This is a timely warning, as the coronavirus lockdown forces legal procedures out of the courtroom and online:
People taking part in benefit tribunals that are heard on video and audio, so they do not have to leave their own home, must treat their home as a part of the courtroom for the duration of the hearing.
This means they must sit somewhere with a blank or neutral view behind them, and if they need to move away from their screen or phone during the hearing they must ask permission.
If they need someone with them who is not a legal representative (for example, a carer) they must ask the court’s permission.
They may not eat or smoke anything, including e-cigarettes, and may only drink water.
Crucially, it is a criminal offence to publish images or audio from a court hearing without authorisation.
The advice is timely because, between March 19 and April 6, use of audio increased from 100 hearings to 1,850, while use of video went up from 150 hearings to 1,100.
On April 6 itself, around 85 per cent of cases heard in England and Wales used audio and video technology.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Future predicted: The 1980s drama Max Headroom featured a TV doctor who examined patients by video link. In the pilot we were treated to the sight of a patient dropping his trousers in readiness to show off his anal pustule. This seems to be the future that Matt Hancock is planning for the NHS – especially after he gave Amazon free access to all your medical information (I’m not sure if this is the patient from that show but it’s as close to that scene as I’m going! Note the “does not vote” label at the bottom).
The Conservatives have been trying to stop people actually going to see a doctor for years and now they’re using coronavirus to force it on us.
They want us to hold all our appointments by telephone or over the internet.
What an absolutely moronic idea. Only an imbecile would suggest that it was an improvement.
Matt Hancock said a current “digital-first” rollout will be extended across the country wherever “clinically and practically possible”.
He told MPs: “We’re taking steps of course to improve access by making sure people can access primary care in the best possible way.”
Draw your own conclusions about Mr Hancock!
This Writer is reminded of the pilot of Max Headroom (the SF drama, not the comedy video-jockey show) in which people use home video cameras to show their symptoms to a TV doctor.
In the show we’re treated to the sight of a man starting to drop his trousers in order to show the world his “anal pustule”. Charming.
But we live in a country that has aired Embarrassing Bodies, so one imagines that this is the sort of thing that has emboldened Mr Hancock.
As far as I’m concerned, we might as well look up our symptoms on Google. The result will be about as reliable.
In other words, I reckon this policy is a plan for preventable deaths (only affecting poor people, of course) and possibly even for the eruption of another epidemic; remote GPs aren’t going to recognise all the symptoms in the course of a brief call.
And how much are these calls going to cost the patient? The NHS is supposed to be free at the point of use!
Ultimately, we can see this as a transparent attempt to push the NHS closer to privatisation.
It will only take a few tragedies for the Tories to claim that the public health system isn’t working and commercial interests could carry out the duty much more responsibly (even though that has proved not to be the case in every single privatisation ever carried out by a Tory government).
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
He’s dreaming of all the cash he’ll take away from the old, after he has hoodwinked them into voting for him again.
Why should you believe a word David Cameron says?
He has repeated a pledge not to introduce means testing for benefits such as bus passes, TV licences and the winter fuel allowance, if elected (not re-elected; he didn’t get enough support for that in 2010) in May.
This is the man who “looked down the barrel of a camera” (as he describes it) in 2010, promised to protect the NHS, and to tell any cabinet minister proposing cuts to frontline services that they should go away and think again.
He is denying the state pension to increasing numbers of people with a staged plan to raise the pensionable age. Members of Parliament, meanwhile, will receive transitional protection as the pensionable age rises – meaning they won’t miss out. Members of the public fund 60 per cent of Parliamentarians’ pensions.
Firefighters could lose their pensions altogether because of his plan to raise their pensionable age. Iif they don’t serve their full term, they won’t get the pension – but they can be ruled out of service if they fail the fitness tests (and older firefighters are more likely to fail).
What good is the promise to protect pensioners’ benefits if they have to learn how to use the Internet in order to get them? Remember, Francis Maude has proposed this extra hurdle for senior citizens and you won’t see Call-Me-Dave speaking against it.
