UK Liberty

Polly on passports

Posted in stupid by ukliberty on January 28, 2009

Polly ToynBee in the Guardian, on passports and driving licences being withdrawn in child maintenance cases:

The long and sorry history of trying to make absent fathers pay for their children gets another turn of the screw today, as the welfare reform bill has its second reading. Won’t-pay fathers could find their passports and driving licences revoked if they refuse to support their children. …

The idea is taken from Norway, Australia, Canada and the United States, where the threat of confiscation has had a good effect. In just one state, Maine, $89m has been collected from fathers through threatening to remove their driving licences. In Australia, in two years of threatening to stop non-payers travelling abroad, an extra $11m has been collected for children.

Now the battle lines are being drawn here. Families Need Fathers will fight the new law, claiming support from the Conservative party. Theresa May, newly appointed to the shadow work and pensions brief, is holding fire for now: “We need to explore the detail to make sure it is commensurate and in keeping with natural justice.”

That means Theresa May wants to make sure it is procedurally fair and proportionate.  Who could reasonably be against that?


Last year in the Lords, a group of Tory peers succeeded in taking the removal of passports and licences out of a previous bill, claiming such a move would be against the Human Rights Act – interesting how they use it when it suits them – as it won’t require a court order to cancel driving licences and passports. Fathers would have to go to court to get their documents restored. …

In fact it was the Lords Constitution Committee (made up of four Tories, four Labour, two LibDems and two Crossbenchers, i.e. a third were Tories) that famously criticised the passport proposal at the time:

 The freedom to travel to and from one’s country is a right of great significance and should only be curtailed after a rigorous decision process. We can therefore see no justification for granting CMEC the right to remove a person’s passport and identity card without reference to the courts; as with the other sanctions in this bill, CMEC should be required to obtain an order from the magistrates’ courts.

All quite reasonable.  Still, let’s not let the facts get in the way of a jab at the evil Tories and their callous disregard for single mums and their children, eh?


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