Friday, February 27, 2009

Lib Dems propose scrapping ministerial veto

The Liberal Democrats have launched a draft Freedom Bill detailing the party's plans to restore civil liberties:
Our first draft of the Freedom Bill contains twenty measures to restore the fundamental rights that have been stripped away in recent years. We would:
  • Scrap ID cards for everyone, including foreign nationals.
  • Ensure that there are no restrictions in the right to trial by jury for serious offences including fraud.
  • Restore the right to protest in Parliament Square, at the heart of our democracy.
  • Abolish the flawed control orders regime.
  • Renegotiate the unfair extradition treaty with the United States.
  • Restore the right to public assembly for more than two people.
  • Scrap the ContactPoint database of all children in Britain.
  • Strengthen freedom of information by giving greater powers to the Information Commissioner and reducing exemptions.
  • Stop criminalising trespass.
  • Restore the public interest defence for whistleblowers.
  • Prevent allegations of ‘bad character’ from being used in court.
  • Restore the right to silence when accused in court.
  • Prevent bailiffs from using force.
  • Restrict the use of surveillance powers to the investigation of serious crimes and stop councils snooping.
  • Restore the principle of double jeopardy in UK law.
  • Remove innocent people from the DNA database.
  • Reduce the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 14 days.
  • Scrap the ministerial veto which allowed the Government to block the release of Cabinet minutes relating to the Iraq war.
  • Require explicit parental consent for biometric information to be taken from children.
  • Regulate CCTV following a Royal Commission on cameras.
The explanatory note on the Bill's FOI provisions states:
The Liberal Democrats would bring the rest of the UK in line with Scotland, where exemptions have to pass a higher test of ‘substantial harm’ to public interests, rather than ‘prejudice to’. The current situation allows those who hoard our personal data far too much room for manoeuvre. Public access to information should be as free as possible and requests should only be refused if the release of information into the public domain will cause significant harm to society. The idea of substantial harm featured in the original White Paper preceding the 2000 Act but was eventually watered down. The Liberal Democrats would put an end to such watering down of access to information.
The only exemptions the Bill amends as it stands however are those in section 36 of the Act for prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs. As well as repealing the ministerial veto, the Bill would amend section 59 of the Act so that there would be no further right of appeal from the Information Tribunal.

The Freedom Bill website states that the Bill is intended to be a consultative document. You can add your views and sign a petition.

The Freedom Bill website

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