By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday afternoon in the House, during a debate about the Government's review of the powers of entry into homes, Jacob Rees-Mogg condemned the heavy hand of the state, which takes "steps that are more convenient than necessary":
"One of the most important freedoms that we enjoy as British subjects is that if somebody comes into our house without our invitation, it must be because some important crime has been committed, or there is some emergency or another immediate reason. … As the Minister has done today, my right hon. and learned Friend went through the vast numbers of powers that have built up—600 have been introduced in recent years and there are as many as 1,300 in total. How minor some of them are. If a council inspector believes that there is a flea infestation, he can enter somebody’s home to see whether fleas are hopping about. That was introduced in the 1930s, so it is not part of the recent accumulation of powers, but it reflects a century of belief in the big state and of allowing increasing powers to the state to take steps that are more convenient than necessary."
Rees-Mogg continued, calling the Coalition "the greatest Government in the history of mankind" (!):
"This House is always here to protect the rights and liberties of the individual against the over-mighty Executive. Although I believe the present Government are undoubtedly the greatest Government in the history of mankind, it is none the less in the nature of Governments to try to increase the powers they have, because it is always more convenient to do so. One can imagine the advice from officials to Ministers—“Minister, it will be easier and quicker and save money if we do this”—but that must be weighed by the House against the historic and ancient rights that we have enjoyed and that are so important to us. We have enjoyed these freedoms to the great benefit of our nation and prosperity"
"I will end my brief remarks by reminding the House of the words of Pitt the Elder—known as the Great Commoner, that proud upholder of liberties in the 18th century. What he said should ring true today for all subjects of Her Majesty: “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storm may enter, the rain may enter—but the King of England cannot enter”. That is a principle that we ought to uphold and fight for. The Government should push ahead as fast as possible to ensure that these 1,300 powers are cut right back purely to those that are essential in the fight to maintain law and order or to put out fires."
The full debate can be read in Hansard.