The announcement of a Defamation Bill in the Queen's Speech today (9th May) has been welcomed by campaigners from the Libel Reform Campaign.
The inclusion of the bill in the speech, which outlines the government's agenda for the next parliamentary session, confirms that the government intends to make changes to the legislation on defamation within this next parliamentary session.
Although the contents of the draft bill have not been published, they are thought to include an end to libel 'tourism', a new public interest defence for publishers, measures to strike out trivial claims at an earlier stage, new provision for online publication and a single publication rule.
Kirsty Hughes, chief executive of Index on Censorship, which formed the Libel Reform Campaign alongside English PEN and Sense About Science, said: "Finally the government is to stop libel tourism so wealthy foreign claimants can no longer use our High Court to silence their critics abroad. The 60,000 people who signed the Libel Reform Campaign will be delighted that the government has announced this reform, though we'll be awaiting the detail."
English PEN director Jonathan Heawood said: "Over the past three years, the Libel Reform Campaign has shown how our unfair libel laws are causing legitimate books to be pulped and publishers to engage in unnecessary self-censorship. The Government has responded to the public demand for change, and we welcome this long-overdue chance for reform. It must now ensure that the protections for free speech are as robust as possible."