UK Liberty

The DVLA is still selling our data

Posted in database state, privacy by ukliberty on December 24, 2006

The Daily Mail:

The DVLA has sold the names and addresses of nearly 8,000 drivers to clamping and car park companies in just six weeks – despite a Government pledge to crack down on the trade.

Between November and mid-December, 14 firms were given the identities of 7,952 car owners.

The figure makes a mockery of a promise by Ministers last summer to restrict the practice after this newspaper exposed how operators with criminal convictions used the vehicle licensing agency database to track down and fine drivers who had overstayed time limits in store car parks. …

A year ago this newspaper discovered that among those given driver details was a firm run by Britain’s most notorious clamping thugs, Gordon Miller and Darren Havell, who were serving seven years’ jail between them for extorting money from motorists.

More examples of abuses of our personal data can be found in an older article.

UK statute law database now online

Posted in law and order, state-citizen relationship by ukliberty on December 23, 2006

[hat-tip: Your Right to Know]

The government has finally made available to the public the UK statute law database.  Have a look.

The rule of law requires that all laws should be make public, and this helps.  It not only includes all UK legislation since 1991 but also (for legislation passed after 2002) allows you to see the effects of repeals and amendments to particular pieces of legislation.

Secrecy of Information Act

Posted in freedom of information by ukliberty on December 23, 2006

I missed this from the FT:

The government last week gave opponents of its plans to neuter, for all practical purposes, the 2005 Freedom of Information Act until April to make their case. It appears to be banking on a lukewarm response and a failure to grasp its obfuscatory reasoning.

The Government ‘wants’ to save £12m.  Twelve million pounds!  In the scheme of things (i.e the UK’s public sector spending) £12m is peanuts.

The reason?  Because the Government decided many requests are too ‘sensitive’ for minor civil servants and should be referred to ministers and the Clearing House at the Department for Constitutional Affairs.  In terms of additional people handling the material over time, obviously this increases the cost of dealing with the information.

The Government wants such costs included in the calculation of cost because then they can refuse requests likely to exceed £600 (central government) or £450 (local government).

They also want to aggregate the costs of multiple requests from one person or similar requests from multiple people involved in a campaign.  Again if such a cost exceeds the upper limit they can refuse the requests.  Dodgy eh?

Of course the most cost effective and ethical action would be to make all government information available to the public as a matter of course, with the exception of material that would endanger ‘national security’ if it got into the public domain.

But this Government wants to retain control of the information that we pay for.

Labour Manifesto, 1997:

We are pledged to a Freedom of Information Act, leading to more open government.

Met Police Commissioner claims threat from terrorism far graver than threat in WWII

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on December 22, 2006

The BBC:

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair claims the UK is facing an unparalleled and growing threat of a terrorist attack.

However, he said there was “no specific intelligence” about an imminent attack but the threat was “ever present”.

Which begs the question, how does he know it is unparalleled? Or indeed a graver threat than that faced by older generations?

Defending the high security levels which have been maintained in London, Sir Ian said the threat of terrorism was “far graver” than those faced during World War II, the Cold War or the IRA.

He said although there were no details about a terrorist attack during the Christmas period, the country faced a “level of unparalleled threat”.

Far graver than the threat from the Luftwaffe in World War II? Far graver than the threat from the Soviet Union during the Cold War? Far graver than the threat from the IRA?

The Blitz:

The Blitz was the sustained bombing of the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 16 May 1941. It was carried out by the Luftwaffe, and hit many towns and cities across the UK, but the main attack was concentrated on London. The Blitz inflicted about 43,000 deaths and destroyed more than a million houses, but failed to achieve the Germans’ strategic objectives of knocking Britain out of the war or rendering it unable to resist an invasion.

The V-1 offensive:

Almost 30,000 V-1s were manufactured. Approximately 10,000 were fired at England up to March 29, 1945. Of these, 2,419 reached Metropolitan London. In the London area, an estimated 6,184 persons died as a result of V-1 attacks, with some 17,981 more injured.

The V-2 rocket:

In all, over 6,000 V-2’s were built, of which approximately 3,500 were launched against allied targets. …

the total number of V-2s fired were at least 3,172 … 1358 (≈ 40% of the total) targetted at London. …

In all, an estimated 2, 754 civillians were killed in London by V-2 attacks with another 6,523 injured [2]. This, however, understates the potential of the V-2, since many rockets were mis-directed and exploded harmlessly. Accurately targeted missiles were often devastating, causing large numbers of deaths – about 160 in one explosion in a Woolworths department store in New Cross…

Note that the above text outlines the devastation actually caused by the Nazis, not the potential devastation. They (luckily) didn’t get a chance to use the V-3 cannon (for example). And if the RAF had not managed to destroy many enemy aircraft and rockets, the devastation would have undoubtedly been far worse.

So call me naive but I cannot believe today’s UK terrorists have the destructive capability of the Nazi war machine. The same goes for the Soviet Union’s Red Army and nuclear capability. I do not know how today’s threat compares to the threat from the IRA. I suppose only time will tell.

I don’t intend to make light of terrorism. Of course there are people who are planning or intend to carry out acts of terrorism in the UK and against UK interests.

In London we have experienced the bombings of 7 July 2005 and the attempted bombings of 21 July 2005. Indeed the bombings on 7 July 2005 were the most deadly attack in London since 1945.

But such claims as Sir Ian Blair’s seem ludicrous, especially when there is no “specific intelligence”.

I would really like to know what purpose such claims serve. It seems to me they only help the terrorists.

And there’s a specific aspect of the Blitz to keep in mind:

The Blitz inflicted about 43,000 deaths and destroyed more than a million houses, but failed to achieve the Germans’ strategic objectives of knocking Britain out of the war or rendering it unable to resist an invasion.

Update:

You can hear Sir Ian Blair’s interview via the BBC website.

MP says something sensible about party funding

Posted in party funding by ukliberty on December 20, 2006

The Conservative MP John Redwood had an article published in today’s Telegraph and on his website about party funding.

Key points:

  1. main parties are in denial over low turnout at elections;
  2. polls showed more voters were put off by the marketing campaigns of the main parties than wooed by them;
  3. parties need to return to campaigning door-to-door;
  4. cap general election expenditure and individual donations;
  5. no increase in state funding;
  6. “There are two answers to the money shortfall from large donors. The first is to spend less: spend less on market research, computers and fancy campaigning; and get back on the streets with a volunteer army. The second is to enrol more members. If you persuade every member to give £10 for an election — not a big ask — you can have a £7.5 million campaign from just 750,000 supporters, far fewer than used to belong to the Conservative Party. That’s still more than enough money to annoy voters if you spend it badly.”

Excellent article.

Anyone listening?

Update:

Thinking about it I’m not sure why a cap in expenditure is necessary or appropriate.  Parties should be able to manage their own finances (well, they should) and it would give voters a choice between flashy marketing campaigns (which they don’t seem to like) and those who only engage in basic marketing.