Friday, May 14, 2010

Bailiff powers of forced entry

Before the General Election, David Cameron vowed to repeal a range of 'Big Brother' laws, including the controversial use of force by bailiffs. The repeal should include not just the power of forced entry to premises and to restrain people, contained in the Tribunals, Courts & Enforcement Act 2007, but also the forced entry provisions for fine enforcement slipped into the final stages of the Domestic Violence, Crime & Victims Act 2004.

Although statistics imply that this power is used only about once every two months, it is a power that rarely has to be used. As a matter of 'good' practice, bailiffs daily explain to people that unless they let them in, forced entry will be undertaken with police support. Who could fail to cooperate in the face of such persuasion? It is a stain on our civil liberties.

As the forced entry provision was going through Parliament, Labour Ministers were clear that it would be used only against people convicted of a crime. They didn't mention that they included crimes like truancy and failing to buy a TV licence; they didn't mention that they would be used against the families of those who committed these 'crimes'.

The new Government should turn back the clock so that fines are once again civil debts owed to the State, and restore the principle that all bailiffs must act peacefully against property and people.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Home Education under a coalition government

We can be sure that the Conservative/Liberal coalition government will not be springing any horrors on us when it comes to home education. Barring accidents, we have five years of peace ahead of us.

As I have said before, I don't think that the motivations behind the attack on home education have gone away, and I do expect it to re-emerge in one form or another should the government fall. I am therefore a proponent of the idea that we should try to legislate in a couple of years time to secure the basis for home education in the way in which we would wish, and to remove the excuse for attack.

In just the same way, I welcome the proposed Lords reform: not that I am convinced that it is necessary, or that it will produce a better house than we have now, but I believe that it is inevitable that it will happen and I had rather that it was done by a government that I am comfortable with, and whose views I can hope to influence.

House of Lords Reform

The BBC says that we are to have full Lords reform early in the session, with a move to complete proportional representation. Well, if that turns out to be the case, I think that we should welcome it.

We are almost PR in our house as it is. So there's nothing wrong with the proportions of the party representations of the House of Lords being set in that fashion

We will want to make sure that the House of Lords which emerges is at least as good and effective as the House of Lords that we have now, but given that the reform process is taking place under a friendly government over a decent timescale, and that given the views of backbenchers on all sides we have considerable power to make a mess of the legislation, or of legislation generally, I am sure that we will find that our views are listened to and that the reform which emerges preserves the best of what we have now.

This blog will be full of ideas as to how to achieve this, and I will be listeing for your ideas too. Here is one for starters:

There should be 25% appointed independent members. A coalition government would then have to command two thirds of the party seats in the House of Lords in order to have an absolute majority. I suspect that the five years to come will be a lesson in how the effectiveness of the House of Lords is reduced when the governing party/coalition has control.