Web Updates & Current Events in the Law
This is where we'll announce the most recent
additions to our web site. If you've visited us before and want to know what's
changed, take a look here first.
Recent Developments in the UK:
Employment Act 2002
Reform Act 2002
Information Act 2000 (also see below)
Representation Of The People Act 2000
Recent News in the Law
current European matters click here
- FOUR MAJOR PIECES OF LEGISLATION IN JEOPARDY
November 2, 2002: Peers will oppose
four major pieces of legislation up to the wire next week as shifting
cross-party coalitions - including some Labour backbenchers - seek to soften
Home Office plans to crack down on refugees and torpedo the prime minister's
plans to allow unmarried couples to adopt. Read
article upon this matter.
- Race Legislation News, Race Relations Amendment
Act 2000, 23 October 2002:
(Amendment) Act 2000 and the EC Article 13 Race Directive.
that will amend the Race Relations Act 1976 in
order to implement the EC Article 13 Race Directive have been launched. The
accompanying consultation document "The
Way Ahead" sets out detailed proposals.
are also available and should be read in
conjunction with the draft regulations. A
Regulatory Impact Assessment is available too.
- Commercial and Common Law,
Unfair terms in Contract (UCTA 1977),
with the Scottish Law Commission, the LC shall
shortly publish a consultation paper on
Terms in Contracts - Consultation Paper No 166. The project is
examining how to replace the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and the Unfair
Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 with a single piece of
legislation that would make the law clearer and more accessible. It also
considers whether there should be slightly wider controls than at present
over unfair terms in business-to-business contracts.
(Webmaster note: This has now been published.)
- Housing Law,
Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Act 1930,
March 2001: The
Government has accepted the recommendations of a
joint report between the Law Commission and the
Scottish Law Commission -
Parties - Rights against Insurers (Law Com No 272) - in a Written
Answer to a Parliamentary Question in the Lords on 2 July
2002. In that report the LC offered Parliament
a draft Bill to replace flawed legislation from 1930 governing claims by
third parties against insurers. The LC's proposals
would improve the operation of the law in this specialist but important area
of insurance and insolvency law. The Lord Chancellor's Department is, in the
first instance, to investigate the prospects of implementing these reforms
by way of Regulatory Reform Order.
- Public and Constitutional
Law, Freedom of Information Bill,
The Freedom of Information Act 2000
was passed on 30 November 2000. The Act will be enforced by the
Information Commissioner, a new post which came into being on 30 January
2001 and which combines Freedom of Information and Data Protection.
Elizabeth France, previously the Data Protection Commissioner, being the
first Information Commissioner, the 'Commissioner'. Both the Freedom of
Information Act and the Data Protection Act relate to information handling
and her dual role will allow the Commissioner to provide an integrated and
What does the Act do?
The Act gives a general right of access to all types of 'recorded'
information held by public authorities, sets out exemptions from that right
and places a number of obligations on public authorities.
Who does the Act cover?
Only public authorities are covered by the Act. These include Government
Departments, local authorities, NHS bodies (such as hospitals, as well as
doctors, dentists, pharmacists and opticians), schools, colleges and
universities, the Police, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the
Northern Ireland Assembly and the National Assembly for Wales. It also
includes a long list of other public bodies, ranging from various official
advisory and expert committees, to regulators and organisations such as the
Post Office, National Gallery and the Parole Board. A list is provided in
Schedule 1 of the Act. There is a provision in the Act for other authorities
to be named later and for organisations to be designated by the Secretary of
State as public authorities because they exercise functions of a public
nature or provide a service under a contract which is a function of that
When will the Act come into force?
The Act will be brought fully into force by January 2005. As explained later
in this paper, public authorities will have two main responsibilities under
the Act. They will have to produce a 'publication scheme' (effectively a
guide to the information they hold which is publicly available) and they
will have to deal with individual requests for information. The duty to
adopt a publication scheme will come into force first, according to the
30th November 2002: Government Departments and their Agencies and other
public bodies which are covered by the 'Open Government Code' ('Code of
Practice on Access to Government Information')
28th February 2003: Local Authorities
30th June 2003: Police and prosecuting authorities.
31st October 2003: National Health Service
29th February 2004: Schools and other Educational Institutions
30th June 2004: Remaining public authorities
Please note that the dates given here refer to when the schemes have to be
in operation. Public authorities will need to submit them to the
Commissioner for approval in advance of those dates. For more details please
see Preparing for Implementation - Implementation Timetable and Publication
Schemes Approval Documentation, which are available via our website or from
this Office on request.
All public authorities will be required to deal with individual requests
from the 1st January 2005 when the general right of access to information
held by public authorities comes into force.
The Government's proposals to encourage
more open and accountable government by establishing a general statutory
right of access to official records and information were published in its
White Paper Your Right to Know (Cm 3818) in December 1997. On 1.4.98,
at the end of the consultation period, the Chancellor of the Duchy of
Lancaster announced that it had been a "successful and valuable exercise",
during which over 550 replies had been received. He said that those replies
would be taken into account in the preparation of a draft Bill.
Subsequently, on 29.9.98, the Home Secretary said that the Home Office had
been made responsible for carrying the proposals forward. He said that the
transfer to the Home Office would mean that the policy could be developed
alongside those on human rights and data protection.
Outline of the Information Bill: A
draft Freedom of Information Bill (Cm 4355) was published on 24.5.99,
together with a consultation document.
The main features in the draft Bill are:
- a general right of access to information held by public authorities,
subject to certain conditions and exemptions
- public authorities to take into account the public interest when
- schemes for the publication of information
- a new Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal
The following areas of information are to be opened up:
- police inquiries
- schools' admission criteria
- waiting lists for hospitals and GPs
The exemptions are:
- national security, defence and international relations
- individual/public safety
- decision-making and policy advice
- commercial interests
- law enforcement
- personal/in-confidence information
The draft Bill implemented those proposals in the White Paper Your
Right to Know (December 1997) where primary legislation is appropriate.
Other aspects of the White Paper are to be implemented through secondary
legislation, codes of practice or administrative procedures.
On 22.10.99 the Home Secretary had announced that significant changes to the
draft Bill, resulting from the extensive consultation exercise, would make
it a stronger and more effective piece of legislation.