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UK Government Watch

2013: Oct-Dec

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From Bad to Worse...

Cameron warns newspapers to sign up for the new UK press censor lest Labour dream up something worse

Link Here27th December 2013
David Cameron has warned Britain's newspapers that they should sign up urgently to the Royal Charter passed by Parliament earlier this year.

Cameron claimed a less liberal, enlightened government in the future might play hard ball and enforce legislation. Translation? Do a deal with the Tories or Labour will bring out the big stick.

According to the editor of The Spectator, Fraser Nelson, who interviewed Cameron a while ago, this threat was thought up in the back seat of the prime ministerial Jaguar.

Nelson published the quotes on his blog only today, claiming there wasn't enough space in his magazine's lavish coverage of its big prime ministerial interview to include a mention of press censorship. In teh interview Cameron raises the spectre of a heavy-handed Labour administration saying: \

I think I've done my bit. But it's up to you guys now -- and, as I say, I think you might be at risk if you don't do it. Not from me, but from a less liberal, enlightened government in the future. Remember, everyone else wanted to legislate.



Pickled Pratt...

Eric Pickles wants to ban councils from calling the bedroom tax, the bedroom tax

Link Here19th December 2013
Councils could be banned from using the phrase bedroom tax under moves to give Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, the power to veto contentious language in local authority newsletters, leaflets and online publicity.

The measures appear in the disgraceful Local Audit and Accountability Bill, which is about to become law, to require council publications to comply with government propaganda.

But the moves, which could also apply to websites and Facebook pages, are so widely-drawn that they could give Pickles the power to put a blue pencil through any language with which he disagrees, critics claimed.

The term bedroom tax could fall foul of the legislation, with councils obliged to use the propaganda phrase spare room subsidy to describe cuts to housing benefit to tenants in social housing who are deemed to have a spare room.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 370 councils, said the moves posed a real threat to local democracy , potentially preventing councils from campaigning on HS2, cuts to services and hospital closures.



Offsite Article: It's a bleak midwinter for Britain's democracy...

Link Here18th December 2013
Gagging bill latest: Fears for NGOs and free speech as UK's Lobbying Transparency bill threatens to put kibosh on campaigning

See article from



Comment: More Expensive Sexy Music DVDs...

DCMS publishes draft bill to remove classification exemptions for music, sport and religion DVDs that would be 12 rated or higher

Link Here12th December 2013
The Department for Culture, Medi a and Sport has published a draft bill to remove the current blanket exemptions for music, sports, religious and educational videos.

Videos that would be U or PG rated will continue to be exempt but videos that would be rated 12 or higher now need to be censored by the BBFC before they can be legally sold in the UK.

The mechanism to predict whether videos require censorship is provided by a long list of content that would likely trigger at least a 12 rating. If none of the triggers apply then the video need not be submitted.

The changes will be applied via a Statutory Instrument meaning that it will not be debated in parliament.

The DCMS has invited public comments on the draft which are to be sent to by 31 January 2014.

The  new regulation amends Section 2 subsections (2) and (3) of the Video Recordings Act 1984:

Subsection (2) of the current Video Recordings Act reads

(2) A video work is not an exempted work for those purposes if, to any significant extent, it depicts--

  • (a) human sexual activity of acts of force or restraint associated with such activity;
  • (b) mutilation or torture of, or other acts of gross violence towards, humans or animals;
  • (c) human genital organs or human urinary or excretory functions;
  • (d) techniques likely to be useful in the commission of offences;

This will be replaced by

The Video Recordings Act 1984 (Exempted Video Works) Regulations 2014

(2) A video work is not an exempted work for those purposes if it does one or more of the following-

  • (a) it depicts or promotes violence or threats of violence;
  • (b) it depicts the immediate aftermath of violence on human or animal characters;
  • (c) it depicts an imitable dangerous activity without also depicting that the activity may endanger the welfare or health of a human or animal character;
  • (d) it promotes an imitable dangerous activity;
  • (e) it depicts or promotes activities involving illegal drugs or the misuse of drugs;
  • (f) it promotes the use of alcohol or tobacco;
  • (g) it depicts or promotes suicide or attempted suicide, or depicts the immediate aftermath of such an event;
  • (h) it depicts or promotes any act of scarification or mutilation of a person, or of self-harm, or depicts the immediate aftermath of such an act;
  • (i) it depicts techniques likely to be useful in the commission of offences or, through its depiction of criminal activity, promotes the commission of offences;
  • (j) it includes words or images intended or likely to convey a sexual message (ignoring words or images depicting any mild sexual behaviour);
  • (k) it depicts human sexual activity (ignoring any depictions of mild sexual activity);
  • (l) it depicts or promotes acts of force or restraint associated with human sexual activity;
  • (m) it depicts human genital organs or human urinary or excretory functions (unless the depiction is for a medical, scientific or educational purpose);
  • (n) it includes swearing (ignoring any mild bad language); or
  • (o) it includes words or images that are intended or likely (to any extent) to cause offence, whether on the grounds of race, gender, disability, religion or belief or sexual orientation, or otherwise.

