back to article Law Commission pulls back on official secrets laws plans after Reg exposes flawed report

The UK government's Law Commission, reeling from a Reg-led torrent of press, political and even judicial criticism of proposals for punitive new official secrets laws, has branded their first report "only provisional". Launching an extra round of public consultation this month, the Commission said that "our final …

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Thanks guys

It's easy sometimes to take the piss out of some of the things El Reg publishes (and let's face it, some are there for that very chortle) but thanks for pushing back on some of the shite that's out there.

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Any chance...

...of NOT automatically downloading things - even if they are relevant to the story!

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So a total f'''''''' means an unpublished delay of a month

All that consultation, all that time, all those manhours and when they are caught being wrong they manage to delay a month. What this means is you can have an extra month to moan but we will change zero, zilch, nada about it. Another farce. What about living in a democracy don't our dictator overlords not understand? I suspect nothing, they understand perfectly that they have given the vote to people with no education, no knowledge, duff and misleading information and the continued naive beliefs that government can be trusted, that if you have nothing to hide there is nothing to fear from the intrusion into their private lives.

Until the people get away from EastEnders and learn to think then things in the UK and the rest of the west will continue to get worse and worse. Another month is a very very minor hiccup in the progress of the totalitarian police state that replaced the country of freedom and democracy I was born into.

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"This is a consultation by an independent body instigated by a previous prime minister"

So the current prime minister will feel free to ignore its wimpish recommendations and go ahead with her own, properly robust, idea of what's needed.

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I don't know what her position was on this particular legislation while she was in the home office, but May has certainly been in favour of pushing for more powers for intelligence agencies with less transparency. I'd be surprised if she wasn't part of the team that drafted (or at least managed the drafting of) this bill

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Re: the current prime minister

Yes, this has Theresa May's authoritarian stink all over it. "Instigated by a previous PM" is simply bollocks deflection tactics. TM was almost certainly heavily involved as part of the Home Office brief.

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"a very very minor hiccup in the progress of the totalitarian police state that replaced the country of freedom and democracy I was born into"

Democracy? When was Theresa May democratically elected as Prime Minister? Or even as leader of the Conservative Party?

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When are Prime Ministers democratically elected?

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Whilst not directly elected, a general election is a pretty good proxy for it. And to be fair, she was elected the head of the tories, something like 30 people got to vote, wasn't it?

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...er... none actually - didn't they all drop out?

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@Loyal Commenter

The parliamentary conservative party voted: just over 300 MPs, who are themselves elected by the voting public. Mrs May led the votes; then the number two candidate (Andrea Leadsom) dropped out.

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"didn't they all drop out?"

Or stabbed each other in the back. Delete as appropriate.

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When are Prime Ministers democratically elected?

Interestingly, to me at any rate, until after WW1 if an MP was appointed to the Cabinet he had to submit to a bye-election (i.e. leave the Commons and be re-elected in the new role.) Thus Prime Ministers had to think about the popularity of their appointments, because if the electorate didn't think so and so was up to it, he might not get back in.

Of course this didn't suit the political classes and so a new erosion of democracy took place in the absence of a Constitution. Our political classes have arranged things very nicely to suit themselves, but we have only ourselves to blame for not kicking up stink about it.

So...well done The Reg but this should only be a small start.

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Re: When are Prime Ministers democratically elected?

Various contributors:

Democracy? When was Theresa May democratically elected as Prime Minister?

Whilst not directly elected, a general election is a pretty good proxy for it. And to be fair, she was elected the head of the tories, something like 30 people got to vote, wasn't it?

The parliamentary conservative party voted: just over 300 MPs, who are themselves elected by the voting public.

TM's democratic credentials as PM may not be perfect, but they are a lot better than, say, Jean Claude Junker's. Given that any anti - EU / pro - Brexit comments tend to attract a lot of downvotes I cannot avoid concluding that a large number of people don't mind being more or less governed by the EU Commission of which he is President, allegedly "elected" (IIRC) by the EU heads of Government, totalling (at the time) 28 in number. I find that a trifle odd given that he is completely beyond the reach of any national electorate.

