards Act 2006, leaves open the possibility that certain voters could be ‘erased’ from the system (a point made by Henry Porter HERE.)

Section 11 of the
ID card Act allows the ‘The Secretary of State [to] cancel an ID card if it appears to him...that another change of circumstances requires a modification of information recorded in or on the card...’ (To read the entire ID Card Act, click HERE) Such ‘circumstances’ could include virtually anything since there is no specified limit on the amount of information the National Identity Register may be extended to include.

Evidence suggests that the ID cards may eventually be used for identity verification by banks, hospitals, register of electors, internet providers, doctor’s surgeries and all other civic functions. If that does happen, then when the Secretary of State confiscates someone’s card, he would be withdrawing that person’s ability to function in the state. It would act like a kind of civic eraser.

Section 1(4) and section 9 of the Identity Cards Act 2006 makes it implicit that the Home Secretary’s power to require surrender of an identity card at any time is not subject to the right of appeal and short-circuits the normal judicial process, as does his ability to secretly change an individual’s data.


BIG BROTHER’S LISTENING

If the Government wants to keep tabs on what their citizens are doing, you would have thought the ID Act was sufficient, especially since every transaction someone makes with their card can then be recorded on the National Identity Register.

Still, members of our Government are not satisfied this is enough. The latest plan is to get a satellite to spy on the people of Britain. The new Secretary of State for Transport, Douglas Alexander, reaffirmed Labour’s plan (announced last year) to introduce a satellite tracking system to charge road-users for every mile they travel. This would come into effect in 2010 and would exist in addition to the normal road tax and fuel tax.

An enormously expensive scheme, at least the UK doesn’t have to worry about putting up a satellite. The EU has kindly already done that for us. In fact, the European Commission has been talking about its own plans to rent out its roads ever since 2001.

Those who are concerned about the growing eye of Big Brother should take note: not only is he watching you…he’s listening. The police listening for people like Lynette Burrows, who happened to speak the wrong view on homosexual adoption, or Ann Robinson who had the misfortune to express the wrong opinion about the Welsh. Beginning in 2010, the police will be listening to the conversation at supermarkets.

In three and a half years, it will be a criminal offence, punishable by up to £5,000 for stallholders or shopkeepers to make any reference to pounds and ounces, feet and inches. As Baroness Miller of Hendon told the House of Lords, this means that ‘If someone goes up to a small shopkeeper or trader on 1st January 2010 and asks for a pound of apples, the trader will be committing a criminal offence if he supplies them.’

If shop owners are worried, so are UK farmers. Starting on 15th May, it will also be a criminal offence for UK farmers to carry out tasks involving ‘waste’, unless they first get a special certificate from the Environment Agency. Included in this category is spreading manure on fields, allowing vegetable stalks to rot down in the soil, burning the straw from a cattle shed, having a manure heap or letting an old plough rust in the corner of the farmyard.

One farmer, named Robin Page, will be applying for an exemption to allow him to continue burning hedge clippings. If he is granted the exemption, he will be committing a criminal act if he burns anything else, including paper, on the fire. He cannot even use old newspaper to help him light the fire.



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