Libel Reform Campaign urges Government to set date for next stage of Defamation Bill

Written by Robert Sharp
March 18, 2013
Category: England & Wales

The Libel Reform Campaign welcomes the announcement that the Government will make time for the Defamation Bill to return to the House of Commons, and now urges the Prime Minister to schedule a date.

The Government had delayed bringing the bill back to the House of Commons, after peers approved controversial amendments to the legislation, tabled by Lord Puttnam, Baroness Boothroyd, Lord Mackay and Baroness Scotland.

However, as part of the negotiations over the Royal Charter for press regulation, the party leaders have agreed that these amendments to the Defamation Bill should be withdrawn.

After it emerged that the Bill had been delayed, hundreds of supporters of the Libel Reform Campaign wrote letters to their MPs, demanding that the parties fulfil their manifesto commitments to libel reform.

On 6th March 2012, an open letter from prominent authors, including Sir Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Margaret Drabble, said that it was “inappropriate, and even reckless, for libel reform to be sacrificed to the current political stalemate.”

Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN said:"It was wrong for the Defamation Bill to have been hijacked by the separate issue of press regulation. Nevertheless, we are glad that the three main parties have come together to fulfil their manifesto commitment to libel reform. The Government must now urgently set a date for the next stage in the parliamentary process, and guide this bill into law without further delay."

Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship, said:

"The Defamation bill should never have been hijacked by those attempting to introduce elements of statutory press regulation. I am delighted that these amendments have been removed; the Bill should now be passed as quickly as possible to end the chilling of free speech by england's archaic libel laws."

Tracey Brown, Director of Sense About Science, said:

"There are thousands of people in this country and beyond who are waiting to see this archaic law of defamation finally reformed. They want an end to the chilling effects of libel laws on matters of public interest. Over the past few days hundreds of people and organisations have written to the party leaders and local MPs to warn against any delay in bringing the Defamation Bill back to the House of Commons. They will be pleased that they have been heard."