- oD 50.50
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): NO2ID's invaluable email alerts have just told us this: The Ministry of Justice has launched an extraordinary coup. It is about to convert the Data Protection Act into its exact opposite, a means for any government department to obtain and use any information however it likes.
Hidden in the new Coroners and Justice Bill is one clause (cl.152) amending the Data Protection Act. It would allow ministers to make 'Information Sharing Orders', that can alter any Act of Parliament and cancel all rules of confidentiality in order to use information obtained for one purpose to be used for another.
This single clause is as grave a threat to privacy as the entire ID Scheme. Combine it with the index to your life formed by the planned National Identity Register and everything recorded about you anywhere could be accessible to any official body.
The Database State is now a direct threat not a theory.
Quite apart from the powers in the Identity Cards Act, if Information Sharing Orders come to pass, they could (for example) immediately be used to suck up material such as tax records or electoral registers to build an early version of the National Identity Register. But the powers apply to any information, not just official information. They would permit data trafficking between government agencies and private companies - your medical records are firmly in their sights - and even with foreign governments.
We urge you to write to your MP straight away - don't wait. The Bill is being rushed through Parliament, even as we write. It contains a number of controversial provisions, but to the casual reader appears mainly to be about reforming inquests and sentencing.
Request them to demand the clause be given proper Parliamentary scrutiny. This is something that will affect every single one of their constituents, unlike the rest of the Bill. There is a grave danger that the government will set a timetable that will cut off debate before these proposals - which are at the end of the Bill - are discussed.
With support for the ID scheme crumbling, even in the Home Office's own skewed polls - the last of which showed a 5% drop - trust in the government's handling of our personal information is at an all-time low.
A YouGov poll in the Sunday Times on 18th January shows that the public opposes these new powers by a factor of 3 to 1 *against*. 65% of people asked said they give government "too much power", only 19% thought not. The government can't pretend a popular mandate for what it is doing.
You can read the full email and all its references here
This will be a key issue at the Convention on Modern Liberty (hint: buy your tickets, they are selling quite fast)
Tom Griffin (London, OK): The National Identity Scheme gets underway in earnest tomorrow when the first ID cards start being issued to non-EEA foreign nationals. The move coincides with the launch of a consultation on the secondary legislation that will enable cards to be issued to UK nationals, starting with airport workers in late 2009.
NO2ID's Phil Booth described the planned provisions as "a wake-up call for everyone who bought the line that ID was just a simple card." They provide for a draconian list of penalties for non-compliance of which the highlights include the following:
- Failure on the part of a cardholder to notify the Secretary of State, where the cardholder knows or has reason to suspect that the card has been lost, stolen, damaged, tampered with, or destroyed. Maximum penalty £1,000.
- Deliberate or reckless provision of false information is a criminal offence under section 28 of the Act with a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment.
Tom Griffin (London, The Green Ribbon): The Government's approach to social cohesion has been challenged today in a new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Immigration and Social Cohesion in the UK, by Mary Hickman, Helen Crowley and Nick Mai of London Metropolitan University, questions 'the idea that we need a fixed notion of Britishness and British values'
Stuart Weir (Cambridge, Democratic Audit): There is a surreal ironist in the Home Office.
BBC News is trumpeting an investigation into rogue illegal immigrants who are apparently able to re-produce practically any official document anyone might need, from passports, driving licences down to gas and electricity bills. But what is the Home Office doing about this plague of illegality?
"That what ID cards are for" Did I hear right?
Peter Facey (Fowlmere, Unlock Democracy): A couple of years ago I was driving through rural Ireland, where houses and telegraph poles flew their county colours. The only county in England that has traditionally flown its own flag is Cornwall. And yes, before someone tells me, I know that for many Cornish Cornwall isn't just a county, but a nation in its own right. Even where I now live in Cambridgeshire you find cars with the flag of St. Piran on them.
This is written in response to the OurKingdom article on the new Institute of Public Policy Research booklet entitled 'The Power of Belonging' by Ben Rogers and Rick Muir.
Philip Hosking (Cornwall, The Cornish Democrat): A happy and empowered individual who is respected in his own home makes a much better host.
Bethan Jenkins (Neath, Plaid AM): "Now, please tell me on a scale of 1 to 5, how British are you? To explain, the closer to 5 in your definition, the more British you feel.""1."
"Sorry, do you mean 5? Did you understand correctly...?"
I start to interrupt her.
"Yes, I'm a 1. In fact, I don't define myself as British at all."
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): I know, you think I'm going to suggest that even Xmas is constitutional, or at the very least suggest it should be more proportional, representative, accountable and transparent (no wrapping paper on presents!) not to say written down. Sorry to disappoint. However, I have been forced to admit that there is an element of 'who we are' about it, not that it is British exactly, but read Sunny Hundal's measured counter-assault on "right-wingery". Whatever your politics I hope it will make you more relaxed and put you in better cheer!
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): No, not Hilary, but her husband whose first name escapes me at the moment. I was never very taken with him, positively or negatively. Way back in 92 when I was in the States I watched him debating for the White House with George Bush Senior and Ross Perot in a TV designed 'town hall' meeting. He struck me as fluent, with the popular touch and as, well, an American politician after office. He got it too, because Perot split the right. Better a Democrat than a Republican, but I neither found him hateful, as did fellow Brits on the left like Hitchens or Cockburn, or wonderful - many pinged to his charisma but it bounced off me with indifference and thus it remained. So I was surprised, yesterday, leaving through a 40th anniversary edition of Rolling Stone full of unexceptional interviews, to find one with Clinton where he made me think. He says that the three great issues of our time are "inequality, sustainability and identity". None of the Blairite cliches about terrorism that I'd have expected. Instead, the issue of extremism is neatly tied up in his last 'ity' but also connected to the many national and religious movements that are on the move and of which terrorism is indeed an expression. Naturally, I don't go for identity politics. As the late, great and much missed Mai Ghoussoub wrote, what matters is background. But for a three word overview of what matters now, it was neat. Can anyone better them?
Philip Hosking (Cornwall, The Cornish Democrat): You may have noticed the recent Scotsman article on the new citizenship test that people wishing to gain UK citizenship must take. Designed to improve integration and assimilation of new immigrants it purports to be a sort of cultural primer – a test based on knowledge of the officially sanctioned book "Life in the UK: A Journey to Citizenship". This book is a fascinating insight into how New Labour imagines life in our country today. And what it leaves out is as significant as what it puts in.
Peter Facey (London, Unlock Democracy): Identity and politics can be an explosive mix. Defining what we are and what we are not seems to be as essential to humans as breathing. In Britain today, the debate about identity cannot be separated from politics. The future of the United Kingdom will be shaped not just by institutions and policies, but also by how its inhabitants feel about their identify.Let me put my cards on the table. I feel English, British and European and am proud of the county my family comes from and of the county I now live in. I get annoyed when the post office tells me I live in Hertfordshire when in fact I live in Cambridgeshire. For many reasons a sense of place and identity matter to me.