Big Brother Britain & Civil Liberties
Fight against UK governments attack on our civil liberties with Big Brother Britain initiatives

Feb
13

Cross-posted from the Libertarian Alliance Blog.

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 189
9th February 2010
Linking url: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc189.htm

Informers and Benefit Fraud:
A Libertarian View
By Sean Gabb

I have just been sent one of the most disgusting newspaper articles I have seen this year. It is from today’s issue of The Guardian, and describes how the British Government is considering a scheme to reward those who inform on benefit cheats. Astonishingly, the Ministers seem to think this will make people more inclined to vote Labour at the next general election. If they are right, I am not sure how much longer I want to live in this parody of a country.

But, now I have said enough about the proposed scheme, let me explain what I find so disgusting about it.

The first is that, while every respectable person has a duty to report crimes against life and property, and to bear witness if required, there is much difference between this and calling into being an army of paid spies and police informers. Such people are not needed to report genuine crimes. Their general use is to act as the eyes and ears of an oppressive state. Established for one purpose, their use inevitably spreads to other areas. There is a natural temptation for paid informers to become agents of provocation. There is an equally natural temptation for them to become blackmailers. The resulting culture is one in which friends drop their voices when discussing anything in public that might be overheard to their disadvantage – and where new acquaintances, and even old friends, are viewed with suspicion. My wife grew up in Communist Czechoslovakia, where all this was a fact of everyday life. It was this, far more than the police and security services, who were responsible for a collapse of trust between ordinary people that has outlived is cause by twenty years.

It may be argued, that unlike drugs and prostitution, benefit fraud is not a victimless crime, but is theft from the taxpayers – but that, while they may be expected to report burglaries, individual taxpayers have no incentive to turn in someone who is claiming while working on the side. This is true, but needs to be seen in perspective. No one knows how much benefit fraud actually costs – the figure of £1 billion is believed to be a gross underestimate. However, even if the cost were five or ten times this figure, it would still amount to barely two per cent of total government spending. Most of this goes on paying for services that, where not useless, are harmful to life, liberty and property. Look, for example, at Trevor Phillips. In 2006, he was appointed Chairman of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights at a salary of £160,000. Doubtless, this has since gone up. Even so, his initial salary was equal to more than 2,488 weekly payment of jobseeker’s allowance at the maximum single rate of £64.30. In return for this, his most famous achievement to date has been to hound the British National Party into not insisting that its members should be white – while doing nothing to stop the various Black Police Associations from insisting that their members should be black. As if his published salary were not enough, Mr Phillips was revealed in 2008 to be the majority shareholder in Equate Organisation, which offers a “discreet, customised service” on how to handle the sort of equality issues that are investigated by his Commission. Oh, and the man who is employed to make then nearest things acceptable in public to puking sounds every time the name Nick Griffin is mentioned apparently keeps a bust of Lenin on his desk.

But if more loathsome and better paid than most of the others, Mr Phillips is just one among hundreds of thousands of New Labour apparatchiks given our bread to eat in return for oppressing us. I have no doubt these people collectively earn more than the £116 billion that is paid out every year on benefits. According to the probably fake statistics that attended the informer proposal, benefit fraud may cost every taxpayer in this country £35 a year. Well, I for one, can live with that. Once all the excise duties are paid, it is much less than a single tank of diesel for my car. The New Labour State costs me upwards of half my income, plus my liberty and my sense of nationality.

The only people who are really harmed by benefit fraud are those committing it. They lose yet more of their self-respect. This being said, the benefit rates are so awful that I fail to see how anyone can feed himself and his children without some cheating. Certainly, those on public welfare should not be able to buy cars and flat screen televisions. But they should be able to pay their heating bills and afford Christmas presents for their children without putting themselves into the hands of loan sharks.

And I do not believe that this sort of benefit cheat costs me anything approaching £35 a year. Everyone knows that the benefits system is being systematically milked by gangs of – usually foreign – criminals. Everyone knows that key parts of the system have recently been captured from the inside by organised criminals. Twenty years ago, a friend mine worked behind the counter of a Post Office in South London. He told me at the time how workers from the local benefit office used to come round to cash cheques they had written out to each other. I shall be most surprised if this turns out now to be the worst manner of inside fraud. And these are frauds that can and should be detected by ordinary policing. They do not require the machinery of a police state.

