Tag Archives: restrict

Child benefit scandal: a million more children in poverty, 900 women forced to disclose rape

The Scottish National Party seems to have taken over what used to be Labour’s job as guardian of vulnerable benefit claimants.

(And it’s a good thing; Keir Starmer seems to think he is better-occupied persecuting innocent party members with trumped-up anti-Semitism accusations.)

So we have the SNP to thank for revealing the latest scandalous details of the Tory government’s decision to deprive parents of child benefit if they have more than two children – and to force mothers to relive details of rape as the price of having that benefit restored for additional children.

Here’s the headline:

New figures published by the UK government have revealed that 911,190 children have lost access to vital financial support since April 2017, while 900 women have been forced to disclose that their child was conceived of rape in order to access vital funds.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss first discovered the two-child cap and the so-called “rape clause” in George Osborne’s 2015 Budget and has been a vocal opponent of the policy since its inception.

The MP has challenged the Prime Minister to scrap the abhorrent policy, describing the figures as “a horrific legacy for any government”.

She said: “The UK Tory government’s own data reveals the devastating impact of their two-child limit on families across the UK. Approaching one million children are now suffering financial hardship, the majority of them in families where their parents are working.

“This is a horrific legacy for any government. It’s time for Boris Johnson to wake up to this reality, signal a change of direction on welfare and scrap this pernicious Tory policy.

“Most shocking of all, 900 women have been forced to go through the process of claiming for an exception due to a non-consensual conception. Every single one of these women has been put in a position where they’ve had to fill in a form to prove their child was conceived as a result of rape or coercion, just to make ends meet.

“The UK Government has no place to hide in the face of these damning statistics. Covid-19 has exposed the gaps in the social security safety net – I urge the new Prime Minister to do the right thing and scrap the two-child limit for everyone”.

But this is Boris Johnson she’s talking about. Do you honestly think he could care less?

Source: NEARLY 1 MILLION CHILDREN INTO POVERTY, 900 WOMEN FORCED TO DISCLOSE RAPE – Welfare Weekly

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Tory bids to make her party unelectable north of the border

The horror: Was this the look on Ruth Davidson’s face when she heard Michelle Ballantyne might try to get her old job as Scottish Tory leader?

A Conservative who spoke up in favour of the ‘rape clause’, limiting the number of children benefit claimants can have, may stand to become leader of her party in Scotland.

Way to go, Michelle Ballantyne.

You’ll make your party utterly unelectable north of the border if you succeed.

In 2018, Ballantyne provoked a furious backlash when she defended the so-called rape clause during a Holyrood debate on poverty and inequality.

The South Scotland MSP and party spokesman for social security said: “It is fair that people on benefits cannot have as many children as they like while people who work and pay their way and don’t claim benefits have to make decisions about the number of children they can have.

“Fairness is fairness to everybody, not to one part of the community.”

That’s a weird idea of fairness, considering benefit dependency may not last very long – or shouldn’t, if the system is working properly – but children are for life.

Or does Ms Ballantyne think people on benefits should be condemned to get no further, ever?

Whatever. Who cares?

It seems clear that Scottish Tories know it’s a bad idea letting her anywhere near the public.

Apparently they want a coronation for interim leader Jackson Carlaw – because that’s Tory democracy for you!

It’s looking bad for the toffs either way, isn’t it?

Either they show the public that they scorn democracy, or they face the possibility of having a leader who is electoral poison.

Ruth Davidson must be spinning in her (political) grave.

Source: Michelle Ballantyne joins Scottish Tory leadership contest | The National

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A simple plan to get Labour back on track

Harriet Harman: Will the acting leader of the Labour Party listen to pleas from the grassroots to get Labour back on track?

Harriet Harman: Will the acting leader of the Labour Party listen to pleas from the grassroots to get Labour back on track?

If the Labour Party is to regain the confidence it has lost, it needs to re-state its identity with a core message of purpose – one that not only encapsulates what Labour is about, but also what it opposes.

That is what was missing from Labour’s general election campaign, and is as much a reason for Ed Miliband’s defeat as the Conservative campaign, which was not based on objective facts but on political spin.

In a nutshell, it is time to remind the voters and the public that Labour is the enabling party. This creates a clear contrast with the Conservatives – the party of restriction.

