By Dark Politricks
I recently wrote some articles about the upcoming UK general election and the Liberal Democrats proposed Freedom Bill which aims to roll back some of the most intrusive and liberty destroying measures introduced by successive Labour and Tory governments in the last 20 years.
The Liberal Democrats seem quite serious about their intent to roll back the high tech police state we are now living in but to be fair to the Tories they have also repeatedly slammed Labour over the years for their drive towards huge centralised databases, increased survellience and unrestrained government power. David Davies famously quit his position as the Shadow Home Secretary to fight a local by-election so that he could debate the merits of the then proposal to allow terror suspects to be locked up for 42 days detention without charge as well as what he called “the slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms by this government.”
Now as you should know I am no fan of the Conservative party and I remember the days before Labour came into power and the Tories were just as bad as Labour is now. The only difference was that during the late 80’s and early 90’s the the technology wasn’t around that is now available but I would put good money on it that if we had just experienced 13 years of Tory rule rather than Labour not much would be different. Our civil liberties would still be trampled on without regard and we would still be surrounded by a high tech police state apparatus that enables Big Brother to spy on us in a multitude of ways. The Tories were quite happy to introduce legislation that restricted freedom of movement, the right to protest and and much more during their last time in power so I put little faith in any claims to the contrary that they make now.
However to be fair to the Tories they have put forward an eleven point plan that aims to shrink the surveillance state and although it doesn’t go as far as the Lib Dem’s Freedom Bill it goes some way to reducing the swathes of intrusive powers that Labour has introduced and does promise to give the British people a long overdue Bill of Rights.
The 11-point plan includes:
ID cards: A promise to cancel the identity card scheme and the ContactPoint children’s database; this includes a commitment to scrap the national identity register, which underpins the cards scheme.
DNA samples: Profiles of people arrested for but not convicted of violent and serious sexual offences would be kept for up to three years, extending to five, on a judge’s approval. This contrasts with government-proposed DNA retention periods of six to 12 years for unconvicted suspects for all offences. No DNA samples or profiles of children under 10 would be kept. The DNA of those convicted of recordable offences would be held indefinitely.
Ripa investigations: The power of local authorities to use intrusive surveillance would be restrained. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) would be amended to restrict councils’ access to personal communications data to investigations into crimes that carry prison sentences.
Bill of rights: The current level of legal protection of personal privacy from the state is to be reviewed as part of the Conservatives’ pledge to replace the Human Rights Act with a British bill of rights.
Privacy watchdog: The audit powers and independence of the information commissioner would be strengthened, with the appointment made by parliament rather than ministers, and the commissioner given ad hoc powers of inspection and financial penalties for deliberate or negligent management of data.
Privacy impact assessments: To be required for any proposed new laws or other measures involving data collection or sharing.
Communications data: Home Office plans to store details of everyone’s phone calls, emails, texts, and internet use to be subject to a privacy impact assessment.
Data sharing: To ensure proper debate in parliament, all new powers relating to expanding the sharing of sensitive personal data between official agencies would need primary legislation.
Data losses A minister and civil servant of director-general rank to be appointed in each Whitehall department to take responsibility.
Data security: Information commissioner to publish best practice guidelines on keeping personal information safe in the public sector.
Private sector: Consultation with business on setting up industry-wide kitemarks on data security best practice.
Let me know what you think about the Conservatives plan to reduce the governments powers. Is it just vague aspirational talk, the sort we hear lots of before elections or are they outlining some new ideological difference between Conservative individualism and Labour’s nanny state knows best?