Legislation / Legal
MoJ: The Information Commissioner is to be given tougher powers to regulate the Data Protection Act 1998 under proposals put forward by Justice Secretary Jack Straw. The proposals will enable the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to:
* impose monetary penalties on data controllers for deliberate or reckless loss of data
* inspect central Government Departments and public authorities' compliance with the DPA without always requiring prior consent
* require any person, where a warrant is being served, to provide information required to determine compliance with the DPA
* impose a deadline & location for the provision of information necessary to assess compliance
* publish guidance on when organisations should notify the ICO of breaches of the data protection principles
* publish a statutory data sharing Code of Practice to provide practical guidance on sharing personal data.
Press release ~ Data Sharing Review by Richard Thomas and Mark Walport ~ Government's response to the Data Sharing Review ~ MoJ – Data Sharing and Data Protection ~ Response to consultation on inspection powers and funding arrangements of the Information Commissioner ~ Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) ~ Mobile Data Protection Standard
ScotGov: Ministers have taken the first step towards outlawing mobiles in prisons with the aim of preventing their use for drug dealing or the orchestration of criminal activities outside prison. From December 2008, possession of a mobile phone or SIM card will become an offence, as will attempting to pass these items to offenders in prison.
Intelligence information shows that, as well as leading to bullying around their use, mobile phones are commonly used within prisons:
* for the continuation of criminal activities within the prison
* to intimidate witnesses
* to facilitate the supply of, and payment for, illegal drugs
Alongside these moves, SPS also intends to introduce the use of signal blocking devices (mobile phone blockers) in prison grounds and the amendment to the rules will help the introduction of these devices. There are also plans to use the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill to insert a provision into the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989 to create additional specific offences in relation to the introduction & use of personal communication devices in prisons.
MoJ: New legislation to protect victims of forced marriage and prevent others from the same fate came into force last week. The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 will enable courts to prevent forced marriages and order those responsible for forcing another into marriage to change their behaviour or face jail. It also provides recourse for those already forced into marriage.
Following public consultation, the Government is also publishing statutory guidance setting out the strategic responsibilities of agencies in England & Wales who may be involved with handling cases of forced marriage.
The Act supports and has been made possible by the work of the Home Office and Foreign Office's joint 'Forced Marriage Unit' and the many voluntary and charitable organisations that provide support.
Press release ~ Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 ~ Ashiana Network ~ MoJ video ~
FCO/Home Office Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) ~ White Ribbon Campaign UK
OFT: Following concerns raised by the OFT, Fitness First, the UK's largest health club operator, has provided assurances and improved its membership agreements so that they are much clearer for consumers. The OFT has worked closely with Fitness First after receiving complaints regarding a number of potentially unfair terms within its membership agreement.
ScotParl: A new register detailing the employment by MSPs of close family members has been published on the Scottish Parliament's website. The move follows an independent review and a parliamentary debate earlier this year at Holyrood.
For the purposes of the scheme and the new register, a close family member is defined as:
* a spouse, civil partner or co-habiting partner of the Member or
* a parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece of the Member or of the spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner of the Member
DfT: Bus passengers will have a new champion fighting their corner thanks to the Local Transport Act 2008, Transport Minister Paul Clark has claimed. Royal Assent for the Bill paves the way for Passenger Focus to represent bus users in England, who make over 4 billion journeys a year.
From April 2009 the watchdog, which currently represents rail users, will begin to take on its new role as ‘bus passenger champion’. One of its first tasks will be to conduct a review into how bus passengers' complaints are handled.
Press release ~ Passenger Focus ~ Local Transport Act 2008 ~ London Travelwatch ~ Passenger Transport Executive Group (PTEG) ~ Confederation of Passenger Transport UK
CLG: Ministers claim that the Planning and Energy Act 2008 show that the Government is making the tough decisions needed for this country's future. They believe that, during challenging economic times, a quick, predictable and fair planning system for major infrastructure that can deliver new renewable energy supplies, public transport and clean water is vital.
Ministers will set out National Policy Statements (11 currently planned) detailing national infrastructure priorities for the country in areas such as energy, aviation, road & rail transport, water & waste. The decisions as to whether to allow individual projects to go ahead will then be taken independently by a new (un-elected) Infrastructure Planning Commission, operating within the framework set by ministers.
Press release ~ Planning and Energy Act 2008 ~ RTPI - Infrastructure Planning Commission ~ CLG - Infrastructure Planning Commission ~ Related article from The Guardian
DIUS: Sir Alan Sugar will be the face of apprenticeships in England in a new TV advertising campaign, ministers have announced. The self-made business leader and star of TV's The Apprentice will front a high-profile advertising campaign being aired from February 2009 promoting the benefits of taking on apprentices to employers and championing work-based qualifications.
The announcement comes as the Education and Skills Bill received Royal Assent and became law. This will mean that all young people will stay in education or training until the age of 18 from 2015 and more adults across England will be given the legal right to free training.
Press release ~ Education and Skills Act 2008 ~ Apprenticeships website ~ DCSF - Raising the Participation Age to 18
DWP: Up to 9m people, many of them on low & middle incomes, will get access to a workplace pension, or will be able to save more, as the Pension Act 2008 received Royal Assent last week. From 2012 workers will either be automatically enrolled into their employer's workplace pension scheme or entered into the new Personal Accounts scheme, ensuring those who in the past have not had the opportunity build up any savings for retirement can now do so.
This legislation represents a key element of Lord Turner's Pension Commission's recommendations to help more people save for retirement. 14 Key Facts about the Act are included at the bottom of the press release.