That should ensure a crop of downvotes...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: When are Prime Ministers democratically elected?

> I cannot avoid concluding that a large number of people don't mind being more or less governed by the EU Commission

I personally do not mind at all, quite the opposite, it is quite refreshing to be able to count on policy being largely driven by actual economic and social needs rather than short-term, egotistic political interests.

> I find that a trifle odd given that he is completely beyond the reach of any national electorate.

That is precisely the point. The dynamics of the EC rely on direct involvement and participation by citizens and interest groups, along with long-term strategic planning, rather than on the whim of politicians elected by force of marketing science.

Personally, I am very pleased that I can participate (be heard and kept informed) in matters related to my profession, business, and social interests, in a way that would be unthinkable at the national level, where one just gets ignored unless strings are pulled¹.

What is your own experience with the EC, Commswonk?

¹ Which pulling of strings is hardly egalitarian or democratic, and gets tiring after a while.

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@ Primus Secundus Tertius Surely they were all number two candidates

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Re: When are Prime Ministers democratically elected?

What is your own experience with the EC, Commswonk? (Point of order; it isn't an "EC" any more; it has morphed into the EU.)

Living in it. I find your enthusiasm for the EU model of governance deeply disturbing; on balance I do not think that model has served the UK all that well, although the "recipient countries" probably benefit quite handsomely. While I would never claim that the UK model is perfect, it has imperfections that I can live with more comfortably than those the EU embodies.

The point that I was making was that it is intellectually dishonest to complain about any perceived lack of democratic credentials on TM's part without applying the same critical comments to the EU, and I stand by that point.

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Re: When are Prime Ministers democratically elected?

@Commswonk

On the whole I agree. However, dislike of one's face should should caution one against handling sharp objects in the vicinity of one's nose.

The various treaty changes should have required approval by referenda requiring substantive majorities of the sort which wasn't required by our recent advisory referendum. If that had been the case I think we'd have had an EC considerably different to the EU of today.

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Re: When are Prime Ministers democratically elected?

> it is quite refreshing to be able to count on policy being largely driven by actual economic and social needs rather than short-term, egotistic political interests.

Notr that I'm disagreeing with you general point, but in any other context, that would have been phrased as "... driven by big-business and self-serving pressure groups...".

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Re: When are Prime Ministers democratically elected?

Doctor Syntax: The various treaty changes should have required approval by referenda requiring substantive majorities of the sort which wasn't required by our recent advisory referendum.

Two points: Ireland rejected a treaty change and were told to go away and repeat the exercise because the EU didn't like the result. IIRC a similar rerun had to be held somewhere else in the EU for similar reasons, possibly on a different occasion. Very democratic.

On the topic of "substantive majorities" (which I take to mean "super majorities") I am deeply uneasy; using the recent UK referendum as a model, let us say that "leaving" had required not less than 55:45 as a majority, but had actually achieved 54:46; "motion not carried". So the UK would have remained within the EU despite an actual majority wishing to leave; to me that seems a recipe for widespread unhappiness or worse. The bigger the specified super majority the greater the "unhappiness" is likely to be; an excellent way of pissing off the wider electorate. I am of the view that specifying a super majority is little short of gerrymandering; why run with an outcome that clearly does not have the support of the majority of the voters?

nijam: Not that I'm disagreeing with your general point, but in any other context, that would have been phrased as "... driven by big-business and self-serving pressure groups...".

Sadly that seems to be a problem irrespective of where the government actually resides and the process by which it got there; another excellent way of pissing off the wider electorate.

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Re: When are Prime Ministers democratically elected?

> it isn't an "EC" any more; it has morphed into the EU

EC would be the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU. Were you thinking of the European Economic Community (EEC) perhaps?

