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Over at British Politics, a recent article caught my eye, this was related to comments made by a Home Office Minister, which suggested that the government had the powers and perhaps, even the will to designate existing documents as identity cards. This could, for example, be passports or more likely drivers licenses. There is even a suggestion that a refusal to agree to provide the additional information, could end up for example, a refusal to renew your drivers licence or maybe, if they wanted to go a step further, it could lead to the suspension or cancel of a drivers license.

Government has already started to introduce cards through the back door by suggesting that students should use them as well as airport workers and newly qualified British citizens. It is clear that the UK government want to get some groups to accept, either voluntarily, or by mandate, the use of ID cards. By dealing with smaller groups in this way, they are likely to get less resistance and can argue in the future that “some people already use identity documents”. It is clear to me, at least, that the UK government is determined to introduce ID cards by any means necessary. I have reproduced, with permission, the article from British Politics.

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.

Over at British Politics, there is another example of local government officials demonstrating that they know best, in that officious Big Brother Britain manner that is unique to local and national government. Councillors have decided to ban any foster parents that smoke, from 2012. This takes no account of whether or not these ’smokers’ do so in front of the children or, for example, away from the children. British Politics says;

I am a smoker, so I put my hands up, although I am not a foster parent, but I most certainly do take my hat off to those that do provide this care. I choose, as do many of my friends that smoke, not to do so in the house or car. That is my choice, come rain, sun or snow, I smoke outside. As a consequence, according to Redbridge Council’s criteria, I would not be able to foster a child, even if I fulfilled all of the other criteria, how logical is that?

Surely the local authorities primary responsibility is to find the best foster parents. To ban people, simply because they smoke, seems illogical. They could, for example, have just requested that smokers refrain from smoking in front of the children. In other words, a consensual approach, that treats the foster carers as adults, not pariahs.

British Politics went on to echo, what may well be the thoughts going through the minds of other bystanders;

I have often wondered what motivates someone to become a councillor, they are paid allowances, but receive no salary. But because Redbridge Council believe in discrimination, I feel certain they will not be able to object to me claiming that they are all ego-driven, control freaks, that have nothing better to do in their lives other than to interfere in the lives and well-being of others, just because they can. Sorry, if this offends the councillors that did not vote for this initiative, but I am following the lead of the ‘other’ Redbridge Councillors and insisting that everyone should be tarred with the same brush.

I for one sympathise with his position on this matter. I also know of many people that do not smoke in front of their children, wherever they are, at home, in the car etc. This is a conscious decision and they do this in consideration of the children. No-one denies that passive smoking is a risk to health and unpleasant for those that do not smoke, but to smoking foster parents in this manner seems a little over the top, to ban otherwise perfect foster parents is completely unacceptable and only government officials would have the audacity and the ability to get away with it. There are estimated to be 9m smokers in this country, if any other ‘minority’ group was treated in this way, there would be outrage. You can read the whole posting here: Ban on smoking foster carers by Redbridge Councillors.

Up until a few months ago, the only person I knew that supported the introduction of identity cards, was my wife. After a few heated debates, questions, answers and what-if’s, she eventually conceded that it wasn’t such a great idea. We have a very democratic process in our house, something like the system we used to have in the UK. Now, she cannot be brow-beaten, trust me I know, but she had listened to what the likes of Jacqui Smith has said, believed the assurances and was coming at it primarily from an immigration control perspective.

However, news that everyone Jacqui Smith comes into contact with supports ID cards has come as a bit of a shock, because as we all know, this government would never seek to mislead, or heaven forbid, lie to the electorate. Therefore, I can only assume that someone filters those that Jacqui Smith meets, or she doesn’t get out much. As with most things it is probably a bit of both, because as I have already stated, I can’t imagine anyone in such a senior position, with huge responsibilities would seek to mislead.

The bottom line is ID cards are being imposed on some sections of the community, such as airside airport workers and students, if there were so many supporters, then we must question why this policy should be mandatory? Looks like a stealth move to me. ID cards will be the primary method for which the government will spy on its own citizens, because not only will they include biometrics, they will include a number, that links all of the various government databases together. Which means, with an identity card, far from using it simply to confirm who we are, there will be 700 agencies that have access to the data, they will be able to find out; what we do, where we have been, who we have met, who we call, who we text, what we write in our emails, which websites we visit, what car we drive who we insure with, who our doctor is, what our medical history is, our credit rating, where we travel, how we travel, if we are married, how many children we have, where we went to school…I could go on, but I won’t, you get the picture.

So, why do they need all this information? Will knowing who I talked to, where I went last Saturday, what I bought at the supermarket and where I intend to go on holiday, help defeat terrorism or reduce crime? I don’t think so. But, if someone could access this amount of information, could it be useful to them? For example, someone stealing my identity, someone wishing to commit fraud, an insurance company wanting to assess my risk of dying of cancer or a government official wanting to know my political persuasion.

When a crime is committed, the oft repeated mantra is to “follow the money”. In the case of ID cards, we should all be asking who gains, who benefits? I can see no personal gain whatsoever in my allowing anyone this amount of information on me. I am fed up with the people that keep harping on about “if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear?” This is complete and utter rubbish. Of course I have nothing to hide, that is why I prepared to stand up and be counted, make my views known to anyone that cares to read this blog. But remember, this is my choice, it is not mandated. I choose to share my views, I have no wish for the goverment, or any of its 700 agencies to be able or permitted to intrude in my private life.

Is Hazel Blears politically naive?

Well, yes I think she probably is, which would explain why she has been given the position of Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Given the state of both, she needs to spend more time in the office and less at the Hansard Society.

It would appear that Hazel, I hope such an important person, at least in her own mind, doesn’t mind me having the temerity to address her by her first name, doesn’t like us bloggers. Well at least the so called right-leaning ones that don’t agree with this governments policies. Now I can’t speak (or more accurately write) for other bloggers, but the reason I started to write a “political” blog was because I had become so disenfranchised from what is left of the political and democratic system in this country. I felt that politicians were using the complacency of the majority of people in this country, to impose draconian legislation that sought to remove our civil liberties, right to privacy and many of the laws that had been originally introduced to protect the individual from state interference.

Hazel knows, that in the past, so long as she and her party had the vast majority of the news media eating out of their hands, then they could do pretty much whatever they wanted. Perhaps in the knowledge that as long as the editors got an invitation to dinner and the chance of some ‘recognition’ or exclusives (probably both), they would tell their readership what a good job the government was doing. Acting as a defacto sales person for government initiatives. Then along comes the internet to spoil things. Because, the government can’t possible invite us all to dinner and an MBE or knighthood would just make our blog titles (no pun intended) too long. So what must they do? Well now we know, go to the Hansard Society and denounce us for our views, the quality and style of our blogs and imply that we are mavericks. We should be grateful that she hasn’t suggested that we are political terrorists, otherwise we would all be in real trouble.

It is pathetic. I take the time to blog because I care about this country and resent that the likes of Hazel Blears refuse to engage with the public. Politics has become a game of preaching, not explanation, of being loose with the facts and introducing draconian and freedom changing moves within the body of new legislation, rather than the summary. This used to be the preserve of the chancellor, but now everytime new legislation is brought in, the devil is indeed in the detail. We have to trust other members of parliament to read the entire bill and then understand it. I don’t!

This is a lame duck administration and it will be gone in the not too distant future. So it doesn’t really matter what Hazel thinks (not that it mattered before), or this Labour government, because they are on their way out. But the next government must get to grips with the issues and repeal the legislation that has sought to remove many of our rights as “free” citizens and above all, encourage engagement, via political blogs or other media, because it leads to a healthy and inclusive society.

If people choose to spend their time blogging on political issues and entering debates with people that may not necessarily share their views, then I think that is a good thing, to be encouraged, not derided. It is after all, what a free society is all about. MP’s are frequently moved to comment about the electorates refusal to get involved in politics, to the extent, that some even suggested that voting should become mandatory. Why then, should a cabinet minister, now be motivated to criticise and deride those that have done precisely that. But then again, perhaps I have answered my original question.

National register of voters

In yet another example of the government riding roughshod over the people of this country is the news that they are moving ahead in any event with plans to establish a centralised national register of voters, together with central checking and verification of the data held on electoral registers. The system, to be implemented in the form of CORE (Co-ordinated Online Record of Elector) schemes, will be introduced via the Electoral Administration Bill currently before Parliament which is subject to a “consultation process” due to end on 7th March. This coincides with recent announcements that the government is going to increase the amount of information they require to be completed by voters.

