Sunday, December 13, 2009

A jumped-up chicken of a Parliament—when will it realise its lost its head?

Douglas Carswell asks if the left secretly—or even not so secretly—hates the web.
The Left’s self image is that it is progressive and modern and “gets” the web. Yet some of the smarter ones are starting to grasp that it spells the end of the big corporate politics and media on which the British Left, and their quango state, have come to depend. They’re going to hate it.

Quite so. And, of course, they are going to take steps to control it.

What steps? What can they possibly do?

Via CharlotteGore on Twitter, it seems that the Digital Economy Bill has some interesting and fairly wide-ranging provisions that could do precisely that.
Just over a week ago I wrote a fairly dry legal analysis of the Digital Economy Bill. I spotted an extremely serious provision—clause 11—in the version being discussed in the House of Lords. Having looked at the amendments (which you can find on the Bill's document page) I am worried that no-one in Parliament appears to be taking the problem serious. [sic]

What is the problem with clause 11 that I am getting so alarmed about it? It amends the Communications Act 2003 to insert a new section 124H which would, if passed, give sweeping powers to the Secretary of State. It begins:
(1) The Secretary of State may at any time by order impose a technical obligation on internet service providers if the Secretary of State considers it appropriate in view of—

Pausing there. Note that this says nothing at all about copyright infringement. For example the power could be used to:
  • order ISP's to block any web page found on the Internet Watch Foundation's list

  • block specific undesireable sites (such as wikileaks)

  • block specific kinds of traffic or protocols, such as any form of peer-to-peer

  • throttle the bandwidth for particular kinds of service or to or from particular websites.

In short, pretty much anything.

Indeed. And Francis Davey goes on to justify his assertion...
I do not exagerrate. The definition of a "technical obligation" and "technical measure" are inserted by clause 10:
  • A "technical obligation", in relation to an internet service provider, is an obligation for the provider to take a technical measure against particular subscribers to its service.

  • A "technical measure" is a measure that— (a) limits the speed or other capacity of the service provided to a subscriber; (b) prevents a subscriber from using the service to gain access to particular material, or limits such use; (c) suspends the service provided to a subscriber; or (d) limits the service provided to a subscriber in another way.

As you can see blocking wikileaks is simply a matter of applying a technical measure against all subscribers of any ISP.

Your humble Devil has talkedat length and ad nauseam—about mini-Enabling Acts put into NuLabour laws: Clause 11 is the mini-Enabling Act in the Digital Economy Bill. Actually, it is just one of several because the Digital Economy Bill amends several other Acts, inserting various mini-Enabling Acts into numerous pieces of legislation.

And, as with all of these mini-Enabling Acts, there really are no safeguards against abuse—because, of course, these mini-Enabling Acts are designed to be used and abused.
Surely something must limit this power you ask? It seems not. The Secretary of State may make an order if "he considers it appropriate" in view of:
(a) an assessment carried out or steps taken by OFCOM under section 124G; or (b) any other consideration.

Where "any other consideration" could be anything.

So, essentially, the Secretary of State may compel any ISP to do anything at any time and for any reason he likes. No awkward laws need to be passed, there need be no tedious debate in Parliament, there need be no uncertain vote to take.

This is another fence-post in the totalitarian state: once again, we are left to say "well, surely they wouldn't use this power, would they?"

Remember: there is only one reason why such a clause would be inserted into this Act, or any other: so that it can be used.

And this Bill simply got nodded through Parliament. Once again, our MPs—either through malice or the usual fucking laziness—have voted to abdicate another part of the power that we lend them.

And there are hundreds of pieces of legislation with similar clauses. Parliament is reaching the point where it is simply irrelevant: the government could use these clauses to enact pretty much anything that it wants.

The government could suspend Parliament and carry on ruling as an oligarchy but it simply doesn't need to: why go to the bother of suspending Parliament and risking a revolution when you can simply by-pass the institution altogether?

As I wrote some time ago, our Parliament seems to have given up on its supposed role—scrutinising the Executive.
This is NuLabour's standard tactic—learned, no doubt, from the evil fuckers in the EU who are adept at this sort of thing—of proposing something ridiculous and then pretending to drop it.

What they then do is to pass a law that allows them to go far, far further because, unlike the previous incarnation, this new clause doesn't define what the law actually is.

Each one of these clauses is, in effect, an Enabling Act in that it enables any designated minister to change the law without having to argue the case through Parliament—and thus ensuring that has no right to vote on it.

Often, the media miss it entirely: after all, legalese seems to be designed to bore the living shit out of anyone brave enough to try to trawl through it, c.f. the EU Constitution. Further, one is generally looking for a particularly illiberal measure made explicit within the law itself, not an all-encompassing clause that allows a minister to decide that the law is whatever they say it is at any given time.

A couple of years ago, bloggers scored a hit when they introduced the MSM to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, known colloquially as "the Abolition of Parliament Bill". This would have allowed the government to change any piece of legislation via ministerial fiat—in other words, without having to go through Parliament. After a concerted protest from both the MSM and the blogosphere, the Bill was watered down into a slightly less terrifying form.