These Regulations do not apply in relation to any supply of a video work which was first placed on the market before [...] 2014

Offsite Comment: Exempt from Common Sense

12th December 2013. See  article from by David Flint

These new rules are vague enough to allow a whole bunch of the material that is causing the moralisers to have kittens to still pass as exempt . Let's look at the Miley Cyrus performances that have recently caused so much fuss, for instance. Would the video for Wrecking Ball need to be certified? Certainly not, because the nudity is suggestive, not graphic. Would her notorious performance with Robin Thicke really be considered to be more than mild sexual activity ? Again, surely not by any reasonable person.

...Read the full article



Update: Government Gagging for Repression...

Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement suggest that the government should rewrite its Lobbying Bill which will be used to censor campaigners in the year before a general election

Link Here11th December 2013
The Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement has published its action plan to protect democracy from the chilling effect of the Lobbying Bill which is seeking to censor campaigners on political issues.

The Commission warns that Part 2 of the Bill is so broadly drafted it would restrict campaigning in the whole year before an election. Parliamentary candidates only have to account for their spending in the few months before an election.

The report recommends that Ministers should urgently rewrite the Lobbying Bill to prevent significant damage to legitimate campaigning. It also sets out a twelve point action plan to ensure transparent and proportionate regulation in election periods. It warns urgent action is needed to improve a Bill that the Electoral Commission has described as unenforceable in parts and which legal advice has warned will have a chilling effect on campaigners.

The Commission's recommendations include:

  • Treating campaigners in the same way as political parties by excluding staff costs from spending limits
  • Reducing the period covered by the legislation to six months ahead of an election instead of a year
  • Dropping the proposed tightening of spending caps for campaigners
  • Doubling the current spending levels at which campaigners have to register with the Electoral Commission
  • Scrapping the proposed constituency spending limit which the regulator warned may be unenforceable



Update: Insults will no longer be a public order offence from 1st February 2014...

Unless of course they 'annoy' someone

Link Here 7th December 2013
A free speech reform backed by The National Secular Society will come into effect on 1 February next year.

From that date the word insulting will be removed from Section 5 of the Public Order Act -- a provision that permitted the police to arrest people because someone else thought their words or behaviour insulting . This resulted in people being arrested for preaching against homosexuality in the street and, in one case, for calling a policeman's horse gay . Others had been arrested for calling Scientology a cult and for saying woof to a dog.

The NSS worked together with the Christian Institute and others to campaign against the insulting provision and after a hard-fought effort, the Government agreed to the reform.

Despite Government resistance, the House of Lords overwhelmingly supported reforming Section 5 in December last year, voting 150 to 54 in favour of an amendment to remove the word insulting . In January the Government gave way and agreed to the move, which will now come into place following guidance for police forces on the change.



Update: Contempt of Small Print...

Dominic Grieve to publish guidelines for tweeters about sub-judicy

Link Here5th December 2013

Future advisory notes from the Attorney General will be published to help prevent social media users from committing a contempt of court placeholder

Advisory notes from the Attorney General will be published on the website and twitter from today to help prevent social media users from committing a contempt of court, Dominic Grieve QC MP has announced.

The advisories, which have previously only been issued to print and broadcast media outlets on a not for publication basis, are designed to make sure that a fair trial takes place and warn people that comment on a particular case needs to comply with the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

The change in policy is designed to help inform the public about the legal pitfalls of commenting in a way which could be seen as prejudicial to a court case or those involved.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP said:

Blogs and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook mean that individuals can now reach thousands of people with a single tweet or post. This is an exciting prospect, but it can pose certain challenges to the criminal justice system.