The controversial Scots comedian Frankie Boyle was interviewed last year at the Guardian’s International Television Festival last year by Pointless’s Richard Osman. The interview was a review of the state of television. And Boyle made it very clear that he though British television was being held back by the desire of TV commissioning editors to remain safe. Boyle made it very clear that class attitudes were very definitely a part of this.
The article is quite lengthy, and all of it is worth reading – but you should visit Beastrabban\’s Weblog to do so. The part to which the headline refers runs as follows:
Boyle gave the murderous campaign of Cameron against the disabled. He said outright that Cameron had killed at least 2,200 people ‘bottom line’ through Atos and the fit for work test. But he was never challenged. [Richard] Osman raised the topic of the Channel 4 conspiracy drama, Utopia, as an example of television tackling difficult topics. Boyle stated in his usual forthright terms that the show was rubbish. It was based very much on the type of comics produced by Alan Moore and his ilk. However, Channel 4 had taken all the good material out of it. If they were really determined to produce quality television, they’d hire Alan Moore and co. Instead Channel 4 produced endless programmes genuinely exploiting deformity and sneering at the working class, explicitly mentioning Benefits Street.
Here’s the YouTube recording of the interview. Warning: Boyle’s language is at times very coarse, and the jokes about Katie Price and Rebecca Adlington may be offensive.
Opponents of the Government’s plan to revive the twice failed Internet Snooping law, which would force ISPs into logging a much bigger slice of everybody’s online activity and also make it more accessible to security services, are crying foul after dirty politics resulted in 18 pages of new law being snuck into the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill (CTSB) at the last minute.. and without the promised judicial oversight (safeguard), according to Mark Jackson of technical website ISPreview (thanks to Helen Price for the heads-up).
The significant amendment was tabled in the House of Lords by former Metropolitan Police chief Lord Blair, with support from Lord Carlisle, Lord King and Lord West. Suffice to say that the text appears to be almost [the] image… of 2012’s rejected Communications Data Bill, which itself was a revival of Labour’s equally controversial Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) several years earlier.
At present the existing law already requires broadband ISPs and telecoms firms, after receipt of a warrant, to maintain a very basic access log of the targeted customers online activity (times, dates and IP addresses) for a period of up to 12 months, which does NOT include the content of your communication and only occurs after a specific request is made to the ISP.
By comparison the new law wishes this to apply to everybody and to expand its remit into other fields, such as the monitoring of access/chats logs for popular online games and social networks, as well as Skype calls.
All of this has happened despite the coalition Government’s original pledge to “end the storage of internet and email records without good reason“, although clearly the interpretation of “good reason” differs for politicians as the new law would apply to everybody, irrespective of whether or not you’ve ever committed a crime (i.e. guilty, until proven innocent).
Needless to say that opponents of the old bill(s) and the ISP industry have reacted with disgust.
As a person who takes part in online activity, you’ll want to read the rest of this article, on ISPreview.
If spared, when I become a pensioner I will vote in every election I can; as a person who no longer makes any direct contribution to the national economy it will be the only way I can exert any influence.
Of course I won’t be voting for anyone whose policies seek to reduce my influence even further – say, by cutting my state-apportioned income, thereby making it harder for me to pay my bills and buy the things I like to buy (which thereby influences the economy. If relatively poor people like me don’t get to show retailers what we like, they’ll simply look to those who do have money – the ever-increasingly rich – and will tailor the market to suit those people and their price points; I will be priced out of the market).
Francis Maude seems to have forgotten this. He has decided that pensioners need to learn how to use government-run Internet sites in order to gain access to crucial services in the future.
Not for them the simple pleasure of spending their dotage playing the latest iteration of Farmville on Facebook, or Angry Birds, or the current ‘Waste-Your-Time-Saga’ – no!
If they want to make sure the right person gets lasting power of attorney over them, if they become mentally or physically incapacitated, or if they want to claim Carer’s Allowance, or for who-knows-what other service, they’ll have to learn how to log in “because we think that is a better thing for people’s lives,” according to Mr Maude.
