Tag Archive | "politics"

MPs’ Expenses: New Audit body is just not enough!

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MPs’ Expenses: New Audit body is just not enough!

If our members of parliament think that the British public can be bought off with the introduction of a new “independent” auditing body to oversee the ‘Fees Office’, then they are sadly mistaken. It is clear, that whatever the legality of the rules governing MP’s allowances and expenses, there has been a consistent and blatant attempt by many to exploit hard-earned taxpayers money. Some ‘Honourable’ Members have even admitted that there was a culture of MP’s being encouraged to fleece the system for as much as they can, others have confirmed that the allowances were considered a right, a method by which they could supplement what they considered to be unreasonably low salaries.

In other words, many of these honourable members have been nothing of the sort, instead they have been leeches on the public purse. Many MP’s have been contemptuous and dismissive of the very people that elected them into parliament. Another fudge will not restore the trust and confidence in our MP’s or, for that matter, the parliamentary system that allowed it to happen. We can never ever again automatically, consider MP’s honourable, honest or filled with integrity. And, the bottom line, is they have no-one else to blame other than themselves, because the vast majority of them have been filling their boots with our money.

I am angered by the members of parliament that arrogantly insist that they are underpaid. On what measure if you please? The vast majority of MP’s came from a background that consisted of politics, journalism, teaching or unions. Few, if any of them, had any business experience, that is of course, one of the principal reasons that their business initiatives always fail! MP’s are not measured on the same basis as ‘normal’ people, politics is full of cronyism, as a consequence, MP’s are promoted on loyalty, not merit. They keep their jobs even when they fail and they retain their salaries even if they have done something you and I would have been dismissed for. They have other perks that the ordinary man or woman in the street could only dream of and I am NOT including their lavish expenses, allowances and pensions. The vast majority of these snivelling, egotistical leeches would not have survived in the real world, which is probably why they tried politics in the first place. If they think they are worth more, then go, good riddance, we will not miss you, that is a firm promise.

Trust and confidence in our MP’s has been destroyed, not by us, but by them. Even the few that were not dipping into our pockets, stood idly by whilst the rest did…..they said and they did nothing. In my book, that makes them no better that the leeches that have helped themselves to our money. Since 1997, the overall tax intake increased cumulatively by £1.2trillion. The only people, it would appear, not to have felt the impact, were the lawmakers that introduced or supported these despicable and unjustifiable raids on our pay packets. The pimps that insisted that our money was theirs to take, squander and plunder. If they (our MP’s) think they will be easily of quickly forgiven, they truly are very sadly mistaken. The decent thing to do would be to resign and let a new batch of MP’s come in, ordinary folk, that have a track record of success or experience outside politics, who can offer real value and life experience. Only then will we have an opportunity to get rid of the stench of self-gratification and suspicion of a corrupt system.

The public is entitled to expect and demand a fully independent audit of MP’s expenses, but this must be completed by an audit firm that is not linked to the public sector in any way, in other words, they must not have previously had a contract with the public sector and must undertake not to accept one in the future. There must be no way that the independent auditors can be influenced by the people they will be auditing. Further, an eminent barrister must be appointed to provide a definitive interpretation of the rules contained in the ‘Green Book’. The auditors must then compare claims that have been paid against this interpretation and every single claim that does not fall within the terms must be immediately repaid by the MP’s concerned. No exceptions. This audit should cover, at the very least, the last 10 years. Furthermore, an assessment must be completed, whereby a panel of 3 judges determine whether, in their opinion,  any criminal offences have been committed by any MP, such as attempting to gain a pecuniary advantage, deception, fraud etc. Those that are considered to have a case to answer, must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. If anyone in the ‘Fees Office’ has been complicit in the criminal process, then they too must be prosecuted, they were paid to do a job and if they failed, then they must accept the price. We want no exceptions, no whitewash and no excuses. The decision of whether or not a prosecution can take place must be left to the judges, not the CPS.

In addition, HMRC must conduct their own independent investigation without fear or favour. It is clear, from the admissions of our own MP’s, that some have profited from the sale of second homes. It is not difficult to determine whether or not this can be classed as a capital gain. HMRC must look at the records held at the ‘Fees Office’ and use this to determine which property was classed by the minister as their primary residence, i.e. the property where no second home allowance was paid. Any property that was clearly not the primary residence must, therefore, be subject to capital gains tax. Where MP’s have played the game by transferring the allowances between several properties, the HMRC must make an assessment and then issue a tax demand. The same as they would for anyone else. Remember, it was Gordon Brown and this government that tightened the laws relating to unpaid taxes, whereas, for the most part, it is up to the ‘innocent’ tax payer to prove that they have not profited, rather than the revenue services to prove that they have. So let them become the ‘victims’ of their own laws. Anything less would be unacceptable and unjust.