Can someone please explain what form a consultation process takes? Government ministers are always keen to refer to consultation processes as if they mean something, for example they have said that the plans to introduce a Big Brother database that will spy on our mobile telephone calls, text messages, emails and so on will also be subject to this same process. So who do they consult with, are the results made public and does it make any difference? Clearly a consultation process would imply that the government is prepared to take account of the views and opinions of others.  It also implies that they still believe, in spite of everthing they have done in recent year, in the democratic process. However, if we don’t know who will be representing us, could it all be a bit of a New Labour scam?

Under normal circumstances, you would expect ‘affected’ parties to be invited to something that will impact directly on them. Well of course I accept that they can’t invite 65m people, but how about a representative sample, could I go along for example and represent some of the 65m people? Could some of the readers of this blog join in the consultation? Somehow I doubt it.

At the very least, the government should publish precisely what information they will require for this register, why they need it and who will have access to it. They must also inform us of the content of the consultation process, who represented who, what was said and if any changes or modifications were prosed and accepted as a direct consequence of the additional input. Instead of having these new Act’s thrust upon us, we are, at the very least, are entitled to expect from our government a thorough explanation of their intent.

This government has introduced more Acts of Parliament than any previous administration during a similar term. Many of these acts have directly affected the liberty and freedoms of the individual, something members of parliament are supposed to protect. There has been little or no opposition to this legislation from the other parties, instead it is left to a few pressure groups and independent political commentators to try and publicise how this legislation affects us all. When can we expect to have our voice heard and who will represent us?

Time to stop Government waste

At a time when every political party is talking about tax cuts, I think it is a time to consider all government ‘pet’ projects, particularly those that have limited or no value. That is probably most of the IT projects. In particular, I would like to see the government cancel some of the Big Brother Britain, civil liberty busting, privacy invading information technology projects.

There are many, but for starters, I believe they must cancel the Big Brother Britain databasethat would record details of our mobile phone calls, texts, emails and internet habits. They must shelve, pending a review, the NHS database, this was originally forecast to cost £2.7bn and now estimates are put as high as £32bn. The professionals don’t want this database and the return on investment has to be highly questionable, especially at £32bn. Then, they must cancel ID Cards, very few people want them, they will, in any event, be used by the state as a tool to control and monitor the individual. This is unacceptable.

These 3 projects alone would cost the taxpayer some £60bn. Now with the government suggesting that their fiscal stimulus will amount to £15bn per annum which will have to come from borrowings, there is excellent ammunition here for the other parties to propose the cancelling of these projects and a larger or longer package of fiscal measures.

One final note, this government had consistently demonstrated that it is incapable of specifying, costing and managing large scale IT projects. Therefore, they should leave well alone, because what is also clear, is they have proven unable (or unwilling) to provide the public with any tangible justification or benefits for this level of expenditure. Most of us do not want these databases and, in any event, the country can ill afford the cost of £60bn. Opposition parties, make your mark and start earning your keep!

The farce of Criminal Records Bureau checks

As Big Brother Britain gathers pace, news is released that more than 12,000 people had Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks completed on them, which indicated that they had a criminal record, when in fact that was not the case. That is not a statistic, but 12,000 individuals that have incorrectly been branded a thief, fraudster, paedophile etc. In each case, it is for the individual to pursue the authorities to have the records amended by the CRB. It would appear that this was, in effect, a clerical error, for example when a criminal record has been incorrectly allocated to the wrong person. Now lets turn it on its head, if 12,000 people have had someone else’s misdeed attached to them, what of the people that were guilty, do they have a clean sheet?

This brings me to my point, well nearly. Assuming a database itself is flawless, unlikely, but we will assume so so for the sake of this example, the information contained within the database can only be as good as the individual entering the data. The industry jargon being “crap in, crap out”. Human error, as in the case in point, can, will and does happen. If innocent individuals can be incorrectly branded criminals today, where will we be tomorrow? As this government moves endlessly and relentlessly to collect and record every piece of information on every man, woman and child in this country, then enters it into a database, how long before we see further serious errors.

Could we be innocently be accused of consorting with criminals or terrorists because someone had incorrectly attached the wrong file? How long before someone dies because some idiot put the wrong information on their health service file? Surely, it is not beyond the intelligence level of our politicians to recognise that people are human, with the obvious exception of MP’s and they will make mistakes. They could also, potentially destroy another individual deliberately or inadvertently with a few clicks of a mouse? Another point here, is that if you ask any IT expert, he will tell you that the challenge is not building the database and entering the database, it is how to use and analyse that information.

