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…

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…

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…

The shameful policing of London protests

(A guest post by Nigel Jacklin.) Saturday 28 November was the last weekend in which the UK was under the second national lockdown restrictions. We were in London on business, staying in Kings Cross. When I went to move our car, at around 10.30 on Saturday morning, I noticed that, while the streets were deserted, Kings Cross station was completely surrounded by police in bright yellow jackets. The area was eerily quiet. Police vans of all types were parked all along both sides of Pancras Road and other streets around the station. At around 11.30 one of us went to the shops…

The inhumanity of ‘track and trace’

I received an email from the chairman of 2020 Voice Cancer charity, regarding the treatment of one of his older supporters while on a visit to the seaside. An elderly man, using his mobility scooter, for the reason that he has a terminal cancer which has badly affected his ability to walk, was most grateful to arrive at a waterfront bar. He switched off his scooter, disembarked, with walking stick, and entered: he was desperate to use the toilet which was situated just inside the door and to the left. Having got half way to said toilets he was yelled at by…

Manifesto Club statement on the Rule of 6

MPs today vote on the ‘Rule of 6’ – the limitation on gathering in groups of more than six people. We urge you to email your MP and express your opposition to this statutory instrument. The Manifesto Club statement on this law is below… The UK government’s ban on people meeting in groups larger than six is draconian, undemocratic, and unreasonable. The law makes it a crime for a family of five to meet their grandparents. It criminalises five-a-side football matches and would ban everything from extended family Christmases to children’s birthday parties. It even makes ‘mingling’ into a crime. We have…