A friend of mine recently discovered that his business had been incorrectly accounting for VAT to which the VAT office was not entitled. This had happened over a period of 6 years. When he entered his claim, he was told he could only go back for a maximum of 3 years and when they eventually reimbursed him, he was even “fined” 5% of the value of the reclaim, because the VAT office determined that he had gained through “enrichment”. That is correct, he made a legitimate mistake in favour of HMRC and as a consequence, has had his reclaim reduced by 5%! These are the rules brought in by Gordon Brown and his government, they must be judged by exactly the same rules. That is to say, if they have been enriched through their failure to declare the fact that a ‘capital gain’ was due on the sale of a property, then they must been fined, made to pay interest, as well as repaying the tax.

Much has been made by MP’s about the fact that they were encouraged to milk the system of allowances by ‘house elders’. That is no excuse and I will supply a personal example. In 1979, I was provided with a company car with my job and, on the first day, I went around to the local garage to fill it up with petrol. As I recall, I put about £4 worth of petrol in the car and was handed a receipt for twice the amount. I queried this and was told that it was “standard practice” for everyone that worked for the company. I insisted on being given a new receipt for the correct amount. I then raised this with my manager, who said that “we are so poorly paid, this is considered a perk of the job, everyone does it and even senior management accept the practice, don’t worry“. I refused to be corrupted, I knew this was dishonest and I can honestly say, that from that day to this, I have never fiddled, taken advantage of, or ‘worked’ my expenses or allowances. In other words, it is for the individual to determine whether or not they will succumb to or support a corrupt system, in my view, each and every MP was given the same choice I was and the vast majority chose to ‘work the system’. So much for honesty, judgement and integrity.

Now, it will not have passed anyone’s notice that MP’s, brave souls that they are, have openly blamed the officials at the ‘Fees Office’ stating that expenses were approved by them, so it was okay. They should be reminded, that the Fees Office rules clearly state that ‘Your signature effectively certifies that the amount claimed has been spent on the additional costs necessarily incurred’. Quite right! In the private sector, the primary responsibility for an expense claim falls to the person that is submitting the claim. The individual that authorises the claim is obliged to determine the voracity of the claim at face value, but they will not, in most cases, be able to (nor expected to) investigate each claim or receipt. Nonetheless, if a dishonest claim has been entered, it is the claimant that can and will be held responsible. Over the years I have had responsibility for authorising expenses, I have always been diligent and never knowingly signed off on a dishonest claim. However, I have, on more that one occasion, disciplined or dismissed people that have deliberately entered a dishonest claim, such as false petrol receipts, exaggerated mileage claims and/or false overnight claims. MP’s must abide by the very same rules as the private sector. I can confidently state, that the experience I have had in business, in relation to expenses, are commonplace, in other words, most employers will not accept any level of dishonesty from their employees because they know it is a slippery slope.

  • For all those MP’s that have claimed that their claims were within the rules, let me remind them what some of those rules are (extracts), then perhaps they would like to reflect.
  • Additional Costs Allowance claims must be “above reproach” and MPs “must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you or someone close to you is benefiting from public funds”
  • MP’s expenses and allowances can only be claimed “for the purpose of performing their parliamentary duties.”
  • “You must ensure that arrangements for your ACA claims are above reproach and that there can be no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money.”

Here is something else MP’s are obliged to consider: MP’s are allowed to claim for maintenance, cleaning and “necessary repairs“, as well as furnishings and white goods. Therefore, among the questions MPs are urged to ask themselves before making claims is, “How comfortable do I feel with the knowledge that my claim will be available to the public under Freedom of Information.”

Former chairman of the committee for standards in public life, Sir Alistair Graham, said the expenses system had to be decided in the public and taxpayers’ interest, by an independent outside body. He said, “It is depressing to keep hearing [MPs] saying ‘well, it’s the system that was wrong and we are changing the system’. “The question you have to ask is who devised the system? MPs devised the system under their self-regulating arrangements and that’s what must change for the future.”

Lets hear from Harriet Harman; Asked about claims MPs have been claiming one property is their “second home” under the allowance, but not for the purposes of council tax or capital gains tax, she refused to give a “gut instinct judgement” on whether it was a breach of the rules. However, she said: “Normally it would be the same for council tax, for tax if there was a sale of the property… normally there would be a consistency on that.” – Lets have this point put to the test, we don’t need any MP’s ‘gut instincts’, if they are subject to the same rules as the rest of us, then we already know the answer, so it is time for HMRC to act…and NOW!

I will sum up by reproducing two statements attributed to Harriett Harman. The reader can draw their own conclusions from what she says, or rather, what her statements imply.

We do not have the level of corruption that remains in many other countries”. “We have recognised that the system needs sorting out”. “We need a new system“.