This brings me back to the informer scheme. I cannot help mentioning that it has been by Jim Reid, the Scottish Secretary. He is said once to have been a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Trust a Labour politician to have dropped all his proclaimed ends of raising up the poor – but not the police state means these ends were supposed to justify. I hate everyone of my generation who went into politics. Thirty years ago, they sneered at me and people like me as “selfish” and “abhorrent”. They spent the next twenty years insisting to each other and anyone who was stupid enough to listen to them that, when they came into their own, ordinary people would live in dignity and want for nothing. They have since then matured into the worst ruling class this country has seen since the Normans assimilated. The expenses scandal is nothing compared with how they have governed the country in public.

Now, I suppose I should offer some positive recommendations of my own for dealing with benefit fraud. I doubt anyone important is listening to me. But let it be supposed that some political party were to consult me on welfare reform – what would I suggest?

In the short term, I would set the police on catching the organised gangs of benefit cheats. Once these were in prison or deported to their countries of origin, much of the problem would have been solved. For the rest, I would advise looking the other way unless some minor fraud came to the attention of the authorities in the normal scheme of enforcement.

In the longer term, I would try to make most of the state welfare system redundant by lifting the tax and regulatory burden that stops the poorest people in this country from looking after themselves. And this is not – let me say at once – some soft version of the neo-liberal gloating about forcing welfare recipients into work by cutting their already pitiful benefits. Though it may always exist in a free society, the wage system as we have known it during the past few centuries is neither natural nor desirable. It is a cleaned up version of the bottom end of the feudal system, transmitted to industrial society via the management of domestic servants.

Middle class people often moan about the surly attitude of the working classes – about their unwillingness to do as they are told unless they are banned from union membership, or unless their unions can be taken over by middle class bureaucrats who then sell their members out. But I can think of no middle class person who would like working class conditions of work. I remember reading some years ago of a B&Q warehouse in Bristol. The casual workers employed there were electronically tagged. If anyone stopped moving for more than ten minutes, a computer shouted a message into his earpiece to report to the management office. No one does this sort of work unless he is desperate. No one who does it can have any pretensions to dignity. To say people have a choice whether to work for B&Q is a patronising joke. It is B&Q or Tesco, or some other demeaning job. It is like saying a man has a choice of meals if the menu shoved under his nose offers turd sandwich or snot pizza.

What I have in mind is letting poor people start their own micro-businesses in the manner described by Kevin Carson. Let someone start a coffee shop in the front room of his house. Let a family brew beer and sell it. Let people open little schools to teach reading and writing. Let them look after other people’s children. These things are currently not permitted. Or they are prevented by taxes and regulations that raise the fixed costs of doing business to the point where unreasonably large revenues must be generated year after year. Some people may get rich from doing this. Most will not. But enrichment is not the purpose. The real purpose is to give people the ability to survive without having to rely for all their income on salaried work.

It goes without saying that all subsidies to existing large businesses should be cut off at once – no more transport subsidies that allow goods to be moved about at less than full cost; no more interventions abroad to stabilise export markets, or secure access to artificially cheap goods and labour; no more taxes and regulations that can be carried by big business as cartellised costs, while flattening new entrants to the market; above all, no more limited liability laws that foster the growth of huge joint stock enterprises that are little more than the economic wing of the ruling class.

Where welfare is concerned, people should be enabled to join together in free mutual societies, accepting members and offering such benefits as may be agreeable to the relevant parties. This means no more taxes and financial regulation, and no more money laundering laws that, again, are little more than state cartellisation.

