More than 450 high-street head shops and online sellers of legal highs face closure across Britain
under the blanket ban on new psychoactive substances to be debated in parliament on Tuesday.
The first Home Office estimate of the extent of the trade in legal highs, which are to be banned from April next year, describes it as an industry making a 40% profit of £32m a year on an annual turnover of £82m.
The psychoactive substances bill, which is to receive its second reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday, is designed to ban the trade in legal highs, probably from April next year. The legislation includes exemptions for everyday legitimate
psychoactive substances including alcohol, tobacco and caffeine and is also expected to include an exemption for legitimate medical and scientific research.
The ban will cover a range of synthetic chemical substances designed to mimic traditional illegal drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy and will extend to cover nitrous oxide -- laughing gas or hippy crack -- the second most popular
recreational drug in Britain.
The estimate of the size of the legal highs market is the first indication of the scale of the industry that faces closure as a result of the ban. The Home Office estimate that based on police and local authority sources there are about 335 high
street head shops for whom legal highs is a main source of income. On top of this there are a further 115 UK-based websites offering them for sale online.
The Home Office says there are a further 210 smaller suppliers of legal highs including tattoo parlours, sex shops and newsagents for whom the trade is not a major source of income but which will also be hit by the ban.
The bill is expected to receive widespread support in its second reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday. But Lady Meacher, of the all-party parliamentary group for drug policy reform, is expected to warn that the blanket ban will lead to young
people turning back to street dealers or the internet, and will not reduce their overall use.
A new campaign is calling for buying sex to be made illegal in an attempt to ban prostitution in Scotland.
The End Prostitution Now campaign is being backed by the Women's Support Project and the Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership. Liz Curran, from the Women's Support Project, told BBC Scotland:
The crux of this campaign is about challenging the demand for prostitution which is inherently harmful to women. We have to tackle the root cause and from our campaign's point of view that is gender inequality and men's demand.
The vast majority of women who are involved in prostitution are not there through choice. A small minority of women may make it a choice but the law does not represent the interest of minorities.
Molly (not her real name) from Scotpep, a sex workers' rights organisation which works with prostitutes on the streets and in saunas, explained the dangers inherent in the feminist campaign:
When the client is criminalised he is more jumpy.
He needs to get away quickly and that means the worker has to get into his car more quickly if she wants to keep his business.
That cuts down on the crucial time that she has to talk about services and prices and to assess whether he seems safe, whether he seems drunk, to write down his car registration number. So there is a huge increase in violence associated with
laws like this.
Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has submitted amendments to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill in the hope of banning prostitution. She tried to justify her morality amendment:
It's now illegal to purchase sex in Northern Ireland. We need to follow suit to stop Scotland becoming a haven for sex traffickers moving out of Northern Ireland and into a more hospitable environment here.
The High Court is hearing a legal challenge to the government's 'emergency' surveillance law brought by two MPs.
The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act was fast-tracked through Parliament in three days last July. It allows Britain's intelligence agencies to gather people's phone and internet communications data.
But former Conservative minister David Davis and Labour's Tom Watson will argue that the legislation is incompatible with human rights. The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act was rushed through Parliament in July 2014, after a ruling by
the European Union's Court of Justice rendered existing powers illegal.
The plans were supported by the three main parties, but opposed by civil liberties campaigners. 'Lives at risk'
However, Watson and Davis say the legislation was rushed and lacked adequate safeguards, and needs to be re-thought. They will argue that the legislation is incompatible with the right to a private and family life, and data protection, under
both the Human Rights Act and the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights.
A former councillor from Slough has effectively resigned from the Labour Party after failing to persuade his MP, (now a candidate seeking re-election), to
support the introduction of a new UK blasphemy law.
Mohammed Arif, who was a councillor in the 1990s, was unhappy with Fiona Mactaggart's refusal to publicly back the Blasphemy Law which limits the freedom of expression relating to blasphemy. He said:
I am not happy about resigning but I had no choice, I am not being listened to. She is not listening to us. This has really hurt me.
Arif is the president of the Pakistan Welfare Association (PWA). He wrote to Ms Mactaggart in February, on behalf of the PWA, and asked her to back a Parliamentary bill which would support such a law. He received a response from Mactaggart in April in
which she said she would pass a petition on to the correct government minister if the feelings were widespread across Slough. He complained:
I have no difficulty with the Labour Party itself. It is the people who run the local party, they do not bother to listen.
I am not against freedom of expression, everybody has the right to their own views... HOWEVER ...respect is more important.
Arif has now pledged support to the Conservative parliamentary candidate, Gurcharan Singh and says he is in favour of David Cameron's commitment to tackling Islamophobia .
The Labour MP for Slough has hit out against voter intimidation, after some Muslim voters were told that they were not true
Muslims unless they voted against her.
The row centres over a local campaign for a blasphemy law. During the General Election campaign newly re-elected MP Fiona Mactaggart apparently resisted calls for the draconian measure, and when the result was announced she issued a stark warning about
spiritual coercion in one community - in an apparent reference to Muslims in Slough.
Mactaggart said voters had been intimidated and that she wouldn't build bridges with those behind the smears:
I don't see how you can build a bridge with someone who says 'you aren't a proper Muslim if you vote for Fiona.
There has been an element of spiritual coercion in one community which I profoundly regret. I think it was an attempt to divide Slough and its community which is dangerous. It is religious intimidation.
Her defeated Conservative Party rival, Gurcharan Singh, said :
The truth is that Fiona refused to listen to the concerns of Slough's Muslim community and the Pakistan Welfare Association about the need for action to provide a legal channel to respond to those blaspheming against their religion.
Worryingly, Singh said the local campaign for a blasphemy law resonated with Sikhs and Hindus too.
Stephen Evans of the National Secular Society said:
The recent election campaign saw numerous attempts to exert religious or spiritual influence over voters. There may well be problems with how the law deals with this kind of action by religious groups and leaders, as some argue. Either way, it is an
extremely troubling development. We do not want to see sectarian politics emerging in this country.
As for Mr Singh- it is deeply concerning to hear a parliamentary candidate supporting a campaign for a blasphemy law. Inter-faith support for such a regressive measure is nothing to be proud of.
Scottish National Party MPs are commendably planning to oppose flagship Conservative legislation by courting Tory backbenchers, The Telegraph
Nicola Sturgeon's Westminster MPs want to block the so-called Snoopers' Charter by courting libertarian Tories who have previously opposed Theresa May's plans for internet mass snooping. The conservatives want to implement a searchable database so
that the authorities will be able to more fully analyse people's internet usage and communications.
The SNP MPs also believe they can gather enough cross-party support to kill off reprehensible Tory plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a lesser British Bill of Rights.
One senior SNP MP told the Telegraph:
Both those issues fall in that tricky civil liberties space for the Conservatives where there are fault lines,
We think the mass collection of data is wrong. There is a line beyond which it is unacceptable for civil liberties can be impinged.
SNP opposition would likely be matched by Labour and the Lib Dems, meaning only a few dozen Tory rebels would be enough to block the flagship manifesto pledges.
A politically charged moral panic over young people's attitudes to sexuality is leading to Internet censorship and the labelling of ordinary young people as sex offenders, civil liberties campaign Backlash warns today.
Backlash will campaign for a change in the law so that prosecutions intended to halt child abuse are not used to instigate the abuse of children through the criminal justice system.
Backlash is extending its remit to provide legal advice for young people who are threatened with criminal prosecution for possessing sexually explicit images of themselves and shared consensually on digital media.
The campaign will help fund effective defences when support available under legal aid is inadequate, and develop arguments for a judicial review of existing legislation.
Backlash will also disseminate a growing body of robust academic research evidence to policymakers, challenging the current legislative process, which is dominated by a climate of ignorance and hysteria regarding young people's attitudes to sexual
This campaign is spearheaded by obscenity law expert and Backlash's legal adviser, Myles Jackman.
