NUJ remains seriously concerned about Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill
16 July 2014
The union is campaigning against the latest proposals contained within the new parliamentary bill and is calling on the government to ensure the code of practice is drafted to protect the obligation of professional secrecy for journalists, media workers and other professionals.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
"The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill is being rushed through parliament without the time for proper scrutiny or debate. The NUJ and the European Federation of Journalists are extremely concerned by the extensive new powers being pushed through parliament to allow the authorities to snoop on all of us. It is worryingly unclear how the Bill will impact on the media or the protection of sources and journalistic materials.
"We are calling on the government to amend the existing Bill to make exemptions for journalism and we are supporting calls to ensure the expiry date of the Bill is changed to 31 December 2014."
The new bill was debated in the House of Commons last night and NUJ parliamentary group secretary John McDonnell raised the unions concerns about the implications for the protection of sources:
John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): The Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights made the extremely valid point that it would have been useful if the Government had published details of how the legislation complied with each of the points that was raised in the judgment. May I take the Minister back to the point that I made earlier about paragraph 58 of the judgment? Will he point me to the place in the legislation, the regulations or the Bill that addresses the point in the judgment about providing exceptions for "persons whose communications are subject…to the obligation of professional secrecy."?
James Brokenshire: I know that point has been raised, and the hon. Gentleman will see that clause 1(4)(f) enables the provision of "a code of practice in relation to relevant requirements or restrictions or relevant powers,".
The intent is to have a statutory code of practice that will sit alongside the regulations, and there is scope to ensure that the issues relating to confidence highlighted by the hon. Gentleman are addressed in that manner. We are putting in place a legal mechanism to address his concerns and the points raised by the court.
John McDonnell: I am trying to be helpful. When will that code be published, and how will it be scrutinised?
James Brokenshire: We are seeking to ensure that the code is drafted effectively, and we are looking at ways that that scrutiny can take place, given the import we have mentioned. We will certainly look to engage appropriately to ensure that issues such as those highlighted by the hon. Gentleman on confidence, professional positions and matters such as legal professional privilege are contemplated and reflected on. Codes of practice already exist and it is now about putting that on a more statutory footing to give it statutory teeth, but I recognise his point.