Defamation Bill: Lords consideration of amendments

24 April 2013

The Defamation Bill returned to the Lords for consideration of Commons' changes - or 'ping pong', yesterday.

Members began by considering how the recommendations made in the Leveson Report should be enacted. It was agreed that a draft royal charter, together with the Crime and Courts Bill and the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, should be the vehicles used to establish the new system.

The bill was returned to the House of Commons with one amendment, requiring that a body trading for profit could only be deemed to have suffered 'serious harm' if it is able to show that the complaint has caused serious financial loss. A further amendment seeking to ensure that organisations carrying out a public service should not have the right to sue for libel went to a vote with 197 for and 275 against. 

The bill will now bounce back to the Commons for consideration of the Lords’ amendment.

Consideration of amendments/ping pong explained

Once a bill has completed third reading in the House of Lords it returns to the Commons for consideration of any amendments made in the Lords.

Both Houses need to agree to the exact wording of the bill and the bill may 'ping pong' between both Houses until this happens.

When the exact wording of the bill has been agreed by both Houses the bill is ready for royal assent. Once a bill receives royal assent it becomes an Act of Parliament (proposals in the bill become law).

The bill's progress so far

More about the Defamation Bill

The bill was introduced in the Lords at first reading on 8 October, having completed its stages in the House of Commons.

The Defamation Bill aims to reform the law of defamation to ensure that a fair balance is struck between the right to freedom of expression and the protection of reputation. It looks to make a number of substantive changes to the law, but is not designed to be the single law on defamation.

The bill proposes to introduce a requirement for claimants to show that they have suffered serious harm before suing for defamation and a defence of 'responsible publication on matters of public interest'. It will also consider new statutory defences of truth and honest opinion to replace the common law defences of justification and fair comment.

Next and final stage: Royal assent

Once a bill has completed all its parliamentary stages in both Houses, it's ready to receive royal assent and become an act of Parliament (law). Royal assent is the Queen's formal agreement to make the bill into an act.

There is no set time period between the consideration of amendments and royal assent.

When royal assent has been given, an announcement is made in both Houses by the Lord Speaker in the Lords and the Speaker in the Commons.

At prorogation (the formal end to a parliamentary session), Black Rod interrupts the proceedings of the Commons and summons MPs to the Lords chamber to hear the Lords commissioners announce royal assent for each bill.

Further information

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