Jenny Jones: The government is attacking law and order

It's breaking international law itself and allowing spycops to break UK law.

For decades I have listened to the Conservative mantra about being the party of law and order, which is why it is astonishing to find them pushing two bills through Parliament that have conscious law-breaking at their heart.

The Internal Market Bill, by the government’s own admission, breaks International Law and an agreement that Parliament signed up to a few months ago. The incredibly dangerous Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) Bill allows the police to use their own discretion to over-ride any criminal law that Parliament has agreed.

Combine all this with a series of Bills that result in all powerful Ministers who can make an ever increasing set of decisions that rewrite rules and regulations without any recourse to proper Parliamentary scrutiny and we are seeing a decaying of our democracy. None of this is normal.

A lot of attention from backbench Conservatives is now being paid to the Covid emergency laws and regulations, which for several months hit the public with fines and admonishments with astonishing frequency. Parliament couldn’t keep up and at no point in the Lords did we debate any regulation that was still in place, as they had always been superseded by a new one.

The police couldn’t keep up either and became very confused. I know it was an emergency and things happened in a rush, but the unwillingness of this government to engage, listen and learn has underpinned all the major failures of its Covid policy that has cost so many lives.

The desire of the government to by-pass Parliamentary scrutiny with its skeleton legislation on Agriculture, Trade and Fisheries Bills has nothing to do with any emergency and everything to do with a Whitehall power grab that give ministers the ‘Henry VIII powers’ of dictatorial scope.

The Internal Market Bill gifts major areas of legislation into the hands of Dominic Cummings and a ministerial cabal, and attempts to ban any kind of legal challenge. With the Trade Bill, ministers can sign a trade deal and effectively rewrite the rules on what appears on supermarket shelves regarding food standards to animal welfare. In the Agriculture Bill, ministers can rewrite the whole system of agricultural subsidies with little or no public consultation or parliamentary scrutiny.

If you object and organise, then watch out. The spycops scandal shows that political policing has been a reality for decades. The CHIS bill takes this to a new level. One of my whistle blowers produced a list of personal phone numbers belonging to environmental campaigners that had been hacked by someone in India working on behalf of the security services.

The point of the CHIS bill is to legitimise all this. The police will decide who to investigate, who to burgle, who to target for surveillance and as long as they think it is proportionate and they are preventing ‘public disorder’ then they can tear your personal life apart, as they did to so many women and trade unionists during the spycops scandal.

If you want to see how aspects of dictatorial behaviour can quickly take a grip within a democracy then consider Donald Trump. It isn’t just the Mussolini style posturing. It is giving pardons to his closest supporters who get convicted of naughty deeds that he has benefited from politically.

It is bribing foreign powers to dish the dirt on your opponent’s son. It is a willingness to talk about jailing your opponents and a reluctance to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. The US has a written constitution and an embedded system that guarantees a balance of power, but Trump succeeds because he is abetted by Republicans who believe in power more than democracy.

The UK does have constitutional safeguards, but we saw how much Boris respected them when he prorogued parliament. With our muted parliamentary opposition, it often seems like ‘the law’ is the only thing holding this government back, which makes the law a target. The recent attacks on ‘activist lawyers’ and ‘do-gooders’ are in the same vein as when the judges being branded as the enemy within by some of the media. The road to fascism relies on acquiescence. It is time for democrats to organise a rebellion.

Jenny Jones is a Green member of the House of Lords and a former London Assembly member

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