More power to the people

The surveillance society is in full flood. We are more watched than ever. We have to live under an ever larger array of regulations and laws, governing how we park, where we drive, what rubbish we throw away, how much tax we pay, and what we think and say. Even the most law abiding find it increasingly difficult to keep up with all the laws you have to obey. It is a compliance society with a box ticking culture.

Much of it is as ineffective as it is oppressive. Making everyone xerox copies of passports and gas bills before undertaking simple transactions does not stop well funded big time crooks from operating. Setting and enforcing tight speed limits does not stop accidents which are often caused by something other than excessive speed. Picking on individuals for saying the wrong things and going in for public denunciation does not stop all nasty thoughts. All this and the rest does spawn ever larger bureaucracies, and makes it more difficult for the energetic to do things that might make life better.

The need to control public spending will reinforce the mood to sweep away more of the needless bureaucracy. We have no need of unelected reigonal government, as we have often agreed on this site. An incoming government needs to look at the satrapies of the public sector, the large quangos, and cut them down to size. It needs to simplify the tax system drastically, by removing taxes that raise very little and making the principal taxes more straightforward – lower rates and no reliefs.

In areas like education and health, more of the money needs to go to the individual schools, surgeries and hospitals. There should be more diveristy and choice, less central control and fewer instructions, advice and guidance from Whitehall.
Every facet of government activity should b e looked at to see what contribution it is making to better services, to sensible regulation or to transfers of income to the less well off. If it is not making a decent contribution to one of those, and providing good value, there is no need of it.

Individuals want access to medical care when and where they want it. They want to be able to choose a good school for their children. They want their rubbish collected regularly, roads to be able to drive on and decent care for the disabled – all at a sensible price. If the government tightens the surveillance, keeps on increasing the complexity of comnpliance, raises the taxes and delivers poor services, they should expect a big backlash against them.


  1. Mick Anderson
    May 29, 2009

    All entirely true.

    However, the infrastructure is now in place, and there are a lot of people whose “jobs” depend on all this affliction.

    We all have our own conspiracy theory as to why this is – some claim it’s because if all the non-jobs were removed then unemployment would rise exponentially, others would say is because all politicians are basically the same and want to have things to look busy about. Others just point out that it suits those in power to keep the public scared of terrorism, crime, policemen, hell, obesity, pollution, or whatever headline is in the press today. Still more see it as an extension to taxation.

    It’s why HM Customs and Excise (or whatever they call themselves this week) have effectively unlimited power of entry without warrant; it’s why some want alleged terrorists to be locked up indefinitely on mere suspicion; it’s why anybody who dares to have a driving licence is accused of destroying the planet.

    But then we are shown the proof that MPs of all colours are fiddling expenses and cheating allowances. The electorate are either told that we are too stupid to understand that it’s necessary, or accused of hypocrisy because we would have done the same if ever in that position. Personally I’m not too stupid to understand that my MP (who lives in the commuter belt) doesn’t need a tax-payer funded house in London, and I’m not imaginative (or corrupt) enough to have tried to claim for such a thing myself.

    In short (for a change), it means that when the electorate are told perfectly reasonable things that we would love to see happen, we don’t believe that any vote cast will ever improve anything.

  2. Sue
    May 29, 2009

    The EU’s new five-year plan for justice and home affairs will export the UK’s database state to the rest of the EU

    So Mr Redwood, the Conservatives are NOT going to participate in the EU Big Brother Scheme?

    I am beginning to think that this heinous plan of the EU is going to go ahead no matter which of the three major parties is in power.

    The whole plan is very worrying.

    1. David H
      May 29, 2009

      We need to get out of the EU, and fast!

  3. Simon
    May 29, 2009

    I was reading about how the Italians happily ignored the booze ban in Rome a couple of days ago. Try doing that on the Tube and Boris’ nasty little inspectors will be down on you like a ton of bricks.

    All we get is empty rhetoric from people like Cameron. Does anyone seriously believe that he will devolve power? I certainly don’t. He could have started already by, for instance, telling Boris to leave commuters alone if they wish to enjoy a drink on their way home. I think it is the pure nastiness of all this overbearing bossiness from people like Boris and every other jumped up Town Hall official that so revolts us. I only use Boris as an example because he sold himself as a free wheeling Tory and turned out to be anything but. Sound familiar?

    How about some action instead of words from Cameron straight away. Like today? It’s easily done as described above. Don’t hold your breath.

