Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Home Office replies

Things are quiet of late still, mainly due to heavy workload and some other activities, but I have received a response from MP Des Browne, following my initial letter to my MP back in December.

I've only just transcribed it into electronic format (so apologies for any typos), but rest assured there are plenty of points to respond to in it, along with some interesting (to me) tidbits such as the definition of "serious crime" (" conducted by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose").

As usual, the Home Office tends to ignore any sensible point about the proposals, opting instead to submit back to me their own stock set of arguments as explained patiently to the media every time the issue arises. By the looks of it, the letter isn't a standard form one (which is heartening - I like having attention paid to me ;), but I wouldn't be surprised if there was some copying and pasting from a "standard response" document somewhere. The usual vaguaries are also abundant, for instance:

"Law enforcement agencies ... will be able to seek disclosure of information from the Register for specified purposes e.g. for the prevention or investigation of crime."

So when something is "specified", it's nice and broad then.

I will try and find some time to concoct a decent reply asap. It's nice to know that maybe maybe I have their ear for a change, too.


Anonymous said...

There is a lot of similarity between the reply sent to you, and the official response to the NO2ID online petition on the 10 Downing Street website.

"Pathetic UK Government response to the NO2ID online petition opposing the ID Card and biometric National Identity Register scheme"


Chameleon said...

It really makes my blood boil to see how the government is happy to cite other EU member states as an example to follow when it suits their purposes, whilst at all other times it maintains a hypocritical stance of Euro-scepticism for fear of losing votes. Strangely enough, all the aspects of EU co-operation, which would make life easier for UK citizens (the Euro and Schengen) are rigorously denied us, whilst the more authoritarian aspects (ID cards) are embraced with enthusiasm. What a pity that there is no true alternative to Labour acceptable to Britain as a whole (Scotland is a lost cause, having been the Labour stronghold throughout the Thatcher years). For the record, I do not support the Conservatives and the Liberals will never attract enough votes to topple Tony. His overwhelming majority demonstrates the iniquities of the first past the post system and is degenerating into one-party dictatorship, Soviet style.

Scribe said...

Thanks for the link, anon. I did have a feeling that was the case, but I've not had time yet to compare the 2 responses properly. A quick scan prompts me to believe my copy-n-paste theory. To do this evening is check which of my original points have been answered and which are being deftly avoided.

There's a definite 2005 post-Blunkett air of switching the arguments from the government's POV, I think. Their main reason (i.e. set forth first) now seems to be that "we'd have to do this anyway, so better to invest a little more to get more benefit." I suspect this is in response to the main argument made by the majority of people - whether the scheme is economically efficient or not. Unfortunately today's politics is increasingly being run along these lines, rather than whether or not something is *right* for the situation. Hooray for capitalism. Still, I think there's a good case still that this scheme *isn't* going to be particularly cost-effective...

The other point I intend to pick up on is the subversion of the term "civil liberties". The government are rapidly, subtly and unduly modifying this soon-to-be-cliche well away from its actual meaning. From

"civil liberties : Fundamental individual rights, such as freedom of speech and religion, protected by law against unwarranted governmental or other interference."

The key word here is *fundamental*. Since when did that mean that you must have a government-issued mandate to have these basic rights? Does that mean that if I refuse to sign up to the scheme, that I'm not allowed freedom of speech or freedom of worship?

Whitehall has mixed the term up so that it means what they want it to mean, allowing them to use it in ways that make more sense in their own argument. Don't let them erode our language, too.