UK Liberty

Good Lord

Posted in database state, law and order, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on April 30, 2008

The Register:

The House of Lords has proposed making it a criminal offence to disclose personal information intentionally or recklessly. The Lords passed an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, defeating the Government.

If it is to become law the amendment will need to be approved by MPs in the House of Commons. The Government opposed the amendment but was defeated by 134 votes to 130.

The amendment would make it a criminal offence to “intentionally or recklessly disclose information contained in personal data to another person, repeatedly and negligently allow information to be contained in personal data to be disclosed, or intentionally or recklessly fail to comply with [their] duties”.

“Data controllers currently do not face anything like adequate sanctions if they intentionally or recklessly disclose information, or indeed are repeatedly negligent,” said Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, introducing the amendment.

“Goodness knows, this is not exactly a new issue. The Government have had time to address it. In 2002 in another place [the House of Commons] my honourable friend Paul Burstow revealed that a total of 1,354 government-owned computers had gone missing over the previous five years, while much more recently, as noble Lords will be aware, vast amounts of data, whether from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs or the health sector, have been lost,” she said.

“The issue has been around for a long time, and not only in government sectors. The private sector, as we know, can be negligent, and it can do all sorts of things with data that it should not do. Both the public and private sectors need to be covered by further sanctions, which is the reason for our amendment,” said Miller.

Legislating to send a message

Posted in law and order, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on April 30, 2008

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian:

Next week, we are reliably told, Gordon Brown will reclassify cannabis as a class B drug rather than a class C. This obscure decision, taken in defiance of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, is a vignette of modern British government. Brown has no evidence to alter what is a pharmacological classification, but is happy to abuse science to “send a message”.

Politicians have an annoying tendency to use legislation to “send a message” and, as Jenkins, points out, the real recipients of the message are not those who don’t abide by the law but newspaper editors.

42 days plucked from thin air

Posted in detention without charge, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on April 30, 2008

Can’t believe I missed this, from a week or so ago… ..must have had my eyes closed.

The Telegraph (see also this FT blog, which says the list in question is about three months old):

More than 50 Labour MPs are preparing to block Home Office plans to detain terrorist suspects for up to 42 days without charge, a leaked list compiled by government whips revealed yesterday.

The document shows that 10 former ministers are among the 50 MPs who have informed whips that they will not be voting in line with the Government.

Another 44 Labour MPs are recorded as undecided. With a Parliamentary majority of 66, Gordon Brown could now face an embarrassing defeat over the plans.

The list, compiled earlier this year, also details some of the individual MPs’ comments and views on the terrorism legislation.

It reveals that Joan Ruddock, a junior minister, “feels case not proved… 42 days plucked from thin air“, while Andy Slaughter, a Foreign Office aide, “will support but thinks barmy“.

Anne Moffat, MP for East Lothian, is said to be “very unhappy at proposals” [as is Barry Gardner, although he will vote with the Government] and Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury, is recorded as saying: “I don’t understand why we need to do this“.

The Times reports that Bill Etherington, “could be persuaded to stay away”.

Interestingly, according to the  list, the police in John Battle’s constituency are campaigning against the proposals.

Government ministers are expected to put intense pressure on MPs to back the proposal – or stay away from the vote – over the next few weeks. Although the legislation is now before the Commons it is not expected to be put to a vote until June.

The list also casts light on the normally secretive workings of the whips’ office. One MP, John Cummings, is described as “usually persuadable”, Fiona Mactaggart, the former minister, is “volatile” and Tony Wright will “do what security services want”.

The whips also say they “need to watch” Khalid Mahmood. David Cameron urged Mr Brown to abandon the plans.

“The situation on 42 days is that they have comprehensively lost the argument. “They should just drop it,” he said.

Yes, very pigheaded.  No consensus, unnecessary, and counterproductive.

Today at PMQs, Gordon Brown said,

It’s right to have the power in law to have the power to hold people beyond 28 days. There will come a time when it’s difficult for the police to do a sophisticated investigation within 28 days.

Um, some police investigations take years, Gordon…

Hold on to your hats

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on April 30, 2008

Voting report

Posted in database state, ID Cards, voting by ukliberty on April 28, 2008

The BBC (see also Register and the Telegraph):

Ministers are considering introducing individual registration for voters – as a report claims elections in the UK are vulnerable to large-scale fraud.

Justice Minister Bridget Prentice says tighter controls, including photo IDs, are being looked at.

Of course! Anything can be solved by a database.

Currently only heads of households have to register.

It comes as the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust suggests elections in the UK fall short of international standards.

The report comes ahead of Thursday’s local elections in England and Wales.

It said measures to improve choice for voters – such as postal and electronic voting – are actually risking the integrity of the electoral process.

There have been at least 42 convictions for electoral fraud in the UK in the last seven years.

In 2004, a judge quashed the results of two local council elections in Birmingham after deciding there had been systematic large-scale postal vote rigging.

The problem is partly because “previously robust” administration systems have now reached “breaking point”, says the report, called Purity of Elections in the UK: Causes for Concern.

It claims the benefits of postal and electronic voting have been exaggerated – particularly over claims of increased turnout and social inclusion.

The Trust wants all voters to show photo ID, and for campaign spending at constituency level to be capped.

It says the voting system is being undermined by political parties’ spending on marginal seats.

There is “substantial evidence to suggest that money can have a powerful impact on the outcome of general elections, particularly where targeted at marginal constituencies over sustained periods of time,” it said.

Report author Stuart Wilks-Heeg, a lecturer in social policy at the University of Liverpool, said: “It’s very concerning that ministers tend to focus on ‘quick fixes’ to solve declining turnout and ignore genuine concerns about how easy it can be to cheat the system.

Quite.

“The evidence continues to mount up and shows how we are desperately in need of an electoral system that robustly befits the 21st century, without belying our 19th century democratic roots.”

The Electoral Commission said it had repeatedly called for the electoral process to be made more secure.

“We continue to urge the government to replace the current system of household registration with individual voter registration,” it said.

“That would make the electoral register – the foundation of the electoral process – safer and more accurate.”

Why bother registering anyone? Why not implement a system that simply ensures uniqueness, using the wonderful magic of fingerprints?

The government says it has taken significant steps to protect the electoral process.

Ms Prentice, the minister in charge of electoral law, told the BBC: “We’re looking at individual registration. We have increased the number of people registers to vote by almost a million.”

Shadow justice secretary, Nick Herbert, says compulsory registration by every voter is the answer.

The Ministry of Justice says it is committed to ensuring people have confidence in the electoral system.

A spokesman said it had introduced measures to prevent abuse of the system, including new penalties and the tightening up of requirements for postal voting.

He said: “Election fraud is illegal, and police and electoral administrators work closely together to deal with any allegations.”