    1. andy dan
      May 29, 2009

      I lived in London for several years, and if I saw anyone drinking alcohol on the Tube I gave them a wide berth. This rule isn’t a suppression of liberty. It’s a good thing. Leave Boris alone!

    2. thespecialone
      May 29, 2009

      Sorry but I agree with the ban. If you cannot travel a short distance on the tube without needing alcohol then I suggest you go to AA to get help. And I dont mean the people who come and fix your car!

      1. Simon
        May 30, 2009

        There are already plenty of laws to deal with people who misbehave on the tube.

        You are lucky in a way as you are prepared to let officials make up your mind for you. It must save a lot of irritation and annoyance if you find such petty rules a good idea. Those of us still capable of individual thought find life extremely unpleasant when subjected to an endless barrage of pointless rules and regulations which we must comply with.

        It is typical of the mindset of those who endorse state interference in all aspects of our lives to think that anyone who disagrees must have something wrong with them, and, in this case, should go to AA for treatment. New Labour would approve of your sentiments.

    3. ManicBeancounter
      May 29, 2009

      The Europeans has a different view to rules than we do. The Italians have long had a thriving small business sector, partly because they had laxer laws for small business, but also because they had a view that it was acceptabe to ignore the rules up to a point. The booze ban would have served as a warning not to over-step the mark, or the authourities would come down on you like a tonne of bricks.
      Having worked for a French company for over a decade, I experienced a similar issue. I used to get information requests saying “We order you to give us this information, in this format, by tomorrow”. I would work late into the evening getting that information. Then I learnt that by speaking to the person and saying this will take 2 working days as I will need to trawl through hundreds of lines of data, the reply was “An estimate will be fine and the absolute deadline is 2 weeks.” The rules were just a starting point for negotiation.

  4. DBC Reed
    May 29, 2009

    Living in one of the top 10% most deprived areas,I welcome surveillance,if it stops no-goodniks roaming the streets.Similarly in the town centre,it would be nice to go back to the scene depicted in faded photographs where a fat policeman stands around all day talking to local shopkeepers and those people who also stand round with not much to do while they wait for the pubs to open.Its calmer.Why should drunks and violent attention-seekers run things?I should expect you as a conservative to take a dim view of the perfectability of mankind and factor into any social situation the presence of a small number of nasty people.I t is surely the function of such a conservative to promote a society where good people can live among bad.It is actually people like you who have taken over the old socialist role of naively believing there is no Original Sin out there to be kept within bounds and that all forms of social control are infringements on man’s essential goodness.
    Speed cameras? Have you seen the Public Service announcements on TV where a dead girl gives the survival rates for being hit by a car doing 30+ ?There is a point where anti-socialist becomes plain anti-social.
    Identity cards? In any war or war on terror, or a terrorist war on us, it is fairly standard to give the home population means of identifying themselves.As for extraneous information: medical warnings of allergies to certain drugs could be beneficial.(Legal records would prejudice the Police)
    I thought the Conservatives were the Laura Norder party?Are you saying that what little surveillance there was of MP’s expenses was inappropriate?
    High Tory anarchy ends up with local people being mugged while the rich tear past in Jaguars.
    All this choice agenda is also pointless.What happens when everybody chooses the same school? Simple answer :the rich pay more and get in with their own sort.

    1. thespecialone
      May 29, 2009

      As a special constable, I totally agree with you about CCTV in town centres and in certain other areas. Despite what people think should happen, it is completely impractical in this day and age to have all police officers on foot all the time.

      I have been called to incidents whereby the only way the offender has been identified has been because of CCTV. How much money does that save in an investigation?

      I also think there are too many speed cameras in unneccesary areas. They are only there to make money and not to cut speed or accidents.

      1. Freddy
        May 30, 2009

        “…it is completely impractical in this day and age to have all police officers on foot all the time.”

        Why “in this day and age” ? What has changed over time to make this so ?

        1. thespecialone
          June 3, 2009

          Most people in this country nowadays have access to a vehicle and are therefore more mobile. That is what I was getting at. That is not to say I dont agree with foot patrols, they are very effective in a lot of cases. On a Friday and Saturday night for instance in a town centre you can talk to people before they get too drunk, or be seen, and it may make them think twice about their actions later on.

          I personally would like to see more police officers around on foot or even bicycle. However, Labour have a lot of them in offices trying to meet targets.