So, for example, with the National Health Service, Labour should support a service available to everyonefree. That means no private involvement. With the Tory privatisation in full swing, funds are being restricted and so are services. The NHS is now a postcode lottery, with care allocated on the basis of profitability. That’s not good enough; the privateers must be told to jog on.

Education must also be available to everybody, up to the level each person can achieve (or wants to). Again, this means there should be no charge for state-provided services. A state school system has no place for privately-owned ‘academies’ or ‘free schools’. These are Tory devices; the private sector will, by its nature, restrict access in order to extract a profit. It also means no tuition fees for students in further/higher education.

Labour should be helping anyone who wants to start a business, by ensuring there are as few obstacles in the way as possible; it must be the enabling party. That means, for example, a graded taxation system, with lower business rates and taxes for start-ups, progressing to a higher rate for medium-sized enterprises, and a highest rate for multinationals – who should be taxed on all takings made in the UK; no excuses.

Another part of the enabling agenda must be ensuring that people can pay a minimum price for things we cannot live without: Accommodation, services, utilities.

There is now an appalling shortage of appropriate housing for many people – mostly because the Tories sold off so many council houses and did not replace them. This is why the Tories were able to impose the Bedroom Tax on so many innocent people – a restrictive idea, intended to push people out of some areas and into others; shifting Labour voters out of places the Tories didn’t think they should have to share with the riff-raff, you see – a gerrymandering tactic to make those constituencies easier to win in elections. The solution is simple: Build council houses again.

When the utility companies – gas, water and electricity suppliers – were privatised, we were all promised that household bills would be kept down by more efficient private-sector business models and private investment. That has not happened. Instead, consumers have been held to ransom by a small cabal of corporations who have been able to charge rip-off prices. Remember the electricity price scandal of 2013? Who told those firms to quit their restrictive practices and cut bills? Labour. The enabling party. The fear of a Labour government imposing new rules in the consumer’s favour helped hold the greedy private bosses in check for a while, but now we have a Conservative government. How long do you think it will be before prices soar? This Writer reckons they’ll take the first opportunity. Even now, after Labour managed to secure price cuts, the poorest families still have to choose between heating and eating during the winter (the phrase has been used so often it is now a modern cliché). This must not be allowed to continue and the solution is clear: Re-nationalise. There are even two bonus factors in such a plan: Firstly, as many of these utilities are owned – or part-owned – by firms or governments based abroad, it will ensure that our bills pay people in the UK rather than boosting foreign economies at the expense of our own and, secondly, takings will help the UK Treasury balance the books.

There is at least one other privatised service that could also be re-nationalised: The railway system. Prices have rocketed while government subsidies have also soared, since the system was turned over to private hands in the early 1990s. This is madness; it is a huge drain on resources and must not be allowed to continue. We should re-nationalise and follow the example of Northern Ireland, where the service was never privatised and where any profit is ploughed into improvements, not profit.

Then there is our grocery bill, which keeps escalating. This is a particularly thorny subject as, for example, farmers are being ripped off by supermarkets over the price of milk, but the same corporations will happily send apples to the other side of the world and back, just to have them polished. It’s time to straighten out that system as well – although it will take a while.

So this is how Labour should frame its arguments from now on: Labour enables; the Tories restrict.

It should be stressed that the themes raised above are just starting-points which occurred to This Writer while considering the issue last night. The above is not an exhaustive list. Undoubtedly there are many more.

Your comments are invited.

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Cameron cold-shoulders calls to limit commercial corruption of MPs

Cameron's attitude to Parliamentary corruption: When he brought in the Lobbying Act, it ensured that rich corporations had unfettered access to MPs and the Prime Minister, while effectively banning the public from speaking out against it.

Cameron’s attitude to Parliamentary corruption: When he brought in the Lobbying Act, it ensured that rich corporations had unfettered access to MPs and the Prime Minister himself.

The Labour Party is banning its MPs from holding paid directorships and consultancies, to ensure that their only interest is their duty to their constituents.

Labour MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates have been put on notice that, from the coming General Election, the party’s standing orders will be changed to prevent them holding such second jobs.

The measure, which Ed Miliband has confirmed will be included in the party’s manifesto, would ensure no Labour MP holds a paid directorship or consultancy.

Labour is also consulting on legislative measures including placing a strict cap – similar to one that exists for members of the US Congress – on any additional money they can earn beyond their salary as representatives of the people.