MPs believe in the cause of public service and that’s why they’re in public service and I believe our House of Commons is not scarred by corruption on the scale of other political systems.”

Game, set and match!

Footnote: I believe it is time that parliament was modernised to reflect the modern day. A good start would to remove the automatic address of ‘the honourable’ or the ‘right honourable’ when referring to MP’s. It is blatantly obvious to any bystander, that this title cannot be automatically conveyed on MP’s, but must be earned.

It is worthwhile checking out this article on MP’s Expense Claims!

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (17)

Travel database and Government spin

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Travel database and Government spin

Whatever the government tries to tell us, the new travel database has little to do with securing our borders and more to do with controlling and monitoring the activities or each and every British citizen. In fact, with the new telecommunications database, which will monitor every email, text message and mobile phone call, this governments access to our personal data will be akin to a prisoner having a tag fitted, except, it will be on 61m people.

For those that believe the travel database won’t affect them, then think again, as many as 1800 government and private agencies will have access to our personal travel details. Anyone that believes this information will only be used by government agencies with responsibility for border controls is at best naive. Let me give you a couple of examples of what this information could be used for.

If you have children of school age and decide to take them out a week before their school break to save money for your annual holidays, then you should be aware that the travel arrangements will be recorded. The school could then, theoretically at least, access this information and commence proceedings against the parents. Yes, you can argue parents shouldn’t do this, but it is worth nothing that as many as one third of all parents do.

Suppose you regularly go abroad for your booze and fags, these journeys will now be recorded, as will your luggage. As a consequence, if the HMRC deem that you go too often they could seize the goods, seize your vehicle, fine you, prosecute, you or all four!

Maybe you earn air miles as a result of your business or work. If you use air miles or some other voucher to pay for a personal flight, then this will be recorded. How long do you think it will be before the HMRC cotton on to this and send you a bill for this ‘benefit in kind’?

Perhaps you are lucky enough to win an incentive from your company which includes overseas travel or, maybe you have been invited by a supplier for a conference or the like. Strictly speaking, you should ascertain whether or not this would be considered a ‘benefit in kind’, if so, you must declare it on your tax return. If you get it wrong, forget to include it on your return or try and get away with it, HMRC will know, because the details of the trip, including the cost and who paid for it will all be recorded. Do you really think they won’t be looking?

Lets say you have saved up for a trip of a lifetime, or perhaps one of your relatives have contributed to the cost, the HMRC will be able to check the cost of the travel arrangements against your earning and if it is above an accepted average, it could trigger an investigation. Granted, it may be perfectly innocent, but the onus will be on you to prove how the trip was funded, this may mean you having to detail your income and outgoings for

decades. If you have a perfect record AND you can prove it, then you have nothing to fear. If, however, a relative, has gifted you money, whether for the trip, or at some other time, unless it is below the annual gift threshold, then the gift could be subject to tax. If you haven’t paid the tax, you can also expect, at the very minimum, a fine, but they may also prosecute. So, you still think the travel database won’t affect you?

Remember, these new controls will include monitoring how much you spend whilst you are abroad, so if you normally buy a few gifts, electrical items, DVD’s, clothes etc., and you don’t bother declaring them, then think again. Because they will know how much you spent, where and, of course, if you declared these goods when you returned to the UK. How many of the “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” brigade can claim to have a perfect record I wonder?

So, if you have never carried out any of the above and you don’t intend to, you are almost certainly in the minority, therefore it may not affect you.

Unless, of course, there is something that I have missed out and you can be certain, that this Government is well ahead of the game. They have even looked at it as a revenue generating scheme by threatening anyone who does not register their travel details with a fine of up to £5,000, as always with this government, it is always stick and no carrot.

For example, this database and UK Border Controls will also start to collect fingerprints, how long before they require other bio-metric data, remember, the Government wanted to include this information on ID Cards, but because there was such an uproar, they are intending to collect it using other means,

in this case, anyone that travels abroad and that is most of us. This Government are just hoping that we are too stupid to notice that they are simply gathering this information via another means. We have seen the government agencies sell our personal data to private companies, one example is the DVLA who have provided parking companies with the name and addresses of vehicle owners, so that they can be hounded for parking fines. How long before they are selling our travel arrangments to airline companies and the like?

Our government consistently lie to us about why they need so much data, constantly harping on about terrorist threats and so on. The reality is, determined terrorists will always be able to get in through our porus borders, they know how to get virgin passport; spying on the travel arrangements of 61m people will NOT prevent terrorists (who may be here anyway) from entering the UK, nor will it stop people being smuggled into the UK. Instead, all it will do is allow the state to terrorise the people of this country. Is this really what you want?

The LibDems, and no I am not a supporter, do at least appear to want to roll back government intrusion with their Freedom Act, lets hope that they will have some success and the electorate will start to understand just how intrusive government has become into our everyday lives.

