The dreadful undemocratic "wash up" period at the end of this Parliamentary session, which to his credit, has been condemned by the Conservative MP Eric Forth, has now seen the rubberstamping of the controversial Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill.
The House of Commons, with barely a quorum of Members of Parliament in the Chamber, has accepted the Lords' Amendments to the Bill.
This is the result of the backroom deal through "the usual channels", and omits Clause 124, the incitement to religous hatred offence, but leaves all the other controversial powers and offences which have nothing to do with the establishment of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).
It is too early to see if SOCA will be a success, but it is worrying that it is only accountable to the Home Secretary, not something which inspires our trust, given the dubious records on human rights and civil liberties of the last four politicians who have occupied that office. Similarly it is unclear just how big a problem it is set to tackle (£40 billion or £20 billion a year ?) and therefore what resources it really needs. There is also the huge question of why the priorities of SOCA will, apparently, be set partially as a result of the Home Office's self re-inforcing "climate of fear" newspaper column inches feeback loop,
Included in the Bill, soon to be an Act:
- The extension of police powers of arrest without warrant to include all offences, no matter how trivial, which trigger the existing bureaucratic powers of fingerprinting, photographing, the taking of DNA and other intimate samples, and their retention forever, no matter whether or not anyone is ever charged, let alone convicted of any crime.
- Since the Road Safety Bill seems to have been lost, the Lords managed to add in a couple of clauses granting powers for access to Motor Insurance data and for roadside breath test sampling, rather than requiring visits to the police station. We are not convinced that there are sufficient safeguards to prevent this power from being used by the Police to harrass people.
- The further restriction on protests and demonstrations within one kilometre of Parliament, inspired by a single "peace" protestor camped out in Parliament Square has now also gone through on the nod.
Why should anyone have to apply in writing at least 6 days (or is it at least 24 hours ?) in advance, of any demonstration ? Incredibly, this applies even to a demonstration consisting only of a single protestor !
Perhaps the Labour Party is fearful of mass demonstrations protesting the fiddled results of the General Election like in the Ukraine or Kyrgyzstan ? They cannot claim that they have never been involved in such electoral fraud, as the Postal Votes in Birmingham Scandal shows.
Perhaps we should apply for a demonstration permit to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, no later than Friday 29th April, just in case ?