Posts Tagged ‘Draft Defamation Bill’
Last month I emailed my local MP, Jenny Willott (Lib Dem, Cardiff Central), regarding the Draft Defamation Bill and the ‘Leveson clause’ using The Libel Reform Campaign‘s Don’t kill the Bill. I received the following response this morning:
Ref: LS/TC/270313/Defamation Bill 2013
8th April 2013
Dear Dr. Crick,
Thank you for your email about the Defamation Bill.
The Defamation Bill is a hugely important piece of legislation that I strongly support. Over recent years, Britain has become a laughing stock as libel tourism has been on the rise and cases have been brought against various high profile scientists and journalists. This has to change, and as my party leader, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, made clear in a speech on civil liberties last year, libel reform is a very real priority for this government.
That’s why I have been disappointed that this Bill has been held up in the House of Lords by the Conservatives after Labour Peers tabled amendments to introduce the Leveson reforms. However, now that the three main party leaders have agreed the way forward to implement the Leveson reforms, the path is clear for the Defamation Bill to proceed.
As part of the deal between the parties, the Prime Minister announced to the House of Commons that the Government’s legislative programme would now be unblocked, including the Defamation Bill. The changes proposed by Leveson and the reforms in the Defamation Bill are badly needed, and I am pleased that we have now been able to agree a way that we can deliver both.
The right to freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our constitution, and the need to reform our 19th century libel laws is great. The proposals in the Defamation Bill will ensure that the threat of libel proceedings is not used to frustrate robust scientific and academic debate, or to impede responsible investigative journalism and valuable work undertaken by non-governmental organisations. Liberal Democrats have been at the forefront of the campaign for reform, and I am looking forward to the Defamation Bill completing its stages in the Commons in the next few weeks and becoming law.
Thank you again for writing, and please do not hesitate to contact me again if you have further concerns about this or any other issue.
MP for Cardiff Central
Scientists, journal editors, community organisations and writers are asking everyone concerned about the impact of the libel laws on open discussions to let their MP know they want to see libel reform in the Queen’s Speech in May 2012.
This is something that I have written about a number of times: all of the undersigned have faced or been threatened with libel actions. Please help by contacting your MP (see TheyWorkForYou), signing the petition and spreading the libel reform message.
We are writing as people who have battled libel threats and actions to ask for your help to make sure reform of the laws gets into next year’s Queen’s Speech, which sets the legislative agenda for 2012.
People are still being threatened by a law that allows the rich and powerful to bully critics and shut down public debate. Libel reform needs urgent action. The campaign and all its supporters have worked hard to persuade the Ministry of Justice to draw up an effective Defamation Bill, but if it is not in the Queen’s Speech in the spring, then libel reform will be delayed for at least another year, which will be a victory for those who want to silence honest criticism. We can’t bear to let this opportunity slip away.
We know we will have to battle against those who want to delay or derail libel reform, and the best way to get our message across is to lobby MPs for support. Please help us by clicking here to send an email to your MP so they know that all we want for Christmas is our MPs to back the inclusion of libel reform in the Queen’s Speech.
Dr Ben Goldacre
Dr Peter Wilmshurst
Dr Fiona Godlee, Editor in Chief, BMJ
Dr Philip Campbell, Editor in Chief, Nature
Justine Roberts, Founder and CEO, Mumsnet
Richard Dunstan, Social Policy Officer, Citizens Advice
David Osler, journalist
Professor David Colquhoun
Professor Francisco Lacerda
Rhys Morgan, blogger
John Gray, blogger
This week saw the publication of a hugely important report on libel reform in England and Wales. The report is from the Joint Committee on the Draft Defamation Bill, which has been considering the government’s proposed bill after oral and written evidence from interested parties. The proposed new legislation will be the first wholesale reform of the libel laws of England and Wales since 1843.
But why is this important for scientists? Increasingly, individuals and companies are using England’s outdated libel laws to suppress legitimate scientific debate and discovery. I wrote a report on the Libel Reform and Science session at this year’s Science Communication Conference. The sterling work of Sense About Science‘s Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign (as part of the wider Libel Reform campaign) has raised the profile of the libel reform movement in the UK, but there is still a long way to go.
Please read this excellent summary of the report by Stephen Curry (who has written about libel reform numerous times before), as well as the press release from the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign.