Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nick Clegg's plan to restore civil liberties - choose an authoritarian law to junk

Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who's in charge of political reform in the new coalition government, today outlined the wide ranging reforms he intends to introduce. As a speech it's pretty good and the sort of thing I'll bookmark to make me smile when I'm feeling sad.

True to a programme that involves giving more power over the state to the people, he will be consulting on what laws people want to see gone. I was tempted for a moment to make the headline to this "Join Nick Clegg's big bang approach" but I thought that might be misconstrued by search engines as well as Jennie, who has linked to some interesting sites today..

Here's just a wee bit of what Nick said:

“I have spent my whole political life fighting to open up politics. So let me make one thing very clear: this government is going to be unlike any other.

“This government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state.

“This government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to people, because that is how we build a society that is fair.

“This government is going to persuade you to put your faith in politics once again.”

“I’m not talking about a few new rules for MPs; not the odd gesture or gimmick to make you feel a bit more involved.

“I’m talking about the most significant programme of empowerment by a British government since the great enfranchisement of the 19th Century.

“The biggest shake up of our democracy since 1832, when the Great Reform Act redrew the boundaries of British democracy, for the first time extending the franchise beyond the landed classes.

“Landmark legislation, from politicians who refused to sit back and do nothing while huge swathes of the population remained helpless against vested interests.

“Who stood up for the freedom of the many, not the privilege of the few.

“A spirit this government will draw on as we deliver our programme for political reform: a power revolution.

“A fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen that puts you in charge.”

“So, no, incremental change will not do.

“It is time for a wholesale, big bang approach to political reform.

Oh, and just for these hysterical Labour rabble rousers who have a problem with the plans dissolution of Parliament:

As we legislate to fix parliamentary terms the details will of course need to be worked out...

But we believe that the support of 55% of MPs or more should be required for parliament to opt for an early dissolution.

That is a much lower threshold than the two thirds required in the Scottish Parliament.

But it strikes the right balance for our parliament: maintaining stability, stopping parties from forcing a dissolution to serve their own interests.

Former Labour ministers who were once perfectly happy to ride roughshod over our democracy are now declaring this innovation some sort of outrage are completely missing the point:

This is a new right for Parliament, additional to the existing powers of no confidence.

We're not taking away parliament's right to throw out government; we're taking away government's right to throw out parliament."

Nick emphasised that this wasn't about the government dictating to people but asking their opinion about what laws should go.

The Government has already outlined things like:

ID cards

The ContactPoint database

Properly restricting the DNA database

Giving back the right to peaceful protest

Libel Reform to stop ridiculous abuses designed to stifle free speech.

One thing Nick didn't mention was getting rid of Section 44 searches which gives the Police the right to stop and search anyone in a specific area regardless of whether there are reasonable grounds for suspicion. The European Court of Human Rights ruled against them earlier this year but according to Liberty the law has not been changed yet. That would be top of my list for getting rid of. Also, if there are still any laws out there that try to regulate what consenting adults do in private, shall we say, they should go for no other reason than it's none of the state's business. End of. The Daily Mail will have a field day with that one but so what.

There are my ideas. What would be on your list?

So, freedom may be in the air again after 13 years of authortarian Labour, but we need to help Nick by responding to his consultation when it is set up and do what we can to ensure that the Tories keep their mitts off the Human Rights Act.

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