Last week the Green Investment Bank made its first loans, as Nick Clegg mentioned yesterday, and this week the Protection of Freedoms Bill received Royal Assent and became an Act, as Tom Brake wrote about.
The Protection of Freedoms Act includes the banning of rogue private wheel clampers, who are so unpopular that when Lynne Featherstone announced the plans last year it resulted in wall-to-wall positive coverage from the broadcast media, the tabloid press, the broadsheet press and even the pollsters. When the media and 87% of the public love a policy of ours that we have just turned into law, it is well worth telling the public about it…
On the more traditional civil liberties fronts, the Act includes:
- the repeal of powers to hold serious and complex fraud trials without a jury
- an end to the routine monitoring of 9.3 million people under the radically reformed vetting and barring scheme, replacing the dreadful old system where innocent could never mean innocent
- millions of householders protected from town hall snoopers checking their bins or school catchment area, a great improvement on the deeply flawed RIPA legislation introduced by Labour – though there is much more to be done on that when RIPA comes up again in the next Parliamentary session
- the scrapping of Section 44 powers, which have been used to stop and search hundreds of thousands of innocent people and widely implicated in over-zealous policing stopping photographers from taking innocent and innocuous photos for no good reason
- the permanent reduction of the maximum period of pre-charge detention for terrorist suspects to 14 days
- DNA samples and fingerprints of hundreds of thousands of innocent people deleted from police databases
- thousands of gay men able to clear their name with the removal of out-of-date convictions for consensual acts
- an end to the fingerprinting of children in schools without parental consent
- restrictions on the powers of government departments, local authorities and other public bodies to enter private homes and other premises for investigations and a requirement for all to examine and slim down remaining powers
- the extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act and strengthening the public rights to data
Oh, and the right to marry after 6pm in the evening has been granted, at least to straight people (another topic that will come back later in this Parliament for more debate…).
Two weeks, two major achievements for the Liberal Democrats in government.