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (1)

MP’s are preaching, not listening

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MP’s are preaching, not listening

According to a survey completed by the Hansard Society, MP’s are not taking advantage of the power of the internet and, those that do, typically use it as a method of transmitting information, not receiving it. The only thing that should surprise anyone here is the fact that this is being heralded as a new discovery. The truth is, members of parliament (from all parties) have been talking at the British public for decades, although it is more prevalent now than it was, for example, 15 years ago.

With one or two notable exceptions, the only time members of parliament engage with the public is when they want something, which is typically once every 5 years, to convince us to vote for them. Once they get their seat in parliament, the majority of them couldn’t give a toss about their constituents, all of a sudden that are taken in by the deference they are shown and the generosity of the expense accounts.

The internet is a great tool for engaging with the general public and blogs represent an excellent forum for debate, yet only a handful of MP’s have their own blogs or contribute to other ‘political’ commentary/opinion blogs. Why, do you suppose that is? I believe it is a combination of the following; they can’t be bothered, they have nothing constructive to say, they are frightened of engaging with real people that have not been briefed on what questions they can, or cannot ask, their own positions are indefensible or, they are way to busy completing their expense claims.

Some government ministers are contemptuous of so called ‘political bloggers’, take Hazel Blears for example, she waded into them last year claiming they were fuelling a “culture of cynicism about public life“.  It couldn’t be that people were daring to disagree with the government could it? In fact, her attack only demonstrated her own ignorance and ineptitude, because what she chose to forget was that behind these blogs are real people, voters, who feel that blogging is a method by which they can voice their opinion and engage with other who may or may not agree with them. One thing is certain, frustrated voters have no other way of venting, with a government intent on doing as much as they can to restric freedom of speech, marches or protests!

The truth is, members of parliament ignore the power of the internet and the influence of political bloggers at their peril. The internet is an excellent medium to find like minded individuals and although it may be still be some way off, I would not be surprised if a new political party in not founded via the internet and one that speaks for the people, rather than at them.  

Only a fool, or in this case, a party and government of fools would choose to ignore a growing momentum of disaffected voters in the vain hope that they will go away. MP’s should engage with the public, not once every 5 years, but each and every day….or risk losing their seat. If they don’t do that, then I predict that today’s political bloggers will become tomorrow’s independent MP’s, only then will the people of this country really be able to call the government to account, because it would be our equivalent of non-executive directors! So the message to ALL Members of Parliament is stop transmitting and start receiving, before it is too late!

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (0)

Big Brother Britain and a new Database for travel

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Big Brother Britain and a new Database for travel

At a time when we should all be considering tightening our belts, the government of Big Brother Britain has decided to set up yet another database to spy and record details of British citizens travel arrangements. Once again, this has is being justified on the pretext of national security. Quite apart from the fact that this government has proven itself incapable of introducing working databases on budget, the fact remains that it is entirely unnecessary. This database has nothing to do with security and everything to do with government control over its citizens. There is simply no way that this government can justify spying on 60m people in order that they can track, at most, a few thousand potential terrorists.

This is in addition to the governments intention to record every email, text message and telephone call, plus our Internet browsing habits. It is high time the British public started asking why on earth this government needs so much information on its citizens. It is estimated that the Big Brother Britain database for spying on calls and Internet traffic will cost £12bn, it is therefore, reasonable to assume that this latest database will cost at least 50% of the costs, therefore another £6bn, minimum. These two databases are equivalent to the cost of 300 new hospitals!

Once again, thus far, the opposition parties have been noticeable by their absence, they should be refusing to support this oppressive, civil liberty busting voyeurism of this Labour government. They should be promising to scrap such databases or repealing legislation that permits the collection of this data. There has been a complete lack of any justification by this government, presumably to ensure that there is as little publicity as possible whilst they try and sneak this programme through the back door.

Wake up Cameron, wake up Clegg and wake up people, this is becoming completely unacceptable, in terms of our liberty, right to privacy and of course, the excessive cost at a time when we can least afford it. We are already spied on by some 4m cameras, information on our children, their welfare, schooling, carers, health and so on is already being stored in a government database. This government is introducing a cradle to grave spying programme on its own citizens, it is time to say enough is enough. It has already been noted that we are one of the most spied on nations anywhere in the world, alongside places such as North Korea. Surely that must ring alarm bells for even the most complacent British citizen?

This latest database will store names, addresses, telephone numbers, seat reservations, travel itineraries and credit card details of travellers. The notion that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear is total nonesense. Why? Because is presupposes that the people that have access to this information will use it for legitimate purposes. How can we be certain when this government has already allowed thousands of agencies, public and private access to our personal information that is already stored? Enough is enough, stand up and be counted people, and Mr Cameron, get off your backside and say something, either you support this destruction of our civil liberties, or you must fight against it, show some backbone, prove to the people of this country that you are not a lighweight. Say no to Big Brother Britain – RESIST!

