Melon Farmers Original Version

UK Government Watch

2011: Jan-March

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27th February   

Update: Data Protection Bollox...

Councils asked to open up meetings to bloggers
Link Here

Councils should allow bloggers to film their meetings, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has said.

Pickles said it was important local bloggers were given the same access as professional journalists at a time when budget decisions are being made:

Fifty years ago, Margaret Thatcher changed the law to make councils open their meetings to the press and public. This principle of openness needs to be updated for the 21st Century. More and more local news comes from bloggers or citizen journalists telling us what is happening at their local council.

Many councils are internet-savvy and stream meetings online, but some don't seem to have caught up with the times and are refusing to let bloggers or hyper-local news sites in.

Opening the door to new media costs nothing and will help improve public scrutiny.

Pickles said a decision by Tameside borough council, in Greater Manchester, to accredit professional journalists to use the micro-blogging website Twitter meant local bloggers, the public and even councillors are not permitted to 'tweet' because they are not considered members of the press .

And he pointed out that Windsor and Maidenhead borough council had raised concerns about videoing, citing 'Data Protection'. Blogger Chris Taggart published footage on his own website of his unsuccessful efforts to film the council's meeting. Windsor and Maidenhead said a motion to allow people to film their meetings provided anyone wishing to record them complies with obligations under the Data Protection Act had been proposed.

Local government minister Bob Neill has written to local councils to remind them that meetings are already open to the public. It also reassured councils that giving greater access will not contradict data protection law requirements in most cases.


17th February   

Transparent Claims...

Government consults about extending the Freedom of Information Act to the ASA
Link Here

The Ministry of Justice is in consultation about expanding the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to include the advertising censors at the ASA.

The ASA will argue that it should not be covered by the act because it could compromise the goodwill it shares with the advertisers it relies on for funding.

There are also concerns that commercially sensitive information provided to confirm advertising claims may be compromised.

The censor will also argue that it already provides a transparent service.It claims on its website that it tries to be helpful and transparent when answering queries and will provide detailed information and responses wherever possible .

The proposal to add the ASA to the bodies covered by the act will be included in the Freedom Bill. A statutory consultation between the Ministry of Justice and the ASA will follow with a decision expected later this year.


17th February   

Update: G-Cloud...

UK ID database is reborn
Link Here
Full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

  Now the Home Office has destroyed its prototype ID database in a publicity stunt, the government is putting the finishing touches to plans that would put the real Identity Scheme databases at the heart of a powerful government data sharing system.

The Government Cloud (G-Cloud), an ambitious Cabinet Office scheme to share IT resources and data across the whole of government, is seeking to remove all technical and organisational barriers to public sector data sharing.

Reports published last week by the Cabinet Office describe how G-Cloud will exhume the data sharing systems that underpinned ID Cards, along with the fatal data security risks that went with them. The principles will be applied to all government data. The plans have been overseen by the same executives who oversaw the ID Scheme's data-sharing system, the ill-fated CISx.

The principle was established a year ago in the G-Cloud Vision, which was drafted by Martin Bellamy, the same civil servant who advised ministers to proceed with the CISx as one of two core components of the ID scheme.

Bellamy's Vision cited the CISx as an example of the sort of data sharing that would be possible within the G-Cloud. The CISx plan had involved turning the Department for Work and Pensions Customer Information System database (CIS), which contains personal details of everyone in the country, into a system that could be accessed across the whole government.

The Home Office said last week its minister Damian Green had destroyed Labour's ID database. But he only destroyed the temporary system the Home Office erected in a hurry so it could get ID cards on the streets before the 2010 election. It had still not proceeded with integrating the real ID databases because it was still trying to work out how to resolve their excruciating data security problems.


17th February   

Update: Offended by Human Rights...

Appeals to be allowed against long term sex offenders registration
Link Here

People who have been put on the sex offenders register for life are set to be given the right to challenge that decision.

It follows last year's Supreme Court ruling that - under human rights laws - offenders in England and Wales should have the opportunity to prove they had reformed and have their names removed from the list.

Home Office officials are examining how a review system would work. Details are expected to be published in the next few months.

Sex offenders are required to register in person at their local police station within 72 hours of being convicted or cautioned. They must give their name, date of birth, home address and national insurance number - if applicable. It may also be a condition of registration that an offender notify the police if he or she is intending to travel abroad.

Anyone getting a jail term of 30 months to life is subject to an indefinite term of registration - currently there are about 24,000 such offenders in England and Wales. Even a conviction for possessing adult porn under the Dangerous Pictures Act could attract a lifetime registration requirement.