Mr Miliband’s actions follow a series of allegations over recent years, about how MPs from both sides of the House of Commons have risked a conflict of interest by seeking or taking paid work from outside organisations.

Most recently, former Foreign Secretaries Jack Straw (Labour) and Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Conservative) were secretly filmed apparently offering their services to a private company for cash.

It is claimed Mr Straw – a major figure in New Labour – said he had used his influence to change EU rules on behalf of a firm which paid him £60,000 a year.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who is chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, is reported to have told reporters posing as representatives of a fake Chinese firm that he could arrange “useful access” to every British ambassador in the world.

Mr Miliband has written to Tory leader David Cameron, challenging him to impose on Conservative MPs the same restrictions as are being placed on Labour’s.

The letter states: “I write … not just as leader of the Labour Party but as someone who believes that we all need to act to improve the reputation of our Parliament in the eyes of the British people.

“The British people need to know that when they vote they are electing someone who will represent them directly, and not be swayed by what they may owe to the interests of others.”

He added that Labour “is also consulting on legislation to make this a statutory ban, as well as imposing a strict cap on all outside earnings by MPs”.

Vox Political applauds this move by Mr Miliband and Labour.

Long-term readers may remember this site’s e-petition, on the government’s website, to ban MPs from speaking or voting in debates on matters which could lead to them, companies connected with them or donors to their political party, gaining money.

Labour’s move goes further than that, by banning MPs from having any financial connection with commercial operations and interests.

It seems unlikely that Mr Cameron will do the honourable thing, though.

He has removed the party whip from Rifkind, but said he has no control over the chairmanship of the Intelligence committee. Rifkind has stated that he will not willingly step down from it.

Cameron said he approves of MPs having second jobs.

He said Labour would allow someone to be a trade union official but not “to run the family shop” or something similar, which is a gross misinterpretation of the issue.

This is not about running family shops; it is about taking money from huge corporations, to impose commercial priorities on the nation to the detriment of the general public. But Cameron will never admit that, or speak out against it.

He supports it.

Nailed! Czech minister’s immigration tweet belongs on #CameronMustGo

A battle won: Tomas Prouza's tweet that killed Cameron's credibility on immigration.

A battle won: Tomas Prouza’s tweet that killed Cameron’s credibility on immigration.

He’s had a rotten week but that’s no reason to sympathise with David Cameron.

It is the result of years of bad decisions and many hope that he continues to have similar rotten weeks in the future.

The last nail in the coffin came – appropriately – from Europe. Cameron’s had one disappointment after another from the continent this week, ranging from the revelation that his Home Secretary has been hiding the facts about immigration to the revelation that the number of foreigners coming to the UK has increased since his Coalition government came to office.

Yesterday (Friday), Cameron hoped to turn the tide with a hard-hitting speech proposing that the influx of immigrants might be slowed by a pledge that they would only be allowed to claim benefits after they had been in the UK for four years.

We can only imagine Cameron’s pride at having outlined a solution – as we can only imagine what he felt when the Czech Republic’s Europe Minister, Tomas Prouza, responded by posting a picture of Czech pilots serving in the RAF during the Second World War, with the message: “These Czechs ‘worked’ in the #UK for less than four years. No benefits for them?”

You can read more in the Huffington Post‘s article.

Cameron came to office promising to bring immigration down – “no ifs, no buts”. Now, according to that news medium, his words are “dead and buried”.

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Cameron’s crackdown on immigrant benefits is just another grubby con

[Picture: I Am Incorrigible blog - http://imincorrigible.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/evidence-not-ideology-benefit-tourism-the-problem-only-fruitloops-and-tories-can-see/ - which agrees that benefit tourism is a non issue and distraction from the UK's real problems.]

[Picture: I Am Incorrigible blog – http://imincorrigible.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/evidence-not-ideology-benefit-tourism-the-problem-only-fruitloops-and-tories-can-see/ – which agrees that benefit tourism is a non issue and distraction from the UK’s real problems.]

The UK is to cut the amount of time EU migrants without realistic job prospects can claim benefits from six to three months, according to David Cameron – who seems desperate to take attention away from Andy Burnham’s speech today on the Coalition’s unwanted privatisation of the National Health Service.

