Below is an email chain with my MP. In summary, my concerns have been sent on to the Home Office. Those pursuing procrastination might enjoy the conversation.
Dear Mr Wright,
Over a month ago I sent you a long letter about the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Bill, accompanied by an email with ‘hyperlinks’ to parts of the bill itself, and other sources such as concerned charities and legal opinion.
My letter asked you to fight for amendments in the bill’s third reading (set for early October, I believe). I was concerned by how:
- the bill makes it near-impossible to get compensation for miscarriage of justice
- the bill’s IPNAs give police too much power with too much subjective discretion
- the bill’s PSPOs [dispersal orders] threatens legal protest and freedom of assembly
- the bill contributes to a general lurch towards heavy-handed state supervision (web filter, ‘Go Home’ van, ad nauseum)
I researched this letter quite carefully. I felt you would be interested and aghast at the poor wording of the bill, not least because – as I’m sure you’re aware as a lawyer – it could add significantly to your future prisons workload. I’m currently a research fellow at a Westminster think tank, so had conversations about the topic with several of the great and the good. I put a lot of time into contacting you, since I feel these issues of liberty and rights are important.
I was thus dismayed when I received your eventual response. I attach an image to remind you. Your response (or the response of your office) failed to acknowledge or address any of my concerns, and instead discussed dangerous dogs – which are admittedly mentioned within the bill, but not in my letter. It’s hard to understand how such a level of laziness, shoddiness or deliberate obstruction can be possible in our democratic society – and from the office of the Minister for Prisons no less!
I’m aware that at least one other constituent has been disappointed by your office’s standards of constituency correspondence. I would appreciate both an explanation and an apology. Actual action on the bill would be a plus.
Dear Mr Lindsell,
Thank you for your further email, I am sorry for the delay in responding to you.
I recognise that the response you received did not answer the issues that you raised in your email and accept that you should not have been sent that response, for which I apologise. This is an oversight as I have always sought to fully address the matters that constituents raise with me, and greatly value the opportunity to enter into dialogue on important issues. I would hope that no one is discouraged from doing so in the future by virtue of a mistake being made. Please accept my apologies in this regard as this will probably be the last time you write to me as you no longer live in my constituency. I note from your email exchange below with my researcher Caroline that you recently moved to London.
Once again I am sorry for the disappointing response you received.
Dear Mr Wright,
Thank you for your reply. I would be more willing to accept your apology, and to resist discouragement, if you took the time to address my original concern, however briefly. You are correct that I’m currently living in London, but am on a temporary contract, have not registered to vote here, and will most likely be back in Warwickshire next year. My parents and sister, who have no plans to move, are also interested in your response.
The Bill in question receives its third reading in under two weeks, and I remain concerned that various issues have not been properly scrutinised.
Dear Mr Lindsell,
I will write to the Home Office to obtain a response to the specific points that you raise on the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. Perhaps you could provide me with your London address so that I can pass on a copy of the response when I receive it?
On the wider points that you make about civil liberties, I would disagree with your analysis of the Government’s record in this area, particularly when the actions of the previous Government are borne in mind.
Since 2010 a full review of counter-terrorism powers and legislation has taken place, with a number of significant changes being made. Control orders have been replaced with a much more targeted and effective system of Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures, which allow the public to be protected, but prevent individuals being subject to restrictive and unnecessary monitoring for indefinite periods. The 28 day limit for detention without trial for terrorist suspects has been reduced to 14 days. Stop and search powers which existed under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 have been repealed and replaced with more limited powers. The Home Secretary has been forthright in publically reminding the police of the mistrust and resentment that the improper use of stop and search causes. The Home Office has recently run a public consultation to seek views on the use stop and search powers.
In addition to this, Labour’s plans to introduce ID cards and an accompanying national identity database have been scrapped. The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 introduced a range of measures to restrict the ability of local authorities to place individuals under surveillance for trivial matters. The use of CCTV and other surveillance technology has been made subject to stronger regulation. Stronger controls have been placed on the retention and use of biometric data.
The Government has a difficult task in balancing the need to keep the public safe and the need to uphold basic freedoms and liberties, and I believe that the correct balance is being struck. We have taken a careful, principled and pragmatic approach to finding this balance and as a result, both security and the protection of cherished civil liberties have been strengthened.
Jeremy Wright MP
My nominal Westminster MP, Karen Buck (Lab) wrote on 07/10/13 apologising for the delay and letting me know: “as your concerns are detailed and far reaching, I have sent them to the Home Secretary for comment.”
Both MPs have now taken as much action as could reasonably be expected. The Third Reading of the Bill is on 14 October, this Monday. Hooray for democracy.
Feel free to comment!