    2. APL
      May 29, 2009

      DBC Reed: Says lots of stuff.

      After ten years of a Socialist government you have lots of complaints about how the country is run.

      So do conservatives.

      I would like to see more police on the streets, those that you rarely do encounter look shifty and scared. They are strangers on the beat they only occasionally patrol. They don’t know anyone and they are out on their own, they know it too.

      Many conservatives would like sterner sentences for convicted criminals too. But the political elite has successively relaxed the criminal code.

      Public Service announcements: ah! for the days when they were such things, all we have now are veiled threats and intimidatory propaganda.

      DBC Reed: “There is a point where anti-socialist becomes plain anti-social.”

      No, there is a point where socialist becomes fascist, it is the numbing interference by the state in the minutiae of an individuals day to day existence, it is this which destroys civil society..

      DBC Reed: “Identity cards? In any war or war on terror ..”

      Ah yes, the totalitarian concept of the ‘beneficial crisis’. Good fascists like a beneficial crisis.

      I can identify myself to the authorities any number of ways. Seeing the contempt with which government agencies have handled the tax database, the social security database, the military database, the Child benefit database, you still think they could keep a database of every individual in the country secure? No nor do I.

      The best custodian for my biometric data and my identity is me. A failure in my ‘data’ security might be a disaster for me personally, but it would be insignificant to the population at large or the country.

  5. Stuart Fairney
    May 29, 2009

    Well said indeed, I don’t like most of it, but the thought control is the most chilling. I’m not religious at all but it seems to me that Christains are under attack as never before (which is anyway counter-productive to their aims as it’s the best strategy to ensure they prosper as early Romans found out), expressing certain opinions is now criminalised*, it seems we need government consent to protest against the government (an utterly invalid law surely) and the media attacks against perceived enemies from wheresoever they come is Stalinist in its ruthlessness. One hopes Mr Cameron will change it all early on.

    * For example, I believe it may now be illegal to deny the systematic murder of milions of Jews and others by the Nazis in WW2. I am entirely relaxed if some lunatic denies this as the many photos, eye witness testimony and mass of documentary evidence makes my case certain. Ditto, if someone were to announce that my nationality (Welsh) makes one some kind of ‘untermensch’ well, I am more than capable of dispatching such views in open debate. I don’t need Nannny to save me and reject the attempt.

  6. Acorn
    May 29, 2009

    JR, I sense some anger in your prose this day. Did you get a parking fine or a speeding ticket somewhere? Not that it detracts from the truth of your argument. (Were you in Camberwell? Having yellow lines painted under your car and then fined £2000 for parking on it.)

    Did you ever play Snakes and Ladders when you were young? It seems for the little people, the board now has a lot more snakes on it than ladders!

    “Previously on JR”

    I blogged recently about poor old Merv at the BoE. Making sure that government bog paper (gilts) did not get stuck in the toilet pan on its way to the national debt sewer. Well, it happened in the US. $100,000,000,000 of Treasuries had to be rammed down the toilet pan with a very large Bernake; see link.

    This will come to a central bank toilet near you soon.

    Reply: No I have not a recent fine, but like everyone else I live in fear of missing some rule. You need a higher degree in parking theory to be able to work some of the restrictions and fees you have to pay.

    May 29, 2009

    Returning to another of our old hobby horses we believe politicians in general – and of course this government in particular – encourage waste by always putting the horse (hobby breed or otherwise!) before the cart!

    Most government announcements – or the subsequent trumpet blowing in defence of what they are doing – major on the amount of taxpayers money they are to commit to any one of their eye-catching initiatives. ‘My government will be spending £x billion on blah, blah, boast, boast’!

    For God’s sake, it’s OUR money about which they’re ‘big-noting’ themselves and were we to have a say we would – like any sensible businessman or housewife – define the benefits and objectives before we sought to find the best method, expenditure level and price estimate of achieving the end result.
    By announcing the ‘budget’ in advance the floodgates are opened for every minister, civil servant and wily contractor to take us to the cleaners!

    The evidence is the depressing frequency with which this has occurred in recent years, most notably on IT projects and PFI contracts.

    We hope to witness with the next government a strategy that would strike a welcome and relevant chord with all we businessmen, housewives and struggling keepers of the household purse. We suggest a twist on the old song…


  8. alan jutson
    May 29, 2009

    Yes we are probably the most spied upon nation in the world.

    Who knows how much information is being kept on individuals and for how long.