One of the failings of libertarianism – and I do not exempt myself from past guilt – is that we have too often argued as if actually existing capitalism was the free market. We may have conceded that business was too highly taxed and regulated, and that this frequently was turned to the advantage of the bigger firms in any market. But the assumption has too often been that a free market is effectively Tesco minus the state – that the wage system and big business were both natural and desirable institutions. As said, they are neither. The state capitalism that, in the 1980s and 1990s, we called Thatcherism or Reaganism was nothing approaching a free market. It was better than state socialism. But that is not saying very much. It has to some extent been our fault if ordinary people have been offered an apparent choice between a system in which a lucky few grow gigantically rich through connections and the ability to shuffle paper in the accepted ways, and ordinary people cannot buy houses and have children without going head over heels into debt – and sometimes not even then – and the present system of shadow boxing between multinational corporations and a huge superstructure of at best intrusive and at worst corrupt officials.

I might end by accusing the present Government of moral and intellectual bankruptcy. But this would be to absolve the equally if differently useless Tories. It would also be to concede that any of these people ever had anything good to offer. They are evil. Never mind the ideals they still sometimes ritualistically claim to guide their actions. All they have ever had to offer is a land fit for police spies and agents of provocation. They must all be destroyed – politically and financially.

NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/ya4pzuh

Jun
07

Will they ever give up? Sir David Pepper who spent 5 years running the GCHQ listening centre told the BBC that lives would be at risk if the state could not track communications. It is people like him and politicians unwilling or incapable of asking questions that have allowed us to be one of the top three countries in the world for spying on its citizens. It has got to stop! In 2007, Privacy International an NGO that monitors privacy stated that Britain was an “endemic surveillance society”. In fact it ranked Britain’s privacy protections joint 43rd out of 47 countries, the worst in Europe and on a par with Singapore. Only Russia and china were worst.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), was designed to equip the police and security services for their fight against terrorism and crime. However, RIPA was drafted in such a way that now, hundreds of public bodies can use this act to pry into our personal lives. By 2008, there were more than 1,000 interception operations initiated under RIPA every single day, in excess of 360,000 per annum. How on earth can this be justified in a so called law abiding society? Under RIPA laws, over 600 public bodies are entitled to monitor intercepted communications records, of which, more than 75% are local authorities. Why does our local council need such wide and intrusive powers?

Well some cases have been publicised, such as the family based in Poole who were spied on for 3 weeks because council officials felt that they were attempting to get their children into a particular school whilst living outside the catchment area. Then, once again in Poole, RIPA powers are used to spy on fishermen to see if they are complying with shellfish regulations. It is reported that councils in Hartlepool, Gateshead, Bolton and Derby regularly use these powers to investigate dog-fouling. A London council has used RIPA to mount covert surveillance on the use of disabled parking bays. The list goes on, but could any ‘reasonable’ person describe any of these acts as ‘serious crime’? The answer is no. I accept that in each of these cases, there are people breaking the law, but surely the monitoring, as the punishment, should be proportional in a fair-minded society? But this action only scratches the surface, these are the ones we know about, yet as stated earlier, there are more than 1,000 new ‘interceptions’ every day and between 2005 and 2008, there were reported to be between 32,000 and 36,000 uses of ‘directed surveillance’, Big Brother speak for spying!

We need to face facts, we are no longer in a free society, we have allowed successive governments, but this one in particular, to destroy our fundamental right to individual liberty and privacy and we are all the poorer for it. We don’t feel safer, violent crime has risen by 70% since 1997, the risk of terrorism remains high. We have been forced to give up much for no perceptible gain. The state now spies on virtually everything we do or say and they are not even satisfied with that, they want the powers to go even further.

I am reminded ofMrs Thatcher stating that the primary objective of the Child Support Agency (CSA) was to make “errant fathers” accept the financial responsibilities fortheir children. Instead, the CSA targeted those that were already paying child support under existing court orders, why? Because they were easier targets. It is the same with all of these news laws. For example, those involved in serious crime and terrorism can easily cover their tracks, gain access to false identities or documents and, are surveillance savvy. Meanwhile, other, generally law-abiding citizens are easily traced and prosecuted for relatively minor “crimes” such as dog-fouling, placing the wrong refuse in the bin, parking offences, and so on. Take speeding cameras, there are estimated to be over 1m people driving uninsured cars in this country, therefore many of them do not bother to register their vehicles to a legitimate address, as a consequence, they can get away with tickets issued via speed cameras, parking and other driving offences. Not so for those that are generally law-abiding. Many criminal don’t answer bail or pay their fines, not so generally law-abiding citizens. In other words, a disproportionate amount of effort is employed by the state to target those that rarely break the law, whilst career criminals are allowed to get away with it with virtual impunity. No wonder we are all feeling the pressure of the state without necessarily being able to put our finger on it.

