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Orders of the Day — Defamation Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:41 pm on 21st May 1996.

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Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Minister (Lord Chancellor's Department) 10:41 pm, 21st May 1996

With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker. We have had an important debate, albeit it one that was interrupted by other matters. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock and Burntwood (Dr. Wright) made contributions which underlined the importance of the deliberations that the House is about to engage upon in relation to article 9 of the Bill of Rights, as did other hon. Members. I am concerned that the Government clearly do not intend to accede to any provisions by which it might be possible to give that important constitutional issue the airing and deliberation that the Opposition believe that it deserves.

Clearly, the Government are not prepared to accede to the motion for a Joint Committee of both Houses. If that is not to be the case, I urge them at this late stage to consider whether dealing with the matter on Report is the most satisfactory way to proceed, particularly when they have the option of splitting consideration of the Bill hereafter between a Committee of the whole House, on the Floor of the House—to consider clause 14 and debate it at length, with the opportunity for amendment—and a Standing Committee to deal with the remainder of the Bill. That at least would give an opportunity for the full and considered debate that this important issue deserves and would not cause those who take note of our proceedings to believe that we treated it with anything other than the seriousness that it deserves.

Whatever some Conservative Members have said, we are talking about a major constitutional change, and it should not be dealt with in the way that the Government propose. Even at this late stage, I ask the Minister and his colleagues to think again.