    BBC newscast on number plate recognition systems, appears that Jackie Smith may not be aware of who is in charge of this information and how it is used for the 2 years that it is kept.

  9. David Eyles
    May 29, 2009

    When I read these articles from you which manage, almost uniquely amongst senior Tory politicians, to link the enormous financial costs of the surveillance state with the loss of our liberty, I have hope that something might actually be done in favour of restoring our economy as well as our basic freedoms.

    To look at the problem from the other end of the tube: If this country regained the freedom that we had, say twenty years ago, just imagine what this country could acheive economically, culturally and spiritually. There are millions of people out there whose latent talents are being wasted by the sheer drudgery of bureaucratic conformity and vicious political correctness. And that does not count the waste of the unemployed who have no future because their local economy has been deadened by the hand of an overweening state.

    It is my firmly held belief that if this country was released from the chains which currently bind us, we could, within two decades, outperform Germany in GDP terms. The last decade has wasted so much of our potential because of the New Labour infatuation with big government and big banking. Their emphasis upon the service sector has skewed our economy, only to bring it crashing down when structural problems occur. The result is that there is precious little left of our productive economy to act as a cushion when things go belly up in one sector.

    So, give us the freedom and we will be able to produce again; give us the freedom and this country can once again lead the world in science, engineering, art, music and culture; give us the freedom and this country will raise its head in pride again.

  10. Brian Tomkinson
    May 29, 2009

    John, we know your views, and I can believe that you personally would follow through, but if the Conservatives don’t make it clearer that they will take a scythe to this spending and surveillance no one will believe that they are serious about changing it.

  11. Colin D.
    May 29, 2009

    The content of your blog is all good stuff. But we, the public, are like the frog in water which is being slowly raised in temperature, unaware that it will get too hot and die. Similarly, all these freedom sapping regulations come bit by bit, by stealth, and we are not aware of the extent to which we are drowning in the swamp. When elected, will Cameron have the vision, guts and energy to light the bonfire of regulations and to win the battles against entrenched opponents? Will he, can he, defeat the EU juggernaut? Or will Cameron, once in power, settle for the easier life?

  12. jean baker
    May 29, 2009

    Countless people I know share and support your views entirely.

  13. Nick
    May 29, 2009

    What’s funny is the MP squealling because the tables are turned. The public has come to the decision on the basis of the evidence that MPs are guilty, unless they can prove themselves inocent.

    Same as parking, same as speeding, and the same as taxation…

    MPs use the guilty until proven innocent with the citizen, but complain like billyo when the tables are turned. Tough.

    The surveillance society has decided to turn their cameras and tape recorders on the state, and the state won’t be able to cope.

    I’m pretty certain there will be more attempts to make it illegal for the citizen to use surveillance on the state.

    Restrictions on recording converstations, and restrictions on photographing police, restrictions on publishing expenses, restrictions on see the detail on Equitable Life, …


    Reply: This was the very theme of an earlier post I placed on this site.

  14. jean baker
    May 29, 2009

    When is a new Speaker being appointed and is Parliament rendered democratically inoperable, for full and open debate, until such time ?

    Reply: In a month’s time – til then the Old Speaker presides as he always has.

  15. Hugh
    May 29, 2009

    You know it makes sense,
    and so do we.

  16. Paul
    May 29, 2009

    Amen to all of that John. We want our freedom back. As an entrepreneur and owner of a cluster of SME’s I am increasingly frustrated that I seem to be deliberatly held back from creating jobs and wealth in my local community by red tape, regulation and interference. Worse I suffer increasing ( way beyond inflation) rises in rent business rates and taxes to pay for it all too. Then to add insult to injury my local council have now started to use my money to establish for profit businesses to compete against me!!!

    By the way I’m not sure if you are aware of this but a huge roll-out has just begun of ANPR cameras in all towns, cities and major roads.

    Eric Blair must be laughing himself silly in his grave. The biggest ” I told you so” in history.

  17. Demetrius
    May 29, 2009

    I have made my own observations on power to the people. It is more difficult than many imagine, even in a joined up world. Also, it is not just government. My latest BT bill is beyond human understanding. I am engaged in grim relentless struggles against service providers and commercial entities. I cannot go to the local shop, there isn’t any. I cannot go to the local pub to drown my sorrows, it has closed along with many others of its kind, and the rest are now eateries selling chemical compounds dressed up as food. The council is renewing good pavements and leaving the worst alone, it is more economic and ensures targets are met. My basic hospital services have all relocated from being four miles away to others covering an area of 1500 square miles. And all the rest……….