I firmly believe that whilst people are indeed fed up with self-serving MPs’ maximising their expense claims, the truth is that this is just a conduit for a general dissatisfaction with the Government and state interference. More and more people are starting to feel the effects of Big Brothers’ hand on their shoulder. We are all being treated as if we were on bail, subject to a control order or as a potential suspect. In many of the punishments handed out by officials, Habeas Corpus has been thrown out of the window. Far from mission creep, we have woken up to a society that has allowed the state to intefere in everything we do or say. We are starting to feel suffocated by it. The state can overspend our money then simply help themselves to more by borrowing in our name or increasing taxes. Local authorities can reduce our bin collections and yet still increase our council tax and if you refuse to pay, you go to jail. We can no longer protest within 1m of Parliament Square without permission lest we get arrested. If we do protest, then the police come armed not to manage a protest, but to police a riot. The police are allowed to pick and choose which crimes are investigated. My local police authority bragged that it had sifted out 14% of reported crimes on the first report, on the basis that they were not worth investigating, a disproportionate number of these were crimes against business…the same people that employ us!

State interference doesn’t stop at spying on us, it also attempts to determine how we act or what we do, take all of the health and safety rules for example. Instead of using commonsense, we are now supposed to adhere to ridiculous health and safety rules. Don’t get me wrong, some are necessary, but many are not and they are very heavily enforced. Take the PCSO’s that were not allowed to jump into a pond to save a drowning child because they had not been trained. Or firemen, charged with saving lives, who are now told by health and safety officials when it is safe to use a ladder, enter a building or jump in the water. Who are the experts here? Are we a richer society for the introduction of these rules or a poorer one?

It may be too late, but it is high time we started to kick back and insist that many of these new laws are repealed and replaced with commonsense. None of us can claim to feel safer with all of the new powers ceded to the state. Many of us went through 30 years of terrorism with the IRA, the state did not need such intrusive laws to investigate and prosecute, the state is using fear to sell their version of increased safety and protection against serious crime. But the bottom line is there is NO evidence to back-up their claims, instead we are seeing more on the spot fines being issued, prosecutions of otherwise law abiding citizens for very minor offences and a disproportionate use of force against the law-abiding majority. It has got to stop.

May
27

There is much politicing about electoral reform and returning power back to the people. We want less talk, more action and, whilst the main parties are fighting to gain our attention, they need to be reminded that over the past 12 years, New Labour have introduced more laws than all of the previous parliaments combined.

Many of these laws have sought and succeeded in depriving us of our long held right to privacy, liberty and freedom from an oppressive government (or Authoritarian to use the modern phrase). Government ministers have consistently lied to us about how the loss of a little liberty would be worth it in the fight against crime and terrorism. What total and utter bollocks it has not and never will have been a price worth paying. Can anyone honestly say they feel more secure or safe? Has the government reduced the ‘Threat Level’? I don’t think so. It has been a massive con and it is time these draconian laws were repealed.

We are constantly spied on, in the street and on the road, our calls, text messages, email and internet activities are routinely monitored and saved onto a database. ANPR cameras record 10m number plates every day and then retain that information on a database for 2 years. Teachers and even babysitters are required to spy on our children and record their, mainly subjective, observations on a database (ContactPoint),  this information will be held indefinitely and will also be used to complete a profile (ONSET) of each child to determine whether they are likely to be a future criminal. Still believe in innocent until proven guilty?

Then there is the Travel Database, ID Cards, the largest DNA database in the world, the DVLA, the Health Service Database…this is endless. Nothing we do, write, type or say is safe from agents of our government and no, this is not just MI5 or, the ever powerful police service, it includes a further 600 government organisations. The people of this country are, rightly angry about MPs’ fiddling or abusing their expenses. This, however, is but a conduit for public anger at being marginalised by self-serving politicians who have sought to lecture, control and bully the people of this country. The introduction of 3,607 new laws in 12 years bears testament to the way that New Labour have sought to crush the people of this country, ably supported by members of parliament from other parties who have done little or nothing to protect our interests. So much for holding the Executive to account, I wouldn’t trust opposition MP’s polish my shoes, much less protect my liberty.

