I have been been given this Press Release by the office of Dr Evan Harris MP (the MP for Science, Secularism, and Skepticism) in respect of tomorrow's parliamentary debate.
I am delighted to publish it in full.
If you can, do go along to the debate - it is not in the main House of Commons, but in its rather comfortable and nifty "Westminster Hall" venue, also located in the Houses of Parliament.
In any case, do write to your MP to get them to go and support Evan Harris in this debate - a guide to how to do this is provided by Simon Perry here.
Parliamentary ‘gag’ – MPs will ask Government to act
In the aftermath of Carter Ruck’s alleged attempts to gag The Guardian from reporting details of parliamentary proceedings, MPs will be debating the “Effects of English Libel Law on the Reporting of Parliamentary Proceedings” tomorrow in Westminster Hall, from 2:30 to 4pm.
The debate was secured by Lib Dem Dr Evan Harris MP.
In the debate, Dr Harris will:
- Criticise Carter-Ruck solicitors for informing The Guardian that reporting parliamentary proceedings would be a contempt of court, without qualifying it with a view that they now seem to agree with – that no court would consider or enforce such a publication as a contempt.
- Call for all future court orders and injunctions which prevent publication of a matter to make clear that the reporting of parliament is not affected in any way.
- Urge the Government to change the law so that so-called “super injunctions” which prevent the repeating of the fact that there has even been an injunction are not issued where there is a genuine public interest in the public knowing what is going on.
- That English libel laws need to be re-balanced in favour of a responsible defendant, to enable public interest defences to be more effective, and to end the status of London as the libel capital of the world.
Speaking before the debate, Dr Harris said:
“There is a lot of concern in Parliament and in the media over the impact of English law on freedom of expression, but the people who should be most concerned are the general public. Powerful interests are able to exploit our legal system in to prevent public interest matters – such as the dumping of toxic waste, or the evidence for the benefit of chiropractice on children’s health – being discussed.”
“The Government needs to do something about this instead of letting the public continue to be blinded by secretive injunctions and draconian libel suits.”
Notes to editors:
1. Details of the injunction preventing discussion of the Minton report can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/16/carter-ruck-abandon-minton-injunction
2. Details of efforts by the British Chiropractic Association to prevent discussion of their claims that chiropractic can treat childhood asthma, colic and ear infections can be found here: http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/333/
3. In a letter to the Speaker, Carter Ruck suggested that the Westminster Hall Debate secured by Dr Harris might be sub judice, and therefore inappropriate: http://www.carter-ruck.com/Documents//Letter-Right_Hon_John_Bercow-141009.PDF
4. Prior to the debate Dr Harris convened cross-party meetings with both The Guardian and Carter Ruck.