  18. Albert Hall
    May 29, 2009

    Never fear, we are absolutely certain that Dave will reverse this nulab culture sometime next year.

  19. Robin
    May 29, 2009

    The obvious question from what you say is how do you provide surveillance of surveillance in an efficient manner so as to provide efficient services.

    I think we need to broaden the idea of profit to see that Government services represent profit of the Government – but this is not the same as the “profit” in the market.

    So here’s another question. Should Government Services be demand driven or supply driven? If Government services are demand driven (as Labour wishes) then there will always be an endless demand for services. If Government services are supply driven then we see some kind of democratic cap on budgets based on tax receipts and political priorities. Eventually all services will be limited once taxes run out – but hitting the upper limits on tax is not good Government.

    So what about Profit – well they’re the Government services. Companies are judged on money, Governments are judged on services. The delivery of services is what benefit you get once you take away costs. Voters are like shareholders who vote on the Government based on their services. Government services should be audited like company accounts and published and it be made a criminal offense to try to distort the accounts. The same laws should apply to the public sector as the private sector.

    Surveillance is a cost, where the benefits are very marginal. Better to spend surveillance in the form of auditing.

    Like good companies compliance and auditing should not report to the Government, but to the second chamber who should have the mandate and power to hold Government to account. The second chamber should act as the eyes and ears on the Government, testing laws and testing delivery by the Government. The second chamber should be responsible for MPs expenses.

    The Government should be run more like a business – but not as a business. Not along the Thatcherite model, but an acceptance that the private sector has evolved a good system of accountablity and cost control. The House of Commons must submit itself to the second chamber for scruitiny.

    The system goes wrong when transparency, regulation and auditing fails. Transparency is most important because it allows us all to monitor our Government. Any Government who is willing to submit itself to the people for constant Surveillance AND DEMOCRATIC CORRECTION will find it easier to stay in power.

  20. Adam Collyer
    May 29, 2009

    Totally agree in general. The only bit that makes me nervous is the penultimate paragraph. If you give this task of “looking at” government activity to the Civil Service they will respond with a Task Force to investigate everything and produce reports, similar to the government’s “Better Regulation Task Force”.

    The decisions about what to axe need to be made by elected politicians with enough guts to ignore the objections and just get on with it.

    1. Paul
      May 29, 2009

      Yep, just kill them. I have experience of OFSTED and CSCI (basically OFSTED for care) and for all their bull about how much they improve things and how the world will collapse without them, they are actually pointless ignorant bureaucracies who achieve nothing.

      Their main contribution is to increase the amount of paperwork to extreme levels, because everything, literally, has to be documented or it doesn’t exist.

      This is what they mean by ‘good schools’ and ‘good care homes’. Nothing to do with the quality of the teaching or caring ; it is about compliance with pointless bureaucracy.

      Sack them all. Tomorrow ideally, but realistically day 1 of the Conservative Government.

      No-one will miss them. Things will improve.

  21. DiscoveredJoys
    May 29, 2009

    All your sentiments are music to my ears. If you can persaude Dave to talk to ordinary people this way – and deliver the changes – then the Conservatives may rescue our country from its current sorry state.

    I wonder if “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” is still true? I certainly can’t keep up with all the changes, especially the ones which are activated by a Minister’s signature.

    At one time all you had to do was avoid causing harm to others, but now the continental basis of law (unless it is specifically allowed, it is prohibited) appears to be creeping in and confusing matters.

  22. Number 6
    May 29, 2009

    John, I agree with all of the last post. One point, however, as most of the repressive and intrusive legislation (bin taxes, due to landfill directives, HIPS, ID cards in one form or another) emenate from the EU how is an incoming Conservative government going to stop it?

    I have noticed a hardening of attitude from the Conservatives on the EU, but wonder how much is mere posturing to deter more Tory votes going to UKIP.

    1. Colin D.
      May 29, 2009

      I share your concern on ‘posturing’. If Cameron committed, right now, to a referendum – regardless of whether Lisbon had come into force or not – it might demonstrate that it was not simply ‘posturing’. Incidentally, he could also grab lots of votes which will go the UKIP next week.

