Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Function Shift & Paying Twice

Okay, first of all, an explanation of what function shift is. This is where a policy or procedural structure which is designed for one thing, moves to be being used for something else that it wasn't intended for, which then becomes the primary usage.

So, for example, there's a database of children's fingerprints kept so that they can use the school library, but after a school building is burned down, the police use that database to see if anyone in the school matches any evidence found at the scene. Then, because they've looked through the database, the police keep any fingerprints that are in it "for crime fighting purposes" and then look through any other school databases to see if there's a match there. And then keep all them on file as well. Not what the database was originally intended for, but there you go.

Secondly, an apology for this being so damned long.

As you may have heard, there has been a report suggesting that there should be road pricing in the next ten years. Now, from an environmental point of view, this is a very good idea. Cutting down pointless journeys - such as driving your kid to the school in your fricking Chelsea Tractor, rather than making him/her get the bus or walk - is an excellent idea, and I'm sure there may even be less road deaths as well.

In order for this idea to work, the report (and I think the Government) suggest that we'll need to fit a complex piece of kit to the car so that they'll know where the car is and when, so that the charging can be effective. Obviously, you wouldn't be charged as much to use the M25(say) at 3am as you would at 8am or 5pm. And drivers who avoided heavily congested routes wouldn't have to pay at all.

But obviously the people in charge of the scheme *cough*Government*cough* would need to know that these people were genuinely somewhere else at the time, and hadn't just covered up the transmitter with a lead box. Which is why they'd be tracking you all the time, not just when the charging is actually in effect. A bit like they never turn off the cameras reading the number plates of everyone who goes into the Congestion Zone in London, regardless of when you travel into there.

However, there's one small point. We already do pay. It's called Duty. And we pay it on petrol. Handily, it almost exactly works out on a mile-by-mile basis already. What's even better is, if you sit on a congested road with your engine running, you use more petrol going a shorter distance than if you take a less congested route. So you end up paying more if you go on the congested route. Which I think is what the report is suggesting anyway.

With the petrol option, there's no expensive, likely to go wrong piece of electronics that has to be installed in EVERY car in the UK. There's no large scale roll out of a complex database project (which usually fails the second a Government get involved), like the NHS database. Also, there's not really any way to avoid paying the petrol option - unless you drive to France or Ireland to fill up your tank.

The other great thing about the petrol option is that there's no chance of function shift. There's no way that the Government can track any given vehicle for the past 24hrs/30days/6months/year. Or work out where you were having your meeting about getting them out of power. Or having that extra-marital affair. Or sitting when you have to get out of the house and scream your head off.

With the petrol option, there's no way of them deciding to check who was in an area at a certain time "for crime fighting purposes" and then deciding to track every single vehicle and where else they'd been for the previous week.

The Government's preferred option is to install a tracking device, rather than just increase the Duty on petrol. I would suggest - although I'm sure I'll be called paranoid about this - that the reason is, they want to erode any and all personal freedoms and track the whereabouts of every single person living in this country.

Think, if you're not in your car or motorbike, but you're travelling, how are you getting around? If you're on foot or on a bicycle, you and your face will be nicely visible to any of the increasing number of CCTV cameras that cover a large amount of the country. If you're on public transport, more CCTV cameras and a system (Oyster card) that tracks where you travel once on the network.

Complain to your MP, raise your objections to this proposal now, and tell them that if they even express an opinion that could even be taken as marginal support for the scheme, you'll actively get them voted out at the next election. Which would be a big loss for them if they get their 60% payrise.



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