A sentence of six months to 30 months is accompanied by 10 years on the register and a sentence of under six months requires registration of up to seven years. This includes those cautioned or given a community rehabilitation order.

For those under 18, the length of time on the register is usually half that of the adult term.

The Scottish government has already implemented a scheme to give adults offenders an automatic right of appeal for removal from the register after 15 years - those placed on the register when under 18 years old can appeal after eight years.

Home Secretary Theresa May has said she is appalled by the Supreme Court ruling that sex offenders should have the right to seek to remove their names from the register. She told MPs that the government would make only the minimum possible changes to meet its human rights obligations. May added that public protection must come first .... [even before justice!]


12th February

 Offsite: Liberty Lite...

Link Here
The repeal bill: what's left in, what's left out

See article from


11th February   

Update: Scrapped...

British ID card database crushed
Link Here
Full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

A database built to hold the fingerprints and personal details of millions of ID card holders has today been publicly destroyed.

Around 500 hard disk drives and 100 back up tapes containing the details of 15,000 early adopters have been magnetically wiped and shredded.

They will soon be incinerated in an environmentally friendly waste-for-energy process.

This signals an end to the National Identity Register which was built to hold the details of people who applied for an ID card.

The scheme was scrapped by the coalition government and the cards ceased to be valid legal documents on 22 January.

Home Office minister Damian Green helped shred the last of the hard disk drives at an Essex industrial site today.

Laying ID cards to rest demonstrates the government's commitment to scale back the power of the state and restore civil liberties, he said: This is about people having trust in the government to know when it is necessary and appropriate for the state to hold and use personal data, and it is about the government placing their trust in the common-sense and responsible attitude of people. This is just the first step in the process of restoring and maintaining our freedoms.'


10th February   

Update: Scary...

Nutters claim web blocking consensus with government and ISPs
Link Here
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

Claire Perry the nutter backbench MP has claimed there is a scary degree of favourable consensus between campaigners, the government and ISPs on introducing internet blocking that would mean internet users would have to opt in to access pornography.

Claire Perry, the Conservative MP for Devizes, said a meeting on Monday had been very productive . Perry is backing a campaign by Christian groups who fear the influence of the internet on children. They want network-level filters that would block legal sex sites by default.

Despite her comments about the meeting on Twitter, ISP sources denied they gave any ground to Perry on the issue. They remain opposed to the campaign on both principle and technical grounds.

ISPs favour educating parents and offering software and services that allow them to control access to pornography at home.

Eg BT have announced a new Family Protection desktop package free to account holders, arguing that at this time these [network level] controls can't match the functionality offered by PC-based parental-control software .

Ed Vaizey said: More needs to be done to help parents protect their children and the roundtable was a useful first step.


5th February   

Update: Invited for Filter Coffee and Nut Fudge...

Mediawatch-UK and Safermedia get their meeting with Ed Vaizey
Link Here
Full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn

  Nudging Ed Vaizey

The nutters of Mediawatch-UK and Safermedia are looking forward to Monday's meeting with government minister Ed Vaizey.

The political campaigners are pushing their demands for ISP blocking with adult material only enabled for those that opt in and verify their age.

Mediawatch rant on about all the worlds ills seemingly down to porn on the internet but don't really consider too much about the practicalities of trying to define a filter to match the needs of all ages from tots to parents.

But Mediawatch-uk have made a little progress they now seem to support the idea that adults are allowed access to porn. Last time this was mentioned they wanted to put people in prison for 3 years for the possession of R18 porn. Mediawatch-UK wrote on their blog:

We support the proposal for an opt-in system to block adult sites at source unless specifically requested.

Of course once the blocking process is place the next step will be to 'nudge' society pressurising people not to opt in.

According to the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA), they together with a number of ISPs have also  been invited to the meeting. Representatives of UKCCIS and children's charities will also be present.

I bet they haven't invited anyone to represent the views of the millions of people who enjoy various forms of adult interests on the net..


2nd February   

Thinking Blocks...

Government asks Ofcom to study the practicality of ISP website blocking for file sharing websites
Link Here

Ofcom will review sections of the Digital Economy Act to see if they are workable following public comments submitted in the Your Freedom exercise.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has asked Ofcom to assess whether the Act's reserve powers to enable courts to block websites dedicated to copyright infringement could work.

The site-blocking measures need secondary legislation before they can be introduced and the review will inform the Government's decision on the next steps to take.