Note the lack of any evidence base for this claim. And whose lives will be better as a result? The rich taxpayers who won’t be footing the bill for expensive pensioner services because poor granny or granddad can’t figure out how to claim them anymore? (Note: The experience of Universal Jobmatch shows that government websites are notoriously bad at providing helpful information and good at exploiting their users. Indeed, if Jobmatch is any yardstick, we may have an entire generation of geriatric pole-dancers and prostitutes in our collective future.)
But fear not! Help is at hand. According to the Telegraph: “Mr Maude said that online ‘refuseniks’,” – you see, he already has the derogatory nickname ready – “who did not want to use computers would be able to apply for a one-off lesson … to help them get on to the internet.”
“A one-off lesson”? Doesn’t Mr Maude understand that learning becomes much harder as people become older? The article goes on to say that there are an estimated five million people in their 80s and 90s who have never used the Internet. It’s a little late for them to start now!
Come to think of it, Mr Maude’s a bit long-in-the-fang himself – but these creatures never consider how they might cope with what they’re imposing on others. He won’t have to – he’s rich. He’ll have someone else to do it for him.
Poorer pensioners are unlikely even to be able to afford a computer, let alone learn how to use it. Mr Maude is deliberately setting them up to lose their statutory services.
His excuse will be that the services are there but people aren’t bothering to use them.
What a verminous rat.
It seems a strange way to treat the section of the electorate that has been most useful to Conservatives. Pensioners are the most faithful voters, and many of them have been faithful to the Conservative Party more than others, believing the Tories have treated them well.
Mr Maude has no intention of treating pensioners well.
The Conservative Party now wishes to stab the elderly in the back (metaphorically, if not literally, but the effect will be the same: Poorer pensioners will be sent to an early grave. This will further skew the apportionment of the national pension fund, into which we all pay. Even now, affluent pensioners receive more from the fund because their longer lives give them more opportunity to draw money out; under this scheme, there will be even fewer poor pensioners and they will die sooner).
Returning to the point made at the start of this article: When I am a pensioner I will most assuredly vote in every election I can – and I’ll be voting against the Tories.
Can I rely on every current pensioner to do the same?
Haggard: Theresa May looked distinctly ruffled as she responded to criticism of her government’s undemocratic actions. Some of you may wish to abbreviate the first word in this caption to three letters.
It is ironically appropriate that an Act of Parliament guaranteeing government the right to invade the private communications of every single citizen in the UK, ostensibly in the interests of justice, should be justified by a web of dishonesty.
This is what an indecisive British electorate gets: A government that can lose every major debate in the chamber – and look shambolic while doing so – and still win the vote because all its members have been whipped into place.
We all knew the government’s case for providing itself with a legal ability to snoop on your telephone and Internet communications was paper-thin, and by failing to produce any new justification, the government confirmed our suspicions.
Introducing the Data Retention and Investigatory Bill earlier today, Minister for Security and Immigration James Brokenshire said the three-month delay since the European Court of Justice judgement that allegedly necessitated the legislation was because the Coalition had “sought clarity” on it.
He went on to say that “There is a risk in relation to co-operation on the use of the powers; indeed, there may be legal challenge. The House must face up to the prospect that the powers we use—they are constantly used by our law enforcement agencies—are at potential risk, and we are seeking to address that risk.”
Michael Meacher suggested a more persuasive reason for the three-month delay: “Panic or a deliberate attempt to blackmail the House into undiscriminating compliance.”
He said the argument that foreign phone and Internet firms were about to refuse UK warrants, demanding the contents of individual communications, was another red herring: “It has been reported that communications service providers have said that they did not know of any companies that had warned the UK Government that they would start deleting data in the light of legal uncertainty. Indeed, the Home Office, according to the Financial Times, instructed companies to disregard the ECJ ruling and to carry on harvesting data while it put together a new legal framework.”
So Brokenshire was lying to the House about the potential effect of inaction. That will be no surprise to anyone familiar with the workings of the Coalition government. At risk of boring you, dear reader, you will recall that the Health and Social Care Act was based on a tissue of lies; now your privacy has been compromised – perhaps irrevocably – on the basis of a lie.
MPs could not limit the extension of the government’s powers until the autumn, Brokenshire said, because a review of the power to intercept communications had been commissioned and would not be ready by then.