But the fact is—and this is another tactic that the government have learned from the EU bureaucrats—that so many Bills similar to the one described above have now passed into law that the Abolition of Parliament Bill might as well have been passed as originally mooted anyway.

This is the really terrifying thing about NuLabour: they have pushed though thousands—tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands—of new laws, many of which contain these mini-Enabling Acts. And the Civil Contingencies Act is only the most egregious of these; there are others which allow ministers to remove our liberties on a whim.

Sure, they are far smaller matters, but taken together they all add up to an Executive wielding power with no brakes upon it: statutory instruments are bad enough and would, were your humble Devil in charge, be rendered illegal—these Enabling Clauses are, quite simply, the fence-posts for a totalitarian regime.

Blogs such as EUReferendum continually highlight how Westminster has become little more than a regional EU council, but in truth our MPs are in the process of being rendered utterly impotent by our own government.

Our jumped-up chicken Parliament is still running around and around—desperately pretending that it is somehow important—when, in fact, it has had its head cut off.


David Davis (Libertarian Alliance) said...

The obvious thing for Cameroon to do, were he to come to power, which is debatable as we all know, is to simply repeal ALL Acts (and I mean ALL) passed since May 1997 for a start. All SIs too.

Then at least we cna start again from a more reasonable baseline.

Fausty said...

"or (d) limits the service provided to a subscriber in another way"

Read any other way. This leaves the field completely open for the Secretary of State to have absolute power.

Budgie said...

So our power to be governed by laws passed in our own parliament by MPs we can hold to account disappears. And, don't hold your breath, I will be amazed if Cameron - if he gets into power - rectifies these dictatorial and evil provisions.

Bill Sticker said...

Watched a recording of UK Prime Ministers Question time via satellite at a friends house. Anyone tell me how long Brown has had that stammer?

epiglot said...

Luckily, the lack of joined up government means we don't actually have enough prisons to hold all the people who are inadvertently breaking all these new laws.

FrankFisher said...

Well yes. As I have been saying, at length, for more than a decade, to anyone who would listen and many who will not, at eacha nd ever opportunity given me, the war on the internet is a war that these fake democracies *must* fight and *must* win. A government that does relies on consent must control the daily narrative - every sinew strains to tell a story that enables them to play the sheeple in the right way. T'internet is increasingly making this impossible. With Climategate we saw the clearest possible lesson that the MSM cannot control the story any more. They tried to silence it for two weeks, before giving up and trying to spin it. Every government, everywhere, will have learned that lesson.

All of us are in the firing line now. If you tell your own stories, you're now part of the enemy. Give it a year, we'll be some kind of terrorists.

Oh, and again, as I have been saying, the architecture of censorship put in place to cut child porn (eg virgin killer) from the british internet is also quite capable of snipping anything else.

Oh AND as I have also said, a fallback position to prevent p2p copyright theft is simply to..... block all p2p traffic. This act gives Mandy power to do just that, with a plausible excuse.

I knew I was right....

Mitch said...

OT but you gotta watch this, demolishes climate change in 10 mins.

Budgie said...

Mitch, an excellent interview. Monckton was very convincing.

Anonymous said...

They are now traitors.
I would have laughed at the thought of revolution in western nations years ago.
Not now.
Every person they persecute unnecesarilly becomes their enemy.
Millions and counting.
And it goes up every day.
No wonder they invent wars abroad to keep the military away from their own shores.

Hysteria said...

I love the Monkton style - never raises his voice - just a steady drip, drip, drip of factual assertions

Frothing at html said...

It was inevitable that the left would come to hate the web, just as they essentially hate people and freedom. As history proves, those "people's revolutionary ideals" are all about controlling people... and the web is, in their view, out of control.

In other words, people doing things not under their control.

Some lefties have dabbled in blogging but having found that not everyone has bought their lies and deviousness, they have frothed up into a rage and now they will rally round to suppress it.

Something has got to be done, but thank heavens Socialism has all the answers!

Wormsnapper said...

The Internet, as proven by the uproar with these Climategate emails, is they only bastion of free-speech left. Of course they're trying to kill it.

Letters From A Tory said...

I seriously doubt the Conservatives can resist the temptation to use Statutory Instruments as well, especially if they only win the election by a small majority.

Saves them the hassle of having to worry about democracy.

James Higham said...

Of course the left hates the web - it has to face facts on the web.

divesandlazarus said...

Nice piece.

As has been said above - the idea should be for the new government to apply a 'reset' button to all legislation that Labour has enacted - May 1997 as someone said.

Can't see it happening though - the world, the web have changed immeasurably.

Every government wants to get its message out in front and wants to stifle organised 'resistance'.

This is not about the last 10-15yrs it is about the next 50.

Over-population, shortage of resources, poor education, laws allowing everyone to get drugged-up and paralytic every weekend and even putting Munir Hussain in jail for defending himself.........all preparation for sometime in the next 50yrs when it all goes to rat-shit.

Better get yourselves a few guns. (Will that get me earmarked do you think?)

microdave said...

How long before Mandy tries what the Australians are doing?

Anonymous said...

Events in the US are starting to get very interesting ?
Oh the land of the free and the hooooome of thu buraaaaave .