There would appear to be a small furore today over the matter of Eric Pickles letter to mosques asking them to teach their congregations about ‘what being a British Muslim means today’.
It is not my intention to comment on whether this was a wise move by Pickles but, instead, to pick up one phrase used in his letter. He writes:
And yet, amid the carnage, came a sign of hope – over three million people of all backgrounds, marching to defeat the gunmen and to protect our values: free speech, the rule of law, and democracy.
The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, currently going through Parliament with barely any opposition to speak of, surely impinges on basic freedoms of both free speech and democracy.
What may be considered a ‘learned opinion‘ of this Bill informs us:
Under the Bill, a police or immigration officer will be able to seize someone’s passport at the port to prevent them leaving the country (whether they are British or foreign), on a reasonable suspicion that the person ‘intends to leave the UK in connection with terrorism-related activity’ abroad. No reasons need be given. Refusal to hand over the passport will be a criminal offence. Force can be used to seize the passport, which can be retained for two weeks, or thirty days with permission from a magistrate, who can’t refuse if the officer is investigating with diligence and expedition. The hearing before the magistrate will be subject to the ‘closed material procedure’ which will exclude the person concerned and his or her lawyer. There is no provision for compensation if the seizure turns out to be wrongful and the suspicion groundless, and the power can be used repeatedly, with minimal safeguards. (Emphasis mine)
Er, where is ‘free speech’ or ‘democracy’ – especially as we are celebrating this year the 800th anniversary f Magna Carta, supposedly the founding document of English liberties? There must also be a tad of irony in invoking ‘the rule of law’ when law is imposed on the majority by an extremely small minority; especially when said majority have not been consulted on whether they agree with said law or not.
There must be an element of irony where our political class ‘wax lyrical’ about free speech and democracy while closing down both – or is just me that cannot see that?