Fears over EU 'Big Brother' DNA deal
At a meeting of ministers in Brussels yesterday it was decided that police across the EU should have access to Britain's DNA, car registration and fingerprint records.
All member states will have access to other countries' DNA and fingerprint data, as well as direct online access to vehicle registries.
The exchanges could be up and running as early as next year and might eventually lead to the creation of a single Euro-wide database.
Police in one country will be able to find out whether another has data matching the profile of a suspected offender.
Gerard Batten, a London UKIP MEP, said: "This is the thin end of the wedge and will lead to a European-wide database including all personal details including DNA. It is the beginning of an Euro-wide, Big Brother state."
Army of spies will police ban on smoking in pubs
By Alison Little
Deputy Political Editor
(c) 2007 Express Newspapers
Critics fume at £30m bill to train 'town hall Taliban'
MILLIONS of pounds of taxpayers' money will be spent on policing new "no smoking in public" rules.
Critics said there would be a town hall Taliban ? an army of undercoover officials with power to enter pubs, bars and offices.
They will be able to photograph, film and slap instant fines on offenders, part of "heavy-handed" plans by Labour to create a police state.
Local authorities in England have been given a total of £29.5million for this year and next to help prepare for the ban.
Thousands of council staff will be involved in enforcing the public smoking ban which comes into force across England on July 1.
Scotland introduced the law last year and it will be implemented in Wales and Northern Ireland in April.
Lighting-up will be outlawed in virtually all enclosed public places including pubs, bars, restaurants and workplaces.
Yesterday it emerged the Government has given councils cash to train anti-smoking officials to enforce the rules so that police time is not taken up.
The enforcers will have the power to impose £50 on-the-spot fines on illegal smokers and prosecute businesses who will be liable for £200 fines for not displaying no-smoking signs and penalties of up to £2,500 if they refuse to enforce the ban.
A Government-funded course will initially train 1,200 council officers in England in the next few months, who will in turn brief other staff who will join them on patrol.
Conservative shadow local government minister Eric Pickles said: "These proposed heavy-handed surveillance and zealous inspections look like a wholly disproportionate response ? a municipal sledgehammer to crack a nut.
"People want their council tax to be used to clean the streets, collect their rubbish and keep the streets safe. They don't want it spent on bankrolling a town hall Taliban."
Simon Clark, director of smokers' lobby group Forest, said the scheme would be a waste of public money, adding: "The idea of getting public officials to snoop on people is distasteful and disproportionate."
A spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association described the plan as heavy-handed and elaborate, adding: "In Scotland, there have been just 11 fixed penalty notices issued to premises in the last 10 months, with many councils having issued none at all."
John Whittaker, chairman of the anti-Brussels UK Independence Party, said: "Every time this government introduces new proposals we descend deeper and deeper into a police state. People don't need all this nannying and bullying.
"As has been shown in Scotland, where the ban is already in force, smokers will abide by the new rules without heavy-handed bureaucrats harassing them. This scheme is not only an insult to people's intelligence it also involves public money - which could be used in so many better ways - literally going up in smoke."
But council chiefs denied it was a plot to spy on people. One source commented: "Just because officials might not be going in with flashing lights and clip boards does not mean they're 'undercover'."
Local Government Association chairman Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart insisted: "Councils have no interest whatsoever in snooping on people. Their only interest is in making sure that businesses, landlords, and smokers understand what the smoking ban means when it comes into force, and showing those who flout the law that their actions have consequences. "Experiences in Scotland, where a similar ban was introduced last year, have shown the vast majority of smokers are responsible and respect the new law. No doubt the same will be true in England."
Ian Gray, for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and chief trainer for the government course, said: "I expect most councils will take a softly, softly approach at first. But there will be some occasions where action has to be taken and I am sure the officers will not shy away from that.
"These officers do not have to identify themselves when they go into premises and they can even film and photograph people to gather evidence although this may not be appropriate in many cases."
Councils are gearing up for the ban.
Nottingham is considering involving street wardens to keep an eye out for offenders.
Liverpool will have a core team of about 20 but put 200 on patrol in the first few days after the ban comes in.
Andy Hull of Liverpool City Council said: "We want to make our presence felt from the start, and while we will probably just issue warnings on the first day, we won't be afraid of making an example of people or businesses if they try to make a stand."
And "shop a smoker" hotlines are being established.
The Department of Health said: "The Government's intention is to create a supportive environment where people are encouraged and supported to comply with the new laws. Enforcement will be supportive and non-confrontational.
Christine Melsom, founder of the anti-council tax group IsItFair, said that new offences should be dealt with by police.
Monday, February 19, 2007
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