> I find your enthusiasm for the EU model of governance deeply disturbing;

The EU's "model of governance" and the EC are two different things. Anyway, what is your direct experience with the European Commission then?

> The point that I was making was that it is intellectually dishonest to complain about any perceived lack of democratic credentials on TM's part without applying the same critical comments to the EU

Absolutely! The fact that the Prime Minister is not directly elected in and of itself is not indicative of a democratic deficit. Draconian laws and lack of an effective participatory on the other hand are a bit more suspect.

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@tiggity

Indeed they were. The hatchet job on Dear Old Boris must rate as one of the most vicious in history.

There was then a series of votes, eliminating the candidate with fewest votes until there were two. Even I find it hard to remember the unsuccessful names; but some will have been staking out a claim to a place in a future contest.

May versus Leadsom as the finalists; then Leadsom withdrew.

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Trollface

Well, it all seems to have sorted it self out. No harm done etc. etc.

Says a Law Commission laugher, er lawyer.

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Anonymous Coward

Rate this article: 11/10

I read this article without looking at who wrote it.

Half way down, I thought: surely this must be another very welcome Duncan Campbell article (especially given the ABC reference? ).

And indeed it is.

Keep up the *excellent* work, folks.

That's me marked for life again, but hey, what have I left to lose anyway, and if even the Mail and Telegraph think things are going too far, while the New Guardian frequently ignores the issues in favour of their own ABC campaigning (AnyoneButCorbyn), wtf is going on. Presumably the new management at the New Guardian have lost Duncan's phone number or got him confused with his namesake, as there hasn't been much activity there lately:

https://www.theguardian.com/profile/duncan-campbell-1

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Anonymous Coward

Working for a law firm (in IT!) please could I clarify that the Law Society cited in the article as not making the PDF available is actually the Solicitors trade body (think union if your confused), and is more accurately opposing the Law Commission rather than having any relation to it.

Have a look at the Law Society Gazette (originally the solicitors monthly paper newsletter and now an online news source) and you'll find plenty of quite highly qualified people who'd delight in providing plentiful ammunition to the press.

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Anonymous Coward

And the point of the article...

... is to point out that the Law Society did wrong, or that The Register did something? Not seen quite this much "We're great, look what we did" outside of a Daily Mail article

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Re: And the point of the article...

... seems to be just outside your grasp?

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Reflection of societal trajectory

'“This is the latest hypocritical move from a Government intent on operating in the shadows while monitoring every move the rest of us make"'

I've notice on a number of occasions contestants on TV game shows claiming they are civil servants but are not allowed to say what they do. Also, hosts asking obsequiously "May I ask what part of the civil service you work in." as though secrecy was the norm. Now if people genuinely were in a role requiring secrecy, one would hope that they would not be on frivolous TV shows. But the fear is that this is a reflection of the age, when government and government departments can conveniently claim secrecy, which stifles discussion at source. When this approach starts happening trivially, imagine the misuses to which government can put such laws.

Thanks to Duncan Campbell and El Reg for keeping an eye on such excesses.

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Re: Reflection of societal trajectory

"Also, hosts asking obsequiously"

You should have paid more attention. Obsequiously? Tongue in cheek more like!

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So if I rummage in this year's back issues of Private Eye, I will find that they had this story only after The Register did? I don't know if I should be uncertain about this, but it seems more their sort of thing than yours.

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Private Eye/Public Guardian/Cosmic Ally...... for the Comprehensive Covering of All Bases

So if I rummage in this year's back issues of Private Eye, I will find that they had this story only after The Register did? I don't know if I should be uncertain about this, but it seems more their sort of thing than yours. .... Robert Carnegie

Hi, RC,

I have to admit that I wouldn't have considered, before your contribution here, the sharing of absolutely fabulous secrets with Private Eye. It certainly does though have its beautifully odd and even quite manic attractions which would never be exercised by that and those on the straight and narrow or in Establishment Status Quo Circles/Worshipful Grand Masterly Orders.

Thanks for that.

