Since the Freedoms Bill was announced yesterday morning, I’ve been doing a little thinking and investigation into what this is all about and the impact that it is likely to have. My general impression is that the proposals are a rag-bag of fairly non-contentious pieces of legislative tidying up. They’re all welcome developments in themselves, but what would have been far more interesting and useful would have been for this process to have been put in place as a regular fixture within the parliamentary calendar – say every year or two.
That way, parliament could have ensured that the areas where the state may have crept too far into our lives could be re-evaluated and dealt with as necessary. I really don’t think that a one-off hit is what’s required here at all if we’re serious about people not being enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.
One of the proposed changes is frankly bizarre and I really can’t recall much of an outcry over not being able to get married between the hours of 6pm and 8am (it’s been that way since 1836.) Presumably one person’s freedom here will potentially impinge on the freedoms of registrars not to work unsociable hours! It seems a bit like the “freedom” we were given to shop on a Sunday. Despite all of the promises made at the time, it’s now virtually impossible to get a job in retail unless you say you will work on a Sunday.
And I really can’t get too excited about local authorities no longer being able to weigh or examine our bins or the greater safeguards on the use of weak biometrics in schools to allow access to classrooms, the library or act as a virtual ticket for school meals. The latter example is presumably the restoration of the “freedom” for school bullies to intimidate other pupils into handing over their meal entitlements. It’s rather difficult to do that if a biometric check is involved.
But freedoms that are important are being addressed too. The freedom not to be on a police DNA database forever if you’ve never been charged with any offence. The rolling back of vetting of volunteers for the sake of vetting. The freedom to be tried in front of a jury of your peers, even if it’s difficult for ordinary people to understand the charges. It just means that the lawyers will have to earn their money and explain things in a way that a non-expert can understand. I have to do that every day of the week in my job, after all.
So it’s two and a half cheers, rather than three from me for the Freedoms Bill.