The Liberal Democrat's Home Affairs spokesman Chris Huhne has launched a rough, work in progress Freedom Bill 2009: http://freedom.libdems.org.uk/
This picks 20 of the repressive NuLabour (and a few Conservative) bits of legislation to repeal, or rights and freedoms to restore.
Whatever happened to Nick Clegg's Great Repeal Act, launched in 2006 before he became the Liberal Democrat party leader ? The domain name URL www.greatrepealact.com is no longer active, and the campaign now no longer appears on the Liberal Democrat party website.
Spy Blog welcomes the proposed repeal of the Identity Cards Act 2006 etc., but some sections of this "Freedom Bill 2009" need a lot more work, notably the section on re-establishing a Public Interest Defence for Whistleblowers .
The aim of this section is clear enough, but simply importing the wording of the Official Secrets Act 1911, into the text of their prototype Bill is utterly wrong.
Apart from mention of "His Majesty", surely the Liberal Democrats are not really advocating a return to " imprisonment with or without hard labour" ?
Spy Blog has left a couple of constructive comments about whistleblower protection, on the blog page discussing this section, which will be reproduced here, if they are not published.
The Freedom Bill 2009 sections, all of which seem reasonable enough, so far as they go:
- Reduction of period of detention of terrorist suspects 9back down to 1 days detention without charge)
- Repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (i.e. Control Orders)
- Removal of the United States of America from part 2 territories (the unfair, unequal Extradition treaty with the USA needs to be sorted out)
- Repeal of the Identity cards 2006
- Amendment of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (independent magistrates warrants rather than self authorisation by officials or rubber stamping by politicians)
- Restrictions on the retention of fingerprints and samples (including DNA tissue samples and profiles of innocent people)
- Royal Commission to recommend on the use and regulation of CCTV (20 years too late, but welcome, nevertheless)
- Repeal of offences restricting the right to protest in the vicinity of Parliament (SOCPA sections 132 -138 Designated Area around Parliament Square and way beyond)
- Extension to the number of people constituting a public assembly (currently limited to just 2 people, with some doubt as to whether or not pregnant women are allowed out in public on their own or not !)
- Repeal of offences of trespassing on designated site (SOCPA section 128)
- Repeal of provisions which restrict the right to silence
- Repeal of provisions to allow for fraud cases to be conducted without a jury
- Restoration of the public interest defence for whistleblowers
- Repeal of provisions which allow evidence of a defendant's bad character
- Reduction in the number of cases that may be retried (i.e. double jeopardy)
- Repeal of provisions which allow bailiffs to use force
- Substantial prejudice in freedom of information (should make it harder for Government Departments to conceal policy advice from the public, but there are plebtyof other FOIA exemptions which need to be curtailed as well)
- Repeal of ministerial ability to veto Information Tribunal decisions (which currently makes a mockery of the whole Freedom of Information Act appeals process)
- Repeal of provisions to allow for the establishment of children's databases
- Regulations to govern parental consent for taking children's biometric samples (KiddyPrinting - brainwashing of children to accept that treating everyone like criminals is somehow normal)
If, somehow, all of these repeals were passed immediately, the country would not be any more at risk, as there is still plenty of other existing legislation to deal with serious criminality or terrorism, a lot of public money would be saved, and we would feel a little less under the cosh of the authoritarian snoopers currently in power.
Will the Liberal Democrats actually try to push this Bill through Parliament, or is it just another press and media spin opportunity ?