This is precisely what is wrong with Big Brother Britain and the politicians that believe it is the only way forward. You try and block off one threat with a heavy handed, ill-considered approach and another threat comes in from a completely different direction. By focusing on every single person in this country and then recording everything they say, do, write, as well as where they go, their medical history, who they consort with and so on, you end up with so much information is is completely useless. In addition, there is so much data, that it will be virtually impossible to verify each detail, which will conceivably, perhaps inevitably, lead to a situation where we are all guilty until proven innocent. Think about it, this is the only way the state could make the thing work.

This government, senior civil servants and their advisers need to understand the basics and that is, they are better off putting their resources into targeting known criminals and terrorists and their cohorts, rather than assuming everyone must, or could be guilty of some offence or misdemeanor. This government is guilty of acting like a child in a sweetie shop, using a distraction method to allow them to fill their pockets with goodies.

The citizens of this country are quite rightly concerning themselves with the economy, jobs and so on. We are also constantly drip fed with the risk of some new terrorist threat, which often coincides with this government trying to pursue another liberty crushing piece of legislation, funny that! Not that we haven’t lived with both the threat and actions of terrorists for years! I digress. Whilst the public’s attention is directed elsewhere, this government is steadily and relentlessly introducing more and more, draconian legislation designed to permit the state to spy on the lives and activity of every single individual in this country. We are sleep walking into a police state.

In my view, it is tantamount to state terrorism, control and intrusion of the individual. Something that was supposed to have been protected with the Magna Carta. In this governments quest for ever more control of the individual, this government is systematically destroying everything we hold dear, our freedom, right to privacy and our civil liberties. This government and the members of parliament that have allowed this to happen should hang their heads in shame. As indeed should the people who choose to ignore, or perhaps indulge this government’s perverted obsession with voyeurism and spying, because they too, as surely as night follows day, will one day fall victim to this governments permitted excesses, as could their children and their children’s children.

Every voter should be writing to their MP’s and asking where they stand on this issue and if it is for state control and intrusion, then they must be voted out. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our neighbours, our friends and of course future generations. To fail them is akin to turning our backs on those that have sacrificed their lives over generations in order that we could benefit from a democracy and be free from state control. Rant over..until the next time!

A common denominator of countries described by outsiders and campaigners as being a police state, oppressive or anti-democratic, is state control of, alternatively over, the press. A free press is seen by the outside world as one of the most significant factors in determining whether or not a country is democratic and free.

So why is it, that our very own government is being advised to do just that? The Independent reports that the influential and powerful Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (CISC) is recommending that “news outlets should be prevented by law from reporting stories the Government judges to be against national security interests“. There is currently a voluntary code which, for all intents and purposes, appears to work well. This is often used in situations where the government deems there could be a national security issue and it is eminently sensible. However, the CISC, now wants this extended to include police operations and if that were not enough, they want the government to turn a voluntary system into a statutory one. If there was ever any doubt that our country is turning into Big Brother Britain, here it is. A recommendation that there be a statutory requirement that could effectively silence an uncooperative press on anything the government deemed not in the public interest or of a sensitive nature. It is completely unacceptable.

The government has been rattled by civil liberties campaigners leading the charge against an overbearing state and the fact that they have highlighted the steady, but consistent erosion of our rights and liberties. The significant resistence to the 42 day detention bill irritated the hell out of them.  As has protests about the Big Brother Britain Database, which has even lead to suggestions that opponents have something to hide, or are, in effect, willing to aid and abet those that would seek us harm. All utter rubish of course. We also have Hazel Blears damning those that would use the internet to argue against government policies.

Now, I have no particular desire to argue any case for the press in general, because lets face it, they are big enough and ugly enough to defend their own corner. Nor would I argue that they do not have their own agenda because most are affliated with one party or another and there is untold bias in their stories. However, what we do have a right to, as ‘free’ subjects, is a free press. At least free of government coersion, control and censorship.

Now, clearly I am jumping the gun a little here, because thus far, it is just a recommendation, but I would warn any government ministers that believe press censorship is the next logical step to Big Brother Britain, that we are watching and we will campaign as vigorously as any section of the media. We have come to accept news media with a particular political bias, but we will never

Organ Donors, Gordon Brown knows best

I don’t want to get into a debate as to the rights and wrongs of whether people should agree to donate their organs, although I am willing to state, for the record, that I support the organ donor programme. What concerns me is when government, in spite of advice to the contrary, determines that it knows best.