Our populist MP’s would do well not to get carried away in the belief that a few tweaks of the expense system and few lies about electoral reform will buy our silence. We want our liberty back, our freedom back, our right to privacy back, our right to be free from an over-bearing state back and above all, our right to be master, not servant.  Brown is too far gone to be saved, but maybe Cameron can be persuaded to look beneath the superficial anger that is the expense saga and see what is really enraging the British public. I don’t say that the public is not angry at MPs’ for helping themselves to our money, instead I am arguing that the anger being expressed goes far beyond that, we are witnessing the reactions of a people that feel crushed, down-trodden, forgotten and irrelevant to those in power. That ain’t going to be fixed overnight, nor are a few empty promises going to cut it.

And for those that do not agree with me and still believe that if you have got nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear, then I am sorry for you. Next you will be telling me that we are going to have a record summer, you are going to win the lottery and New Labour is going to win the next election. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin…

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”

May
07

Power to the People

The Home Office has outlined a series of proposals in relation to the DNA database designed to counter the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that it was illegal. However, in doing so, they have demonstrated utter contempt for the ruling, choosing instead to go for a fudge. If these proposals are put into force, it will inevitably lead to further legal challenges in the European Court by Human Rights campaigners.

The Home Office consultation proposes the following:

  • Destroying all original DNA samples, like mouth swabs, as soon as they are converted into a digital database profile
  • Automatically deleting after 12 years the profiles of those arrested but not convicted of a serious violent or sexual crime
  • Automatically deleting after six years the profiles of anyone arrested but not convicted of other offences
  • Retaining indefinitely the DNA profiles and fingerprints of anyone convicted of a recordable offence
  • Remove the profiles of young people arrested but not convicted, or convicted of less serious offences, when they turn 18

The bottom line, is that even in Big Brother Britain, you are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. It is, therefore, unreasonable in the extreme for DNA samples to be retained where individuals have been arrested, but not convicted, or arrested but not even charged. By retaining the samples, the Home Office is suggesting, by implication, that the individual may commit an offence in the future. Under these proposals, if the Home Office want to increase the size of the database, all they have to do is encourage the Police to arrest more people, the Police will then be entitled to take, record and retain a DNA sample.  How long before the Police are targeted on the taking of DNA samples?

Clearly DNA evidence can be very useful in solving crimes. However, this must be weighed against the infringement on the civil liberties of the majority. We are all entitled to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. We must not permit the state to use this ‘back door’ method of arrest without charge to increase the size of the DNA database.  It is also worth noting that the Home Office is proposing that DNA samples be retained indefinitely for what is termed a recordable offence. But these offences can vary from the public order offence of failing to give notice of a procession and, for example, drunkeness, public order, begging  right through to having a bladed weapon or crossbow in public.  In fact, making a hoax 999 call or falsely claiming a professional qualification are all recordable crimes. How can such a broad range of offences brought under the innocuously sounding term ‘recordable offence’ be considered proportionate, especially given any of these offences would mean that your DNA is on file for life under the current proposals.

Whatever your view on Big Brother Britain and the DNA database, we must all remind ourselves, that in 12 years, this government has introduced 3,607 new laws, in other words, a month doesn’t go by without there bing new laws that we are supposed to know and not infringe. If this continues, it is only a matter of time before we all find ourselves on the national DNA database. No government in the world has considered it necessary or desirable to have so many of their citizens recorded on a DNA database. In fact the UK has the largest database in the world, now ask yourself this, do we all feel safer, do we have a higher detection and conviction rate when compared to comparable countries? NO! Because if we did, you can be certain that the Home Office would have told us.

We must say no to this massive intrusion into our everyday lives.

