Early Day Motion 423: Libel Law Reform

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Early Day Motion 423: Libel Law Reform is an Early Day Motion proposed by Evan Harris MP on 9th December 2009 in support of libel reform.

The motion stated:

"That this House notes that human rights activists, scientists, writers and journalists are prevented from publishing, and the public prevented from reading, matters of strong public interest due to the chilling effect of English libel law; further notes that libel actions in England and Wales cost 100 times more than the European average; further notes that the costs of defending a libel case are usually prohibitive and that even successful defendants do not recover their full costs; further notes the report of the United Nations Committee on Human Rights which criticises English libel law for its stifling of free expression globally due to libel tourism whereby foreign complainants bring cases against foreign writers for alleged libel in overseas publications; believes that public interest is endangered by powerful vested interests and corporations being able to intimidate writers into not publishing; recognises the recent report by Index on Censorship and English PEN, Free speech is not for sale andfurther notes the campaign for scientific freedom by Sense About Science; welcomes the formation of the Libel Reform Coalition to campaign for law reform; and calls for a re-casting of the libel laws such that, while individual reputation is protected against malicious or reckless smears, lawful free expression is not chilled and there is a fully effective public interest defence for both scholarship and responsible journalism."

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Amendment

The Motion carried an amendment proposed by David Taylor MP. This motion became Early Day Motion 423A1: Libel Law Reform. Taylor died suddenly in December 2009, and the motion is now listed as being proposed by Mark Durkan on the parliament.uk website. The motion has been signed by all three Social Democratic and Labour Party MPs.

The amended motion read (amendment in bold):

"That this House notes that human rights activists, scientists, writers and journalists are prevented from publishing, and the public prevented from reading, matters of strong public interest due to the chilling effect of English libel law; further notes that libel actions in England and Wales cost 100 times more than the European average; further notes that the costs of defending a libel case are usually prohibitive and that even successful defendants do not recover their full costs; further notes the report of the United Nations Committee on Human Rights which criticises English libel law for its stifling of free expression globally due to libel tourism whereby foreign complainants bring cases against foreign writers for alleged libel in overseas publications; believes that public interest is endangered by powerful vested interests and corporations being able to intimidate writers into not publishing; further believes that the libel laws discriminate against average and low paid people when victims of defamatory comment in the pages of national publications; recognises the recent report by Index on Censorship and English PEN, Free speech is not for sale and further notes the campaign for scientific freedom by Sense About Science; welcomes the formation of the Libel Reform Coalition to campaign for law reform; and calls for a re-casting of the libel laws such that, while individual reputation is protected against malicious or reckless smears, lawful free expression is not chilled and there is a fully effective public interest defence for both scholarship and responsible journalism."

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Responses

Skeptic Rebecca Watson has collected some responses by MPs on the Skepchick blog: http://skepchick.org/blog/2010/01/libel-reform-which-mps-are-doing-their-jobs/

List of signatories

A number of groups joined under the banner of The Libel Reform Campaign were all campaigning on this issue and encouraged people to contact their MPs asking them to support this EDM. Hence MPs signing the motion may have done so only after being contacted by constituents.

The original motion has been signed by 250 MPs (as of April 12).

   

List of signatories of the amended motion

The amended motion has been signed by 20 MPs (as of March 23), including all three Social Democratic and Labour Party MPs.