If your political antennae have been sensitive to the undercurrents shimmering across the blogosphere, then you will have picked up the few postings alerting readers to the implications of the Civil Contingencies Bill. The dangers of this giant step towards authoritarianism have been publicised far more effectively both by David Carr and on Iain Murray’s personal weblog, The Edge of Englands Sword:
Lord Lucas has described the Civil Contingencies Bill as comparable to Hitler’s Enabling Act of 1933 which enabled him to transform Germany’s Weimar Republic into his own personal tyranny. I have now read it, and I have to say that he is not exaggerating.
Readers could argue that this is an invocation of Godwin’s Law and that, by quoting this passage, I have lost the argument. However, this opinion is that of Torquil Dirk-Erikson, “a noted Eurosceptic writer and learned silk”. However, in considering the passage of this Act, it should also be noted that the European Constitution has a section on ‘civil protection’ as one of the coordinating powers for the European authorities.
The Government wishes to push through an updated Civil Contingencies Bill in 2004. It does not mention the EU, but the draft EU Constitution includes ‘civil protection’ as an area for ‘coordinating action’ and the current Treaty mentions the topic vaguely. The Bill also enables the creation of arbitrary imprisonable criminal offences. It enables regulations that can delegate powers to anyone or confer jurisdiction on any court or tribunal. This could be an EU body, unaccountable to government or the people.
Although the draft Constitution gives us a veto on a European Public Prosecutor (the Government says it ‘currently’ sees no reason for one) Blair has said that he opposes permanent ‘opt-outs’ or being isolated in Europe. Although the amended Bill states that it will not change criminal procedure, the Government is happy for the EU to have over-riding powers to do this via the EU Constitution.
These developments happen at a time when the Government is trying to introduce universal ID cards and a ‘population register’, and has just announced a national database to carry information on all children, not merely those ‘at risk’ (Sunday Times, 25.7.04). Again there are worrying parallels with European developments. Amazingly, MI5’s website, which is listed in Preparing For Emergencies assures us that “the subversive threat to parliamentary democracy is now negligible”.
One giant step along ‘Chavez’ Blair’s road to a ‘managed democracy’.
Cross-posted to Samizdata.