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (14)

Cigarettes are the new soft porn

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Cigarettes are the new soft porn

I have no issue with government or other agencies seeking to discourage children and teenagers from smoking, after all, we all know that it is a lot easier to start than it is to stop. Therefore, I would actively support any education programme that is designed to achieve this objective, but banning the display of cigarettes, does anyone really think that this will have any affect whatsoever? Well clearly yes, this out of touch, politically correct Labour government.

This is political tokenism at its best, removing cigarettes from display will not reduce the number of young people from smoking, in fact it may provide a perception of something illicit, which I feel sure, will appeal to some youngsters. The claim is that there are up to 200,000 11-15 years olds smoking. Okay, so given it is illegal to sell cigarettes to children of this age, where does the government think they get them from. Maybe it is via vending machines or an older mate, or perhaps a ‘friendly’ local store. Either way, it is claimed that some 200,000 youngsters have found some method of feeding their habit. So, what really encourages them to smoke, is it peer pressure, something to do, the fact that it is illegal or because it makes them feel grown up? Maybe is is a combination of all these factors, but it can hardly be said it is because they have seen them displayed.

The problem with political tokenism is the knock-on effect or consequences of the action. For example, did the banning of cigarette sponsors for Formula 1 lead to a reduction in smoking? I don’t think so. But now, at a time when the likes of Honda are looking to put as many as 800 people out of work because they cannot afford to continue their race team, cigarette sponsors could have been a lifeline.

Take a look at the pub trade. Some 5 pubs are closing every week in this country; many landlords have put this down to, amongst other things, the ban on smoking. Yes, I accept that it is also as a consequence of the alcohol duties and competition in the supermarkets, but many landlord place the lion share of blame at the smoking ban. So, at a time when people need jobs and accommodation, 5 pub businesses are closing every single week. And, of course, it is not just pubs that are being affected, even beermat manufacturers are finding it tough. A few weeks ago there were 4 UK based manufacturers, now one has transferred manufacturing to Germany and another has closed its doors for good, halving the capacity overnight and placing people out of work.

What is not evident is whether this government simply couldn’t give a toss about collateral damage, or if they just didn’t bother to look any further than political tokenism and a positive set of headlines. Government should act responsibly, which means that if they intend to introduce new legislation, they should look at the potential consequences of their action, not just the headlines. A failure to do so, is a gross dereliction of their duty and of course, there have been many examples of this over the past 11 years. I am personally sick to the back teeth of this politically correct government, their sledgehammer to crack a nut approach to every problem and their insistence that stick is better than carrot. The bottom line is we are all being treated like children by New Labour, and I for one, have had enough.

Posted in Big Brother, General, Labour | Comments (12)

Members of Parliament and self-interest

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Members of Parliament and self-interest

Tomorrow at Prime Ministers Question time, the opposition parties shall seek to raise the issue of the arrest of Damian Green. In particular, they will want to know how much advance notice, if any, government ministers or senior civil servants had and why the police were allowed to search Green’s offices? In doing so, they are expected to cite the fact that leaks are necessary if government is to be held to account, provided the information is not protected by the Official Secrets Act. Further, that members of parliament are entitled to have legal privilege between them and their constituents. All very noble, but it completely misses the point, the Damian Green affair was the result, not the cause.

Instead of looking at self-interest, our elected members of parliament, in government and opposition, must look at the laws they have been passed that have allowed this type of attack on our democratic process. The truth is, the opposition parties have been lead like lambs to the slaughter by this government, who have said, if you don’t support our draconian anti-terror legislation, then we shall publicise the fact that you are soft on crime or security. Like little lambs, instead of holding the government to account, the opposition parties went to the slaughter. In other words, they didn’t do their jobs, it is all very well bleating about holding the government to account now, but what have they been doing for the past 11 years?

What is needed is a complete review of the anti-terror laws that have been introduced under this government. Opposition parties must seek clarity on how these laws are being implemented and used against the original intent when the legislation was ‘sold’ to parliament. Because I am certain, that no MP expected anti-terror laws to be used to sequestrate the assets of an otherwise friendly country (Iceland), but that is precisely what happened. The police and security services have demanded and received new laws that allow them powers akin to those of a police state. To date, unlike many police states, they do not torture those arrested, but with 30,000 tasers being order, perhaps that is just a matter of time.

Eleven years ago, the police would not have had the powers that were used to arrest Damian Green. Nor would they have been able to gather telephone intercept evidence without a judges warrant. That is no longer the case.

