You What?

GORDON BROWN has set himself on a collision course with the legal establishment over plans to give civil servants and government agencies the power to remove people’s passports without going through the courts.

Senior legal figures, including two former attorney-generals and a lord chief justice, have expressed deep concern about preparations to adopt new powers to confiscate passports. They warn the government not to use reform of prerogative powers as an excuse to force through a “serious” curtailment of long-standing freedoms.

They have attacked proposals in the child maintenance bill, now going through Parliament, to allow civil servants to prevent errant fathers who refuse to support their children from travelling abroad.

Let me get this straight, a clerk in the Child Support Agency (which, as we know, is so terribly efficient in itself) has the right to take your passport away? That is the proposal?

Crippled Jesu C on a crutch, what will they think of next? I think we\’d all be wise to take William Buiter\’s advice, collect as many nationalities and passports as you can.

13 comments on “You What?

  1. Ah but didn’t anyone notice the words IDENTITY CARD? You know, the things that will protected us (biometrically) from ID fraud, that will be our gateway to the public services, the things that will be mandatory for day-to-day life under New Labour. These too will be confiscated (since they will allow travel within the EU). Some oik in the CSA will be able to deprive you of the ability to see a doctor or dentist, to buy a drink in a bar, to open a bank account.

    Unfuckingbelievable.

  2. “As far as I’m concerned, the police should be the only people with power to confiscate passports. ”

    I’d rather they didn’t have that power either, actually. And I’d rather the courts had the power only in so far as necessary to restrict travel (condition of bail, etc.). Not as some arbitrary punishment (“Been a bad boy? Nanny State will take away your driving and holiday privileges”).

    I so hate this Government. The sooner England can be independent of Scotland and deport Brown the better.

  3. As a parent — amongst tens of thousands of others every year — who has seen his child abducted with the collusion of a secret court (to society’s collective indifference), I am pissing myself laughing over the outrage this proposal is causing amongst the comfortable majority.

    I am a CSA refusenik by the way, and proud of it. I’m mildly surprised that I’m still at liberty at all, given the number of summonses and court orders I have ignored. Perhaps they’ll have room for me when they’ve built the new super-prisons!

  4. In the 1970s, the Soviets used to clip the wings of dissidents by confiscating their passports. At least, one assumes, the decision was taken at high KGB level, perhaps even by the Politburo, so one was being spited by really high heid yins.

    The term “police state” was always something of a misnomer. Sure, the bad news finally came from the Gestapo or NKVD/KGB. But the whole apparat was maintained by shiny-arsed clerks moving index cards fom one pile to another.

    Sounds like what we now have, with the CSA instead of the Stasi, and digital data instead of file cards; and once the pilot has been proved, as many departments as possible will join the apparat, with the whole population as targets.

    Tim adds: Actually, the Soviet system was worse than that. You had a passport, yes, but that was an internal document. It didn’t get you across the borders. You had to apply for a “real” passport for every foreign trip you made.

  5. “I am pissing myself laughing over the outrage this proposal is causing amongst the comfortable majority.”

    Hey, most of us are just as outraged over the secret kangaroo courts kidnapping kids from parent(s).

  6. “…most of us are just as outraged over the secret kangaroo courts kidnapping kids from parent(s).”

    Indeed. It’s the one subject you’d think would get more publicity from the chattering classes and the ‘Grauniad’ readers. Or is it only bad when it’s happening in Latin America or the Far East? I can never keep up with their little fads.

  7. Apologies, Kay Tie: present company excepted, of course. But as JuliaM observes, it is something you would expect the liberal-left (excuse the shorthand) to be exercised about — this being an issue of gender equality and civil liberties, and all that. In fact, quite the reverse has been the case: the most virulent opposition to equal parenting and the opening up of the family courts (except, in the case of the latter, when it comes to social services removing children from mothers) has come from papers like the Guardian and The Independent. This is the one aspect of the whole experience which I have found the most difficult to get my head around.

  8. “This is the one aspect of the whole experience which I have found the most difficult to get my head around.”

    It’s easy to understand. It’s THEIR Government in power, ergo it can do no wrong (other than not being brave enough, going far enough, being radical enough, etc. etc.). As illustrated weekly by Our Polly.

    Just watch them do a 180 on family courts when the Tories are in power..

  9. “Just watch them do a 180 on family courts when the Tories are in power”

    I’m not holding my breath: the ‘woman’s vote’ is core to NuLab’s constituency (remember, 1 in 4 kids now grows up in a single-mother household), and it is territory which Cameron has been eyeing up for some time now. Myself and others commented on this — and on the Tories’ apparent abandonment of the commitment to shared parenting which they made at the height of the F4J campaign — on the ‘Social Justice Challenge’ website back in Feb/March. The site was an initiative of Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice, but has now been taken down (infuriatingly).

    PS, JuliaM: The issue of women’s rights in Iran is a regular topic on R4’s Woman’s Hour and there is usually some reference to the injustice of the family courts, where the situation is the inverse of ours (i.e. the woman loses the kids)…

    Jeff Wood – Spot on. The point was made very memorably by Hannah Arendt in her book on the Eichmann trial in the early 60s, when she referred to ‘the banality of evil’; and it was Ian Kershaw, I think, who wrote: “The road to Auschwitz was paved not with hatred, but with indifference.” (I’m quoting from memory, but it’s something along those lines).

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