According to the BBC, Cameron said the “magnetic pull” of UK benefits needed addressing to attract people for the right reasons.

But the announcement seems to be deliberately confusing.

It seems this restriction will only apply to people born abroad who have had a job in this country and then lost it. They are the only migrant group currently allowed to claim JSA for six months before the benefit is cut off “unless they [have] very clear job prospects”, as Cameron put it in the BBC article.

EU migrants who were claiming benefits in their own countries must fill in an E303 form in order to receive benefits at the destination country – which are issued at the same rates as in their country of origin for a total of three months only. Failure to find employment in that time means the loss of the benefit or a return to the country of origin.

The BBC article is vague about this; it’s as if Auntie – and Cameron – are trying to hoodwink you (shurely shome mishtake? – Ed) into thinking he is restricting benefits for people who come here looking for work, which is something he cannot do.

Perhaps Cameron is trying to avoid the embarrassment created by his last attempt to claim he was doing something about immigration; he announced five proposals, one of which related to all employers (quadrupling fines for those that do not pay the minimum wage), while the other four were already part of the law of this land.

That little Con was exposed very quickly, on this blog and others.

Note also that he is still trying to say people are coming here from abroad in order to claim our benefits.

That is a lie.

From Vox Political‘s article last year: “UK citizens are a greater drain on the state than immigrants from Europe. Between 1995 and 2011 EEA immigrants paid in 4 per cent more than they took out, whereas native-born Brits only paid in 93 per cent of what they received. Between 2001 and 2011 recent EEA immigrants contributed 34 per cent more than they took out, a net contribution of £22bn.”

Considering the timing of this announcement, it seems likely that Cameron wanted something to take attention away from Andy Burnham’s speech on the Coalition’s dirty little backroom deals to privatise more of the NHS, reported on this blog earlier today.

He must be scraping the bottom of the barrel.

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Data retention debate: The lies they tell to steal your rights

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.

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.

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See if YOUR objection is mentioned in the Surveillance Bill debate!

internet-surveillance

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.

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The security services are already snooping on us – why aren’t we out in the streets about it?

A Snooper: This woman has been allowing police and security services to monitor your phone and Internet communications - illegally. Now her government wants to rush through a law to make it legal, without proper scrutiny.

A Snooper: This woman has been allowing police and security services to monitor your phone and Internet communications – illegally. Now her government wants to rush through a law to make it legal, without proper scrutiny.

No matter what Nick Clegg might say, the Coalition government will be reintroducing – and rushing into effect – Theresa May’s long-cherished Snooper’s Charter on Monday.

This is her plan to ride roughshod over your right to privacy by requiring telecommunications companies to keep a complete record of all of your telephone and Internet communications. While the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill does not include the content of the calls or messages, it does include the location of the people called, the date and time of the call and the telephone number called.

Theresa May’s Snooper’s Charter would have called on telecoms firms to record the time, duration, originator and recipient of every communication and the location of the device from which it was made.

Anybody who cannot see the similarities between these two would have to be blind and stupid.

Apparently the move has been necessitated by a European Court of Justice ruling in April saying current laws invaded individual privacy.

This means that the government has been doing, already, what it proposes to enshrine in law now.

But hang on a moment – this court ruling was made in April. In April? And they’re just getting round to dealing with it now?

Perhaps they were busy. But no! This is the Zombie Parliament, that has been criticised for muddling along with nothing to do, so it can’t be that.

It seems far more likely that this Bill has been timed to be pushed through without any consideration by, or consultation with, civil society – in order to restrict our ability to question what is nothing less than an attack on our freedom.

Cameron is desperate to justify his government monitoring everything you do: “The ability to access information about communications and intercept the communications of dangerous individuals is essential to fight the threat from criminals and terrorists targeting the UK.”

It isn’t about fighting any threat from criminals or terrorists, though, is it? It’s about threatening you.

Has anybody here forgotten the disabled lady who received a midnight visit from the police, at her home, in relation to comments she had posted on Facebook about the Department for Work and Pensions’ cuts?

She told Pride’s Purge: “They told me they had come to investigate criminal activity that I was involved in on Facebook… They said complaints had been made about posts I’d made on Facebook.”

Facebook is an internet communication, not a telephone communication – so you know that the security services have already been overstepping their mark. This was in 2012.

