Are we losing our civil liberties?

civilliberties1.jpgSARAH HALL | New controversial legislation could now be put in place which means anyone suspected of being involved in terrorism can be held without charge for 42 days. And with the government’s apparent determination to press ahead with a national ID card, as well as the huge expansion of biometric data, which means anyone’s fingerprints can be left on a database even if they are innocent, it is one of the most controversial issues in national politics today.

There are fears that foreign nationals will soon need to carry a card, followed probably by students, before others could be encouraged to follow.

There are also concerns databases will not work properly, or remain secure, after several recent government breaches of security.

These moves are seen by many as a gradual erosion of people’s civil liberties but by others as a positive move which, if it becomes law, means Britain will have the toughest anti-terror laws in the Western world.

Norwich North MP Ian Gibson claimed he was offered a key concession on his campaign to end sanctions against Cuba if he supported changing the maximum term a terror suspect can be held without charge from 28 to 42 days.

Dr Gibson, who is also the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on the Communist state, was told the government would vote against the US-led sanctions in a future motion in Europe, something he has long campaigned for.

But, despite the offer, the Norwich MP was one of 36 Labour MPs to rebel against the government in a Commons poll.

He said: “I think we are turning into an oppressive legal system. ID cards, fingerprinting and the terror detentions are all taking away our basic human rights. None of it is necessary and it is scaring people because we are looking at a Big Brother form of rule and this is not acceptable in this day and age.

“We had 28 days and I think this is too long, I would like to see it go down not up.”

Conservative candidate for Norwich South, councillor Antony Little, said: “We have seen a massive expansion of CCTV; there is pressure on us to get ID cards, and now people can be detained for a long time without charge. The government is cramming in information but how do we know it is secure?”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he was worried our civil liberties were being lost.

He said: “Politics used to be divided between left and right but now it seems to be about whether we agree with enforcement or not. The use of ID cards is intrusive but the worst loss of freedom is being able to detain someone without trial and we need to be careful we do not turn into a surveillance society.”

ID cards are to become compulsory this year for non-EU foreign nationals living in Britain, and for 200,000 airport workers and Olympic security staff from next year. Parliament will decide whether the ID cards, which will cost £4.4bn, should be made compulsory for British citizens.