The great freedom debate:

A New Year message from the people of Britain

The Government asked how we can all have more freedom. Citizens responded in their thousands. We reveal the red tape, rules, and regulations that many of us want swept away

The British people have a New Year's message for their government: set us free. Invited by the coalition to suggest improvements to the way we are governed, thousands drew on their experiences and expertise to tell ministers that what they most want is for a match to be put to a bonfire of all the laws, rules and regulations that restrict the freedom of individuals.

The "Your Freedom" operation, launched last summer, invited suggestions for changes that could chip away at decades of bureaucracy. When the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, unveiled the project's website, he promised that every submission would be read, and urged: "Please use this site to make yourself heard. Be demanding about your liberties; be insistent about your rights."

The public has responded on a scale even he could never have imagined, with almost 14,000 proposals, many aimed at what people regard as unnecessary regulations in every area, from taxation and waste disposal, to multiple criminal records checks and form-filling for small businesses, schools and charities. There are several objections to what many people regard as the "dictatorial" ending of FM radio. There are also deep-seated complaints over apparent abuses of state power, with restrictions on the right to protest, the apparently one-sided extradition treaty with the US, and overbearing quangos coming in for particular criticism.

Ministers have already been ordered to get to work on the best, and later this month Mr Clegg will reveal which suggestions are adjudged sufficiently viable to go ahead, as part of his Freedom Bill. Other ideas may be used in further "citizen freedom" legislation, or changes in regulations.

Last night, officials at the Department for Communities and Local Government claimed they have already incorporated some of the proposals into plans to strip out unnecessary red tape, including an ongoing review of building regulations.

The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, said: "We need a sensible new approach that makes clear laws are intended to protect people, not overwhelm them with red tape."

The majority of responses amount to thoughtful and insightful attempts to oil the wheels of government. But many contributors betray genuine anger at the way they feel the authorities restrict their freedom.

In a plea for the amalgamation of Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks, "suestibbs" complained that she needed separate clearances to work as a school governor, a member of the Youth Justice Panel and with a youth club. She added: "As a boring 63-year-old woman I am not likely to start to offend and the focus should be on specific categories of people, rather than everybody who may come into contact with children. I am going to be being involved with Meals on Wheels, which will presumably entail a further CRB check, in case I am going to start offending against old people."

A self-employed, "small-scale gardener" pleaded for an end to rules that forced him to pay £150 to be registered to carry waste in his van. He said: "If I do not pay this sum and I am caught carrying any waste 'no matter how small', then I may face a fine of up to £5,000."

A series of business people highlighted red tape they claimed stifled their companies and increased costs for customers, including VAT charges on refurbishment work, rules against home-working and infection-control regulations imposed on dentists. Several more objected to rules including restrictions on demonstrations and photographers, and the criminalisation of drugs.

A flurry of calls for the abolition of control orders, which restrict the freedom of terror suspects, threatened to embarrass Mr Clegg. The issue provoked tension between hawkish Tories and the Lib Dems, who opposed them in opposition. It was reported last night that the Cabinet is set to agree a package of "mitigating measures", freeing suspects to leave their homes and use mobile phones and computers. The proposals, reported in the Sunday Times, would represent a victory for Mr Clegg .

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said more than 200 suggestions had been received from the Your Freedom website .

He added: "We have considered all suggestions and taken action where appropriate, but the vast majority would not require regulatory change.

"Many of the contributions were references to the compensation culture or a misunderstanding of regulation in this area. We expect the implementation of the findings of the Young Review [of health and safety] to address most of these issues."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
film
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
News
video
Life and Style
food + drink
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Infrastructure / Development Support

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunity to join a...

Recruitment Genius: Partnership Relationship Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Partnership Relationship Mana...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Developer - Xamarin

£45000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software development compa...

Recruitment Genius: Student Support Assistants - Part Time & Full Time

£14600 - £17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are passionate about sup...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore