Security trumps civil liberties

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THE first duty of any government is to protect the national security of its citizens, an obligation which underpins the coalition’s emergency legislation to ensure police and security services can continue to access mobile phone and internet data.

These are perturbing times – the increased security steps at Britain’s airports are a direct response to specific intelligence about a possible terrorist activity coincides with a number of young Muslims travelling from these shores to Syria to become jihadists. Some have likened this to treason.

As such, it would have been negligent of David Cameron – and Nick Clegg for that matter – to allow Parliament to adjourn for the summer after the European courts suggested that communications companies could delete potentially crucial material.

On entering Downing Street for the first time, both men received a full national security briefing within minutes and have carried this heavy burden of responsibility for the past four years. They are only too aware of the condemnation that they would face if they chose not to legislate when the terrorist threat is said to be so serious as the implosion of Iraq and Syria add a dangerous new dimension to the Middle East crisis. It would be a resignation issue.

This was also reflected by the magnanimity shown by Labour’s Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary. Despite the West Yorkshire MP’s reservations about the haste of the legislation, she was right to highlight the need for counter terrorism intelligence operations to take precedence.

As such, the proposed laws – with the safeguard that the new legislation will have to be reviewed every two years – should be regarded as a necessary step to protect the civil liberties of all. And the only people who should have anything to fear from this response are those whose sinister intentions pose a direct threat to this country’s cherished democratic freedoms.

Still left to chance

Out-of-hours care in poor health

THE NATIONAL Audit Office’s exposé of out-of-hours GP cover confirms the anecdotal testimony of many people across Yorkshire; namely they have insufficient confidence in a service which appears to be run for the convenience of the doctors in some instances rather than the benefit of their patients.

It is highlighted by the mysterious fact that the number of people using this service has miraculously fallen from 8.6 million patients in 2007-08 to 5.8 million individuals in the last financial year at a time when the demands being placed upon the National Health Service have never been greater.

Some of this decline, say investigators, can be attributed to the increased effectiveness of the 111 non-emergency helpline, but it also explains why many A&E departments are so overstretched – many families prefer to go to a casualty unit, where they know they will be seen a doctor, rather than receive an assessment over the telephone.

Yet, while the NAO is right to highlight those areas that have had the foresight to implement robust arrangements for evenings and weekends, too much is being left to chance and the onus should be on all GP surgeries to do likewise by the end of the year.

After all, the need for doctors to be rooted in local communities, like GPs of yesteryear, has never been more important. With an ageing population, and the Government expressing a desire for more people to be treated in their own home so they’re only admitted to hospital as a last resort, this is one area where the need for a quick remedy has never been a greater.

The show goes on

That was the week that was

Harrogate HAS never known a week like it. After the pride and the glory of hosting the Tour de France last weekend, the town then pulled out all the stops to ensure that the 156th Great Yorkshire Show was another spectacular success and triumph for the region’s farmers.

This would not have been possible without the leadership of the show’s honorary director Bill Cowling, a newly-appointed deputy lieutenant of North Yorkshire, and Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s chief society Nigel Pulling whose staff pulled out all the stops to create another unforgettable event.

Now it is the turn of William Derby’s team York Racecourse which is preparing to welcome 50,000-plus spectators for the two-day John Smith’s Cup meeting after starting the week by welcoming the Tour de France peloton for the start of stage two. Is it any wonder, given such expertise, that the warmth of this county’s hospitality – and quality of local produce – is the envy of the world?