The Libel Reform Campaign led by English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense About Science have welcomed today’s commitment by Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Justice Secretary, to a Libel Reform Bill in the next Parliament. The commitment comes as the three major parties jostle to portray themselves as the party for libel reform, after the failed attempt to cut lawyers’ fees in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
The Conservative Shadow Justice Secretary, Dominic Grieve QC MP said:
The Conservative party is committed, if elected, to undertaking a fundamental review of the libel laws with a view to enacting legislation to reform them. This reform could best be done by means of a separate Libel Bill and this is the preferred approach for us.
The new Conservative position has delighted campaigners as now all three main political parties are committed to reform of our libel laws. The Conservatives have also made clear that libel reform will be in their forthcoming manifesto.
The Libel Reform Campaign has galvanised 48,000 supporters and persuaded the majority of eligible MPs to sign a Parliamentary Early Day Motion. The national campaign is believed to be the first campaign by an NGO this year to get a manifesto commitment from all three major parties.
Jack Straw committed to a Labour manifesto pledge to reforming English libel law at a mass-lobby of Parliament organised by the Libel Reform Campaign on 23 March, following his establishment of a working-party into reform of the libel laws that commenced in February. Nick Clegg, the leader of The Liberal Democrats, made the same commitment on 18 January.
John Kampfner, the CEO of Index on Censorship, said:
After the long-awaited cut to lawyers’ fees was blocked in the House of Commons this week, we’re delighted by this good news from the Conservative Party. Now, all three major political parties are committed to a Libel Reform Bill in the next Parliament.
Jonathan Heawood, the Director of English PEN said:
To have every major political party committed to reform of our libel laws shows politicians have woken up to the extent of the problem after our year-long campaign. We really do need to see primary legislation in the new Parliament.
Tracey Brown, the Managing Director of Sense About Science said:
The main political parties have committed to libel reform after our campaign energised 48,000 across the country with public talks, a huge comedy gig and our supporters sending tens of thousands of emails and letters to MPs. We’ll be keeping this momentum up after the election and we know how easily this important reform could be sidelined once the election campaign is over.