Clause 5. — (Justification.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Defamation (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th June 1952.

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Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , City of York 12:00 am, 27th June 1952

I had not intended to detain the House, but I have thought about the Clause in every way. I have heard the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) state his case against it more than once, and each time with equal attention and enthusiasm. I am left, however, realising that it is a difficult matter, perfectly convinced that it would be an improvement of the law to include the Clause, and for that reason I desire to say now without recapitulating arguments more than is necessary.

I start rather from the same point of view as the hon. and learned Member. I think that the onus is entirely upon the writer to be careful not to abuse any privilege which the law confers upon him. But I do not forget that the gold-digging plaintiff really is a social evil, and we ought not to be having a law which could be used by the person ordinarily called the "gold-digging plaintiff".

When the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) intervened just now, bearing in mind how hard of heart one may become after experience in the office of Home Secretary, I was astonished to think that anyone could imagine for a moment that an accusation that someone had been guilty of the offence of obtaining goods by false pretences, could ever in any circumstances be regarded as anything but a very serious charge against his character. If I thought that by the inclusion of this Clause we were enabling a horrible writer to make accusations of that kind, which he could not justify and yet not have to pay I would vote against its inclusion and should in no sense support the Clause.