Published in Mid Devon Advertiser January ’23, and in Western morning News Jan ’23
Sometimes we don’t notice our fundamental rights until it is too late.
For example, the Government’s Retained EU Law bill will automatically revoke all EU laws, unless ‘preserved’ by a minister. Our rights which could be silently discarded include the 48-hour maximum working week, maternity and paternity rights, equal pay for women. Even annual paid leave is under threat. If employers exploit the new powers they will have, the right to industrial action is also being undermined by new laws.
Sweeping changes in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act make it near impossible to plan a legitimate protest that is legal and still effective.
The Human Rights Act is something the UK should be proud of. We helped create a no-nonsense safety net against the atrocities of an extreme right-wing nationalist regime during the second world war. It includes the right to life, the right to a fair trial, and freedom from torture. It makes no sense that British human rights should be different to the rights of other humans. It is not broken but our government wants to remove those rights.
Locally, the legal right to wild camp on Dartmoor is threatened by a hedge fund manager who owns 4,000 acres (equivalent to eighty-six thousand average sized gardens) of Dartmoor. (Hedge funds use “High frequency trading” to make money at the expense of longer-term investors e.g. our pension funds). I think the fundamental rights we all have should be protected.
Government has dismantled the legal aid system so that legal protection is only available to those who can afford it. This may seem unimportant until until we, or someone we care about, is the victim of injustice or fraud, or falsely accused.
Even the right to vote now depends on having a suitable ID. The fraud they claim to stop is barely happening at all, and the numbers of people who will be prevented from voting is shocking. As fraud prevention this is madness but if the purpose is to cling on to power, it makes total sense. Wealthier and older people with driving licences or passports have no problem. Young people and renters are more likely to be prevented from voting. Over 60s travel passes are accepted, student travel passes are not. This amounts to a targeted attack on the groups least likely to vote Conservative.
This Bonfire of our rights is a disgrace. This government serves only itself and its chronys. It is time for a change of government, and a rethink on this most disastrous of all possible Brexits – before it is too late.
Liberal Democrat Councillor on Teignbridge District Council