Apr
20

David Davis

I am indebted to The Blog Of Kev for this highly humorous and chilling reminder about the ongoing covert presence of our masters and their datamining apparatchiks. There is really nothing more to add. Except to the list of “agencies” that can get it. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear (of course…) The problem of bureaucrats and data has been addressed by us frequently. if it _can_ be collected, then they _will_ do it, because they _must_ , since if they do not, _lessons_ may have to be _learned_ , later. In the meantime, they will use it.

Apr
11

Power to the People

Not satisfied with 4.2m CCTV cameras, speed cameras and ANPR, the Greater Manchester Casualty Reduction Partnership has now introduced (as a pilot) a Smart Car complete with high level CCTV camera. The aim is to catch errant motorists that speed, use a mobile phone, park illegally or commit any other form of motoring offence. Drivers can then expect to receive, in the post, a fine and/or penalty notice which could carry 3 points.

At a time when the public struggle to get the police to act when they are the victim of a burglary, anti-social behaviour, fraud or criminal damage, the police have decided to continue persecuting drivers, simply because they are an easy target and the police can claim to have detected, investigated and prosecuted another crime. Great for their clear up rates! However, this type of prosecution (or persecution) lacks any interaction with the public, therefore it is likely to create even more resentment between the police and the public at a time when they need all the support they can get.

Of course, this type of system will only be able to trace and prosecute people that are, for the most part, law abiding. This is because these types of cameras rely entirely on the registration number and as we all know, there are over 1m vehicles on the road where the drivers have no insurance and/or bogus registered keeper details. So the serious criminals will be simply get away with it. I am not defending law breaking, instead I am advocating a programme where the police treat all crime seriously, rather than placing so much resource behind a single section of the community, because is is easier to secure a ‘hands up’ prosecution.

At a time of economic mayhem, increased cases of serious crime and terrorist threats, the police, presumably supported by politicians, make clear where their primary focus will remain. Targeting easy crime. Of course these cameras won’t just take pictures of errant motorists, operating constantly, they cannot discriminate between an errant motorist and someone going about their normal business. So must we all acccept that, if extended, we must allow ourselves to be monitored by 4.2m CCTV cameras, as well as mobile cameras?

Big Brother Britain is getting out of hand. Everything we do and say is being monitored and stored, this does not feel like a free and democratic country, instead is seems like we are in a police state. Civil liberty campaigners are often derided, as are those that claim we are moving to a police state, but take my word for it, in a few years time, the people of this country will realise that far from being reactionary, these people were visionary…and unlike our politicians, they have been speaking the truth.

Mar
25

Power to the People

What a pity that there has been so little publicity and therefore outrage at this Governments introduction of a new child profiling tool called ONSET, which will profile our children to determine whether they are likely to become a young offender. This Government has spent an inordinate amount of time, effort and legislative time to ensure that people are not discriminated against based on their gender, sexuality, race or religion and yet, they seek to justify a profiling system that will identify potential child offenders based on their background.

What, you may ask, will they do with this information when they have it? Will they ‘tag’ potential offenders, monitor their movements, track their mobile phone calls, internet habits, email etc? Will they blacklist these ‘potential offenders’ from working in the public sector, or certain jobs, or will they issue a presumptuous ASBO? Does anyone truly believe that State authorities will not use this information for some discriminatory purpose? When did our right to be innocent until proven guilty disappear, perhaps it was with the introduction of the new detention without trial laws? I don’t know, but there is something seriously wrong with society and people in general if they are prepared to allow the State so much power, that they can do whatever they want. Our reluctance to do or say anything is a betrayal of future generations, because one thing is absolutely certain, no government will ever give up these new powers willingly.

What have our local members of parliament been doing when legislation of this type is introduced, perhaps there is a clue in the fact that unless it is Prime Ministers Questions, parliament is virtually empty. Little wonder that contempt for MP’s has turned into outright hatred as they spend more and more time looking at how they can screw their expenses to maximise their earnings, rather than doing what they are paid for. As for the opposition parties, what have they been doing whilst all this has been going on? Their job is to hold the government to account, they too have failed the people of this country.

