Monday, 28 July 2008

1,000 ways for Brown’s state inspectors to enter homes across Lincolnshire

Giles McNeill expresses concern at unchecked state powers of intrusion

Giles McNeill, Nettleham Parish Councillor, expressed grave concern this week at the news that Government and town hall inspectors now have over 1,000 powers which allow inspectors to enter people’s homes and premises. Despite Gordon Brown’s pledge last year to cut back these powers, a further 16 new laws are being pushed through Parliament which entrench or extend powers of entry.

The Govenrment has recently published a full list of the state powers of entry that are now in force. There are now a total of 1,043 state powers of entry, and some 430 new powers of entry have been created by Labour.

A survey of state powers to enter people’s homes by the independent think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies, last year suggested that there were just 266 powers of entry. It warned that due to the “proliferation and variety of entry powers” householders cannot now “realistically be aware” of their rights and legal obligations.

The powers of inspection and entry include:
• Invading your home to see if your pot plants have plant pests or to check whether it has a so-called ‘plant passport’ (Plant Health England Order 2005).
• Inspecting a property to see whther performing animals, such as dancing bears, are being trained or exhibited without a permit (Performing Animals Regulation Act 1925).
• Surveying your home and garden to see if your hedge is too high (Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003).
• Inspecting a property to ensure illegal or unregulated hypnotism is not taking place (Hypnotism Act 1952).
• Checking that accommodation being given to asylum seekers is not being occupied by people who are not asylum seekers (Immigration and Asylum Act 1999).
• Carrying out inspections for the presence of rabbits (Pests Act 1954).
• Raiding a house to check if unlicensed gambling is taking place (Gambling Act 2005 Inspection Provision of Information Regulations 2007).
• Checking and seizing fridges which do not have the correct energy rating (Energy Information Household Refrigerators and Freezers Regulations 2004).
• Allowing state-sponsored bailiffs to enter your home and seize goods, using reasonable force if necessary (Tribunal Courts and Enforcement Act 2007)

In a speech last October, Gordon Brown pledged to curtail such laws with a new ‘liberty test’. He pledged that any change to entry powers would be accompanied by new guidance on their use and on the rights of members of the public to stop their abuse. But 16 new laws are now before Parliament which extending the powers - without any such guidance.

Conservatives are also warning that yet more intrusion is being actively planned by Labour. A cadre of council tax inspectors are being trained and an Orwellian computer database is being created for a council tax revaluation in England. Householders will be fined £500 for obstructing these inspectors.

Giles McNeill said:
“Day by day under Labour, the rights and liberties of law-abiding citizens across (area) are being eroded. Their plans for ID Cards and 42 days detention are examples. There has been a huge surge in powers of entry under Labour, entrenching and extending the surveillance state.

“We need measures to tackle genuine crime and terrorism. But the abuse of surveillance powers by town halls in some parts of the country shows the real danger of ‘function creep’ by state bureaucrats. Conservatives will cut back these unnecessary powers of the state to enter homes, starting off with abolishing council tax inspectors’ rights of entry and reining back in the nosey parker state.”

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