Hunt said: The Digital Economy Act seeks to protect our creative economy from online copyright infringement, which industry estimates costs them £400 million a year. I have no problem with the principle of blocking access to websites used exclusively for facilitating illegal downloading of content. But it is not clear whether the site blocking provisions in the Act could work in practice so I have asked Ofcom to address this question. Before we consider introducing site-blocking we need to know whether these measures are possible.

The review will look at areas such as whether it is possible for internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to the sites, how robust such a block could be and whether specific parts of a website can be blocked effectively.


1st February   

Update: Law Re-Phorm...

Government review expected to ban internet snooping for advertising purposes
Link Here
Full story: Behavioural Advertising...Serving adverts according to internet snooping

Internet companies are set to be barred from collecting information on people's use of the internet in a tightening of data privacy rules.

Ministers have started a review that will lead to restrictions on the practice of using people's internet habits to draw up individual profiles in order to target advertising at them, sources say.

The European Commission warned last year that it would take the UK to court unless it tightened up the law. It said such profiling did not appear to be covered by the Data Protection Act.

The review is also expected to strengthen people's rights to withdraw consent from having their personal data used. People could also be given the right to have data permanently deleted.

Brussels is also pressing for a body to be set up in the UK to monitor internet firms to ensure they comply with the law.


22nd January   

Update: Identified as Scrap...

British ID cards no longer valid
Link Here
Full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

As of 22nd January 2011 identity cards can no longer be used to prove identity or to travel in Europe.

The cards have been scrapped by the government under the Identity Documents Act.

Within days the National Identity Register - which was designed to hold the details of card holders - will be destroyed.

Immigration minister Damian Green said:

Laying ID cards to rest demonstrates the government's commitment to scale back the power of the state and restore civil liberties.

It is about the people having trust in the government to know when it is necessary and appropriate for the state to hold and use personal data, and it is about the government placing their trust in the common-sense and responsible attitude of the people.

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) (new window) has written to all existing cardholders and informed international border agencies, travel operators and customers of the change in law.


20th January   

Minister for a Censored Internet...

Jeremy Hunt looks to impose current levels of repressive TV censorship onto internet video
Link Here

The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has been speaking about increasing censorship requirements for the internet and in particular, internet TV

He spoke after addressing media industry executives at the Oxford Media Convention.

Hunt admitted that while he did not believe it was possible to introduce blanket regulation for the internet, he was keen to put online content rules under scrutiny.

TV content on the internet is subject to lesser regulation than broadcast TV, in particular, that there are no taste and decency or impartiality requirements.

Hunt told reporters: I do want to look at what can be done to strengthen child protection on the internet and whether the structures we have in place are the best way to give reassurance to parents that their children are not going to have easy access to unsuitable content.

In his address he announced a review of media and communications that will lead to new Communications Act. He explained the timetable:

Over the next few months we will be coming to talk to you; asking for your answers to the key questions that need to be addressed. I want to hear how a new Communications Act can create regulatory certainty.

The certainty that people need to continue to develop and invest in the high-quality technology and content that is made here but enjoyed by consumers all over the world.

I am prepared to radically rethink the way we do things.

To take a fresh look at what we regulate, whether we regulate, and how we regulate. To consider whether there are areas we might move out of regulation altogether. And to think hard about what we mean by public service content.

As parents we want programmes to be suitable for our children. As citizens we want impartial news. And as consumers we want high-quality programmes we know and trust.

Whether we’re watching a broadcast live or though catch-up services, via a TV or a computer, it’s the content that matters, rather than the delivery mechanism.

So should it continue to be the case that the method of delivery has a significant impact on the method of regulation? Or should we be looking at a more platform-neutral approach?

What do we need to do to help our businesses grow and evolve between now and 2025? Where can regulation help and where is it a barrier? What can we do collectively to enhance the whole UK market?

This is not about tweaking the current system, but redesigning it – from scratch if necessary – to make it fit for purpose.

On the basis of what we hear from you, we will publish a Green Paper at the end of the year that will set out the full scope of a Bill.

One that will be put in place in 2015 and that will last for at least a decade.

And to make up for all the banned sexy, fun and opinionated internet content. Hunt proposes to bore us to death with his pet project of a new local TV channel.


11th January   

Update: Equality for Made in Dagenham!...

