Thursday 26 May 2016

By reducing our freedoms the Government is doing the extremists' job for them - Jenny Jones

This is the text of the speech Jenny Jones, the Green Party member of the House of Lords, gave on Tuesday:

My Lords, I wish to speak about two proposed Bills: the Investigatory Powers Bill and the extremism Bill. I am not sure whether noble Lords know that the States, which has had similar legislation to this in the past, is now rolling it back partly because of privacy concerns but also because it has been found not to be very effective.

I have a little experience of the police and can tell noble Lords that they cannot cope with the data they have at the moment, so giving them vast amounts more data is very counterintuitive and is likely to worsen their work rate. This legislation, if adopted in its current form, would have devastating effects on people’s right to privacy and on other human rights. It seems to me that the surveillance activities proposed in this legislation go way too far, far too fast. Vast powers to monitor communications, access personal information and tamper with computers, phones and software are provided for. These powers are vaguely described, disproportionate and lack critical safeguards, including proper independent judicial scrutiny. I hope this House will examine these proposals carefully, some of which are technical and difficult. I am not very technically minded but I aim to follow the proposals closely, as they could have a serious impact on the privacy of all of us.

Turning to the extremism Bill, as others have said, the definition of “extremism” will be very difficult to pin down. This has caused problems in the past. Noble Lords may or may not know—I have mentioned it before—that I am an accredited domestic extremist as far as the police are concerned. It seems to me that if they can judge me an extremist, they are experiencing some mission creep. The minute you give powers to people, they will abuse them. They may not mean to. Indeed, they may think that they are doing their job properly. However, the fact is that I and several other senior Green Party people have been described as domestic extremists. That is absolutely ludicrous. We are elected and obey the law. I very much hope that at some point I may get an apology from the police, but none has been given so far.

I have some specific questions about the Bill and the proposal. I do not expect an answer today but they may inform the debate later as I shall certainly raise them again. Will I and other people on the domestic extremism database be banned from talking to schools, for example, under the new counterterrorism and safeguarding Bill, because that is one of the proposals? Will the list of banned people be separate from the list of those monitored on the domestic extremism database? Will there be categories? Will the proposed definition of an extremist be legally binding, or will it merely provide the police with “guidance” and thus enable them to include whoever they like on whatever list they like? Again, I refer to my comments about mission creep. Will the Bill allow the Home Office to include categories of people on the list in the way that the police currently include elected Greens? Will the definition of extremism be restricted in any way to those advocating violence—as I feel it should—or to those convicted of a serious crime, or will it bear absolutely no relation to whether the person is innocent of any crime, or even under investigation for a specific crime? How will a person appeal against being on the list and challenge the Government’s view that they are an extremist? I have tried to get to the bottom of who originally labelled me a domestic extremist and who decided that it was worth monitoring me. It has been impossible to get that information out of the police. They decline to talk about specific cases, even when they involve the person asking for the information.

If the Government reduce our freedoms, they are doing the extremists’ job for them. They are doing the terrorists’ job of changing our culture and our society. That is extremely damaging.

1 comment:

Philip Grant said...

Is the publisher of "Wembley Matters" also an 'accredited domestic extremist'?

If so, I fear that the proposed Extremism Bill may rob us of one of the few local sources of genuine democratic discussion.