The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 26th November 2004

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by Daphne Liddle

Queen’s Speech, setting out the Government’s plans for the coming Parliamentary session, held few surprises and concerned itself almost entirely with various aspects of law and order.

The proposals contain momentous attacks on our civil liberties, including compulsory identity cards, trials without juries for suspected terrorists, the use of phone tapping evidence in court and the setting up of a British equivalent of the FBI.

 The horror is that many of the most sinister measures will get public backing because of scaremong-ering by the right-wing press and by the Government itself over the alleged threat of terrorism and all aspects of crime.

 The Identity Cards Bill will set out a framework for the introduction of identity cards from 2007, based on the holder’s biometric details. They will be voluntary at first and require another Parliamentary Bill to make them compulsory.

 They will be issued to people renewing their passports from 2008 and will cost £85 (at present estimates). Home Secretary David Blunkett claims they will help to prevent just about any crime from benefit fraud to terrorism.
the same

But countries where ID cards are compulsory suffer the same rates of these crimes, if not more. Compulsory ID cards did not prevent the 11 September attacks in the United States nor the bombings in Madrid last year.

 The measure will in fact create a whole range of new crimes from forging ID cards, trafficking in them to walking down the street without one.

 A vast new bureaucracy will be needed: a police data base which will include the personal details of everyone living in Britain. This job will probably be given to some private computer company.

expect crashes

After the privatisations of computer services in other government departments such as National Insurance, the Passport Office and so on, we know we can expect crashes, losses of data and inaccuracies.

 More bureaucracy will be needed to replace all the cards which are lost or damaged. Will people be criminalised for not having a card while they are waiting for the new one? Or issued with a temporary, like a car tax disc? Guess who will for the bill for all this unnecessary bureaucracy?

 These cards will introduce another opportunity for police and Government officials to harass ethnic minorities.

 The Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill  will set up the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) with new powers of arrest.

 One of its main targets will be the animal rights movement. There will be a new offence of incitement to religious hatred.

 It will create a new system of plea bargaining, as used in the US, where suspects are encouraged to plead guilty to get a more lenient sentence. Often those who are innocent are pressured to plead guilty in order to avert the prospect of a very long sentence.

 The draft Counter-Terrorism Bill will revamp the 2000 Terrorism Act and the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act of 2001 under which foreign nationals suspected of terrorism can be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

 This cannot be published in full until after the Law Lords make a ruling on the legality of the 2001 Act.
without juries

Blunkett has indicated that it will include trials without juries – like the notorious Diplock courts in the occupied north of Ireland. It will also make phone tap evidence allowable in court and introduce a new offence of “acts preparatory to terrorism”. This will include things like fundraising.

 Without a jury, it will be easy to convict people who have given or expressed support for banned organisations, regardless of whether the support was intended for terrorist or armed struggle purposes. It is the sort of law that would have outlawed the Anti-Apartheid movement in the 60s and 70s while the ANC was engaged in armed struggle.

 The Management of Offenders Bill will merge the prison and probation services and extend the use of electronic tagging. It will also extend privatisation within this new service. But it will reintroduce an element of linking fines to the ability to pay.

 The Criminal Defence Bill will reintroduce means testing into the legal aid system and is aimed purely to save money.
 The Gambling Bill will legalise big casinos and introduce the Gambling Commission as a regulator.

The Clean Neighbour-hoods and Environment Bill will introduce new measures to deal with anti-social behaviour, giving local authority and parish councillors new powers to issue on-the-spot fines of between £30 and £100 for offences like littering, fly posting and late night noise.

 And there will be European Constitution Referendum (Paving) Bill, to prepare the way for a referendum on the new European Union constitution – which is not likely to happen before the next election.

 There are a number of other Bills but it is likely that only part of the programme will be dealt with before next year’s election.

  The Government will give priority to the most dangerous bills – on ID cards and “anti-terrorism” measures.

 How quickly and easily the bourgeoisie abandon their own version of democracy and liberty when it interferes with the profit-making of the giant transnationals!


A climate of fear

  FASCIST DICTATORS always championed what they called “law and order” to justify their oppression.  Mussolini claimed to make “the trains run on time” and Hitler had his “new order for the world”. It’s an old trick that reactionaries use time and time again to try to divert the masses from the real problems of today.

Tories claim that it isn’t safe to walk the streets when they’re out of office. Now Tony Blair and his cronies would have us believe that national security can only be achieved with prisons packed to bursting point, identity cards and the draconian new “anti-terrorist” laws outlined in the Queen’s Speech this week. Lurid tales, similar to the ones told about Saddam Hussein before the invasion of Iraq, about possible attacks on Canary Wharf or nuclear devices planted in the heart of  London, are spread to create a climate of fear amongst the people.

During the war in the occupied north of Ireland when London and many other cities were targeted by the IRA we were told to carry on as normal. To do otherwise would be “giving in to the terrorists” they said. Now the Government maintains that the threat from Al Qaeda and international crime syndicates justifies a tranche of legislation that attacks the civil liberties of every citizen, including trials without juries in “terror” cases and the use of phone-tap evidence in court.

Blair shows his utter contempt for working people by trying to confine public debate to “terror”, fox-hunting and how many round-the-clock casinos Britain can take. Leaving foreign affairs to his masters in Washington and the economy to big business is not an option  the labour movement can ever accept.    

Blair may well hope to divert public attention away from his disastrous leadership of the Labour Party and the country in the run up to the next general election. He’s got no chance if all his government’s got to offer is what was announced on Monday.

The case for public ownership

Contrary to fascist myth, Benito Mussolini never actually made the trains run on time. Neither, it seems, can Britain’s privatised rail companies. Labour Party conference agreed this year to renationalise the rail industry and, though this has been predictably ignored by Blair & Co, it’s a demand supported by the overwhelming majority of passengers and the workers in the transport industry.

The New Labour junta claims that nationalisation is inefficient and out-of-date but we only have to look at the railways to see the consequences of privatisation. Nothing could make the case for public ownership better than the bail-out of MG Rover by the Chinese publicly-owned Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation or the fact that Russia is moving to restore state-control over its oil industry, following the collapse of the scandal-ridden, privatised Yukos corporation.

But the question of public ownership has to go far beyond the pressing case of the railways. The entire public sector sold-off by the Tories since 1979 must be restored including British Telecom, British Airways, power and water utilities and the oil industry. Their vast profits, far greater than anything made out of the National Lottery, can then, once again be used for the service of the people.

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