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

Photo: Getty
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The end of loyalty: why are we still surprised when politicians betray each other?

There was Labour’s attempted coup, now the cabinet is in civil war. Have British politicians always been so openly disloyal?

Politicians have always had a reputation for backstabbing, but recently Westminster has been a battleground of back, front and side-stabbing in all parties. The shadow cabinet trying to oust Jeremy Corbyn after the EU referendum; Michael Gove abandoning Boris Johnson to make his own Tory leadership bid; and now Johnson himself derailing Theresa May’s set-piece Brexit speech with his Telegraph essay on the subject – and rumours of a resignation threat.

On the surface, it seems Brexit has given politicians licence to flout cabinet collective responsibility – the convention that binds our ministers to showing a united front on government policy.

The doctrine of cabinet collective responsibility was outlined in the Ministerial Code in the early Nineties, but it became a convention in the late 19th century “the way in which we talk about it still today, in terms of people failing to adhere to it”, says the Institute for Government’s Dr Cath Haddon, an expert in the constitutional issues of Whitehall.

It even goes back earlier than that, when the cabinet would have to bond in the face of a more powerful monarch.

But are we witnessing the end of this convention? It looks like we could be living in a new age of disloyalty. After all, the shadow cabinet was allowed to say what it liked about its leader over nearly two years, and Johnson is still in a job.

An unfaithful history

“I think it’s nothing new,” says Michael Cockerell, who has been making political documentaries and profiles for the BBC since the Seventies. “If you think back in time to Julius Caesar and all the rest of it, this loyalty to the leader is not something that automatically happens or has been normal both in history and modern democracies – there have always been rebels, always been ambitious figures who all work out exactly how far they can go.”

He says the situation with Johnson reminds him of Tony Benn, who was an outspoken cabinet secretary under Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan in 1974-79. “He knew exactly how far he could push it without being sacked, because of the old thing about having him inside the tent pissing out, rather than outside the tent, pissing in.”

Cockerell believes that Johnson, like past cabinet rebels, knows “how far” he can go in defying May because she’s in a precarious position.

“Often if a prime minister is weak, that’s when the ambitious members of the cabinet can parade their disloyalty while still claiming they’re still being loyal,” he says. “Most people who are disloyal always profess their loyalty.”

The peer and former Lib Dem leader Ming Campbell, who has been in politics since the early Seventies, also believes “it’s always been like this” in terms of disloyalty in British politics.

He gives Wilson’s governments as a past example. “There was a fair amount of disloyalty within the cabinet,” he says. “I remember it being suggested by someone that the cabinet meetings were often very, very quiet because people were so busy writing down things that they could put into print sometime later.”

“Fast-forward to John Major and the ‘bastards’,” he says, recalling the former Conservative prime minister’s battle with trouble-making Eurosceptic cabinet members in 1993.

Dr Haddon adds the examples of Margaret Thatcher being brought down by her cabinet (and tackling the “wets and dries” in her early years as PM), and Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s teams briefing against each other.

She believes “nothing changes” regarding disloyalty because of the way British government works. “The UK system really provokes this sort of situation,” she says of Johnson. “Because we have empowered secretaries of state, we have a sort of federalist structure, and then we have the prime minister in the position of primus inter pares [first among equals].”

The idea of the prime minister being a fully empowered leader in control of a team is a “modern concept”, according to Dr Haddon. “If you go back into the nineteenth century, ministers were very much heads of their own little fiefdoms. We’ve always had this system that has enabled ministers to effectively have their own take, their own position in their particular roles, and able to speak publicly on their perspective.”

She says the same happens in the shadow cabinet because of the nature of opposition in the UK. Shadow ministers don’t receive tailored funding for their work, and are therefore “often very much reliant upon their own team” to develop policy proposals, “so they become quite autonomous”.

How disloyalty has changed

However, disloyalty plays out differently in modern politics. Campbell points out that with politics developing in real time online and through 24-hour news, there is a far greater journalistic focus on disloyalty. “Previously it would’ve been in the Sunday papers, now you get it 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he says.

Dr Haddon believes pronouncements of disloyalty are more “overt” than they were because of the way we communicate on social media. Platforms like Twitter discourage the “coded messages” of past disloyal cabinet secretaries, and show infighting more starkly.

“There is this immediacy of reaction,” she says. “And that it’s constrained to 140 characters leads people to ever more brief, succinct declarations of their position. We are also living through a period in which, dare I say, hyperbole and strength of position are only exaggerated by that medium. There’s something in that which is very different.”

And even though British political history is littered with attempted coups, betrayals and outspoken ministers – particularly over Europe – there is a sense that the rulebook has been thrown out recently, perhaps as Brexit has defied the status quo.

Collective responsibility and the idea of the prime minister as primus inter pares are conventions, and conventions can be moulded or dropped completely.

“The constitution is open for discussion now to an extent that I can’t remember,” says Campbell. “You’ve got arguments about independence, constitutional arguments which arise out of Brexit, if we leave. In those circumstances, it’s perhaps not surprising that the constitutional convention about cabinet responsibility comes under strain as well.

“If you’ve got a constitution that depends upon the observance of convention, then of course it’s much easier to depart from these if you choose,” he adds. “And in the present, febrile atmosphere of constitutional change, maybe it’s hardly surprising that what is thought to be a centrepiece is simply being disregarded.”

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.