Call to arms to stop threat to Defamation Bill

Friday 12th April 2013

Four days before the Defamation Bill has its final and decisive debate in the House of Commons we find ourselves writing to you about disgraceful behaviour from politicians that will put everything we’ve worked for at risk.

Conservative MP and libel barrister Sir Edward Garnier is trying to remove the part of the Bill that would limit companies’ ability to use libel threats to intimidate critics into silence and was voted for overwhelmingly in the House of Lords. His attempt to remove this will be voted on during debate on the Bill on Tuesday 16thApril.

How is it right that companies claim libel damage, take someone's house to pay it, but never have to show the damage actually occurred? Please write to your MP and tell them not to support Garnier’s amendment.

We’ve heard that the Conservatives might back Garnier on this, and that the Lib Dems will join their Conservative colleagues even though restricting corporations from suing individuals unless they can prove harm is Lib Dem party policy! Please write to Nick Clegg and David Cameron and urge them to tell their parties not to support Garnier and to make sure the clause on companies becomes part of the Defamation Bill.

Read our briefing for MPs on why this along with a clear strong public interest defence would do the most to lessen the damage the laws are doing to free and open debate. A Bill without either reform would be a wasted opportunity. Please point your MP towards our briefing at this link when you write to them.

We’ve seen the best of democracy in action – we have forced libel reform onto the political agenda and when politicians have listened to us all we’ve seen the best improvements to the Defamation Bill. But behind closed door dealing and cowardly behaviour threatens everything we’ve worked for. Please tell your MP not to support Garnier's amendment, to support the amendment from Sir Peter Bottomley that would make the public interest defence clearer and stronger, and tell David Cameron and Nick Clegg that the Government must do this too.

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