Defamation (Report)

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11 July 1983.

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Photo of Mr John Ryman Mr John Ryman , Blyth Valley 12:00, 11 July 1983

asked the Attorney-General if he will introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the report of the committee on defamation chaired by Mr. Justice Faulks (Cmnd. 5909); and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Michael Havers Mr Michael Havers , Wimbledon

No such legislation is at present contemplated.

Photo of Mr John Ryman Mr John Ryman , Blyth Valley

Does the Attorney-General agree with the committee's criteria as to the purpose of the law of defamation, which is to establish a proper balance between the right of the individual to his reputation and the preservation of the right of freedom of speech? As the committee reported as long ago as March 1975, does he agree that the existing law contains many anomalies, and will he undertake to introduce legislation to amend the law contained in the Defamation Act 1952, as recommended by the committee? Can he give any undertaking that legislation will be introduced in this Parliament?

Photo of Mr Michael Havers Mr Michael Havers , Wimbledon

I can give no such undertaking. The report had about 10 main recommendations, not of the greatest importance. There has been little pressure from any quarter for the implementation of the report, which, on the whole, favours more libel proceedings. I do not see that there is sufficient priority for it to gain a place in the legislative programme.

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

As Faulks on defamation, much of Younger on privacy, Franks on official secrets and half of Phillimore on contempt are all accumulating a shroud of dust, and bearing in mind that there has been no obvious reaction by the press to the report of the Press Council last February on controls on cheque-book journalism, and remembering the recent debates on the right of reply and the behaviour of much of the press since the general election, is it not high time for a full public inquiry into the whole of the law relating to the press?

Photo of Mr Michael Havers Mr Michael Havers , Wimbledon

That question covers a wide range of topics and, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman will remember, a Contempt of Court Act was enacted in the last Parliament. These matters are under discussion, but there was little reaction to the Faulks report.