By Dark Politricks
You may have remembered that around the time of the UK General Election in 2010 I wrote a number of letters to the major parties regarding their policies regarding civil liberties. I managed to get a couple of responses from from the Lib Dem’s which I published but I received no response from Labour who were still in power at the time I wrote to them about their destruction of our civil liberties.
However today I checked the email account I had sent the original post from and found that I had been sent a reply some months back from the current coalition government (I have a lot of throwaway accounts that never get checked). The reply is pretty detailed and outlines their plans for restoring some of those freedoms we have lost under the last government. I have published my original letter above the response and we shall have to wait and see what happens when the Freedom Bill is finally brought to parliament this year.
To whom it may concern
I am a floating voter and someone who voted you into power in 97 after living through the last Tory administration.
I could never bring myself to vote Tory and consider myself a socially conscious voter however I am seriously considering voting Liberal Democrat at the forthcoming election and I will tell you why.
Along with many other people I have talked to about this subject I am seriously concerned with how the current Labour administration has decimated our hard won civil liberties.
History shows that freedom and rights are hard to win and that a government rarely gives more power to the populace without a fight.
This is why it horrifies me and many others how easily our rights and freedoms have been given away under the pretext of fighting terrorism and crime.
The Liberal Democrats have a proposed freedom bill which aims to put these mistakes right and I cannot see any way for our country to regain these hard won rights until your administration has been removed from office.
I never thought I would say this but even the Tories seem more concerned about our civil rights than the current Labour administration.
I remember the 90′s when the previous Conservative administration brought in the Criminal Justice Bill and how outraged I was that a government could prevent us from listening to certain types of music and make it illegal for people to congregate freely without a permit. I remember hearing Labour attack the Tories in the house of commons for this bill and stupidly believed that your party was one in which the individuals right to assemble and protest would be protected from the excesses of government power.
However in the 13 years since you came to power the UK now resembles something not too far off George Orwell’s 1984.
We are monitored by hundreds of CCTV cameras a day, huge databases store all our personal details (which are then often lost), our internet usage is monitored and through the RIPA act you have given numerous authorities the right to spy on us and enter our homes without warrants.
Our right to remain silent has been removed, the right to protest severely limited and you have introduced an unfair and unbalanced extradition treaty with the USA.
However what worries me most and I would dearly like to hear an answer on this question as so far I have not heard any Labour minister manage to make a defence of the abuse of the anti-terrorism laws you have brought in. You claimed that tough anti-terrorism laws were needed to help fight Al-Qaeda but then you misuse these laws to
- Arrest Walter Wolfgang, an 82 year old who dared heckle anti-war comments at the Labour conference.
- Freeze Iceland’s bank accounts during the financial crisis.
- Stop, question and arrest numerous tourists and citizens who dared take photographs of public buildings and police officers.
Is it no wonder that a large percentage of the population is wary of allowing any further powers over our lives to be introduced when we can clearly see how this power is used.
I would dearly love to hear an explanation for this expansion and abuse of state power that fits in with the British culture of freedom and liberty and I would also like to hear what you are planning on doing to rectify the situation. Both the Lib Democrats and the Tories have plans for restoring our civil liberties but as far as I know Labour has no such plans and only wants to further reduce them by introducing ID cards and more surveillance powers.
As an undecided voter living in a marginal constituency I could be all the difference between a Labour victory or a hung parliament.
If you could answer my questions and concerns about the direction your government has taken the country it would be much appreciated.
This is the response I received from the UK Home Office which is now run by a Tory amd Lib Dem government. I am grateful for them replying on behalf of Labour who obviously didn’t give my letter a second thought. Maybe if they had of responded to all the accusations that they had initiated a modern day police state and admitted that they had got it wrong regarding their attack on our civil liberties they might still have been running the Home Office.
Dear Mr Smith,
Thank you for your e-mail of 26 April to the previous Home Secretary in
which you raise a number of issues. Your e-mail has been passed to the
Direct Communications Unit and I have been asked to reply. I apologise
for the delay in responding.
I would like to explain that as we received your letter just before the
election and due to the change of Government, it was better to inform you
of the current changes of policy under the new Coalition Government.
On the issue of civil liberties, the Government has published a document
setting out a five-year programme of work inspired by values of freedom,
fairness and responsibility. As part of this the Government has made a
commitment to the introduction of a Freedom Bill, scrapping the ID card
scheme, restoring rights to non-violent protest, safeguards against the
misuse of anti-terrorism legislation and further regulation of CCTV.
We also intend to establish a Commission to investigate the creation of a
British Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations
under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights
continue to be enshrined in British law, and protects and extends British
liberties. We will seek to promote better understanding of the true scope
of these obligations and liberties.
You mention that we are monitored by too many CCTV cameras. The increase
in CCTV use – especially in areas to which the public have access – has
developed in the absence of a specific regulatory framework. In keeping
with our pledge to safeguard freedoms and protect civil liberties we
believe it essential, in terms of proportionality and retaining public
confidence, that CCTV is appropriately regulated and so we have committed
to further regulate CCTV in our coalition programme for government. There
is already an interim CCTV Regulator in place exploring potential elements
of a regulatory framework and we will work with him to consider key issues
such as standards; training; capture, retention and access to images; and
accountability and enforcement. Regulation will ensure that CCTV is used
appropriately and proportionally.
You mention that through the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA)
local authorities have been given too many powers. Public authority use
of covert investigative techniques is regulated by the RIPA. RIPA
requires that use of these techniques is necessary and proportionate with
regard to human rights. Its regime includes detailed record keeping,
authorisation at a level commensurate with the intrusiveness of the
technique and limited to particular grounds, and safeguard mechanisms
providing for independent overview, inspection and complaint. Under RIPA
no public authorities but intelligence and law enforcement agencies have
the right to enter anyone’s home, and only then with the prior
authorisation of the Secretary of State or an independent Surveillance
We need to ensure that the public authorities with a legitimate and
proportionate need to access communications data (which includes telephone
and internet data held by communications service providers or) will
continue to be able to do so in the face of changing technology. The
Communications Capabilities Directorate in the Home Office is looking at
how the public can continue to be protected from those that would do us
harm. It has already ruled out a Government owned national database.
The measures to apply a new serious crime threshold and a new system
requiring prior approval by magistrates were set out in the recent
Coalition Agreement. The Home Office is already working with the Local
Authority Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS), Communities and
Local Government Department and the Ministry of Justice, to find the best
way of implementing the measures.
You mention that there has been an introduction of an unfair and
unbalanced extradition treaty with the USA. In the Coalition document
published on 20 May, which can be found on-line at:
Government stated “We will review the operation of the Extradition Act
2003 – and the US/UK extradition treaty – to make sure it is even-handed”.
The Government is giving careful consideration to the UK’s extradition
arrangements worldwide, to ensure they operate effectively and in the
interests of justice. A range of options are being considered and the
Government will make an announcement in due course.
On the issue of anti-terrorism laws, the Coalition is committed to
reversing the substantial erosion of civil liberties that occurred under
the previous government and to introducing credible safeguards against the
misuse of anti-terrorism legislation. The Coalition Government will be
reviewing counter-terrorism powers to make sure that any legislation
designed to protect the citizens of this country from the threats posed by
terrorism are appropriate and strike the right balance between individual
freedoms and collective security.
Finally, at this present time, I am unable to comment on the issue raised
on stop, question and arresting numerous tourists and members of the
public who take photographs of public buildings and police officers as
this policy is still being reviewed by the Coalition.
Direct Communications Unit