The UK Organ Donation Taskforce have stated that they do not believe that ‘presumed consent’ would boost organ donation rates. In fact chair of the taskforce, Elisabeth Buggins said: “We found from recipient families and donor families that the concept of gift was very important to them and presumed consent would undermine that concept.” This was not what the government wanted to hear and Alan Johnson was said to be disappointed by their findings, Gordon Brown was a little more forthright. He has threatened, that if the current recruitment campaign is not successful, he would not rule our a change of the law to provide for presumed consent.

Just who the hell does Gordon Brown think he is? He has no right to determine that he knows better than 65m people. For some, the desecration of the body of a loved one would only add to the suffering and for others, they may see organ donation as a positive consequence of a tragic circumstance. Either way, the choice cannot be the governments, they do not own us, nor do they own our bodies. This is yet another example of Big Brother Britain, another way in which the state tells us who is in charge and how little control we have over our own lives.

As we all know, this government cannot be trusted to keep its word, whatever assurances they may provide in public regarding presumed consent, we just know the small print will provide them with the real power. For example, the government may and probably will state that relatives must be able to provide demonstrable proof that a loved one did not want their organs to be donated, otherwise presumed consent would apply. If they don’t do this, then there is a very real possibility that the government will have to defend thousands of legal actions from relatives that are not willing to see the bodies of their loved ones desecrated on the whim of a doctor.

I do not believe the answer lies with legislation. Instead, the poor organ donor rates are as a direct consequence of poor advertising and recruitment campaigns. For example, press and TV advertising, whilst expensive, does not have a call to action, it only imparts information. What is needed is a programme that creates debate, for example but not exclusively, educating children at school, not in a negative way, but in a positive, uplifting manner, because this would encourage children to discuss the issue with their parents and then families can determine how they feel about this emotive issue.

Once governments start to legislate on such emotional issues, there will be a backlash, the negative connotations surrounding of organ donor-ship will come to the fore, people will resist and the programme will fail miserably. I can tell you for nothing, that if the government bring in presumed consent, then I will personally opt out, because I will not be dictated to by a government that is so willing to disregard my right to choose. This is the thin edge of the wedge, it really is, what is to stop the government to determine that we must all, for example give blood? Giving blood is an excellent and commendable contribution made by individuals but it is voluntary, there is also a shortage of blood, what is to stop the government from introducing legislation requiring everyone to donate blood, for example, twice a year? Answer, nothing.

As I stated at the outset, this has nothing to do with whether or not organ donation is a good or a bad thing, it is about our right to choose. No government should introduce legislation that removes that fundamental right. This government has consistently driven through legislation that has eroded, removed or virtually destroyed our civil liberties, our freedoms and our right to privacy and they have been allowed to do so, by an incapable opposition party and complacent people. Bouyed by this, the government now threatens to demonstrate how we have all sleep walked into Big Brother Britain, by introducing legislation that will confirm, that not only does the government control everything we do, say, think and write in life, they now control our bodies after death.

Big Brother Britain database shelved

News that the Data Communication Bill has been shelved will be welcomed by all those that have campaigned against it. Needless to say, the government claim that it has nothing to do with those that are against this Big Brother Britain bill and everything to do with the fact that MP’s need to concentrate on the economy.

I suspect it has far more to do with the fact that the government needs a controversial bill like a hole in the head, the estimated cost of £12bn is going to be criticised in the current climate and they want to clear the decks for an early election to take advantage of Labour’s poll bounce. Whatever the case, it is unlikely that any attempt will be made to reintroduce the bill until 2011 and hopefully, by that time, New Labour will be history. Predictably, the police are complaining that it will hinder their efforts to fight crime and terrorism, well perhaps if they got off their backsides and did what they were paid to do, there would not be a need to spy on 65m people.

The police in this country have more powers than virtually any other country in the world and yet they still whine. They also have 167,000 police officers, but I have to confess, I haven’t seen one in the last 2 weeks, plenty of community support officers, but no real coppers, no wonder they want to spy on us all. This bill should actually be scrapped and its predecessor, which provides many of the same rights, save a legal requirement that service providers must keep the information for 2 years, should be repealed. Only then can we be certain that state sponsored voyeurism is being rolled back. More at Big Brother Britain


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