Keeping a roof over our heads, food on the table and earning a living are logical and understandable priorities, but to ignore other massive issues such as our fundamental right to freedom, liberty and a right to live our lives without an overbearing state is simply parlous. If we cannot enjoy our freedom and liberty, what is the point in it all? Like it or not, the state is pimping off the people, demanding ever more money. The bottom line is, that the State Pimp lives off the backs of honest hardworking citizens, but the State Pimp also knows, that at some stage, the people will rise and ask why Government needs to take over 50% of our earned income in direct and indirect taxation?

To minimise state risk, they must exert more and more control over its citizens and the introduction of ONSET, DNA Databases, call and email monitoring, registration of travel information and so on is giving them precisely that. For those that think this is scaremongering, perhaps they should ask themselves why it is now, that Jacqui Smith has ordered 10,000 Tasers for all front line police officers?

ONSETis the thin end of the wedge. Though I am not advocating the LibDems as a party worthy of our vote, they are introducing the Freedom Act which is designed to roll back some 20 years of increasing state interference in our everyday lives, by repealing legislation. We should all be writing to our respective MP’s and insisting that they support this proposal.

Mar
23

Power to the People

In another example of this government paying lip service to the rights and freedoms of the individual, The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, suggests that some 25% of government databases are actually illegal, either under Human Right Legislation or the Data Protection Act. As you would expect from a government that has slowly eroded our liberty and privacy, there is no apology or commitment to put things right, instead we are expected to accept a bland statement as follows: “It takes its responsibilities seriously and will consider any concerns carefully, adapting existing safeguards where necessary.” Take the rebuke the government received in December from the European Courts, in relation to the DNA database, have they done anything about it? No! In fact, the government doesn’t even know how many databases they have!

This year the government will spend £16bn on databases and they are committed to spend a further £105bn over the next 5 years. Has no-one reminded them that there is a deep recession going on? This government has indicated that it will have to raise taxes to balance the books, this includes increasing national insurance by 0.5%, raising income tax to 45% for those earning over £150k and an increase in VAT to 18.5%. This is in addition to the double whammy on fuel duties as a consequence of the fuel escalator and the shafting we were given when this government adjusted the fuel duty to take eliminate the “benefit” of the reduction in VAT to 15%. They will now gain that money back when they increase VAT back to 17.5%, because the duties will not be adjusted.

We are expected to pay additional taxes to this pathetic administration at a time when we must all trim back our costs whilst the government are continuing to spend £billions on unnecessary databases which only service to destroy individual civil liberties and right to privacy. It is the state gone mad. Take one of ‘their’ databases, Onset, this is a profiling tool which examines a child’s behaviour and social background to identify potential child offenders. What? They are now going to use information from ContactPoint and then profile it to work out who tomorrow’s criminal are likely to be. How long do you think it will be before they are using all of the data gathered from the various databases to work out how adults might behave? One thing they do not need a database for is to profile an MP’s likelihood to maximise their expenses, quoting their adherence to the rules, rather than the spirit of the arrangement. It doesn’t bear close scrutiny, yet their couldn’t give a toss what we think, so long as they have claimed as much as they can, without breaking the rules.

But, don’t think that the Conservative Party will do anything to redress these massive state powers that have been ceded to ministers through the introduction of ever more draconian legislation, the Conservatives have said virtually nothing. Cameron hasn’t got the backbone to deal with this issue, no he prefers to talk about “social cohesion” and tell us that we must all accept higher taxes, even though he doesn’t know how much money he could save by curbing public sector excess and waste. Gordon Brown maybe deluded and an idiot, but Cameron is also demonstrating that he is a bit of a prat, because he can’t see how angry the people of this country are, not just with the government, but the opposition who have sat idly by and allowed it to happen.

The reality is the majority of the people in this country are so complacent, they haven’t got a clue that this massive land grab of state power will affect each and everyone of us in the future, irrespective of whether we have done anything wrong. This is so clearly not about fighting crime and terrorism and anyone that believes otherwise is at best, naive and more likely, plain stupid.  No government will ever hand these powers back, so unless we start to fight back now, we will have to accept that each and EVERY aspect of our lives will be recorded and monitored. That is not a free democracy, it is a police state. Me, well quite frankly, I have had enough!

Mar
17

Power to the People

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.

