Sunday, September 24, 2006


Now here's a party proposal I can get behind. Lib Dems want to introduce a Great Repeal Act, which would consist of a single sweeping revocation of a whole catalogue of liberticidal, stupid and expensive Blairite nonsense. Details are here.

1. Restrictions on protests in Parliament Square
Sections 132 to 138; Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

The police can now impose any restrictions they think fit on demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament Square. Citizens of this country should not have to ask for the right to protest outside the Parliament that they elect.

2. Identity Cards
Identity Cards Act 2006

Identity cards are unworkable, expensive and illiberal. Labour is already spending £95,000 a day on developing the project but it will not stop terrorism, crime, illegal immigration or benefit fraud.

3. Extradition to the US
Part 2, Extradition Act 2003

This act makes it much easier for the US to extradite people from the UK than it is for the UK to extradite people from the US. Not only is the treaty unbalanced, but it means that British citizens can extradited without any evidence being provided.

4. Conditions on public assemblies
Section 57, Clause 123, Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003

Labour has given the police the power to impose conditions on any protest or gathering even if just two people attend. Until 2003, these restrictions could only be imposed on larger gatherings, of 20 people or more. There is no reason to curtail the right to protest in this way.

5. Criminalising trespass
Sections 128 to 131, Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

Thanks to this part of the act, a Home Secretary can make trespass a criminal offence on any land where they say it is in the interests of national security. This is defined very broadly however - and there is no need for them to justify their decision. If there is a need for restrictions like this they should be agreed democratically.

6. Control orders
Section 1, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005

These allow restrictions, potentially going as far as house arrest, to be imposed on the mere basis of 'reasonable suspicion'. They can be made for up to 12 months and renewed indefinitely. The Home Secretary can also decide to opt-out from the European Convention on Human Rights and issue control orders that amount to detention without trial. Liberal Democrats would repeal the law and start again: the Home Secretary should not be allowed to opt out of our human rights agreements, or impose control orders outside the judicial system.

7. DNA retention
Sections 78-84, Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001
Sections 9-10, Criminal Justice Act 2003

The UK has the largest DNA database in the world, but many of those stored on the system have never been charged with, let alone convcited of, a crime. Thousands of innocent children are on the database - because the police have the power to take DNA when they arrest someone and then keep it permanently, even if the person turns out to have done nothing wrong. Ethnic minorities make up 8% of the UK population but 24% od the database. We understand the case for keeping DNA of the convicted, but innocent people's DNA should not be kept indefinitely.

8. Public interest defence for whistleblowing
Official Secrets Act 1989

It is important that national security is protected, but sometimes it will be the case that it is in the public interest that malpractice or illegal activity is exposed. The Official Secrets Act includes no public interest defence, however - so whistleblowers remain unprotected, even if their action is very much in the public interest. Part of the reason for this was a series of high-profile embarrassments for the Conservative government of the time; ministers' embarrassment should not be allowed to overrule the public good.

9. Right to silence
Sections 34-39, Public Order Act 1994 - England and Wales

It was a long-established principle of a fair trial that defendants had the right not to be forced to incriminate themselves. In 1994, however, the Conservatives allowed juries to draw adverse inferences from a defendant's silence. This represented a major attack on the idea of "innocent until proven guilty."

10. Hearsay evidence
Sections 114-136, Criminal Justice Act 2003

Protections against the use of hearsay evidence were in place to ensure that a trial was decided on the facts of the case. Hearsay evidence cannot in practice be cross-examined in court, which removes a vital safeguard for the accused. Labour, in 2003, widened the circumstances in which it could be used. We would repeal these changes and return to focussing on securing fair trials and reliable convictions.

That's the top 10. But there is so much more..

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