Our rights under attack


Our rights under attack

LABOUR’S REDUCED majority in their third term seems to have done
nothing to curb their zeal for introducing anti-working-class,
anti-democratic legislation.
As well as the planned attacks on public services and welfare state,
they are trying to beef up the state machinery in order to curtail any
protest against these attacks.
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill and the ID Cards Bill,
if passed, will introduce laws seriously limiting democratic rights.
New Labour managed to rush the Prevention of Terrorism 2005 Act
through Parliament, drawing as little attention to it as possible and
avoiding any real debate.
They are now exacerbating and exploiting fears over national
security, crime and anti-social behaviour in order to undermine basic
human rights.

Criminalising protest

THE SERIOUS Organised Crime and Police Bill proposes the extension of
arrest powers and makes trespass a criminal (rather than civil) offence.

Jackie Grunsell

Currently the police must decide if a person is committing a non-arrestable,
arrestable or serious arrestable offence and their powers flow from that
position. The Bill proposes extending the power of arrest to all
offences indiscriminately.

Section 44 of the 2000 Terrorism Act has already resulted in more
than a 300% increase in stop and searches of Asians in 2002-2003. Any
further extension of police powers can therefore be expected to be used
disproportionately against an already victimised Asian population.

The Bill also increases powers of ‘citizen’s’ arrest, allowing
Community Support Officers, private security firms and store detectives
to make arrests without proper training – a move opposed by the Police

A new criminal offence of trespass on a "designated" site
would also be created. Any site could be ‘designated’ by the secretary
of state for reasons of national security. However, these reasons are
not defined and no justification for the designation is required.

In theory, the Home Secretary could designate any area in which a
demonstration is planned, thus criminalising legitimate protests. It
would also become illegal to protest within one kilometre of Parliament

The Bill criminalises "economic protest" i.e. any that
causes "loss or damage of any kind".

Many protests aim to cause economic loss in order to hit companies
and bosses where it hurts – in the pocket! Under this part of the Bill a
boycott, strike or even verbal or written criticism of the company could
become an offence.

Why we oppose ID cards

THE IDENTITY Cards Bill proposes that every UK citizen be issued
with a "biometric" card bearing fingerprints and other
personal details. These would be stored on a new National Identity
Register database. Cards would eventually become compulsory.
New Labour say identity cards would help protect people from
identity fraud and theft, help defeat terrorism and tackle illegal
working and immigration abuse.
So why is the Socialist Party opposed to them?

is expected to cost £5.5 billion but could be much higher.
That money could be spent on health, education, pensions or increasing
the minimum wage. The cost of driving licences and passports would
increase from 2008, with an "enhanced" biometric passport
costing around £85. Eventually people would have to buy an identity
card, which on current estimates would cost £40.

There would be a fine for renewing or replacing cards. The fine for
failing to have one would be £2,500 and £1,000 for failing to tell the
authorities about a change of address or circumstances.

The scheme would entail the use of complex technology. Every previous
large IT. system, such as in the passport office and the child support
agency have failed resulting in the loss of billions of pounds of public
money. And the scheme is bound to be run by a private company making
huge profits.

In a leaked memo in 2003 Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned that the
scheme could be a "large-scale debacle".

allows information from the register to be disclosed without
consent to many different agencies including the police, Inland Revenue
and the Department for Work and Pensions. The information on the cards
could be increased at a later stage to include details such as political
affiliation and campaigning activities.

be an increase in police harassment, in particular of ethnic
minorities and young people.

would not help prevent terrorist attacks. David Blunkett
himself said in July 2002: "I accept that it is important that we
do not pretend that an entitlement card would be an overwhelming factor
in combating international terrorism". Of the 25 countries that
have been most affected by terrorism since 1986, 80% have national
identity cards, and one third of these incorporate biometrics. Most
terrorists operate under their own identity and travel as short-term

are as likely to increase crime as combat it. They will give a
lucrative business opportunity to organised crime. Even biometric ID
cards are open to forgery. Only 0.6% of benefit overpayments were as a
result of false identity. Any savings would be massively outweighed by
the cost of the scheme. The police don’t have problems identifying
individuals but linking them to crimes.

would result in rationing public services. We don’t want a
system where you could be denied medical treatment or other services
because you have not got your ID card. ID cards should be scrapped and
the money used to increase public services for everyone.

ACCORDING TO a poll by data company Intervoice, support for ID cards
has dropped by 30%. Just 57% of people are now in favour compared to
over 80% in an ICM poll in December 2004.
When Australia tried to introduce ID cards, support for them went
from 90% in favour to 70% against in just a few months as people began
to realise exactly what they would mean. The scheme was scrapped.