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Gordon Brown grabs more power for the treasury

Posted by James Hammerton @ 6:28 pm on 22 October, 2006.
Categories privacy and surveillance, democracy and the rule of law, British politics.
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Hat tip: Spy Blog.

Gordon Brown has recently introduced a statutory instrument granting the Treasury sweeping powers ostensibly targetted at terrorist financing. Spy Blog’s comments indicate just how far reaching these powers are (emphasis mine):

However, the previous Orders referring to such resolutions specifically against the Taliban and Al Qaida, have been revoked by this Order, so this is, in fact a new, infinite General Power, which the NuLabour Government has grabbed for itself, without any debate about the details in Parliament.

Are they also intending to use it to “freeze the financial assets” of Northern Irish terrorists or so called animal rights extremists, since there is nothing whatsoever in this Order to prevent them from doing so ?

A worrying aspect of this Order is that according to Schedule 1 Evidence and Information the Treasury is only obliged to “take such steps as they consider appropriate”

The Treasury can “designate” anybody, and they are the only judges of what they consider to be terrorist activity or association, for which they do not have to gave any actual hard evidence.

By invoking this Order, the Treasury can demand any document or record from any British citzen or corporate person i.e. banks and financial institutions with subsidiaries in the UK, under a criminal penalty of up to 2 years in prison.

The Treasury can also hand this data over to any foreign Government.

There is also a secrecy provision, if they choose to only tell certain people or financial institutions, and not the general public about the freezing of assets, backed up by a criminal penalty of up to 2 years in prison.

There is a penalty of up to 7 years in prison for people who delliberately continue to allow funds transfers etc. in contravention of the Designation orders by the Treasury.

More over, as SpyBlog notes, section 7 of the order seems to provide a carte blanche to exempt the use of these powers from the restrictions of the Data Protection Act, the Common Law duty of confidentiality, and other protections of the privacy/confidentiality of financial data:

7. An action done under this Schedule is not to be treated as a breach of any restriction imposed by statute or otherwise.

For further details, see the original Spy Blog article and the order itself.

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