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NUJ backs reasoned amendment to deregulation bill

3 February 2014

In the House of Commons today, Monday 3 February 2014, MPs will discuss the deregulation bill and the NUJ is calling on MPs to support a reasoned amendment tabled by Caroline Lucas, Jonathan Edwards, John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn MPs.

The amendment states:

"That this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Deregulation Bill because, whilst acknowledging that removing unnecessary burdens on small businesses is welcome, the Bill fails to recognise the social, economic and environmental benefits of effective regulation and contains a number of extremely damaging proposals including: the watering down of safety protections for employees that will leave workers at greater risk of injury, ill-health and abuse; the erosion of protection of journalistic sources and against police seizure of journalistic material, which threatens the basis of the free press; and the imposition of a growth duty on non-economic regulators such as Natural England and the Health and Safety Executive, which is irresponsible and risks undermining their core roles; further considers that this Bill is another illustration of a Government which is embarking on a deregulatory path without due consideration of warnings, including from businesses, that effective regulation is essential to create jobs and innovation and that ripping up vital green legislation risks locking the UK into polluting industrial processes for decades to come, jeopardising future competitiveness, damaging the UK’s attractiveness for green investment, and undermining new industries; and further believes that this Bill represents a race to the bottom and an obsession with GDP growth at any cost which is not in the public interest."

The NUJ is particularly concerned about clause 47 of the bill and the proposals to make changes to the process to obtain journalistic material using production orders.

Clause 47 of the deregulation bill:

47 25Criminal procedure: powers to make Criminal Procedure Rules (1) In the Administration of Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1933, in section
2 (procedure for indictment of offenders)—
(a) in subsection (6), for “Rules” substitute “Criminal Procedure Rules”;
(b) omit subsection (6A).
(2) 30In that section, in subsection (2), in paragraph (i) of the proviso, for “section 57D(1)” substitute “section 51D(1)”.
(3) In the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, in Schedule 1 (making of orders and issue of warrants in respect of excluded or special procedure material)—
(a) omit paragraphs 7 to 10 (which deal with the procedure for applications 35for production orders);
(b) after paragraph 15 insert—
“Procedural rules
15A Criminal Procedure Rules may make provision about proceedings under this Schedule.”
(4) 40In the Terrorism Act 2000, in Part 1 of Schedule 5 (making of orders and issue of warrants in respect of obtaining information in terrorist investigations:
England and Wales and Northern Ireland), in paragraph 11 (which deals with Deregulation Bill Page 34 the issue of warrants in respect of excluded or special procedure material), after sub-paragraph (4) insert—
“(5) Criminal Procedure Rules may make provision about proceedings relating to a warrant under this paragraph.”
(5) 5In the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, in section 59 (applications for the return of seized property etc), after subsection (12) insert—
“(13) Criminal Procedure Rules may make provision about proceedings under this section on an application to a judge of the Crown Court in England and Wales.”
(6) 10In the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, in section 352 (applications for search and seizure warrants), after subsection (7) insert—
“(8) Criminal Procedure Rules may make provision about proceedings under this section on an application to a judge entitled to exercise the jurisdiction of the Crown Court in England and Wales.”

Background information:

Hidden in the Deregulation Bill: is this another backdoor threat to journalism? by Gill Phillips, Director of Editorial Legal Services at Guardian News and Media

Update - Monday 3 February - transcript of parliamentary debate

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): My right hon. Friend said that the Bill’s provisions were being introduced on the advice of those who were most affected by the regulations, but he will be aware of the concern that has been expressed by a wide range of media and broadcasting organisations about the effect of clause 47 in removing important journalistic protections. Is there anything he can say to reassure them that it will not have the effect they fear?

Mr Letwin: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, for raising that issue, which is indeed important. It was a late entrant, in the sense that it was no part of the intention of clause 47 to have the effect that some of the media organisations are worried about. Those organisations have been worried that the clause would obviate the need for both parties to be in court when a court orders what is called a production order, which typically requires, for example, a bank to produce the accounts of a person accused of a particular malfeasance, where those accounts are relevant to the trial.

In the case that the media are concerned about, a production order would be used to ask a media organisation to produce some piece of information it holds. Those media organisations were worried that they would no longer have the guarantee of their day in court to contest such a production order, because the effect of clause 47 would be to replace the need for the existence of primary legislation governing inter partes rules with the criminal procedure rules committee. The media were afraid that the criminal procedure rules committee might in some way weaken the inter partes rules. I have good news for my hon. Friend and his Committee, and indeed for the media organisations—which, incidentally, I have offered to meet later in the week or next week. As it was no part of the intention of clause 47 to do that, we are now looking for ways specifically to exempt journalism and all such media items from the clause. If I may, I would like to discuss with him and his Committee the precise drafting of that change, so that we can be sure that the media organisations themselves and the Select Committee are content with the changes we make.

Transcript taken from Hansard, on the parliamentary website.

Tags: , pace, production order, secret evidence, protection of sources, parliament uk, legislation, health and safety, guardian, cms select committee