Friday, 2 July 2010

UK Civil Liberties [updated]

Look at what's happening in the UK and weep for New Zealand.

From a newly launched UK government website: Your Freedom.
We're working to create a more open and less intrusive society through our Programme for Government. We want to restore Britain’s traditions of freedom and fairness, and free our society of unnecessary laws and regulations – both for individuals and businesses.

This site gives you the chance to submit, comment on, or vote for ideas about how we can do this. Your ideas will inform government policy and some of your proposals could end up making it into bills we bring before Parliament to change the law.

So if there are any laws or regulations you'd like us to do away with, then submit your idea. If you see ideas here already that you like the look of, then rate them and get them moved up the list. And if there’s more you’d like to say, then talk to others in the comments section for each proposal.

It’s time to have your say. After all – it’s your freedom.
We'll have to see what, if anything, comes of the initiative. But at least the British coalition of Tories and Liberals seems to be heading in the right direction. Here, not so much. The Regulatory Responsibility Bill may yet wind up being important in slowing the growth of regulatory interference in personal liberties, but there doesn't seem there much scope for winding back existing restrictions:
Accordingly, the proper baseline to be used to assess whether a particular piece of legislation diminishes from existing liberty, personal security, freedom of choice of action or rights to property is the surrounding body of law and legal principles. It is only legislation which seeks to place additional restrictions on personal liberties, freedoms or rights that may be incompatible with the principle.
Winding back existing restrictions would require a bit more Parliamentary will than here exists. We'll see if the UK is up to it.

HT: Puddlecote

Update: Clause 16 of the Reg Responsibility Bill requires agencies regularly to review legislation they administer. But enforcement really still requires a rather strong constitutional spirit: the harshest penalty under the legislation is a statement of non-compliance from the courts. I'm not sure that much else can be done, given Parliamentary supremacy. I just don't get my hopes up too high.


  1. The RRB does include going back and reviewing all existing legislation.

    But yeah.

  2. That's an excellent initiative, it will be interesting to see what eventuates from it; whether they'll tackle issues of real concern or settle for streamlining some paperwork processes.

  3. Nice initiative, but UK is horribly regulated as it is.

    You can't get a pub license without agreeing to film everyone coming in, and hand that over to the police on demand.

    The UK state is installing CCTV cameras inside private homes to make sure kids go to bed on time.

    The article says there was no outcry on that second plan and IIRC the then-Tory opposition criticised it as not going far enough.

  4. @mattb: They're starting from a far worse place than we're at, agreed.