Damian Green should be grateful that the police did not believe that he was receiving information contained under the Official Secrets Act, because then, theoretically, he could have been detained without charge for up to a month, not 9 hours. That is the problem, the police and security services have been given massive powers over the people of this country, not targeted powers for wrongdoers, but blanket powers that can be used against anyone including MP’s. Whatever this government says, the police are a tool of state, after all, the most senior policeman in the land is not elected, he is appointed by none other than the Home Secretary.
The people of this country have seen a massive erosion of their rights, freedom and liberties over the past 11 years and this event has highlighted this. Even the ‘New Labour’ supporting newspaper The Sun, has finally determined that the state has too much power over the populous.

People that claim we are moving towards a police state are branded as nutters, yet Privacy International were moved to say of the UK ”The worst ranking EU country is the United Kingdom, which again fell into the “black” category along with Russia and Singapore.” And that our “identity scheme is still planned to be the most invasive in the world, highly centralised and biometrics-driven“.

This is what I said a month ago on the issue of government control:

The people of this country have had to endure an increasing level of state interference in their everyday lives, from 4.2m CCTV cameras, to chips in rubbish bins. With proposals that include a massive Big Brother Britain database which would store information on calls, text messages, locations, emails and internet browsing habits. Airport scanners which see though clothes, identity cards which include our most private and intimate details. Our children from the age of 5, will be monitored by the state to include their most private details such as details on their mental health, sexual health or any substance abuse treatment. The list is endless, as is the number of ‘agencies’ that will have access to this information, some 700 as last count!.

I earnestly hope that the opposition parties will take the wider issues into account. In other words, how we got where we are today, how and why the state and their agents have so much power, that people can be detained for a month without charge, have their email, phone calls, text messages and internet browsing habits, routinely captured and stored, their DNA taken and stored, even where no charge has been laid etc, etc. This has all been done in the name of fighting crime or terrorism, but what a price we have had to pay. Yet the terrorist threat has not been lessened and crime is not falling. All that has transpired is the police need less evidence to make a charge and have gained more charges to target the majority with. It is an appalling state of affairs in what has become Big Brother Britain. We need to reverse this situation now and there is no better opportunity than the Damian Green affair to widen the debate. Opposition parties must insist on a public debate on the issue of all the new legislation that has been introduced at the expense of our civil liberties, right to privacy and individual freedom.

Posted in General | Comments (5)

Cameron objects to a Police State

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Cameron objects to a Police State

How ironic that it has taken the arrest of Damian Green, the Shadow Immigration Minister to provoke David Cameron into describing the police as “Stalinesque“. Because his party has sat on its hands whilst this Labour government has consistently removed the rights and civil liberties of every single person in this country. What is Cameron’s problem, does he think he is a cut above the rest of us, that the draconian, Big Brother Britain laws introduced to control the citizens of this country shouldn’t be used against a member of parliament? Pathetic little man, it was Cameron’s job to keep this control obsessed government in check, he failed, now one of his minister pays the price. Bloody good job if this is what it has taken to wake Cameron and his party from their self-induced slumber.

For what it is worth, I completely agree, the police action was outrageous, but what did Cameron expect? On his watch, New Labour has introduced a raft of measures and legislation designed specifically to allow the state to control, spy and monitor every one of its citizens. This includes, but is not limited to tracking our vehicle movements through ANPR or CCTV cameras; indulging in recording, monitoring and commenting on our most personal details on a health service database; or having voyeuristic access to very email, text message and call we make. Then to compund this abuse of power by making the information available to up to 800 separate agencies, including private companies. Just yesterday, Jacqui Smith ordered 10,000 Tasers to be used against the people of this country, with the stated intention of arming 30,000 front line officers and barely a murmur from Cameron’s compliant party of opposition.

The police in this country have been given unprecedented powers, akin to that of a repressive police state, not the police “service” of a first world country and yet they are asking for even more. This government has pandered to their every whim, like a lovesick teenager, not the objective supervising team they are supposed to be. It was as if government ministers were in awe and the police no longer want to detect or investigate crime, preferring to monitor everyone and wait for them to make a wrong move.

Take a look at what has happened over the past 35 years in the police service. Foot patrols became mobile patrols, mobile patrols became poorly trained ‘plastic’ policemen. The ‘plastics’ were given uniforms that have been deliberately modeled to make it difficult to determine whether it is a PCSO or a proper copper. The traditional baton was enhanced with pepper spray, which is now going to be supplemented with the life threatening Taser guns. No wonder they need to go around in cars! Could Cameron’s Conservative party not see a pattern emerging here? If he is smart enough to be proposed as the next prime minister, why was he no so bright as to see what was coming, or perhaps he thought it didn’t apply to his sort!

We are told by government ministers that crime has been falling, especially violent crime, so why do the police have a need for such violent weapons to combat a smaller threat. News that every front line officer is to be provided with a Taser is unprecedented, what has happened here, have the police officers lost their bottle? There was a time when being a police officer meant you had to have courage, now police officers routinely hide behind their computer screens, desks and ridiculous health & safety rules that inhibit policing and risk to a level akin to crossing a busy road.

