Interested parties have been given an extra month to comment on proposals for a new law to protect official secrets after an unexpected media furore. Citing a ‘large amount of interest’ the Law Commission said that its deadline for responding to the public consultation on Protection of Official Data had been extended to 3 May.
The consultation paper, published last month, suggests ways to improve the law around the protection of official information. It prompted a hostile response from journalists and media organisations after veteran investigative journalist Duncan Campbell suggested that the proposed espionage act could lead to the jailing of journalists reporting on data leaks.
The row prompted Downing Street to deny it had any plans to criminalise investigative journalism.
This week’s announcement by the Law Commission stresses that the consultation is ‘an independent review of the laws – including the Officials Secrets Acts – to ensure that they are keeping pace with the challenges of the 21st century’.
It states: ‘We have made a number of provisional conclusions as to how the legislation could be improved’ and stresses that ‘no final recommendations have been made’.
Law Commissioner Professor David Ormerod QC said: ‘Our provisional proposals include greater safeguards for whistleblowers than under the current laws whilst also ensuring that Britain is protected in the 21st century.
‘But no final recommendations have been made and before they are, we want as many people as possible to be able to have their say. That’s why we are extending the deadline for responses to 3 May – we welcome views.’