Plans to allow civil servants and private firms to seize passports without a court order violate the constitution, peers have warned.
The government wants to take passports and driving licences away from parents who refuse to pay child support.
It says it would only use the measures – contained in the Welfare Reform Bill – as a “last resort”.
But the Lords Constitution Committee fears bureaucrats and firms hired by them are gaining too much power.
A ‘last resort’ eh? How many times do we have to hear that, before the agency which has grabbed the power starts to abuse it with no checks at all? The Committee said:
“The freedom to travel to and from one’s country is a constitutional right of such significance that restricting this right as a punishment demands rigorous examination by an independent judge.”
The Committee, which is chaired by Tory peer Lord Goodlad and includes former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf, expressed concern that the power to seize travel documents would also be available to private contractors hired by CMEC.
It said: “It would not be constitutionally appropriate for a third party to have decision-making power over who may leave the United Kingdom.“
Indeed. But for a government which is hellbent on going ahead with ID cards, even when they can no longer afford to do so, are you surprised they have no such compunction?