Author Archives: Brian Paddick

Brian Paddick writes…We need to reassure people that Liberal Democrats remain the most accepting of all the political parties, whoever you are and whatever you believe

I write as a gay Christian about the tightrope between freedom of speech and religion and prejudice and discrimination.

One of the fundamental principles of Liberalism is to allow people to do as they wish provided it does not harm other people.  When it comes to religion, what appears to be a simple enough principle becomes complicated.

Many religions, including Christianity, require its followers to proclaim “the good news” of their particular religion to non-believers.  There are interpretations of many religions that say intimacy between same sex couples is wrong, indeed that any sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is sinful.  The question then becomes, does proclaiming such ideas contravene the Liberal harm principle?

There are people who think religion is at least, mumbo jumbo, and at worst, damaging and divisive, and that whatever God, his Son or his prophets may or may not have said, it’s all nonsense, in which case, no harm done.

There are others who do have a faith, who are from sexually and gender diverse groups or who love those from such groups (family members, friends, allies), for whom it really matters what their religion says on these issues and who are seriously harmed by such declarations.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 20 Comments

Brian Paddick writes…A gap has opened up and we need to exploit it

Following on from Theresa May’s promise of a free vote to lift the ban on the cruellest of hunting with hounds, allusions to country sports seems to becoming increasingly apt.  On Monday, it was alleged that she had “shot our fox” by changing the Conservative manifesto to include “consultation on an absolute limit on what people need to pay” for their own social care.  In fact Theresa May has shot herself in the foot.

If we had deliberately set an ambush for the Conservatives, we couldn’t have done a better job.  The Tories had already broken a promise in their 2015 manifesto by not implementing the recommendations of the Dilnot Commission.  Instead, what had been agreed across all political parties, to put a limit of £72,000 on what any anyone would have to contribute to their social care was deferred until 2020.  Even then, £118,000 of assets would be protected.

Instead, in the 2017 Conservative manifesto, the Tories say they would introduce a “dementia tax”, where all your assets, except the last £100,000, could be taken to fund your social care, including your home.  Those lucky enough to be amongst the 1 in 4 who need little or no social care would be able to pass all the benefits of a lifetime of work to their children, while the 1 in 10 whose social care costs exceed £100,000, could be left with little for their loved-ones to inherit.  Instead of society sharing the risk, those unlucky enough to get dementia would have to bear the whole cost of their care without limit.  In the face of mounting criticism, until yesterday, the Tories were “strong and stable” – when asked specifically whether there would be a cap on individual contributions to social care, the answer was a definite “no”.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 20 Comments

Brian Paddick writes…A government without a moral compass was always going to end up on the rocks.

Like a dog that has been let off the lead after five years under Lib Dem restraint, this Conservative government is all over the place with its legislative programme and that’s before we even start on Brexit.  To add to the list of obnoxious new laws such as the new offence of ‘driving while being a suspected illegal immigrant’  and giving the police unfettered access to innocent people’s web histories, the Tories have waded into the swamp of online pornography and they are completely out of their depth.

The Digital Economy Bill, another universal answer to everything they couldn’t get through when we had one hand on the reins of power, professes to protect children from online pornography.  Even those like me whose access to porn when I was younger was the top shelf magazines in the newsagent, know that, as with other forms of prohibition, those determined to get their hands on it will succeed.  It is far better to educate children how to deal with online pornography when they come across it rather than, Canute-like, trying to keep it away from them.

Nonetheless, if we are to prohibit access to online adult material unless there is an age-verification solution in place, the privacy of those who are being forced to part with their sensitive personal information in order to verify their age, must be protected.  We have already seen user databases for a couple of major porn sites, containing sensitive personal information, being hacked and the details traded on the dark web.  When details of users of the Ashley Madison site were leaked, it reportedly led to two suicides.

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments

Another day, another database, another threat to privacy

Databases containing personal details are honey-pots for hackers, with the potential for sensitive information to end up in the hands of criminals or in the public domain. Hot on the heels of the Investigatory Powers Act, which now requires your internet service provider to store your web history (Internet Connection Records) for 12 months, the Government now wants to create more databases containing highly sensitive personal information.

Liberal Democrats did everything we could to stop the worst attacks on individual liberty and privacy in the Investigatory Powers Bill but with Labour support and little help from the media, every significant measure passed into law. No doubt emboldened by the absence of an effective Official Opposition, the Digital Economy Bill brought forward by Government has the potential to create massive databases containing the details of every adult in the UK who, quite lawfully, wants to access adult material on the Internet.

Posted in Op-eds | 9 Comments

Brian Paddick writes: Swearing an oath to British values would be superficial and divisive

At the weekend the Conservative Government proposed that civil servants and other holders of public office should be required to swear an oath to “British values”.  I suggested that such a move would be superficial and divisive and here’s why.

This is a reaction to ‘The Casey Review: a review into opportunity and integration’ where she found small pockets of minority communities who were not integrating with the rest of society.  These people represent a tiny proportion of the UK population but the report had the effect of further demonising minority communities generally and the Muslim community in particular.  Of course, we should do everything we can to encourage people to integrate.  We need to provide English language courses for those who find it difficult to communicate and we need to tackle the racism and xenophobia that makes some people feel unsafe in their own communities.  Promoting “British values” is not the way forward.

For a start we are the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  Apart from the far more encouraging tone of a being a United Kingdom, and not excluding Northern Ireland, I personally find Great Britain has echoes of the inglorious past of the British Empire. While this may  not be relevant to many young people today, it may be significant for older generations whose origins are in the Indian sub-continent.  Some “British values” from colonial times are ones we have thankfully left behind.

The Government has not yet defined “British Values” but they say they include democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.  These are not uniquely British and you do not have to delve too far back in our history to discover that some of them were not very British at all.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 17 Comments

Brian Paddick writes on efforts to protect our civil liberties

Today the Investigatory Powers Bill overcame its final Parliamentary hurdle before becoming law. In the end the issue that held it up for a while was press regulation, not the powers of the state to intrude into our privacy.

In line with party policy, agreed at Lib Dem conference, we tabled dozens of amendments on significant issues that went to the very heart of the bill – while trivial Labour and Government amendments simply tinkered around the edges. Despite the Government’s best efforts to close down the debate, we fought hard and achieved close and careful line-by-line scrutiny of …

Posted in News and Parliament | 4 Comments

Uncrossing the wires in the IP Bill

The average age of the House of Lords is about 70 years old. Yet it has been left up to us to scrutinise, amend and improve the highly technical and technological Investigatory Powers Bill after its easy ride through the House of Commons.

Today, in the Bill’s Second Reading, I urged peers from all sides to not shy away from the technical nature of the Bill and to tackle the issues it raises head on and with gusto. Fundamentally this Bill will govern what powers our security services and law enforcement agencies have, under what circumstances they will be allowed to use them and how the use of these powers will be overseen. In all of this there is a balancing act to be done – it is the responsibility of the police and the security services to ask Government for the powers they believe they need in order to be effective and it is the responsibility of Parliament to balance those requests against the tests of necessity and proportionality.

Posted in Op-eds | 11 Comments
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