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Orders of the Day — Defamation Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:43 pm on 21st May 1996.

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Photo of Jonathan Evans Jonathan Evans Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department) 10:43 pm, 21st May 1996

With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker. This has been an excellent debate and, in a way, we have managed to focus the attention of the House on those aspects of the Bill that are likely to lead to further debate in Committee and on Report.

A number of contributions have been made—by the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng), my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (Mr. Ashby), my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile)—about the position regarding the limitation period. The Government have always said that the limitation period should also be subject to the operation of the discretion that is attached thereto. I do not want go into the detail now, but many of the concerns ventilated in the debate will be addressed by that. I look forward to developing those arguments in Committee.

The ruling on Scott v. Sampson and the Bill's proposals on that—and the way in which it impinges on the Scottish situation—were also of great interest. I hope that those concerns are addressed by the limitations attached to the relevant clause. Again, because of the wide concern that has been expressed in the debate, I hope that we can deal with the matter in more detail in Committee.

Finally, I must deal with some of the points on clause 14. I must correct the impression that it was added as a side wind, as it was described. It was introduced by Lord Hoffmann in the House of Lords. In Committee, the Lord Chancellor said that he did not think it appropriate that a vote should be taken because there had not been enough time to debate the issue at length. It was then debated yet again on Report. That was an excellent and very full debate. People who have read the report of that debate— I know that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery agrees—know that it was a wide-ranging debate with excellent contributions from people with wide experience. In my opening remarks, I said that that debate would be helpful to hon. Members. I hope that all hon. Members will have had the opportunity of having read it when we discuss the matter on Report.