Legislative Scrutiny: Defamation Bill - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

1  Background

Date introduced to first House

Date introduced to second House

Current Bill Number

Previous Reports

10 May 2012

8 October 2012

HL Bill 41 2012-13



1.  The Defamation Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 21 September 2012, having already completed its passage through the Commons.[1] The Bill is intended to make a number of substantive changes to the law of defamation, but is not designed to codify the law into a single statute.

2.  The Rt Hon Lord McNally, Minister of State for Justice, has certified that in his view, the Bill is compatible with Convention rights. The Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Lords on 9 October 2012.

3.  We wrote to the relevant Minister on 18 October 2012 asking for further information about a number of specific human rights issues raised by the Bill. The Minister replied by letter on 15 November 2012.

4.  We identified the Bill as one of our priorities for legislative scrutiny in this Session and called for evidence in relation to it. We received written evidence in relation to the Bill from JNT Association (trading as JANET), UCISA, Professor Phillipson from the University of Durham Law School, and Professor Mullis, University of East Anglia and Dr Scott, London School of Economics. All of the written evidence we have received is available on our website. We are grateful to all those who have assisted with our scrutiny of the Bill's human rights implications.

5.  This Report concentrates on the most significant human rights issues likely to be debated during the remainder of the Bill's passage, in light of the debates so far at the Second Reading in the House of Lords.

The information provided by the Government

6.  The Government published alongside the Bill a detailed ECHR Memorandum prepared by the Ministry of Justice, setting out the Government's views on the principal human rights implications of the Bill. The memorandum provides a detailed account of the Government's reasons for concluding either that particular provisions do not interfere with human rights or that any interference is justified. The detail and quality of most of the human rights analysis in the memorandum shows that serious and careful consideration has been given to the human rights implications of the Bill.

7.  The relevant members of the Bill team also made themselves available to meet our Legal Adviser and the Lords Clerk to answer any questions about the Bill and to provide any further information. The combination of the detailed ECHR memorandum, the meeting with the Bill team, and the detailed response to our questions in the response to our letter has made it possible to focus this Report on the most significant human rights issues raised by the Bill.

1   12, 19, 21 and 27 June 2012 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 12 December 2012