What should be in the Freedom Bill 2?

8 January 2013

As I mentioned earlier, one of the pleasant surprises with the Mid-Term Review was the inclusion of a promise to do more on civil liberties:

As we take these steps to reshape the British state for the 21st century, we will take further steps to limit its scope and extend our freedoms.

The two main civil liberties issues at the moment are secret courts and the online snoopers’ charter, which are covered elsewhere in the document:

We will legislate to ensure that the security services are properly monitored through increased Parliamentary oversight and that proper balance is struck in trials involving highly sensitive matters of national security.

and

We will consider the report of the Joint Committee on the draft Communications Data Bill before bringing a new Bill to Parliament.

So what of Freedom Bill 2? Its contents are still very much up for debate and so far seem to be rather weighted towards the ‘small but sensible tidying up of anachronisms’ end of things. The equivalents, that is, of the first Freedom Bill’s reforms to let you marry at 6:01pm.

It is however also a chance to push for more substantive content too. So what else would you want to see in it?

UPDATE: Some suggestions via Twitter -

Add your comment...
Please be polite, on topic and don't use multiple different names. Thanks!

5 comments
Francis Josephe
Francis Josephe

Abolish BSL!

Mark Pack
Mark Pack

Er, really Francis? I guess you don't mean British Sign Language which is what BSL often stands for the in UK. Perhaps you mean the American Breed Specific Legislation, but I'm not sure that a British Parliament passing a motion to abolish another country's law would quite work out...

John Doran
John Doran

How about the abolition of secret courts!

Richard Wingfield
Richard Wingfield

A good starting point is to look at the Freedom Bill 2009 the Lib Dems published when Chris Huhne was our Home Affairs spokesman. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/feb/26/liberal-democrats-civil-liberties Of those 20 proposals, I calculate that 8 have been implemented in full by the coalition government (including scrapping ID cards, reducing the maximum period of detention to 14 days, scrapping ContactPoint, and removing innocent people from the DNA database). 2 more have been implemented in part (scrapping control orders and reviewing CCTV legislation). That leaves 10 which haven't been implemented at all, presumably because the Tories didn't agree with us. These are: 1. Amend the Extradition Act 2003 and renegotiate the unfair extradition arrangements with the United States of America;. 2. Restore the right to public assembly for more than two people;. 3. Repeal offences criminalising trespass under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act;. 4. Restore the right to silence for those accused;. 5. Restore the public interest defence for whistleblowers;. 6. Repeal the provisions permitting bad character evidence to be used in court;. 7. Restore the principle of double jeopardy;. 8. Repeal provisions allowing bailiffs to use force;. 9. Strengthen the Freedom of Information Act 2000 by giving greater powers to the Information Commissioner and reducing the number of exemptions;. 10. Repeal the ministerial veto of Information Tribunal decisions. In terms of new ideas, I'd really like to see some tidying up of the criminal law. We know that Labour introduced several thousand new criminal offences during its time in power. Surely there should be a review of all of these to see whether they're absolutely necessary. The MoJ recently reported (http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/statistics/criminal-justice-stats/new-criminal-offences/new-criminal-offences-june09-may2012.pdf) that between 1st June 2010 and 31st May 2012 the coalition government created 466 new offences. Nearly 500 criminal offences in two years is just ridiculous. It would be a huge task, I expect, but the government should go through all legislation to produce a database of criminal offences and see which ones can be repealed. I'm sure many could.

C-