The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 26th November 2004
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A CRIME AGAINST LIBERTY
by Daphne Liddle
LAST TUESDAY’S 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.
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
The measure will in fact create a whole range of new crimes from
forging ID cards, trafficking in them to walking down the street
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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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