Feb
27

Power to the People

Finally, one of the major political parties has come out and made a clear and unequivocal statement in favour of returning power to the people. The LibDems have promised to repeal the series of authoritarian measures introduced by New Labour, which has lead, to put it in their words, to the “slow death” of our civil liberties. To be fair, the LibDems have taken a long time to recognise that this is a key are of concern for citizens of this country, but lets face it, better late that never. What a pity that the Conservative party have been so weak when it comes to civil liberties and government intrusion, but then again, they demonstrated their true colours when they sided with Jack Straw, when he used the Ministerial veto to hide the the minutes of cabinet meetings leading up to the Iraq War from the public.

The LibDems are calling on the government to reverse the controversial policing and criminal justice legislation introduced in recent years. Doubtless, this request will be ignored, given our current government have demonstrated time and again, that they have little or no time for anyone who would dare to criticise their policies. Further, this government have consistently paid lip service to the hard won freedoms that we have enjoyed prior to their term in office, dismissing protests with a wave of their hand. New Labour’s philosophy it is the state that is master, not the people, supporting this argument by spending £billions on new methods to record information of the general public.

The LibDems have stated that they would reduce detention without charge from 28 days to 14, remove the ministerial veto altogether, allow DNA to be retained only in cases where someone has been charged and convicted, scrap ID cards and order a full scale review of the use use of CCTV cameras, which now numbers over 4m. To put that into perspective, in 2004 a European Commission report found that there were some 40,000 cameras monitoring public areas in 500 British towns and cities, compared to fewer than 100 cameras in 15 German cities. Little wonder that nearly every report you read states that we are the most spied on country in the world.

However, the LibDems need to go much further. They must seek to cancel the Big Brother Britain databases that this government has either introduced or announced. At the very least, this should include the database proposed in the new Data Communications Bill intended to record every call, text message and email we send or receive, in addition to spying on our internet browsing habits. As well as the latest government wheeze, the travellers database, that seeks to record every trip we take, where we go, how we pay and where we sit. There should be a review of the ContactPoint database already introduced in terms of whether the benefits will outweigh the cost and risks and the NHS database, which is hopelessly inefficient and is the subject of much criticism from the very practitioners who are supposed to benefit from it.

I have never voted LibDem in my life, I have always viewed them as the party of high taxation, the Green Party in disguise if you like and quite frankly, lacking in any real substance. However, I have been heartily impressed with Vince Cable’s take on the economy, not that I have agreed with everything he has said, but he speaks with authority and knowledge, unlike some other that you would expect to be well briefed. Compare that with the wishy-washy approach from the Conservative party and the reckless abandonment demonstrated by the current Labour government. I fail to see much difference between the policies of the Conservatives and those of New Labour, it just seems to be more of the same, couched in a ‘softer’ tone or called by a different name and that is NOT what I want. Labour have promised us tax increases, the Conservative party have promised us tax increases, so what the hell, they are now all on a level playing field. The Labour party have demonstrated that they could not give a toss about our right to privacy, liberty and freedom to go about our business without state interference, the conservative party have said a few weasley words in condemnation, but nothing more. so I think we know where they stand, especially after their appalling and ill-conceived support for Jack Straw and his ministerial veto.

In fact, there is so little to choose between any of the main parties, that I suspect who we decide to vote for, may well be based on something that they do differ on, provided it is important to the voter. I believe, that whilst all parties broadly agree on key electoral issues, such as the NHS, education, crime, immigration, the environment and taxes, it will be the smaller things that become the deciding factor.

For that reason, unless we start to see substantial policy differences, not variations on the same theme, I do not believe that ANY party, especially the Conservatives, can count on winning the next election. In my view, the next election will go to the wire, people will decide late in the day and Cameron & co, unless they can highlight real policy differences and intiatives between the Conservatives and Labour, will be left with egg on their face. This could lead to the LiDems and other independent parties being in a position whereby they can punch well above their weight. Having seen what happens when a government gets such a massive majority, I never want to see that happen again, because the longer the term in office with a large majority, the more authoritarian they become. Given none of the parties are talking about wholesale reform, it can be safely argued that there is no need for massive majorities anyway.

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