Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Clamping Down on Freedom

So the new look One Show had a scoop last night with the news that the new Freedom Bill will include a provision to make illegal the clamping and towing away of cars parked on private property. Cue much rejoicing at all these cowboy clampers and evil landowners getting their just desserts.

It has been followed up widely elsewhere this morning:

Wheel-clamping on private land by “cowboy” clampers is to be banned, ministers will say.

Lynne Featherstone, the Home Office minister, will announce plans to curb the activities of clampers in England and Wales.

Ms Featherstone will say the rules should be brought into line with those in Scotland, where clamping on private land was banned after a judge said it amounted to ‘extortion’ and ‘theft’.

The Daily Telegraph understands she will to speak to the Justice Ministry in Northern Ireland about banning the practice there too.

Ms Featherstone, a Liberal Democrat minister in the Home Office, said a ban on their activities was “very good news”.

She said: “I am delighted that our Government have made the decision to ban it outright. It is a ban and thank goodness.”

Ms Featherstone said that proposals to ban clamping on private land, such as company or supermarket car parks, would be included in a new Freedom Bill to be introduced in November.

The legislation will also include measures to stop companies towing away parked cars on private land without permission.

Now, where do I start?

One problem that we saw frequently under the last administration was the problem of lazy government. Featherstone was saying this morning that governments have tried to tackle the problem of “cowboy clampers” but have failed. Well then they haven’t tried hard enough. Banning clamping and towing-away will not just tackle the cowboys, but also the many reputable companies that operate in a perfectly reasonable way. Regulation (covering, say, signage, maximum fines, etc) would take a little more thought and time, but would be the more common sense approach.

Whatever, it all makes good headlines, eh?

Private landowners (or “greedy landlords” depending on your point of view) can just use barriers or fencing to protect their land, said Featherstone. Fine Lynne, but what if someone outstays their ticket, or happens to “tailgate” their way into a car park or finds some other means of entry? If someone trespasses on my land, surely I have the right to use reasonable means to eject them?

The second problem here is that “Liberal” Democrats and other modern liberals have forgotten what freedom and liberty should be about. It doesn’t mean that you can do what you like (such as parking on some else’s land without, or beyond, their permission). It means you can do what you like as long as it doesn’t restrict someone else’s freedom. Unfortunately, too often the right to own property, and the freedom to enjoy that property is being steadily eroded.

This clouded view of “freedom” is highlighted in that way this measure is to be introduced. The purpose of the Freedom Bill, one might have naively thought, is about reducing the number of laws and rules that the state has imposed on us, not adding new ones; indeed the “Your Freedom” website enthusiastically asks us “which laws and regulations you think we should get rid of”. Yet just as modern Liberals don’t “get” liberty, so the freedom bill has been twisted far beyond its prospectus. Today, the likes of Lynne Featherstone seem to have got their way in ensuring that the freedom to enjoy property has taken yet another knock.

This leads me to a final irony, which is that it will only apply to private land. I find it as odd as the smoking ban applying to private premises but not the street. In this case, there is the obvious question of why it’s OK for local authorities to use clamping and towing away, but not private landowners. Of course, it’s because councils are regulated. That’s right: regulated in, not banned from, using such measures.

In other news, further down the running order, a senior doctor has suggested decriminalising drug use. Manufacturers of barge-poles report a spike in demand.

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