According to Labour’s David Hanson, the main Opposition party supported the Bill because “investigations into online child sex abuse, major investigations into terrorism and into organised crime, the prevention of young people from travelling to Syria and many issues relating to attempted terrorist activity have depended on and will continue to depend on the type of access that we need through the Bill”.
Mr Hanson’s colleague David Winnick disagreed. “I consider this to be an outright abuse of Parliamentary procedure… Even if one is in favour of what the Home Secretary intends to do, to do it in this manner—to pass all the stages in one day—surely makes a farce of our responsibilities as Members of Parliament.”
He pointed out – rightly – that there has been no pre-legislative scrutiny by the select committees – a matter that could have been carried out while the government sought the clarification it said delayed the Bill. “This is the sort of issue that the Home Affairs Committee and other Select Committees that consider human rights should look at in detail,” said Mr Winnick. “None of that has been done.”
The Bill did not even have the support of all Conservative MPs. David Davis – a very senior backbencher – said: “Parliament has three roles: to scrutinise legislation, to prevent unintended consequences and to defend the freedom and liberty of our constituents. The motion undermines all three and we should oppose it.”
Labour’s Tom Watson, who broke the news last Thursday that the Coalition intended to rush through this invasive Bill, was more scathing still: “Parliament has been insulted by the cavalier way in which a secret deal has been used to ensure that elected representatives are curtailed in their ability to consider, scrutinise, debate and amend the Bill. It is democratic banditry, resonant of a rogue state. The people who put this shady deal together should be ashamed.”
Plaid Cymru’s Elfyn Llwyd said Parliament was being “ridden over roughshod”.
Labour’s Diane Abbott made two important points. Firstly, she called the Bill an insult to the intelligence of the House. “We have had a Session with a light legislative programme, and for Ministers to come to the House and say, ‘We’ve only got a day to debate it’, when weeks have passed when we could have given it ample time is, I repeat, an insult to the intelligence of MPs.”
Then she turned on her own front bench: “I believe… that those on the Opposition Front Bench have been ‘rolled’ [one must presume she meant this in the sense of being drunken, sleeping or otherwise helpless people who were robbed]. All Ministers had to do was to raise in front of them the spectre of being an irresponsible Opposition, and that children will die if they do not vote for the Bill on this timetable, and they succumbed.”
Despite this opposition – not just to the way the Bill had been tabled, but to its timetable and its content – MPs voted it through, after a derisory nine hours of debate, by a majority of 416.
So much for democracy.
So much for MPs being elected to protect their constituents.
When Hansard publishes details of the vote, I’ll put them up here so that you can see which way your own MP voted and use that information to inform your actions during the general election next May.
It seems Parliament’s discussion of the Data Retention and Investigatory Bill, also known as the Surveillance Bill, will now take place tomorrow (Tuesday) rather than today (Monday).
This works better for Yr Obdt Srvt, who has carer-related business today and would not have been able to watch the debate.
Hopefully, many Vox Political readers – if not all – have emailed or tweeted MPs, calling on them to speak and vote against the Bill which, while only reinstating powers the government has already been using, is a totally unacceptable infringement of our freedom that is being imposed in a totally unacceptable timeframe.
As has been discussed here previously, the Bill enshrines in law Theresa May’s ‘Snooper’s Charter’, requiring telecommunications companies to keep a complete record of all your telephone and Internet communications for examination by politicians.
The information to be kept includes the location of people you call, the date and time of the call, and the telephone number called.
It seems the Bill is intended to be a response to a European ruling in April, making the valid point that the government’s current behaviour is an invasion of citizens’ privacy. Clearly, therefore, the Coalition government is determined to continue invading your privacy.
The judgement of the European Court of Justice is being overridden and the Conservative-led Coalition is making no attempt to find a reasonable compromise between the need for security and the right of privacy.
The fact that David Cameron has waited more than three months before putting this on the Parliamentary timetable, during a time when MPs have had very little to discuss, indicates that he wanted to offer no opportunity for civil society to be consulted on the proposed law or consider it in any way.
Cameron wanted to restrict our freedom to question this restriction of our freedoms.