In days gone by, it was only the mainstream media that had the opportunity to bring information relating to a court case to such a large group of people that it could put a court case at risk. That is no longer the case, and is why I have decided to publish the advisories that I have previously only issued to the media.

This is not about telling people what they can or cannot talk about on social media; quite the opposite in fact ...BUT... it's designed to help facilitate commentary in a lawful way. I hope that by making this information available to the public at large, we can help stop people from inadvertently breaking the law, and make sure that cases are tried on the evidence, not what people have found online.

This change also brings more openness to Government's dealings with the media so that both sides can be accountable to the public for what they do and say.

The advisories will be published on the Attorney General's Office (AGO) section of the website and also through the AGO's twitter feed, @AGO_UK



Offsite Article: Finding the Balance between Censorship and Political Correctness...

Link Here 23rd November 2013
Full story: Page 3 Girls...Miserable campaigners whinge about page 3 fun
David Cameron explains that he is not in favour of banning Page 3. He says there is a distinction between images online that will be blocked, and those in a newspaper

See article from



Offsite Article: There should be no restrictions on dangerous ideas...

Link Here17th November 2013
Nadine Strossen explains why nothing, not even rape porn, should be banned. By Brendan O'Neill

See article from



Offsite Article: A Breach of the Asbo Induced Peace...

Link Here17th November 2013
Councils to be given powers to ban peaceful protests that might disturb local residents

See article from



Update: The Government is Listening...

A rare roll back of state censorship. The government proposes to reduce the need for council licences for music events

Link Here26th October 2013
Full story: Licensed Music Censors...Licensing sets up authorities as music censors
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport is consulting on proposals to further reduce the need for licences for small scale music events.

The proposals are basically to take away the need for a local council licence for events with less than 500 attendees. Previously licences were required for events with between 200-500 attendees.

The main proposals for the entertainment industry are:

Live music

A performance of live amplified music in alcohol licensed premises or in a workplace will not be regulated where the entertainment takes place between 08.00-23.00 and the audience consists of up to 500 persons. (The current audience limit is 200 persons).

Recorded music

Any playing of recorded music in alcohol licensed premises will not be regulated where the entertainment takes place between 08.00-23.00 and the audience consists of up to 500 persons.

Live and recorded music exemptions

The following events will not be regulated for live and recorded music between 08.00-23.00, where the audience consists of up to 500 people:



Update: Introducing the State's Right to Impose an Unfair Trial...

All parties agree on rules for Britain's news censor

Link Here 12th October 2013
Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, has announced that the main political parties had agreed rules for the new news censor who will police journalists' conduct and deal with complaints.

MPs have proposed a system underpinned by statute, compelling newspapers to submit to the new regime. Those that refuse to participate would face deliberately unfair trials in the event of libel cases.

The latest plan was drawn up in talks between Miller for the Conservatives, Harriet Harman for Labour and Lord Wallace of Tankerness for the Liberal Democrats. It is expected to be approved by the Privy Council on Oct 30.

Following criticism from the industry, politicians agreed that people filing complaints against newspapers could face a fee under the new regulatory regime, to deter speculative or frivolous claims. They also agreed that editors could be involved in drawing up a new code of conduct for the press, which would be approved by the news censor.

Offsite Comment: The secret state is just itching to gag the press

12th October 2013. See  article from . By Jonathan Freedland

Get regulation wrong, and it won't be tales of Cheryl Cole that are censored, but revelations like those of Edward Snowden



Update: Pot Unable to Call the Kettle Black...

David Cameron failed to challenge the Prime Minister of Hungary over his country's draconian press laws.

Link Here10th October 2013
Victor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, has been condemned by world leaders for introducing the most terrifying press laws since the Cold War . But not a mention by David Cameron

The prime minister's failure to confront Orban is the first evidence of warnings by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, that introducing statutory regulation in Britain will undermine Britain's ability to promote free speech.

Cameron and his government are now at loggerheads with the British newspapers over plans to impose a press censorship regime.

Earlier this week Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, rejected proposals by newspapers to establish a system of self-regulation backed by fines of up to £ 1million for those who breach the code.

Index on Censorship, which campaigns for greater press freedom, described Cameron's failure to confront Mr Orban as a great shame . A spokesman said:

They have introduced some of the most terrifying press and media ownership laws since the Cold War. It is really at the front line of censorship in Europe at the moment. It seems a great shame that the Prime Minister would not even raise this.

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