Civil Society hits out at Nadine Dorries over ‘rigged’ consultation

In a rarely seen move, more than 30 civil society organisations have gone public with their concerns over what they believe may be an unlawful consultation process.[1] 

In a letter written to Nadine Dorries MP, the organisations from across the sector, including human rights group Liberty, Index on Censorship, Big Brother Watch, and Privacy International among others have cautioned the Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sports (DCMS) over her Department’s refusal to meet and substantially engage with civil society as part of its consultation process for the Data Reforms Bill, breaking their promise to engage equally with representative groups.

The signatories highlight DCMS’s potential violation of the ‘Government’s Code of Practice on Consultations’ in refusing to substantially engage with civil society organisations and taking into account people, groups or sectors which would be disproportionately affected by the proposals.[2] 

Commenting on the letter that calls out the Government’s eagerness to work with sympathising businesses and respondents of their choice over those disproportionately impacted by any changes to data protection law, Jim Killock, the Executive Director of the Privacy campaigning organisation, the Open Rights Group (ORG), said: 

This rigged consultation process is a classic government stitch-up aimed at uprooting some of the most fundamental protections enjoyed by citizens. 

The DCMS is keen to work with sympathising businesses and respondents of their choice while ignoring ordinary citizens and everyone who criticises their proposals.

The UK GDPR affords important protections to women, workers, patients, migrants, ethnic minorities, LGBT communities, and everyone else. The Data Reform Bill will endanger all this, if the DCMS make the wrong calls and keep carrying out their consultation without regard of due process” 



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Notes to the Editor 

1- The letter signed by civil society organisations to Nadine Dorries MP, the Secretary of State for DCMS:

2- HM Government’s Code of Practice on Consultations states:

3.4 Consideration should also be given to asking questions about which groups or sectors would be affected by the policy in question, and about any groups or sectors (e.g. small businesses or third sector organisations) that may be disproportionately affected by the proposals as presented in the consultation document. Consultation exercises can be used to seek views on the coverage of new policies, ideas of how specific groups or sectors might be exempted from new requirements, or used to seek views on approaches to specific groups or sectors that would ensure proportionate implementation.”

3- HM Government’s Consultation Principles: Guidelines states:

D. Consultations should be targeted 

Consider the full range of people, business and voluntary bodies affected by the policy, and whether representative groups exist. Consider targeting specific groups if appropriate. Ensure they are aware of the consultation and can access it. Consider how to tailor consultation to the needs and preferences of particular groups, such as older people, younger people or people with disabilities that may not respond to traditional consultation methods. 

G. Consultations should take account of the groups being consulted

Consult stakeholders in a way that suits them. Charities may need more time to respond than businesses, for example. When the consultation spans all or part of a holiday period, consider how this may affect consultation and take appropriate mitigating action, such as prior discussion with key interested parties or extension of the consultation deadline beyond the holiday period.”