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Nick Clegg commits to libel reform in speech on civil liberties

The Libel Reform Campaign welcomes Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s outlining of the detail of the Government’s draft bill on defamation this morning.

Read Mr Clegg’s speech

See coverage of the speech 

Commenting after his address, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “I would like to pay tribute to the Libel Reform Campaign who have led the debate on this issue for so long. Their tireless work has kept up the pressure on politicians of all parties to reform England’s libel laws. I hope they feel they have been rewarded by the Coalition Government’s announcement today which will turn our libel laws from an international laughing stock to an international blueprint for reform.”

John Kampfner, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship: “This is welcome news for the libel reform campaign. The Deputy Prime Minister has not only acknowledged the chilling effect of our defamation laws, but taken our demands for reform fully on board. We’re delighted that that in tone and detail the draft bill will go a long way to tackling the chill on free speech emanating from English courts.”

Jonathan Heawood, Director of English PEN: “We warmly welcome the Deputy Prime Minister’s pledge to reform our rusting libel laws.  PEN members have been calling for reform for over sixty years, so we are delighted that the Government is making this manifesto commitment a priority.  If the Government follows through on Mr Clegg’s encouraging promises, the law will achieve a much more sensible balance between free expression and reputation.  MPs must now ensure that the draft Bill lives up to these commitments, and that the measures are not watered down to please the rich libel tourists who currently abuse our system.” 

Tracey Brown, Managing Director of Sense About Science: “The current libel laws are squashing free debate and expression about science, medicine, local government, corruption, biography, and consumer safety. It is squashing many more people now that we have internet publishing and individual blogs taking on these subjects. We think the Government understands that now, but we know that there are many who would like to keep this system for silencing or bankrupting critics, so the Deputy Prime Minister’s commitment to change is very important.”

Dr Evan Harris of the Libel Reform Campaign: “It’s good news that the leading civil libertarian in the Government, Nick Clegg, is pushing the libel reform agenda. But there are many battles to be fought and won before we can confidently say we will have got rid of the chill of our current libel laws on free speech.”


The Guardian (Editorial), Libel reform: A good start

The Independent (Leading Article), Our libel laws have become a threat to freedom of speech

The Guardian, While avoiding specifics, Nick Clegg makes the right sounds on libel reform

The Telegraph, Nick Clegg: ‘Chilling’ libel laws will be overhauled

The Financial Times, Clegg vows to halt libel law ‘bullying’

The Guardian, Libel reform gets government backing, but don’t pop your corks just yet

The Guardian, Nick Clegg’s civil liberties speech strikes a welcome blow against libel tourism

The Metro, Nick Clegg: Libel laws will ‘restore lost liberties’

The Daily Mail, Nick Clegg pledges to end the scourge of libel tourism as part of campaign to ‘restore our great British freedoms’

The New Statesman (blog), Clegg impresses on libel reform

The Mirror, Nick Clegg promises a return to ‘free speech’ with reform of libel laws

journalism.co.uk, Clegg outlines plans to reform ‘embarrassing’ UK libel law

politics.co.uk, Clegg heralds age of civil liberties by unveiling libel reform

Press Gazette, Clegg vows to change ‘laughing stock’ libel law

Press Gazette, Clegg: Time to end libel bullying of journalists

PC Pro, ISPs hoping to benefit in libel law shake-up

NUJ - National Union of Journalists, NUJ welcomes Clegg libel reform plans

RSC - Chemistry World, Libel law reform to protect scientists