Vaccine passports – the nadir of ‘permission slip’ officialdom

Over the past decade or two, there has been a growth of licences to carry out the most everyday of activities. There are licences to busk or to hand out leaflets, licences for people to hold fitness classes or take photos in parks. Under the 2003 Licensing Act, a solitary guitar player in a pub required a ‘provision of entertainment licence’, and a venue’s possession of a piano required a ‘provision of entertainment facilities’ licence. The logic of the licence is that you can act only with an official permission slip. You cannot just pitch up and busk but must first have…

We’re in lockdown, but the state is sending electricians into homes

The government is pushing ahead with plans to require every existing rental property to have an Electrical Installation Condition Report prepared by 1 April. (This new report is in addition to the Electrical Safety Certificate already required). Landlords have been contacted by rental agencies asking them to give permission for the report to be prepared. This means electricians visiting the different rooms of a rental property to inspect the wiring. This is a point when tenants are banned from having their friends or family around to their homes, yet they are required – they cannot refuse – to have an electrician poking…

Covid Marshals: Do we trust in society?

An essay reviewing the role and function of Covid Marshals, by Nikolas Koch. When introducing ‘COVID-secure marshals’, Boris Johnson suggested they would ‘help ensure social distancing in town and city centres’. Marshals should ‘support members of the public in one-way systems and remind them of guidelines,’ or ‘give out masks and hand sanitiser in public places’. In reality, the role of COVID marshals continues to be ambiguous, broadly defined, and most importantly, without formal enforcement powers. Marshals can ‘advise’ and highlight failures to comply with coronavirus legislation but not officially sanction those who ignore guidelines. Often, it remains unclear what marshals actually…

UK councils, stop hassling dog walkers

With Britain under lockdown, dog walkers’ daily walk with their animals is literally one of their last remaining freedoms. Yet the Manifesto Club has been receiving an increased number of complaints about arbitrary and pointless crackdowns on dog walkers. New restrictions on dog walkers have been introduced under lockdown, dog walkers have found themselves in the dock, and dog wardens have been out in force. North Somerset has decided that now is the best time to criminalise dogs off leads in the whole of the borough. This would mean that there will only be a few designated areas where dog walkers can…

Do we want to still have a right to protest in 2022? The Police Bill must be stopped at all costs

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill must be stopped at all costs. This Bill would in effect remove the right to protest; it would give police officers the power to ban or place restrictions of their choice upon public demonstrations. This Bill would mean that someone could be locked up for 10 years if they put others ‘at risk of’ disease, or at risk of ‘serious inconvenience’ or ‘serious annoyance’. This Bill comes after freedom of association has effectively been suspended for months, with organisers slapped with £10,000 fines and demonstrations violently broken up by police. This Bill would mean that…

Horsham’s PSPO banning busking, periodicals, and more…

Horsham Council is consulting on a PSPO banning a series of new activities. It already has banned the racing of horse and carts, free running and urban gymnastics, and engaging in ‘nuisance behaviour’. Now the council is planning a further ban on unlicensed busking, ‘selling of periodicals which include a prize draw competition dependent on skill’, nuisance behaviour in carparks (which appears to be targeted at homeless people), and the drinking of alcohol in two public places. You might have thought that the council would have more pressing matters to deal with right now. Even in the midst of a pandemic, some…

Victory for dog walkers in Instow!

North Devon Council has at last listened to dog walkers and members of the public and modified PSPOs banning free exercise of dogs on beaches. Below is a note by Joanne Bell, from the Dog Walkers Alliance, who has campaigned against restrictions for the past few years. Thanks to all those who have engaged with various councils and landowners during this incredible and controversial saga for some 10 years – and more recently to those who took part in North Devon Council’s PSPO Dog Control Consultation. There is now no doubt that North Devon values what our dogs bring to society as…

The return of rule by decree

After the health secretary promised to consult parliament about any national coronavirus restrictions, now there has been a revert to previous type – with the now familiar act of introducing laws as statutory instruments (ideally when parliamentarians are on a break), with laws published a few hours before they come into force. Parliamentarians are then offered the chance to rubber stamp laws that are already in existence and are already being enforced. There is minimal debate – only 3 minutes per speaker – and the regulations cannot be amended or improved, only given a yes/no. This means law being created pristine on…

Covid and the targeting of free social life

Few scenes embodied the current approach to coronavirus more than images of squadrons of police officers patrolling Hyde Park. They marched in groups of more than 20, closely packed together. Every time they came across a loose-knit group of 4 or 5 people they told them that they ‘must go home’, and that it is against the law to gather in groups of more than 2. Police officers’ own gathering – and their moving from person person, arresting people and wrestling them to the ground, then placing them in a packed police van without a mask – was somehow not seen as…

Lyme Regis dog owners against the new dog-ban PSPO

(A guest post by Debbie Conibere, founder of Lyme Regis dog owners group). The Lyme Regis’s Loving Dog Owners, Visitors & Friends Facebook Group is asking Dorset Council not to use a PSPO (Public Spaces Protection Order) from 1 January 2021 to enforce a new blanket ban on exercising dogs off lead on the only safe and accessible beach in Lyme Regis. Instead, the group requests that laws already in place regarding dog ownership are enforced appropriately.  This will ensure loving dog owners are not unfairly penalised by only targeting those who break the law. This new PSPO ban will stop the…

Covid wardens must be held to account

The government’s £300 million Covid warden project is now being rolled out across the country, with councils asked to provide wardens to monitor and enforce social distancing rules. These wardens do not have formal powers, but they are linked into council enforcers and to the police. The government guidance for the Covid warden scheme suggests that councils employ private security guards in this role. Unsurprisingly, reports of heavy-handed conduct are coming in. One Norfolk restaurant owner was invaded by ‘black-booted bouncers’, with an ‘aggressive’ manner, after he offered to give his customers a free Scotch egg and salad with their drinks. According…