God forbid that police officers should have to leave their comfortable cars or offices to a investigate crime or risk getting hurt in the line of duty. What type of police officer feels the need to have an array of weapons which include a baton, pepper spray and a deadly taser gun before he or she will go outside and meet what is a relatively law abiding public? Under this government, the police have been allowed to determine which crimes they investigate, so for example, victims of burglaries and vandelism must accept a crime number, with no investigation. With very few exceptions, everyone that I know that has had to report a crime or interface with the police have come away appalled at their lack of commitment or unwillingness to investigating crime. The fact that anyone going to a police station to report a crime is expected to deal with a civilian is indicative of where the police have gone wrong. Bottom line Cameron, is the police service needs to be hauled in, they have quite simply go too big for their boots.

Gordon Brown claimed that his would be an open government. Whilst his ministers may not like the leaking of certain documents, if it is in the public interest, they should not be using the police as a weapon of state to punish those concerned. After all, if there was no national security risk, just a possibility of a minister being embarrassed or caught out in a lie, why the need for anti-terrorist officers. The claim that no minister knew the police were going to arrest Damien Green really pushes at the fringes of credibility.

But I feel the need to point David Cameron in the right direction. The problem is when government provides such a wide definition of a law. For example, Green was arrested on arrested on “suspicion of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office and aiding and abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in a public office“. Now that encompasses just about everything. By the same token, this government has used similar, broad definitions to destroy many of the civil liberties and rights to privacy of the individual in this country under the guise of anti-terror laws. Cameron’s party wanting to appear tough on crime and terror legislation have been compliant to the extent that they could be accused of being complicit in the whole sorry state of affairs.

Our police service now has unprecedented powers, passed to them by a compliant government, that was intent on achieving state control. Damien Green has now become a victim of Big Brother Britain, his boss doesn’t like it and neither do we! Perhaps Cameron and co, will now realise how the public feel about the removal of our rights by opposing new legislation and offering to repeal similar, uneccessary acts. I am personally delighted that one of Cameron’s MP’s has had the opportunity to feel first hand the affects of a repressive state.

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Tasers to be used against British citizens

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Tasers to be used against British citizens

News that Jacqui Smith feels obliged to order another 10,000 Tasers at a time when the government coffers are empty has to be worrying for the British public. Whilst we know that this government doesn’t really care about how much of our money they spend, because they can just put up our taxes, the timing is very interesting and surely cannot be a coincidence.

Alistair Darling has just announced that the government finances are in a complete mess (not his words of course), in fact, if the country was a business, it would almost certainly need to call in the administrators. The economic reality of this situation has already started to trickle down, resulting in higher taxes at a time when people can least afford it ( ignore the VAT stimulus con ), the loss of peoples homes, fewer jobs etc. A public backlash is almost inevitable, as soon as those that still insist on hero worshipping New Labour for ‘shafting the rich’ realise that they too must pay a price. A very high one at that.

You might think that in a developed country, government would seek to reassure people and provide genuine support or advice at a time of national crisis. But there are two systemic problems preventing this. The first is this government has wasted so much of our money on social engineering projects and Big Brother Britain spying exercises, that there is nothing left. In fact it is worse than that, we have a massive public debt, over £1 trillion. So financial support is not a viable option, hence the reason this government introduced a ‘fiscal stimulus’ based on Alice in Wonderland economics, purchase taxes. If New Labour were serious about a fiscal stimulus package, they would have offered a reduction in direct taxation, which would at least be tangible.

The second issue is that this government has never engaged with the public. Instead they have bribed their own voters with tax credits and the like, whilst bullying all other sections of the community including business to pay for them. The Pre-Budget Report, was supposed to demonstrate that New Labour cares, but anyone with any nous will know that it is an elaborate con, all presentation and no substance….classic New Labour smoke and mirrors. The bottom line is we should always be wary of a government that wants to be your best mate when they have been shafting you for the past 11 years. In other words, this government only knows how to preach, bully, con and bribe. The government also knows that eventually, they will get caught out and that day is looming ever closer, so they must now return to type. Bring forward Big Brother Britain and force.

So what can we expect? Unlike 1984, we will not witness the police controlling protesters armed with batons and shields, instead, in Big Brother Britain, we shall have to contemplate our police force using Tasers against its own citizens. This is in spite of the fact that Tasers are claimed to have lead to the death of up to 300 people in America. They say timing is everything. Why else would Jacqui Smith place such a massive order for Tasers? It appears to me that they are anticipating some form of backlash and they intend to suppress it with deadly, uncompromising force. This will be no surprise to those that have seen the UK moving steadily move towards a police state, but for the rest and that will be the majority, it is likely to become something of a shock, no pun intended!