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Anonymous Coward

"So if I rummage in this year's back issues of Private Eye"

Not normally a fan of paywalls, DRM, etc. But here's one exception.

Please, if anyone in contact with the Eye is reading, prettyplease, would the Eye please do a reasonably priced readily searchable archive of the magazine. I might even pay a little extra just to avoid the alleged 'humour' in the paper version. As it is, the 'humour' means I don't buy the magazine much, as does the lack of searchability. But as a long time former reader of The Guardian (and having abandoned The New Guardian in recent years) I'd happily support the Eye with a few quid a month.

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It'll be on page 94...

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Please, if anyone in contact with the Eye is reading, prettyplease, would the Eye please do a reasonably priced readily searchable archive of the magazine.

Eye is a small outfit really, and AFAIK decided that a full on line version would be crippling risky and expensive. Looking at the lack of commercial prosperity for the other newspapers which have gone to full online versions, I'd say it was a smart move to resist the temptations of it.

The consequence for a newspaper being on line is occasionally pointed out by the Eye. For example, whilst the Mail thunders on about Google profiteering from on line extremism, the Mail's own site hosts quite an extensive collection of extremist videos as part of stories it's published, next to which ads appear...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Eye is a small outfit (and the rest)

All true, in some sense.

Except the Eye and the usual newspapers aren't really participating in the same market, so the comparison only makes limited sense.

Yesterday's newspaper is fine for cat litter and wrapping fishing and chips (hopefully not in that sequence). The online variants are mostly just as useless, which is one of many reasons why many/most papers (in the UK at least) are failing to sensibly move into the Interweb age.

Last year's Private Eyes (and many more before that) are still useful and are still relevant and are still things some people would pay to access, especially if they were readily searchable.

The Private Eye Annual, being largely focused on the so-called 'humour' is not something I'd pay for, but presumably some people do.

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You'll note that what the press, be it the Daily Mail, The Guardian or Duncan Campbell, are kicking up a fuss about is that *journalists* are being treated the same as the rest of the great unwashed.

This isn't anyone standing up for the little people against the government, it's the journalist club protecting itself.

The Guardian, of course, lost any moral credibility when it gave up Sarah Tisdall.

The Law should apply to all equally, cabinet ministers who leak should be prosecuted just like journalists or civil servants and Clive Ponting's defence should be enshrined in statute to protect the public from the state.

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Anonymous Coward

"this has Theresa May's authoritarian stink all over it."

See also (pointless trying to summarise):

https://www.gov.uk/government/people/charles-farr

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Farr

https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Charles_Farr

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2649035/The-discreet-affair-two-Home-Secretarys-closest-advisers-REAL-reason-bitter-split-Cabinet-colleague-Michael-Gove-Islamic-plot-schools.html (!)

"The Guardian, of course, lost any moral credibility when it gave up Sarah Tisdall."

Today's New Guardian is far far worse than that. A sad shadow of its former self, and yet its former self is needed now more than ever.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3bfO1rE7Yg

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Pint

Thank you

Have one (or more, as appropriate).

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Anonymous Coward

BBBut...

The whole point of Brexit is to get rid of people's rights, isn't it?

Because British justice is so much better than European justice.

/sarcasm off.

All hail Queen Theresa.

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Re: BBBut...

> ... whole point of Brexit is to get rid of people's rights ...

It is completely unclear how that could possibly be construed as sarcasm.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: BBBut...

Not if you're a brexiteer.

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wait...what?

A "No 10 source" was reported as saying: "This is a consultation by an independent body instigated by a previous prime minister ... It will never be our policy to restrict the freedom of investigative journalism or public service whistleblowing.”

So, why is the current government/PM still paying a consultation fee for something they appear to be claiming they have not intention of acting on?

Can someone at El Reg ask the PMs office for clarification on this matter?

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El Reg: 1

Forces of evil: 0

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Trollface

For those whinging about TMs lack of mandate

Be careful what you wish for.

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