Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Insolence of Office

I have just come back from a short break across the Channel. At Dover yesterday we queued for UK immigration checks and our passports were scanned into a computer. One of our party had a temporary non-UK passport valid for a month, that expired on the 30th April. Handing our passports back the Immigration Officer said: "You shouldn't really be travelling on this on its day of expiry. Will you remember that in future?" My friend politely took back his passport and we drove off to the ferry.
Now just a minute:- the passport was valid when presented, having about eight hours' validity remaining. The journey was scheduled to take less than two hours. So by what right does a public servant tell a traveller not to use a perfectly valid document? All right, it was a small incident and nobody was hurt. The officer was polite enough, but exceeded her powers, something that she had probably been told to do by her superiors.
This, dear reader, is the world into which we are blindly stumbling as the rule of law is encroached upon by the rule of administrative fiat. This isn't about security, it's about a casual abuse of power. A few years after I was born there took place what was described as a "bonfire of controls". I fear that by the time that I die England will be considerably less free than it was on the day I was born. Nobody ever threatened my granny with a fine for putting her dustbin out early.

Maitre Éolas has blogged about arrogant and unfair practices in the USA and in France. His piece is here. I'm afraid it's in French, but the message is that terrorism has become the all-purpose excuse for casual abuse of the citizen's rights

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