There seems to be quite a lot of debate (at least there is on some of the blogs I've been looking at) about the panopticon society and the nanny state we have in this country, most of them laying the blame, variously, at the doors of the Labour Government and the EU.
But a new pamphlet issued by the Centre for Policy Studies and reported in The Daily Mail suggests that this kind of thing has been going on for a long time.
The CPS pamphlet lists 266 reasons for police and other officials to raid your home. For example:
Under the Bees Act (1980) officials - and exactly which officials is not specified - can demand entry to your home in order to check if you're keeping foreign bees.
The Conservation of Seals Act (1970) allows the Secretary of State for Agriculture immediate entry to your property to see whether you're keeping seals which may be `damaging fish stocks.' Refusing him or her entry can result in a £2,500 fine. He or she is welcome to try here, if he or she feels hard enough.
And under the Hypnotism Act (1950) inspectors can demand to be allowed into your home to check whether any entertainment going on inside breaks the law governing hypnotism stage acts. And if anyone can tell me how to apply for that job, you'll have my eternal gratitude. `What do you do for a living, hutch?' `Oh, I'm a hypnotism inspector.'
All good knockabout stuff, except it isn't. The Mail, being the Mail, hangs this story off the hook of reports that local councils are hiring `snoopers' to check whether residents are putting their rubbish out properly. The Mail being the Mail, they also seem more exercised about the amount of money these inspectors are allegedly costing - Ealing is supposedly spending £150,000 - as if it might not be so bad if this snooping was going on for free.
(I have certain issues with the waste collection policy in our borough, which I might as well jot down while I'm on the subject. Our borough has started to fine people £1,000 if they put bottles or jars or newspapers in their normal bins rather than the square recycling boxes they provide. Which is fine - I'm all for recycling - but the boxes are entirely inadequate, so we wind up collecting recyclables in the flat and then driving them up to the local recycling centre, which fortunately is just five minutes away. Which makes me wonder, why am I still paying that portion of my Council Tax which represents the cost of shifting these things?
(Also, we've had a couple of occasions where our bin has not been emptied because it was `too heavy.' The second time, Bogna - who is not exactly built like Chuck Norris - had moved the bin out onto the pavement herself. We wound up having to take some bags out and drive them up to the recycling centre, just to lighten the bin enough that it could be emptied. And once again I had to wonder...blah, blah...Council Tax...etc...)
All this stuff about seals and bees and hypnotists sounds funny, but each and every one of them gives somebody the right to enter your house uninvited, and provides for a fine if you don't let them in.
We speak a lot, and quite justifiably too, about the erosion of our civil liberties that we see around us. But I think we always tend to see it as a contemporary thing, something that is only happening now. What these amusing little anecdotes prove is that this is a process that has been going on for a long time, that our civil liberties have always been compromised. That doesn't mean we shouldn't get angry about it. If anything, it suggests that we're not angry enough.