Sexting -- criminalising ordinary young people
Millions of young people exchange explicit texts and images with each other over the Internet. For the most part this is equivalent to the flirting and sexual exploration typical of adolescence in the pre-digital age. There is no evidence that these
activities are intrinsically harmful. However, a flaw in existing legislation means that possession of all sexually explicit images of people under 18 is classified as indecent . This means that people from the age of 16 to 18 are able to consent
to sex, but are unable to possess images of their own lawful sexual activities.
A 16 to 18 year old that creates a nude picture of themselves using a camera-phone is, under current law, guilty of the serious offence of creating child pornography , even though their actions do not plausibly justify such a label.
When the authorities detect these images, teenagers themselves become subject to laws originally aimed at stopping child abuse, even though no abuse has taken place. These prosecutions cause immense mental distress and disruption to education. A
prosecution, regardless of the sentencing outcome, severely harms the future life prospects of young people. For example, ordinary teenagers, who pose no harm to those around them, can still be forced to sign the sex offenders' register and prevented
from participating in a broad range of employment, civic and personal activities years after the offence has been recorded.
Inappropriate criminalisation is a significant danger for ordinary young people growing up in the digital age, made worse by the fact that the source of the danger is the criminal justice system.
Porn panic -- a cross-party delusion
Instead of tackling this flawed legislation to focus on acts of abuse, major political parties have been caught in an arms race towards more criminalisation and censorship of people's sexuality. This process has been fostered by knee-jerk responses to
pressure groups that ignore academic research evidence into young people's sexuality and use of sexually explicit media.
An NSPCC survey claimed, earlier this month, that a tenth of twelve to thirteen year olds had reported the fear that they were addicted to pornography. The survey has since been exposed as unreliable, as it was a developed by a marketing
company that offers to produce survey outcomes based on pre-defined conclusions.
Nevertheless, the Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, pronounced that the Conservatives would impose age-restrictions to protect our children from harmful material . This pledge was almost immediately matched by the Labour Party. Such an approach
ignores alternative approaches, including providing effective sex education to young people.
Myles Jackman commented:
By criminalising young people between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, our political and justice systems show how disconnected they are from technological change and social values, which is especially worrying so close to an election where politicians
have been exploiting selfie culture.
Conservative Party promises to ban all international internet adult porn, on the grounds that it can't and wont sign up to overly restrictive and unviable age verification requirements. And inevitably the Labour Party agrees.
Ukip have reported Have I Got News For You to police over a comment made about Nigel Farage.
However commentators have noted that the disputed comments about Farage came after 13 minutes of mocking the Tories, Labour, Lib Dem and SNP campaigns.
The complaint arose from last Friday's edition when journalist Camilla Long spoke about visiting Farage's constituency of South Thanet in Kent. She said:
I went there more than Nigel Farage. By the time I arrived there he'd only been a few times.
When asked by Ian Hislop whether she thought Ukip would win the seat, Long replied:
I don't think they are, I don't think he's going to get a seat at all.
Speaking to Nick Ferrari on LBC, Farage said:
Even through to a programme on Have I Got News For You last week where comments were made about an individual in a constituency, namely me, that I just don't think would have been said about any other candidate in the country.'
According to ITV Nnews, Ukip's advisors claimed the comments were inaccurate and that their broadcast breached the Representation of the People Act.
Kent Police confirmed they received a complaint, but said they would not be launching an investigation. A spokesman told Chortle:
Kent Police received a complaint regarding comments made on a television broadcast last week. It was suggested that the comments breached the Representation of the People Act. The matter has been reviewed by officers but there's no evidence of any
offences and there will be no further action.
The Labour Party made a very worrying policy announcement that was hardly noticed by the media: Labour would outlaw
Islamophobia , said Ed Miliband in an interview.
The proposals are fairly nebulous at this point: Ed says he intends to make Islamophobia an aggravated crime and toughen existing hate crime legislation . Defenders of freedom of speech should be alarmed at this, because Labour has
dangerous previous form in exactly this area: the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.
