Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Libel reform set to founder . . . unless . . .

Unless our barely-elected UK government takes some positive action in the next few days, all the work that has been done to reform the UK libel laws will have been wasted.  Sadly they haven't shown a lot of interest in doing anything sensible and I fear the worst.

I received an e-mail from the Libel Reform Campaign (having previously and currently supported them).  It was rather disturbing, when I had naively thought that we were on the home straight.  It included this introduction:

Dear Friends

We need your urgent help this week to get the libel reform bill back to the House of Commons. There is the real risk that unless we act it will be dropped.

We have all worked hard to win the case for reform – to show the chilling effects of the current law on citizens, to secure commitment from the three main parties and to get a bill that ends bullying and protects the public interest. We did all of this and politicians rose above the fray to work together on it.

But it is now threatened. As you may have read over the past week, the bill has been hijacked by a group of peers who have inserted amendments to introduce press regulation proposals from the Leveson debate ‘by the back door’. The bill needs to go back before the Commons in the next two weeks, but the Government has not tabled it. It has to do so, because if the bill does not complete its passage before the parliamentary session ends in late April or early May it will be lost.

Then it implored me to write to my MP, which I promptly did.  You have my permission to borrow some or all of these words if you would like to write to your own MP and can't decide how to phrase it.  If you can do better, please tell me how.

Write to an MP from this site theyworkforyou.com/

I chose a fairly direct approach with my MP.  We are not ideally politically aligned but I try to remain neutral on that.

Dear Mr *******,

I'm writing to express my deep concern about the chance that the Libel Reform bill might be lost.  I understand that several peers are using the bill as a way to introduce items recommended by the Leveson Report.  This leads to an intolerable risk.

After making such good progress towards the reform of our archaic, embarrassing and risible libel legislation, the government should  feel nothing but utter shame if it fails to complete the process.  A huge amount of work has been put in by many dedicated people.  Now it is your turn, as a member of the government, to make the required effort for the good of all of us.  The Government should put the bill back into the Commons within the next two weeks, so that the amendment can be removed, and the law changed.

British libel law has been the laughing stock of the world for as long as I can remember.  Please can you assure me that you you intend to support the re-tabling of the bill ? Time is of the essence.

Yours sincerely,


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