Another reason given for the haste is that foreign-based Internet and phone companies were about to stop handing over the content of communications requested by British warrants – but service providers have confirmed that this was a lie. No companies had indicated they would delete data or reject a UK interception warrant.
Ignoring the fact that this does nothing to support your privacy, at least it does completely undermine Mr Cameron’s case for rushing through the legislation.
He is offering concessions – but they are not convincing and nobody should be fooled into thinking that they make this Bill acceptable. However:
A possibility of restrictions on retention notices is not clarified in the text of the Bill, and is therefore meaningless; and
The ‘sunset clause’ for the Bill’s provisions does not come into effect for two and a half years, by which time (we can assume) the government is hoping everybody will have forgotten about it and it can be renewed with a minimum of fuss. This is how your freedoms are taken away – behind your back.
If you have not yet contacted your MP, you are advised to do so.
If you lose your right to privacy – especially to this government – you won’t get it back.
A Rock in a hard place: Patrick Rock, formerly a senior civil servant and policy advisor, who now faces allegations that he possessed indecent images of child abuse.
Credit where it’s due: Whatever you think of the Labour Party, its leaders deserve praise for asking the right questions about the Patrick Rock affair.
Mr Rock was arrested on February 13, suspected of possessing child abuse imagery – shortly after he resigned his position working on policies that we all thought were intended to make it harder to find such images on the Internet.
Details of his resignation and arrest were not released to the public, but the media sprang into action and in a matter of days, the Daily Mail ran a major story accusing three leading members of the Labour Party of sympathising with paedophile groups.
It was only after this story had run its course that the major news media made the public aware of Mr Rock’s arrest – and Vox Politicalwas not the only blog that voiced suspicions about the sequence of events.
It seems somebody at Labour was paying attention. Shadow minister Jon Ashworth has asked, in the public interest:
When were 10 Downing Street and David Cameron first made aware that Mr Rock may have been involved in an offence?
How much time passed until Mr Rock was questioned about the matter and the police alerted?
What contact have officials had with Mr Rock since his resignation?
What was Mr Rock’s level of security clearance?
And, most importantly:
Why were details of Mr Rock’s resignation not made public immediately?
The last question should also refer to Mr Rock’s arrest – but it could be suggested that this is implicit as the details would include the reason for the resignation.
Mr Ashworth’s letter was sent to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood. He is Britain’s top civil servant and not a Tory politician; as such he is duty-bound to provide answers that serve the interests of the nation, rather than the Conservative Party.
He’d better get it right, too – as this story unfolds and more information is revealed, we will be able to judge the validity of Mr Heywood’s response.
It would be unfortunate for his career if it became clear at a later time that he had tried to protect anybody. Closing ranks to look after your own people is a human response – but inappropriate at high levels of government.
When senior government advisors come under suspicion, it is right that everyone connected with them should be investigated as well.
Spot the difference: One of these has been harassed by a newspaper over alleged sympathy towards a child abuse group; the other has been arrested on suspicion of possessing images of such abuse. Can you tell which is which, or has the newspaper done a good job of muddling the issue?
Today’s (March 4) papers and Internet news sites will be full of the arrest of Patrick Rock, until recently an aide of David Cameron (and a former protege of Margaret Thatcher) on suspicion of possessing child abuse imagery.
The BBC News article is one of a deluge covering the story of the 62-year-old former deputy head of 10 Downing Street’s policy unit – who had been working on policies that are allegedly intended to make it harder to find images of child abuse on the Internet.
The arrest took place on February 13, a few hours after Mr Rock resigned his position with the government.
While it is important to stress that Mr Rock has not been found guilty of any crime and must therefore be considered innocent until such time as this happens, it is appropriate to ask whether the Tory-supporting Mail used the old story about Labour’s deputy leader and her colleagues to divert attention away from the arrest – which is a far more serious issue.
Comedy genius Rowan Atkinson used to do a sketch in which he would ask a sidekick, “What is the secret of great comedy?”
As the sidekick started to respond, “I don’t know, what is the s-“, Atkinson would interrupt: “Timing.” The premature punchline used to get a big laugh.
In contrast, the Daily Mail‘s timing isn’t funny at all.
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