There’s always the good old postal service, embodied in the recently-privatised Royal Mail – which has been examining your correspondence for decades. You will, of course, have heard that all your correspondence with HM Revenue and Customs about taxes, and all your correspondence with the DWP about benefits, is opened and read by employees of a private company before it gets anywhere near a government employee who may (or may not) have signed the Official Secrets Act. No? Apparently some secrets are better-kept then others.

If you want proof about the monitoring of letters, I’ll repeat my story about a young man who was enjoying a play-by-mail game with other like-minded people. A war game, as it happens. They all had codenames, and made their moves by writing letters and putting them in the post (this was, clearly, before the internet).

One day, this young fellow arrived home from work (or wherever) to find his street cordoned off and a ring of armed police around it.

“What’s going on?” he asked a burly uniformed man who was armed to the teeth.

“Oh you can’t come through,” he was told. “We’ve identified a terrorist group in one of these houses and we have to get them out.”

“But I live on this street,” said our hero, innocently. “Which house is it?”

The constable told him.

“But that’s my house!” he said.

And suddenly all the guns were pointing at him.

They had reacted to a message he had sent, innocently, as part of the game. They’d had no reason to open the letter, but had done it anyway and, despite the fact that it was perfectly clear that it was part of a game, over-reacted.

What was the message?

“Ajax to Achilles: Bomb Liverpool!”

Neither of these two incidents should have taken place but many more are inevitable if this legislation goes the distance and allows the government to legitimise its current – illegal – actions.

One last point: It should be remembered that this is a government composed mainly of a political party with one member, still active, who managed to lose (or should that be ‘lose’) no less than 114 files on child abuse – files that could have put hugely dangerous people behind bars 30 years ago. Instead, with the files lost, it seems these individuals were permitted to continue perpetrating these heinous crimes.

Now, this government is launching an inquiry into historic child abuse by high-profile people, headed by a woman who is herself tainted by association with some of the accused, and by some of the attitudes she has expressed.

It is a government that should put its own House in order before it asks us to give up our privacy and let it look inside ours.

Or, as Frankie Boyle tweeted:

140711surveillance

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Enemy of the State: Chris Grayling

grayling

What do you call a Justice Secretary who wants to ensure that access to the justice system is restricted to the fewest people possible – only, in fact, those who can afford it?

What do you call a Justice Secretary who is overseeing plans to ensure that legal aid in civil cases is cut by £350 billion, meaning people who need qualified advice on social welfare debt, employment, family problems, clinical negligence, divorce and housing problems will not get it? Those people may have to pursue the cases on their own behalf, clogging up the civil justice system, perhaps for years to come.

What do you call a man who, as Employment Minister, presided over a scheme of ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ for the unemployed that was worse than useless at getting them into employment but made a great deal of money for the useless ‘Work Placement Provider’ companies to whom he funnelled government money like there was no tomorrow?

You call him Chris Grayling, that’s what.

This walking, talking blight on common sense is now talking about cutting legal aid in criminal cases, eyeing up £1 billion that is currently spent on it.

He wants to sell off guilty defendants’ cars to pay their legal costs. What does he think that’s going to do? Well, let’s put it in his own language. If cutting people’s benefits is likely to “encourage” them into work, taking away a thief’s car is likely to “encourage” him to steal another. His policies will increase crime.

And he wants to introduce price competition into criminal legal aid, ensuring that the cheapest lawyers – not the best – get the work.

He calls it “working to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system as a whole, to move towards swifter resolution of cases before the courts”.

But Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger has said the cuts already going ahead are likely to restrict access to justice. That’s not efficiency.

And Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, has spoken of similar fears that cutting legal aid might undermine the rule of law, with people resorting to violence.

The bar council has warned that the introduction of price competition is “a blunt instrument” assuring “none of the safeguards and qualities which we must expect from our justice system”.

And, as Lord Bach has pointed out, there will be no savings in the end, as the state “will eventually have to pick up the pieces when things get much worse than they need to”.

Sadly, Mr Grayling – who has no legal grounding whatsoever – will ignore this sensible advice. One can only conclude that he wants to increase criminality.

This blog has already discussed the possibility that Defence Secretary Philip Hammond wants to use the armed forces to quell any civil disturbances in the UK. Is Grayling trying to engineer such disturbances deliberately?

You read it here first.