HOME SECRETARY Alan Johnson is introducing new police state powers for councils next week. These will not be discussed in the House of Commons since the change to the Proceeds of Crime Act is set out in a Statutory Instrument that will not be debated by MPs.
Local councils are to be allowed to seize the assets of petty offenders who will not or cannot pay their council tax, or their parking fines, or other state levies.
Even the Police Federation is opposed to this legal brigandage.
Paul McKeever, of the Police Federation, said yesterday: ‘The Proceeds of Crime Act is a very powerful tool in the hands of the police and police-related agencies and it shouldn’t be treated lightly.’
The Instrument will allow Accredited Financial Investigators – which include customs officers, Department of Work and Pensions investigators, trading standards and other local authority workers – power to seize assets worth more than £1,000 without a court ruling.
No doubt we will shortly see the Accredited Financial Investigators mounting raids on housing estates, and dragging away the belongings of pensioners who cannot pay their council tax.
Councils have already been behaving like despots using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), anti-terrorist legislation to film and record residents who are not emptying their bins according to rule, or carrying out similar ‘criminal activities’.
Under Ripa council service managers have been authorising surveillance operations to spy on ‘suspicious’ residents, and their homes.
In 2007 councils and government departments made 12,494 applications for ‘directed surveillance’.
Poole Council authorised personnel to spy on a family they suspected of living in the wrong school catchment area.
The House of Lords Constitution Committee in their report, Surveillance: Citizens and the State, made in February 2009, highlighted the ‘pervasive and routine’ electronic surveillance and collection and processing of personal information that alters the relationship between the state and individuals, undermining the public’s right to privacy.
The report points out that privacy is an ‘essential pre-requisite to the exercise of individual freedom’ and that executive and legislative restraint in the use of surveillance and data collection should be taken into account at all times by the executive, government agencies and other public bodies.
Now councils are to be given even more police state powers.
The latest use of the Ripa powers was when the Ministry of Defence, to the horror of the bourgeois press, showed what it thought of its wounded soldiery back from Iraq and Afghanistan, by spying on those wounded soldiers who submitted compensation claims to check whether they were exaggerating or lying, so that they could cut their compensation.
The bourgeois media found that ‘The secret surveillance of claimants is being carried out under the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), originally intended to help the police and MI5 monitor terrorists in the UK.’
In fact the whole of the working class is being treated by the capitalist class and its state as a ‘criminal’ class to be surveyed, monitored, filmed, fined and jailed.
The attempt by Home Secretary Johnson to criminalise all council residents must be smashed.
These new powers for councils are part of the response of the ruling class to the crisis of its system, and its fear of the revolutionary role of the working class.
The only way that the working class can defend its basic rights and liberties is through a socialist revolution to smash the capitalist state and its gangs of spies, to put an end to the private ownership of the means of production, and go forward to a socialist society.