Nick Clegg comes out in support of the Libel Reform campaign
Nick Clegg praises the Libel Reform Campaign
18 Jan 10

On the eve of delivering his Royal Society speech calling for change to libel laws, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg expressed his support of Index on Censorship, Sense about Science and English PEN’s Libel Reform campaign, saying:

“English libel law as it stands is simply unfair and in desperate need of reform. Britain has a proud history of freedom and liberty, but the current system allows people and corporations with money to impose silence on others at will.

“The Libel Reform Campaign is doing excellent work is leading the way in calling for this outdated and unfair system to be changed.”

This afternoon in a speech to the Royal Society on science and politics Clegg said:

“I am deeply concerned about the stifling effect English libel laws are having on scientific debate.

“The freedom to evaluate critically the work of others is the essence of good quality research.

“Of course people have the right to protect their reputations from damaging and false statements made recklessly, irresponsibly or with malice. But scientists must be allowed to question claims fearlessly, especially those that relate to medical care, environmental damage and public safety, if we are to protect ourselves against dubious research practices, phoney treatments and vested corporate interests.

“English libel law as it stands is obstructing that process and threatens the public good as a result.

“The prospect of a costly, protracted legal battle hangs over journalists, editors and academics seeking to ask basic questions about the evidence for practices they believe may put people at serious risk.

“Our libel law and practice have turned a country once famed for its traditions of freedom and liberty into a legal farce where people and corporations with money can impose silence on others at will.

“I believe in raucous freedom of speech, not gagging orders in our courts. Libel tourism is making a mockery of British justice, with foreign plaintiffs able to bring cases against foreign defendants when the publications in question may have sold just a handful of copies in England.”

Forty seven Liberal Democrat MPs have signed a Parliamentary Early Day Motion tabled by Dr Evan Harris calling for reform of our libel laws. 12,500 people have signed the Libel Reform campaign petition.