    2. SJB
      May 29, 2009

      HIPS, proposed ID cards, continually increasing the period in which suspects can be detained without trial, and proliferation of both surveillance and speed cameras emanate from our sovereign parliament. Their proposals to retain the DNA of innocents indefinitely was held to be illegal by … a European court.

      1. Denis Cooper
        May 30, 2009

        The irreducible core of the HIP is the Energy Performance Certificate, required by Article 7 of EU Directive 2002/91/EC, here:

        “Member States shall ensure that, when buildings are constructed, sold or rented out, an energy performance certificate is made available to the owner or by the owner to the prospective buyer or tenant, as the case might be.”

        Which is why a similar thing has been inflicted on the sovereign Republic of Ireland, and at least in this instance the Irish Times is open about its origin:

        “New-build homes being sold or let have required a BER certificate since 2007 while the requirement to have a certificate for second-hand homes only passed into law this January. The BER certificate is part of the Energy Performance of Buildings EU Directive which aims to reduce carbon emissions.”

        Presumably on the assumption that the Irish people will applaud this initiative to save the planet.

        1. SJB
          May 31, 2009

          The Energy Performance Certificate (“EPC”) is just one of the seven documents required, Denis.

          Furthermore, the homeowner may reduce his energy costs by following the recommendations of the EPC.

          Most of the documentation – proof of title, local searches, water drainage provision – is demanded by our sovereign parliament.

      2. Denis Cooper
        May 30, 2009

        As the first samples of the proposed British ID cards bore the EU’s ring of stars, it’s perfectly reasonable to suppose that ID cards are yet another example of something which “has nothing whatsoever to do with the EU”, when in truth it does have a lot to do with the EU.

        And here it’s interesting to note that while the present treaties preclude the EU from interfering with ID cards, the treaty amendments agreed at Lisbon would convert that prohibition into a permission.

        Article 18 of the present TEC, ie the Treaty establishing the European Community, on pdf page 49 here: xUriServ/

        runs as follows:

        “Article 18

        1. Every citizen of the Union shall have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, subject to the limitations and conditions laid down in this Treaty and by the measures adopted to give it effect.

        2. If action by the Community should prove necessary to attain this objective and this Treaty has not provided the necessary powers, the Council may adopt provisions with a view to facilitating the exercise of the rights referred to in paragraph 1. The Council shall act in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 251.

        3. Paragraph 2 shall not apply to provisions on passports, identity cards, residence permits or any other such document or to provisions on social security or social protection.”

        However an amendment included in the Treaty of Lisbon, on pdf page 11 here: UriServ/

        would remove that prohibition:

        “35) Article 18 shall be amended as follows:

        (a) in paragraph 2, the words ‘the Council may adopt’ shall be replaced by ‘the European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, may adopt’ and the last sentence shall be deleted;

        (b) paragraph 3 shall be replaced by the following:

        ‘3. For the same purposes as those referred to in paragraph 1 and if the Treaties have not provided the necessary powers, the Council, acting in accordance with a special legislative procedure, may adopt measures concerning social security or social protection. The Council shall act unanimously after consulting the European Parliament.’”

        and put documentation concerning social security or social protection within the ambit of the EU; while another amendment, on pfd page 29, would slip in the new permission for the EU to take legally binding decisions about other documents such as ID cards:

        “3. If action by the Union should prove necessary to facilitate the exercise of the right referred to in Article 17(2)(a), and if the Treaties have not provided the necessary powers, the Council, acting in accordance with a special legislative procedure, may adopt provisions concerning passports, identity cards, residence permits or any other such document. The Council shall act unanimously after consulting the European Parliament.”

        This is how the EU project proceeds; not in a manly, frank and transparent fashion, but slyly and surreptitiously.

        With cowardly, sneaky little specimens in back rooms conniving to gradually change the wording of complex treaties that ordinary people don’t have the time to read and analyse, mainly because they’re trying to earn an honest living, and with fellow travellers then pretending that it’s all got nothing whatsoever to do with the EU.

        1. SJB
          May 31, 2009

          Denis: “As the first samples of the proposed British ID cards bore the EU’s ring of stars, it’s perfectly reasonable to suppose that ID cards are yet another example of something which “has nothing whatsoever to do with the EU”, when in truth it does have a lot to do with the EU.”

          Our driving licences and passports now carry the EU flag, but these forms of documentation were a requirement of our sovereign parliament long before the EU was a twinkle in Jean Monnet’s eye.

          ID cards were proposed by Michael Howard, when he was a ‘tough’ Home Secretary in John Major’s government.

      3. Denis Cooper
        May 30, 2009

        And as for “increasing the period in which suspects can be detained without trial”, SJB, ever heard of “Corpus Juris”?

        1. SJB
          May 31, 2009

          I think you may be referring to where a suspect is held under judicial supervision – but surely that meets the rule of law and is superior to detention at the hands of the executive.

          You see, if this was all a wicked EU plot then wouldn’t the equivalent period of detention be similar in other member states? However, in France, German, Italy and Spain the period is just a few days: 6, 2, 4 & 5 respectively – not 28 (and a lot of MPs voted for extending this to 42 days).

          (see p9; N.B. November 2007 report)

      4. Denis Cooper
        May 30, 2009

        That link should have referred to this:

        Speed cameras, etc, SJB – ever looked at the “Transport” sections on the EU’s europa website?

        1. SJB
          May 31, 2009

          Not until just now 🙂 I am not sure what that url proves, Denis – that the EU legislates in transport matters, perhaps? As far as I am aware, the UK has significantly more cctv and speed cameras than other member states. I think the former because of this peculiar surveillance fetish that seems to have grown in the UK over the past decade; and the latter because it raises revenue.

      5. APL
        June 1, 2009

        SJB: “ID cards were proposed by Michael Howard, when he was a ‘tough’ Home Secretary in John Major’s government.”

        It was Howards support for ID cards that was the straw that broke this Tory voting camels back.

        I wrote to the man and told him so too. Little did I realize then that he was too busy (words left out) to bother with the little people.

        Reply: I have always been an opponent of them, in government and outside.

        1. APL
          June 1, 2009

          SJB: “As far as I am aware, the UK has significantly more cctv and speed cameras than other member states.”

          But many of the European countries have tolls on their main roads, you pay to get on the motorway and your ticket is checked when you get off. I have no doubt in my mind that this information can easily be tied up with the security camera that points at your vehicle, probably registering the registeration number and associating it with the ticket you are issued when you enter the toll system.

          The European countries can track you without a huge number of cameras.

          SJB: “I think the former because of this peculiar surveillance fetish that seems to have grown in the UK over the past decade; and the latter because it raises revenue.”

          The Europeans have always been accustomed to producing their ‘papers’ on demand. They expect the State to be keeping tabs on them. Over here it is thought that we need to be ‘conditioned’ to the idea, hence the prominence of the cameras.

  23. David H
    May 29, 2009

    Exactly right – someone said that 1984 was meant to be a warning about the future, not the blueprint it has become under Labour!

  24. Johnny Norfolk
    May 29, 2009

    Yes its the inocent that are punished whilst the guilty keep getting away with it.
    It is a giant con to try and make people think things are being done to protect them.

    I remember the very first thing Labour did was to reduce the ammount of asprins you could buy and its gone on from there.

  25. no one
    May 29, 2009

    now if you only said these things in the way I would you would wipe the labour party off the map
    plus numerous detailed points I could make but the big picture is broadly right here
    you will pick up lots of voters simply by adopting the policies of hook line and sinker
    you will pick up lots of voters if you simply start by giving patients who have waited longer than a month for an operation the money to go private, moving on of course to turning the nhs into a state backed insurance fund which does not operate the providers of care just provides the cheques to the patients to take where they want
    as for needing to produce a passport before a solicitor is allowed to offer me advice you can stop that nonsense straight away
    yep money to schools should not go via education authorities which waste so much of it, it should go via cheques to the parents to take where they like
    and “reasonable force” self defence should be redefined to give the victim a lot more scope for defending themselves from the scum out there
    well done
    I’m almost tempted to give Dave a ring and take him up on his offer to be a new candidate, dunno, don’t think id be employable afterwards though, must be another way to help…
    oh and pumps for all diabetics who want them! and choose their own consultant anywhere they want
    stop handing out work visas to thousands of folk from the 3rd world working for outsourcing companies like tech mahindra, its really a joke gone too far
    yes well done

  26. […] More power to the people | John Redwood MP. Areas of Impact, Features, Politics & Government, Privacy, […]

  27. Freeborn John
    May 29, 2009

    The problem is bigger than individual laws and requires changes to decentralise power that has concentrated in the cabinet. This is what I would do:

    The Lords should be reformed as an elected regional Senate. This would give the 2nd chamber a character distinct from the Commons. It should be elected by proportional representation within each region of the UK such that elections to the Commons could continue to be a choice between two competing programs of government but with the weaker 2nd chamber representing a wider range of opinion.

    The power for this Senate to block bills from the Commons would be a very substantial new power (the Lords can only delay for 1 year) that could be justified if the Lords/Senate had a true democratic legitimacy. The danger would be of the 2nd chamber becoming more powerful than the Commons. One solution might be that a supermajority (perhaps 2/3) is required to block measures on 3rd reading that had appeared in manifestos to elections for the Commons. The Lords/Senate should also have the power to block international treaties negotiated by the government as these are proving to be the Achilles Heel in our system today through which political power escapes the democratic arena to international organisations.

    The Lords/Senate should not be elected at the same time as the Commons. One possibility would the follow the practice in the US Senate of electing 1/3 of its members every 2 years so that we can periodically fine tune the power of this 2nd chamber to resist the government. Party discipline and the Whips will inevitably mean that the leaders of the parties in the Commons would exert influence in the 2nd chamber, but everything possible should be done to minimise this including PR to encourage more parties, a rule that members of the Senate cannot be ‘promoted’ to ministers and perhaps more pay than MPs to encourage them to stay in the weaker chamber.

    On its own this would not enough. Other countries have bicameral legislatures that have rubber stamped Lisbon with only Ireland’s constitutional safeguards proving effective. A reformed British system should be documented in a written constitution that can only be amended by national referendum, and which should also include a citizens right to initiate by petition referendums to strike down individual new laws from either Westminster or the EU parliament (the latter in the UK only of course) and international treaties that would transfer law making authority outside Westminster. This would retain the traditional advantages of representative democracy while giving voters the possibility of a final say to reject the worst ideas of politicians.

  28. ManicBeancounter
    May 30, 2009

    Mr Redwood. I believe that you are grasping at something fundamental here, but have not fully identifying the alternative.
    In banking, you have pointed out that there was too much form filling and monitoring, but no perspective of the bigger picture, and no detection of when things go wrong.
    Our former Chancellor, assumed that things would go on for the same for ever and budgeted accordingly. A financial crisis could now turn this country insolvent.
    In social work, there is plenty of report writing and meetings, but 18 people failed to detect that drastic action was needed.
    In our schools, as much time is spent monitoring children’s progress and planning lessons, as actually teaching. Staffing inputs are much higher than a generation ago, but the outputs in either educational levels, or turning out upstanding citizens of our community, are either static or falling.
    We have replaced decision-making based on experience, general principles and a common cultural understanding, with the application detailed rules based on a myriad of information. It is based on the false belief that a better society and people can be created by better and more detailed rules. That belief used to be called Socialism.
    Britain is the best country for developing a decision-making society, as to some extent it is reverting back. For instance, a system of law based on general principles derived from experience is called English Common Law. Government expenditure should be focused on benefits over costs, rather benefit at any cost. It should be about funding pluralistic approaches developed from experience, rather than a unitary leviathan thought up by a spin doctor as a way of improving the weekly opinion poll rating.

  29. Robert George
    May 30, 2009

    Government is a sclerotic disease clogging the arteries of life. This is merely one manifestation of it. However the disease is so advanced that I doubt that it is possible for democratic institutions to fix it.

    Unfortunately all politicians at bottom believe in government and that belief is fundamental to our inability to fix the disease.

    I hope that I am wrong but doubt Cameron’s conviction and his capacity to cut government in all its manifestations down to size.

  30. adam
    May 30, 2009

    Government likes to appropriate powers to themselves to administer life on planet earth under the guise of authority knowing best and being responsible.
    But as we have seen in Ireland, government does not always work toward what its morally best and has conflicting interests, rarely does government accept the accountability that should come with responsibility.

  31. A. Sedgwick
    May 30, 2009

    Let us hope the next Tory Government has the gumption to put your views into action. One issue – vehicle clamping – in Scotland this is classified as theft and obviously without the law. Although motorists should not park on private property, which should be fenced off anyway, this is another example where this government has turned blind eyes to thuggery, intimidation and destroyed sane policing. For the record I have not been clamped.

  32. OJW
    May 30, 2009

    “roads to be able to drive on” – hey don’t assume every taxpayer is in a motor-vehicle!

    Reply: I assume that every taxpayer buys food, drink and other necessities that have been delivered by v an and lorry.

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