Declan Wilkes has worked as an investigative journalist and reporter for a decade. He is currently the News Editor of thelondondailynews.com. Ahead of the Queen’s Speech today, Declan reviews the proposed Labour bills in the field of civil liberties.
In spite of what you may have read about activities in the House of Commons last week, the state’s attempts to know what you do, where you go and what you think continues unabated.
Today's ‘slimline’ Queen’s Speech, with 15 bills plus two draft measures, is the continuation of a decade old project that has weakened the institutions that safeguard our democracy and hold the state to account.
Conservative Party Leader David Cameron has called it the "most divisive, short-termist, shamelessly self-serving" one "in living memory". Liberal Democrat frontman Nick Clegg has called on it to be cancelled.
The past week has seen ministers scrambling to secure their pet projects, hoping a possible new Conservative administration will be too preoccupied with the economy to dismantle the surveillance state apparatus that Chief Constables are only too happy to have.
The electronic database was sacrificed as the sharpest barb of a twin pronged attack on civil rights in order to get plans on the continued indefinite retention of innocents on the DNA database through parliament.
From the government that brought you Asbos, control orders, detention without trial, trial without jury, arbitrary extraditions, the largest DNA database in the world, continued secrecy of the courts, bailiffs into your homes, and allowed council jobsworths to spy on you come the latest round of freedom bashing bills.
Indefinite DNA retention
The Policing, Crime and Private Security Bill means innocent people still face the prospect of indefinite retention of their genetic profile – despite a European Court ruling that said keeping the data indefinitely was a violation of human rights.
Those suspected of terrorism offences will have their DNA stored for life. Those suspected of violent offences or sexual assaults will have data retained for six years despite never being charged or convicted.
Labour changed the law in 2004 so that anybody who came into contact with police could have their DNA taken and stored.
‘Mastering the internet’
The £2bn electronic database has been dropped from the Queens Speech; however much of the work has already been done.
Spymasters at GCHQ have been working on their 'Mastering the Internet' project for years, its existence only revealed in a job advert last year. Hundreds of millions of pounds have already been spent, Hewlett-Packard were already lined up to design and install the system and American defence giant Lockheed Martin have been providing GCHQ with data mining software.
A breakthrough may already have been reached that will combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing spooks to build extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals.
There are rumours a bill may abolish restrictions on protests around Parliament could be included according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.
Under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, people who want to protest in Parliament Square must first get permission from the police.
The Constitutional Renewal Bill, which was included in the Government's draft legislative programme earlier this year, would repeal that requirement.
While the threatened £2bn database of your emails, phone calls and text messages, will now not go ahead, at least not in this parliament, but it is a legally binding EU Directive that at some point will become law.
With Parliament likely to sit for about 40-70 days before an election next May, ministers admit not all proposals will become law.
Labours final attacks on civil liberties may never be law – bills that are not completed by the time the general election is announced can be blocked in the Lords who have thrown out their bills 444 times since 1999.
There in lies the reasoning behind the most political Queens Speech ever, Brown has nothing to lose.
For 13 years mission creep, secrecy and the perpetuity of taking justice out of the hands of responsible and accountable officials has eroded democracy and created a viable jail cell for a Big Brother state still under construction.
What crept through before Parliament Closed?
Before Parliament closed secrets inquests were resurrected buried deep away in the Coroners and Justice Bill which was passed in a close vote and now only needs Royal Assent.
While the Lord Chief Justice will have the power to veto a request for a private inquest and appoint the judge, ministers would still be able to set an inquest's terms of reference whilst restricting who can attend and what information was published.
Straw insists only a tiny number of cases would be affected – just like only a tiny amount of people would be affected by anti-terror legislation.
The main argument by the state was national security and airing of intercept evidence and 'sensitive' cases.
The clause provides a mechanism to cover up any deaths that could reveal negligence, wrongdoing or cause embarrassment creating a Big Brother state that can not be scrutinized. The natural erosion of justice extended to the dead.
Even the most basic tenet, deciding who can enter your home, has been subjugated by the state.
An amendment last week to the Proceeds of Crime Act, means a whole swathe of debt collectors, bailiffs and council officials can soon force their way in, seize cash, confiscate property and freeze assets on the basis of dodgy parking tickets or falling behind on your council tax.
Vulnerable people who struggle to stay on top of their bills face becoming easy targets for a profit driven cabal – obstructing officials can land you with a £2,500 fine and a year in jail.
A Statutory Instrument by Home Office Secretary Alan Johnson established this new intrusion, it required no parliamentary debate.
Today we see this government's final cynical blueprints.