The minister responsible for the Defamation Bill has said he hopes the ‘Leveson law’ amendment made last week can be removed and the bill passed “very quickly”.
Lord McNally said he did not want the bill, which the Lords amended to include a Leveson-compliant arbitration arm, to be “hijacked by the Leveson debate”.
The amendment to the bill was made last week while it was being debated in the House of Lords.
The amendment provided for the creation of a libel claims arbitration service to provide a low-cost claims resolution service for members of a new independent press regulator.
It states that the arbitration service, and new press regulator, would be overseen by a “Recognition Commission” under the Lord Chief Justice.
Speaking at a Hacked Off press conference, the justice minister McNally suggested the amendment was made by the Lords to “send a clear message” to the Commons on where they stand on Leveson.
“As the minister responsible for the Defamation Bill I do not want what I thought was a good bill, which has been worked over for nearly three years, hijacked by the Leveson debate,” he said.
“But I was not too disappointed as was indicated in my reply that the Lords wanted to send a firm, clear message to all three parties to get on with solutions to Leveson.
“I hope the progress can be made so that the amendment that was passed can be removed from the Defamation Bill so that it can complete its passage very quickly.”
McNally, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, also warned the press to be careful about trying to use editorial influence to bring pressure to bear on politicians over Leveson.
“A number of… editorials have objected to what they thought of as the kind of brutalism of the amendments that were passed in the Lords,” he said.
“I would make the point to those in the newspaper industry… if they are trying to influence one or more parties in the tri-partite talks not to deliver a Leveson-compliant solution. If they leave it to Parliament, Lords and Commons acting on their own, they may end up with something far, far worse than is now contemplated.”