Government minister berates the BBFC over 15 certificate for Made in Dagenham
Link Here
Full story: The King's Speech...Censors in need of therapy over strong language

I saw The King's Speech yesterday. I really enjoyed it – but the point of this post is that a while back I commented on the fact that Made in Dagenham should have had a 12A certificate (like The King's Speech ) – and not the 15 rating it got.

I based this on the hearsay knowledge that the f word was used in The King's Speech and was thought to be an integral part of the film – and the film's overall worthiness meant that it should be seen by 12A (ie accompanied by an adult). Having now actually seen this film – I would agree – the use of expletives is integral to this film.

In Made in Dagenham – which is the story of the women workers at Dagenham car plant who fought for equal pay – supported by their male colleagues – and which ultimately led to the Equal Pay Act – the f word is also used. In my view in this film, the use of the f word is just as integral to the telling of this story as are the expletives in The King's Speech .

The differential in the certification by the British Board of Film Classification (independent body for film certification) means that more and younger folk will be able to see a great film about part of our history – ie King George VI – but not our great history of the fight for equality.

I am still at a loss to understand the differential certification.


8th January   

Fine Words...

Nick Clegg outlines up and coming measures to roll back Labour authoritarianism
Link Here

Nick Clegg has made a speech touching on many liberty related threads mentioned on Melon Farmers.

He introduced government intentions:

This nation is built on a faith in fair play. On a historic hostility towards those who seek to impose their will on others. Innocent until proven guilty. Equal before the law. Each individual able to think and speak without fear of persecution.

So the Coalition Government is going to turn a page on the Labour years: resurrecting the liberties that have been lost; embarking on a mission to restore our great British freedoms.

We aren't wasting any time, and we are ambitious about what we want to achieve. In the next twelve months we want to undo the damage of thirteen years. 2011 will be the year we give people's freedom back.

We'll do it in three key ways.

  1. by reversing the widespread, everyday assaults on liberty that swept across Britain during the Labour years.
  2. by restoring the right balance of liberty and security in the measures taken to tackle terrorism – recognising we can and must have both.
  3. by ending the practices of closed and secretive government; giving people the information and freedom they need to hold us and other institutions to account.

He outlined a timetable for the Freedom Bill and Repeals Bill

Our very first piece of legislation halted ID cards and scrapped the National Identity Register.

ContactPoint – the Government database containing the personal information of every child in England – has been switched off.

We set up Your Freedom, a website to gauge people's views on their liberties, and they flooded-in in their thousands. Views that are now directly shaping Government policy, like work we are doing on reforming the vetting procedures for volunteers and criminal records checks.

The Secretary of State for Justice now carefully scrutinises all proposals to create new offences to make sure that they are absolutely necessary. This Government won't criminalise behaviour lightly

In the coming weeks we will be publishing our review of counter-terrorism.

By next month we will be putting forward a freedom bill: legislation that will bring together a number of measures, for example to better regulate CCTV; to properly control the way councils use surveillance powers; to limit the powers of state inspectors to enter into your house; and to end the indefinite storage of innocent people's DNA.

We will also be publishing a draft defamation bill to enhance freedom of speech.

In September, the independent review of the UK's extradition arrangements we commissioned will report.

And Ken Clarke will continue to work on putting together a Repeals Bill to wipe unnecessary and obsolete laws and regulations from the statute book.

So at least the Repeals Bill still gets a mention and that the maybe there was a misunderstanding over its move to the Home Office.

Commentators didn't seem very impressed by Clegg's words about Control Orders. They seem likely to be resurrected as something else a little too similar to what they were before.

Offsite Comment: Nick Clegg's civil liberties speech strikes a welcome blow against libel tourism

See  article from by Simon SIngh

Simon Singh, who recently had a run in with back quacks in the libel courts, was impressed by Clegg's speech. He wrote:

So, was Clegg's speech as momentous as the Lib Dem conference vote in 2009, or the Mass Lobby in March 2010, or Lord McNally's commitment in the summer? The simply answer has to be yes .

In just a few minutes, the deputy prime minister highlighted all the key areas of libel that need to be addressed, pointing out that:

We want public-spirited academics and journalists to be fearless in publishing legitimate research. Not least when it relates to medical care or public safety. The test of a free press is its capacity to unearth the truth, exposing charlatans and vested interests along the way. It is simply not right when academics and journalists are effectively bullied into silence by the prospect of costly legal battles with wealthy individuals and big businesses.

...Read the full article


5th January

 Offsite: Behavioural Insight Team...

Link Here
Nick Clegg's sinister nannies are nudging us towards an Orwellian nightmare

See article from

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