What Ed is proposing looks like a return to finish the 2006 act. In 2006 Labour originally tried to criminalise deliberately insulting a religion. Those opposed to that law argued that it would become a criminal offence mock a religion, or to say
that a religion damages British society, because in doing so they would be accused of inciting religious hatred *. There was a huge public out-cry, led by academics, artists, writers and comedians (notably Rowan Atkinson), and in the end the
Labour government was defeated by a single vote and the law was watered down. Ed Miliband personally voted for the original wording.
Such oppressive laws are two edged. Not only do they deny people free speech, but they also provide weapons to bullies and aggressive people by allowing them to accuse people of islamophobia.
Lets face it, the need to criticise religion is massively important, unchecked religions have spawned some of the nastiest regimes known to mankind.
We remain strongly committed to the implementation of the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry. We expect the industry to establish a mechanism for independent self-regulation, which delivers proper redress for individuals, as set out in the Royal
Charter, and agreed by all parties in Parliament. We made a promise to victims of the phone hacking scandal. We stand by that promise and will keep it.
We will defend press freedom We will continue to defend hard-won liberties and the operation of a free press. But
alongside the media's rights comes a clear responsibility, which is why we set up the public, judge-led Leveson Inquiry in response to the phone-hacking scandal, created a new watchdog by Royal Charter and legislated to toughen media libel laws.
Because the work of the free press is so important we will offer explicit protection for the role of journalists via the British Bill of Rights and we will ban the police from accessing journalists' phone records to identify whistle-blowers and other
sources without prior judicial approval.
We will protect intellectual property by continuing to require internet service providers to block sites that carry large amounts of illegal content, including their proxies. And we will build on progress made under our voluntary anti-piracy projects to
warn internet users when they are breaching copyright.
We will stop children's exposure to harmful sexualised content online, by requiring age verification for access to all sites containing pornographic material and age-rating for all music videos.
We will work to ensure that search engines do not link to the worst-offending sites.
The culture of everyday sexism will be declining, with young people taught in school about respect in relationships and sexual consent.
Online, people will no longer be worried that the government is monitoring their every keystroke, a Digital Bill of Rights will have enshrined enduring principles of privacy and helped keep the internet open.
We share the hope of Lord Justice Leveson that the incentives for the press to sign up to genuinely independent self-regulation will succeed. But if, in the judgment of the Press Recognition Panel, after 12 months of operation, there is significant
non-cooperation by newspaper publishers, then -- as Leveson himself concluded -- Parliament will need to act, drawing on a range of options including the legislative steps necessary to ensure that independent self-regulation is delivered. Where possible,
we would seek to do this on the same cross-party basis that achieved the construction of the Leveson scheme by the Royal Charter.
Securing liberty online
Safeguard the essential freedom of the internet and back net neutrality, the principle that internet service providers should enable access to all lawful content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular
products or websites.
Make it clear that online services have a duty to provide age-appropriate policies, guidance and support to the children and young people who use their services.
The Green Party supports a world of open, freely flowing information. We don't want disproportionate or unaccountable surveillance or
censorship. We want a transparent state but we want control over the data that our digital lives create. We need copyright laws that reward creators but that are consistent with digital technologies. Above all we want democratic political control of this
technology. We would:
Support and protect internet freedeom
Limit the censoring or takedown of content or activity to exceptional circumstances, clearly set out within a comprehensive legal framework.
Introduce more satisfactory law on so-called malicious comments made on social media than the blanket and crude section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.
Support the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics and for the cross-party Royal charter. But if this is to supported by all the major newspapers we will support legislation to implement the Leveson system of independent press
Strengthen controls on advertising directed at children.
We will need to update our investigative laws to keep up with changing technology, strengthening both the powers available, and the safeguards that
protect people's privacy. This is why Labour argued for an independent review, currently being undertaken by David Anderson. We will strengthen the oversight of our intelligence agencies to make sure the public can continue to have confidence in the
vital work that they do to keep us safe.
