UK Liberty

The work of the JCHR 2007-08 – recurring themes

Posted in control orders, database state, ID Cards, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on January 29, 2009

Their report can be found here.

I want to quote one section verbatim (so I shall), on Recurring Themes:

During our legislative scrutiny work we often comment positively that a particular provision is to be welcomed as a human rights enhancing measure. Examples during 2007-08 can be found at paragraph 19 above. Last year, however, we drew attention to a range of human rights compatibility issues which had arisen during scrutiny of a number of bills. The list bears repeating:

  • The adequacy of the safeguards contained on the face of Bills conferring powers to disclose, share or match personal information [E.g. Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill, Health and Social Care Bill, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, Housing and Regeneration Bill, Education and Skills Bill ];
  • Lack of clarity about whether private bodies are “public authorities” for the purposes of the Human Rights Act where Bills confer powers and functions on them [E.g. Health and Social Care Bill, Children and Young Persons Bill, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, Housing and Regeneration Bill];
  • The adequacy of judicial and procedural safeguards to protect liberty [E.g. Counter-Terrorism Bill, Health and Social Care Bill, annual renewal of control orders, annual renewal of 28 days pre-charge detention];
  • The danger of discrimination in the operation of certain provisions [E.g. Housing and Regeneration Bill, annual renewal of control orders];
  • The right of access to a fair hearing before a court [E.g. Health and Social Care Bill, annual renewal of control orders, annual renewal of 28 days pre-charge detention];
  • The adequacy of safeguards against powers to search the person or property [E.g. Education and Skills Bill];
  • The adequacy of procedural safeguards on preventative orders [E.g. annual renewal of control orders, Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill (Violent Offender Orders)];
  • The adequacy of the powers and independence of human rights institutions [E.g. Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill];
  • The adequacy of protection for children and young persons [E.g. Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, Children and Young Persons Bill, Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules, Education and Skills Bill].
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Lucky Manchester

Posted in ID Cards, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on January 29, 2009

Manchester Evening News:

MANCHESTER could become one of the first areas in Britain to have identity cards, it emerged today.

Home secretary Jacqui Smith said the city was a ‘strong contender’ to be a pilot area when the government starts rolling out the cards across Britain in 2011.

ID cards are compulsory for foreign nationals and workers at certain airports, including Manchester Airport. They have been issued since November last year.

Home Office sources say there are no plans to make them compulsory for the public.

Just particular sections of it, a few at a time.

For now.

Ms Smith said: “As the cards become more widely available the whole country will see real benefits for citizens, businesses and the country by giving a convenient and secure proof of identity that locks people to one identity.

But locking people to one identity increases risk.

“That is why we have brought forward our plans and this year will begin offering identity cards on a voluntary basis,

Unless you’re an airside worker, say.

giving British nationals the chance to access the benefits of identity cards as soon as possible.

 …

 The Home Office estimates that by April more than 50,000 ID cards will have been issued to foreign nationals.

No, they are biometric visas (sigh).  See this thread.

(Hat-tip to Andrew Watson, who tells us that the National Identity Scheme has been rebranded the National Identity Service.)

Heathrow runway debate – democracy in action

Posted in politicians on liberty by ukliberty on January 29, 2009

Some highlights:

Geoff  (Buff) Hoon (Secretary of State, Department for Licences for Terrorists to Kill People; Ashfield, Labour) 

… the Conservative party’s decision is dictated by political opportunism of the lowest kind. The Conservative party’s decision, on which she admitted that she has changed her mind, was determined by Conservative central office. It was not taken on the basis of any kind of principle; it represents the worst kind of expedient. 

All credit to him, he’s got cojones!

I am sorry that I gave way to the hon. Lady, because she clearly did not listen to the question. The question is straightforward. If a Government take a decision, they have to take similar decisions according to a consistent process. They cannot pick and choose for political reasons the kinds of decisions that they would like to be subject to votes on the Floor of the House. Until she understands that, she will not be fit to be in government.

The first non-political Government!

Edward Miliband (Secretary of State, Department for Energy and Climate Change; Doncaster North, Labour)  said something very odd:

This has been a most illuminating exchange, I must say. The whole country will now realise that the hon. Lady is disowning a statement that she made on 22 November 2007—a statement made 15 months ago. How can we possibly trust what she is saying now?

Um, if it was 15 seconds or minutes ago, sure, I take the point.  But aren’t people allowed to change their minds after 15 months?

Martin Salter (Lab):

When moments such as this happen in Parliament, people ask, “Are you prepared to go into the Lobby with the Opposition?” Normally I am not. I detest the Conservative party as much as anyone on these Benches does. I have spent my life fighting the Conservative party. However, no one political party has a monopoly on truth, and no one political party is always right.

At the end of the day, we cannot look the parents of a young child with breathing problems in the eye and say, “When I had an opportunity to do something about this, I walked away from it; I didn’t walk into the Lobby because my political opponents were in that Lobby.” There comes a point when such an argument carries very little credibility.

And John Grogan (Lab):

I appeal to all Members to remember that there is not a Conservative Lobby and a Labour Lobby, but an Aye Lobby and a No Lobby. 

Many Labour MPs disagreed.

Customer Information System

Posted in database state, relates to ordinary people by ukliberty on January 29, 2009

There was an article in yesterday’s Guardian about a little known public sector system called the Customer Information System:

This week’s activation of the ContactPoint children directory has provoked an outcry among opponents of the “database state“. As does almost every announcement about the National Identity Register and NHS National Programme for IT.

However, the database that underpins current plans for transformational government, in which different agencies routinely share data about individuals, has almost no brand recognition outside Whitehall.

Step forward the Customer Information System (CIS), the central repository of basic data on some 80 million individuals, alive and dead. The CIS was conceived in the 1990s as part of an upgrade of mainframe computer systems handling national insurance and social security systems – the “customer” in question generally has no choice in the matter. The exercise involved a massive clean-up of national insurance numbers, by which individuals are indexed in the system. At the time, the main driver was to cut the politically unacceptably high level of benefit fraud.

The CIS initially went live in 2006, at a cost of £88m. It is already used by HMRC, local authorities, the DVLA and the Legal Services Commission (to check entitlement to legal aid). Under the current transformation programme, it is to become the basic population register of the entire public sector, including the Identity and Passport Service. …

(Remember that the original proposal was to have a totally new database.)

ARCHrights spotted this item on a recent Department for Work and Pensions bulletin:

Regrettably checks have identified some LA staff are committing serious security breaches.

To be absolutely clear, and by way of reminder to all LA users accessing CIS, users should not

• access their own records or the records of friends, relatives, partners, or acquaintances
• make enquiries on behalf of colleagues in respect of their friends, relatives, partners, or acquaintances
• share their system, Government Gateway or other identity password with their colleagues
• access CIS for any unauthorised purpose

How lovely that this has to be made “absolutely clear”.

Spreading the good news

Posted in ID Cards, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on January 29, 2009

Belfast Telegraph:

The Home Secretary will be spreading the message on identity cards among schoolchildren today. …

14 After the UK was put in recession, Jacqui went into Belfast, proclaiming the good news of ID cards.

15 “The time has come,” she said. “The kingdom of Gordon is near. Repent and believe the good news!”