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Defamation Bill moves to Grand Committee in House of Lords
The Defamation Bill is getting better – but there is still a lot to fight for
The Bill is now at committee stage in the House of Lords. The first six clauses will be debated on Monday 17th and Wednesday 19th December.
Many of you have worked with us to press for a new effective public interest defence. After promising this, the public interest clause published by the Government earlier this year turned out to be a very poor copy of the existing Reynolds defence. We already know this is very expensive to run and has been of little use to scientists, NGOs, doctors, consumer groups or bloggers – the very people who have supported the Libel Reform Campaign. To highlight this, we held a parliamentary rally; Dara O Briain, Dave Gorman and Brian Cox took a petition of all your signatures to Downing Street, and we put together a briefing for Parliament on 10 cases http://bit.ly/Rt1f9X
We’ve had some positive news. Yesterday the Government responded and put down their own amendment to strengthen the Clause 4 Public Interest Defence in advance of the Lords discussing this at committee stage. This is entirely down to the efforts of all the individuals and community groups who have continued to fight alongside us for a fairer law.
The Government’s proposal is an improvement on what has been proposed in the Bill. We are still holding out for a stronger defence – one that protects defendants if they promptly and prominently correct or clarify. We are encouraging members of the House of Lords to debate the Government’s new clause and our clause.
The House of Lords will also be tabling amendments for which we argued, for calling for early strike out of weak or vexatious cases, measures to protect Internet service providers better and to restrict the use of libel laws by bullying corporations. If these are accepted by the Government it’ll be a huge victory for the campaign.
We’ll be at the committee debates in Parliament on Monday and Wednesday and will let you know what happens.
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