Labour have provided a rather vague statement on their plans. They call for "strengthening the powers available" but it isn't clear which powers they think need strengthening. We are also unclear on which safeguards they think need to be put
into place to protect people's privacy. Improving oversight of the intelligence agencies is an important area to reform. In our view though, it is also important that the powers and capabilities of the intelligence agencies, as revealed by Edward
Snowden, are limited to targeted surveillance on people suspected of crimes. Labour have not committed to any change to the bulk collection of our internet use that GCHQ currently undertakes. It is disappointing that a party which makes so much of its
support for the Human Rights Act elsewhere in its manifesto does not see the human rights of privacy, freedom of speech and association as important enough to change its approach to state surveillance.
We will keep up to date the ability of the police and security services to access communications data -- the 'who,
where, when and how' of a communication, but not its content. Our new communications data legislation will strengthen our ability to disrupt terrorist plots, criminal networks and organised child grooming gangs, even as technology develops. We will
maintain the ability of the authorities to intercept the content of suspects' communications, while continuing to strengthen oversight of the use of these powers.
We will ban the police from accessing journalists' phone records to identify whistle-blowers and other sources without prior judicial approval.
The Conservatives want to increase the surveillance powers available to the police and intelligence agencies. Like Labour, there is no detail on which powers they would strengthen in particular. They say they will introduce "new communications data
legislation" which we can only assume is a revamped Communications Data Bill - commonly known as the Snoopers' Charter. The bulk collection of the content of our communications revealed in the documents released by Edward Snowden is not addressed.
It is right that police should need judicial approval before they can access journalists' phone records but judicial authorisation for surveillance should be sought before surveillance on all of us, not just journalists. There is no explicit mention of
David Cameron's previously stated principle that all communications should be accessible by the state even when they have been encrypted.
Ensure judicial authorisation is required for the acquisition of communications data which might reveal journalists' sources or other privileged communications, for any of the purposes allowed under RIPA; and allow journalists the
opportunity to address the court before authorisation is granted, where this would not jeopardise the investigation.
Ensure proper oversight of the security services.
Establish in legislation that the police and intelligence agencies should not obtain data on UK residents from foreign governments that it would not be legal to obtain in the UK under UK law.
Oppose the introduction of the so-called Snooper's Charter. We blocked the draft Communications Data Bill and would do so again. Requiring companies to store a record of everyone's internet activities for a year or to collect
third-party communications data for non-business purposes is disproportionate and unacceptable, as is the blanket surveillance of our paper post.
Set stricter limits on surveillance and consider carefully the outcomes of the reviews we initiated on surveillance legislation by the Royal United Services Institute and the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation David
Anderson QC. We are opposed to the blanket collection of UK residents' personal communications by the police or the intelligence agencies. Access to metadata, live content, or the stored content of personal communications must only take place without
consent where there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or to prevent threats to life.
Uphold the right of individuals, businesses and public bodies to use strong encryption to protect their privacy and security online.
The Liberal Democrats give much greater detail on what they would like to see on the issue of surveillance than Labour or the Conservatives. This should be welcomed. We are happy to see that they oppose the blanket collection of UK residents' personal
communications by the police or intelligence agencies. It will be interesting to see whether they retain their opposition to blanket collection if the reports mentioned above in their manifesto do not share their position. There is also a good commitment
to the right to use strong encryption online. We welcome the Liberal Democrat's call for judicial authorisation before journalists' communications data is accessed but we think this should be necessary before bulk collection of our communications is
Oppose any case for secret unaccountable mass surveillance of the type exposed by Edward Snowden. We do accept that government law enforcement agencies may occasionally need to intercept communications in specific circumstances.
Such specific surveillance should be proportionate, necessary, effective and within the rule of law, with independent judicial approval and genuine parliamentary oversight.
Replace the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which has failed
to regulate the deployment of undercover police;
to support the confidentiality of journalistic sources;
to support legal confidentiality; and
to enshrine an open and effective right of redress.
The Green Party have released a manifesto with very strong commitments on surveillance reform in line with the calls of the Don't Spy On Us campaign. They are the only party to mention Edward Snowden in their manifesto! Their calls for targeted
surveillance that is proportionate and with independent judicial authorisation are very welcome. They also note the problem that victims of inappropriate surveillance do not currently have a right of redress; another of the Don't Spy On Us principles.
