Any allergens in there? Photo: Flickr/Alpha
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Five new laws that may have escaped your notice in 2014

Which pieces of new legislation did you miss last year?

Every year thousands of new laws are introduced. Some of these are well publicised and debated, such as the recent changes to the rules on pornography, but others slip under the radar. Many are quite important though, and affect all kinds of people.

Here are just five of the laws introduced in 2014 that you may have missed. You might find they affect you after all.

Tighter leash

On May 13, changes to the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act came into force, in response to a number of high profile cases of dogs attacking children.

It’s now a criminal offence for the person in charge of a dog or its owner to allow it to be dangerously out of control in a public place. Section three has also been amended to make incidents that occur on private property a criminal offence too. That includes both the dog owner’s home and garden and someone else’s home.

Still to come are bigger fines for owners who fail to prevent dog attacks and compulsory micro-chipping from 2016.

Rip your CDs

It is now finally legal to rip CDs and to transfer music from your CDs to your iPod. What you’ve been doing for the past decade illegally, you can now do legally (if you still have any CDs, that is).

The changes made to the 1988 Copyright, Design and Patents Act, which came into force on June 1, are a classic case of the law being rather slow to catch up with reality.

Section 28B has been added to the act, which allows individuals to make personal copies of work onto CDs or digital files if they were lawfully acquired for their private use in the first place. These amendments to the law do not apply to computer programs and they do not make it lawful to copy CDs and give them to friends or family.

What’s in that bap?

New allergen information rules were introduced in December as a result of EU regulations. Anywhere that sells unpackaged food, such as sandwich bars, bakeries and takeaways, must disclose information on whether that food contains any of 14 listed allergens. This includes gluten, eggs, fish, nuts and milk.

The information can be provided to customers by staff orally or in writing.

This has clear implications for businesses. They now need to train all staff to ensure that they can provide the required information to customers. The rules are also an important step forward in allowing those who suffer from food allergies to buy unpackaged food without fear of suffering a potentially fatal reaction.

Off the record

Reforms to the 1974 Rehabilitation of Offenders Act came into force in March. These loosened requirements on people having to disclose minor offences to potential employers.

Under the new system, an offender sentenced to between 30 months and four years in prison would see their conviction spent after the length of their sentence plus seven years. So after those seven years they would not have to reveal their conviction when applying for a job. Before the reforms, the same offender’s convictions would never have been spent so this is a positive move for people who don’t offend again and try to contribute to society by finding work.

Talk it out

Since May, anyone wishing to make a claim in an employment tribunal has to first make an early conciliation notification the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.

The aim of early conciliation is to settle employment disputes quickly and cost-effectively without parties needing to attend employment tribunal hearings. If conciliation fails then claimants may proceed to lodge a tribunal claim.

Between April and September, more than 37,000 cases went through the process. While the system is evidently being used, there is some concern that the service has not been given enough money to handle the ever-increasing workload.

So 2014 may have seen many people get hot and bothered about the law, from pornography to government snooping, some people have come out better. Coelliacs can order a sandwich in safety and reformed offenders won’t be dogged by their past for the rest of their lives.

And you can finally get rid of that stack of CDs collecting dust on your shelf.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

By Siobhan Weare, Lecturer in Law, Lancaster University

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.