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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/10/2004 - 11:21

Democracy is poised to die. We in the UK are about to get our own version of the US 'Patriot Act'. In a very British way it's called the Civil Contingencies Bill.

The powers this Bill grants to Ministers, which may be triggered on declaration of an 'emergency', go far beyond those needed for any imaginable disaster. It defines emergency as an event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare, the environment, or the security of the UK. Human welfare includes the disruption of a supply of money, food, water, energy, fuel and transport.

An 'emergency' need not even actually exist. Something need only, as a matter of opinion, be perceived as a threat, at home or abroad. Cabinet Ministers can then declare a state of emergency in the UK, or any part of it, orally. The powers then enable them to;

Force an individual to carry out any action.
Destroy or confiscate property, without compensation.
Ban movement, freedom of the press or any other activity.
Prohibit specified assemblies, enabling them to exert total political control over the population and to crush any political opposition. There is nothing to stop a Minister from ordering the dispersal of Parliament itself.
Disapply or modify an enactment. This would enable them to amend or suspend virtually any Act - even constitutional legislation protecting our rights.
Hand powers to any individuals seen fit, including foreign officials with immunity from prosecution.

Alarmingly there is no provision for authentication of Minister's orders or for punishing the false declaration of an emergency, nor is there any punishment for abusing emergency powers.

It doesn't take much imagination to see how such legislation could be abused, or the circumstances in which it could be invoked - imagined terror alert, fuel protest, mass demo, strikes.

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