The House of Lords today debated Lord Lester’s Defamation Bill.  The debate was opened by Lord Lester, moving his bill . He expressed gratitude to the Minister for having met with him and his team.   He accepted that there should be a Select Committee or a draft Government Bill based on his version.  He expressed a preference for “a draft Government Bill subject to pre legislative scrutiny by a committee of both Houses“.

The debate lasted over four hours.  Most speakers were strongly in favour of the bill.  A rare note of dissent came from Lord Hoffmann who expressed misgivings about some of the provisions of the bill.  Lord Triesman also raised some doubts, asking “who is speaking up for the claimants”. Taking up a proposal made on Inforrm he suggested that

“The Law Commission, chaired by a Lord Justice of Appeal, has the impartial responsibility to look for balanced and carefully considered solutions to complex areas of law, and I ask the Lord Chancellor, through the Minister, to refer the libel law proposals to the Law Commission for a full and speedy review”.

The Justice Minister, Lord McNally, indicated that there would be a full Government draft bill with the possibility of legislation in the second session of the Parliament.   He said

“My hope is that having received his Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, will give me and my advisers time to digest what has been said today. We will then embark on a wide range of consultations over the summer to take stock. When the House returns in the autumn, we will have made considerable progress on a draft government Bill, which we hope to publish early in the new year and make ready for pre-legislative scrutiny. As I say, this is not a vague promise of better things to come, but a firm commitment to action on this matter. Such a timetable would give us a strong case for making time in the 2011-12 legislative programme for a substantive Bill”.

At the end of the debate the Bill was read a second time without opposition.

The full debate is is available here or can be watched in full on BBC Parliament TV

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.955821&w=425&h=350&]