Currently, British intelligence is fragmented between a number of agencies, including MI5, MI6, GCHQ and BBC Monitoring. All have different funding streams and report to different government departments. This generates a significant overlap in work and
resources and risks exposing gaps in the system.
UKIP will create a new over-arching role of Director of National Intelligence (subject to confirmation hearing by the relevant Commons Select Committee), who will be charged with reviewing UK intelligence and security, in order to ensure threats are
identified, monitored and dealt with by the swiftest, most appropriate and legal means available. He or she will be responsible for bringing all intelligence services together; developing cyber security measures; cutting down on waste and encouraging
information and resource sharing.
At our recent civil liberties hustings in Brighton Pavilion, the UKIP candidate said that his party opposes "all general surveillance". There is no sign of that in their manifesto. They say nothing about which surveillance powers GCHQ should
have, how they should be overseen and how they should get oversight. There are currently two reviews of surveillance being carried out and their manifesto mentions neither of them. It is surprising, to say the least, that after nearly two years of news
about GCHQ surveillance, UKIP's only response is that there are too many intelligence agencies and that too many resources are being wasted.
The Green Party has published its manifesto with the promise to oppose secret unaccountable mass surveillance of the type exposed by Edward
Snowden and to replace the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000, which empowers hundreds of UK state agencies to conduct covert mass surveillance on individuals. The manifesto continued:
We do accept that government law enforcement agencies may occasionally need to intercept communications in specific circumstances. Such specific surveillance should be proportionate, necessary, effective and within the rule of law, with independent
judicial approval and genuine parliamentary oversight.
This compares with the Conservative manifesto pledge to re-introduce the Snooper's Charter, the Communications Data Bill
The Green Party also pledged to support and protect internet freedom and to limit surveillance - presumably both online and offline - and data retention by government agencies. At the same time, it supported the extension of EU data protection laws and
expressed opposition to large US data-driven companies .
It would also oppose efforts to apply patents to software, limit online censorship and the takedown of content or [online] activity . However, the manifesto wasn't explicit in terms of the kinds of content referred to.
The Green Party also pledged to introduce a more satisfactory law on so-called malicious comments made on social media than the blanket and crude section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 .
But the Green Party are ban happy in other areas and it seems that the miserable gits have got horse racing in their sights. Reprehensible!
A right to protect journalism from state interference and an end to ministers appointing the chef TV censors are set to be proposed by the Liberal
Democrats in a new first amendment -style charter on press freedom to be outlined in the party's manifesto.
The Lib Dem policy document is expected to suggest there should be a new statutory recognition of journalism so that newspapers and other media are not required to rely solely on the freedom of expression rights as spelled out under article 10 of the
European convention on human rights. Article 10 is weaker than the first amendment of the American constitution, which states that it is illegal for the US Congress to pass any law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press .
The proposed package is also expected to include:
An end to the right of ministers to appoint the chairs of Ofcom and the BBC's internal regulator, the BBC Trust. Appointments would be made via an independent body such as the commissioner for public appointments, but would not preclude a politician
A requirement that any decisions on media takeovers are subject to parliamentary as opposed to ministerial oversight, in a bid to prevent a repetition of the circumstances surrounding News Corporation's proposed takeover of BSkyB, which was going to be
waved through by the then culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, until the phone-hacking scandal erupted.
An end to the ministerial veto that allows the attorney general to over turn decisions of the information tribunal
A requirement for media regulator Ofcom to undertake periodic reviews of media plurality in the UK, independent of any specific takeover bid.
There would also be stronger defences for whistleblowers sending information to MPs and doctors.
The package is also expected to include a statutory public interest defence so that police officers cannot access a journalist's phone records to discover the identity of a source without judicial oversight, after it emerged that the phone records of Sun
journalist Tom Newton Dunn had been obtained without his consent by police investigating the Plebgate saga.