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Scottish parliament says no to ID Cards

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Scottish parliament says no to ID Cards

Now, whilst I fully accept that this will not make one jot of difference to the current Labour government it is nonetheless, symbolic given it demonstrates that the government will have an uphill struggle to introduce identity cards. Scottish MSP’s do not believe ID cards will increase security or deter crime and quite frankly, nor do I. I don’t find myself agreeing with many Scottish MP’s at the moment, but I am more than happy to applaud their stance on this particular issue.

The reality is, identity cards are a genuine, tangible and unacceptable threat to the civil liberties and right to privacy of British citizens. No government minister has told the people of this country howID cards will deter crime and reduce the risk of terrorism, only that they will. That is not the way to sell a programme like this. However, as we all know, this government does not believe in asking, only telling, so they intend to introduce these cards come what may, simply because they are arrogant enough to believe that government knows best. Can anyone watch Jacqui Smith bumbling and stuttering away and say, with any conviction, that they feel safer with her at the helm? I think not, she is out of her depth, ill-informed and an appalling communicator.

Richard Baker a Labour MSP, no I hadn’t heard of him either, said “There’s nothing extreme or unusual in the introduction of ID cards and the kind of data which will be on them.” There is nothing clever in attempting to mislead the public. This government have already made clear that they intend to include a mass of data on ID cards, from bio-metrics, though to health and financial details. These little cards will end up being our own ‘police tags’. It has nothing to do with deterring crime and combating terrorism and everything to do with government attempts at controlling the people of this country. They can sod off!

Already, in what has become an all consuming quest to control and punish the people of this country, this government has indicated the “penalties” that will be applied if people fail to provide the government with updated details for their ID cards. Even though ID cards haven’t been launched for the masses yet, we are bombarded with our likely punishment for non-compliance. We are being treated like naughty schoolchildren, not adults capable of making decisions and running our own lives. Government ministers say that the penalties are not there to raise revenue and for once I believe them, instead, they are there to punish those that would dare to resist the will of our masters in government. In other words, by introducing fines and making non-compliance a criminal offence, they are seeking to control the will of the people of this country through fear, many people will doubtless be able to draw a parallel with a police state.

Phil Booth, national coordinator of NO2ID sums it up very well, “There is some very nasty stuff buried in the fine print of this consultation document. Basically, you have to tell them everything they want to know about you under threat – and pay for the privilege.”

Any party in power that would seek to introduce a programme against the will of the public is not fit for government. The bottom line is terrorists and criminals will always find a way around ID cards, just as they have been able to forge passports, drivers licenses and any other identity document you care to mention. The government know this, therefore, we should all be asking ourselves, what is the real game plan? This particular issue is not about party politics, it is about individual freedom, the rights of people in this country to not just be free, but to feel free.

Through its policies and inept handling of the economy, this government has removed our financial freedom. With the introduction of a raft of so called ‘anti-terror’ laws, they have already removed many of our civil liberties and rights to privacy. They now seek to go even further. ID cards, NHS Database, ContactPoint, DNA database to name but a few. It is time for us all to not only call a halt to all this, but to insist that any future government and MP’s undertake to repeal many of these destructive, draconian, obtrusive and unreasonable laws. If the main opposition parties refuse to take up the mantle, then perhaps there is a very good case for the public to support and vote for independent MP’s rather than those affiliated with a particular political party. In fact, I would very much like to see more independent MP’s put themselves forward with a local manifesto. Perhaps the bloggers should unite!

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (0)

Data Communication Bill removed from Queens speech

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Data Communication Bill removed from Queens speech

News that the Data Communication Bill has been shelved will be welcomed by all those that have campaigned against it. Needless to say, the government claim that it has nothing to do with those that are against this Big Brother Britain bill and everything to do with the fact that MP’s need to concentrate on the economy.

I suspect it has far more to do with the fact that the government needs a controversial bill like a hole in the head, the estimated cost of £12bn is going to be criticised in the current climate and they want to clear the decks for an early election to take advantage of Labour’s poll bounce. Whatever the case, it is unlikely that any attempt will be made to reintroduce the bill until 2011 and hopefully, by that time, New Labour will be history. Predictably, the police are complaining that it will hinder their efforts to fight crime and terrorism, well perhaps if they got off their backsides and did what they were paid to do, there would not be a need to spy on 65m people.

The police in this country have more powers than virtually any other country in the world and yet they still whine. They also have 167,000 police officers, but I have to confess, I haven’t seen one in the last 2 weeks, plenty of community support officers, but no real coppers, no wonder they want to spy on us all. This bill should actually be scrapped and its predecessor, which provides many of the same rights, save a legal requirement that service providers must keep the information for 2 years, should be repealed. Only then can we be certain that state sponsored voyeurism is being rolled back.

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, General, Labour | Comments (0)

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