Open Act

This is a pitch/idea shaping exercise/idea bounce/is this really a good idea post.

Firstly some disclaimers. I didn’t study law. The closest I came was studying a module at university for my HND in Business and Finance (no I don’t have a degree, yes I am looking at rectifying that, possibly, yes it might be in journalism) so I know tort, I know duty of care, I know that the word ‘reasonable’ can have 17 different meanings depending on which County it’s interpreted in. That’s all.

I also know few people read the small print. Because it isn’t in plain English half the time. The other half of the time it’s too small to actually read.

I know that law is something I am allowed to have an opinion on which I can express freely and without restraint without needing to be wary of Purdah or politically restricted posts. I am not in a politically restricted post, of course, but I might as well be because I am being expected to act in the manner of someone 3 grades higher than me, even if I am not – and no, there’s no bitterness there. But I cannot do the things in local gov I would like to do right now because I am in local gov – but that doesn’t mean I cannot apply disruption elsewhere.

Finally, I know that I passionately feel that you should not need to have studied law, for example, to know the following:

  • There is a Bill at second reading stage in the House of Commons called European Convention on Human Rights (Withdrawal) Bill Bill. Summary: A Bill to make provision for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • There is a Bill at second reading stage in the House of Commons called Face Coverings (Regulation) Bill. Summary: A Bill to regulate the wearing of certain face coverings; and for connected purposes.
    • Further reading reveals the subject to exemptions in subsection (3), wearing a garment or other object intended by the wearer as its primary purpose to obscure the face in a public place shall be guilty of an offence.
      • It should be noted that subsection (3) specifies only ‘in a place of worship’. It does not specify for purposes of religion, a rather different thing entirely.
  • There is a Bill at second reading stage in the House of Commons called Remembrance Sunday (Closure of Shops) Bill. Summary: A Bill to provide for the extension of Christmas Day restrictions on the opening of retail premises to Remembrance Sunday; and for connected purposes.
Some of those items do not make me happy on a personal level. Some of those items, I believe, have a necessity to be out in the open and up for public discussion amongst the groups of people those Bills will directly affect. I believe that parliament have done what we can reasonably expect of them to do in being open and transparent. I believe the failure lies with those of us who could translate those words into plain English but choose not to.

I would like to give people the opportunity to choose to do the right thing and act as interpreters and relays for the information which is in the public domain but I don’t believe can be easily understood.

Therefore, I would like to propose a database driven website on the front end, with an open wiki on the back end. The wiki will take each new Bill, dissect it and translate it into plain English, in an unbiased and non-politically influenced way. This translation will stay in the Wiki for those who require more detail of Bills along with an original copy of the Bill and all subsequent revisions at each step of the Bill process through Parliament. A summary will be created and keywords allocated to each Bill translation and it is this which will be fed through to the database which drives the front end site.

The front end site will allow users to search on keywords for Bills which are relevant to them, their community group, their religious group, their charity or their organisation. It will display summaries of Bills as results of the keyword search. A link will be provided to the back end Wiki with the full translation in plain English should it be needed.

It will also be possible to visit the site once, set up email subscriptions based on keyword searches and then have notifications emailed to you when a new Bill summary is uploaded to the database which satisfies those keywords. Additionally, it will subsequently be possible to subscribe to an individual Bill and be notified each time it progresses through parliament or a committee meets to discuss the Bill.

The Wiki driving this and the translations will need to be provided by community volunteers. Driven, dedicated, passionate volunteers with an ability to read ‘legalese’ and translate it and reasonably quickly. Once all current Bills at the various stages through the process have been translated, it is anticipated that fewer people will be needed to keep on top of the rolling introductions of new Bills and the workload will drop, but the initial workload will be high.

I believe, very strongly, that everyone in this country has a right to discuss and feedback to parliament on the Bills which may eventually become Acts which may affect those citizens every day movements, their human rights, and their personal freedoms.

Many thanks for reading this far. Offers of help would be very welcome. Criticism and feedback are also welcome – the problem with leaving comments has been fixed.

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