STATUTES

Publication Date01 April 1953
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1953.tb02118.x
STATUTES
THE DEFAMATION Am,
1952
(A)
The Period
of
Gestation
The Parliamentary history of this Act, which came into
operation
on
November
80,
1952,
began
in
1988
when a private
member’s Law of Libel Amendment Bill was withdrawn after an
assurance had been given by the then .Attorney-General
(Sir
Donald Somervell), that a committee would be established to con-
sider the law of defamati0n.I This committee, under the chairman-
ship of Lord Porter, was appointed
in
1989,
but the outbreak of
war interrupted its work and consequently its report was not
published until
1948.’
The post-war Labour Government was
on
several occasions
pressed to introduce legislation which would implement the com-
mittee’s recommendations, but the legislative programme was over-
burdened with other projects.a Moreover, amendment of the law
of defamation became coupled, in some minds, with the desirability
of the establishment of a Press Council4 which had been recom-
mended by the Royal Commission
on
the
Press
and unanimously
approved by a motion of the House of Commons in
1949.
Nine days after the Attorney-General of the Conservative
Government, which was returned to power
in
October,
1951,
had
replied negatively
to
members’ questions asking for legislation
to
amend the law of defamation,a
Mr.
Harold Lever,
a
Labour Member
of Parliament, was successful in the private members’ ballot and
introduced his Defamation (Amendment) Bi1l.O Its passage through
Parliament was by
no
means uneventful and only Government
support, together with the dropping of some of its more provocative
provisions, saved the measure from total
wreck.
(B)
The Provisions
of
the Act
With several minor exceptions, the provisions of the Act follow
closely the amendments of the substantive law recommended
It is interesting to observe that the Bill had been
instigated by the Empire Press Union
on
whose behalf Mr. Valentine Holmes
had draftcd the most important clauses; see Mr. Richard O’Sullivan’s criticismr
in
75
L.J.,
at
p.
440.
Of
the Lever Bill, Mr. Dennis Lloyd
has
acutely
observed,
Not unnaturally, the nev Bill bas been greeted with acclamation
by
the press. as though
a
new age of liberation
had
dawned.”
Current
Legal
Problems
(1952) 168,
at p.
188.
2
Cmd.
7536;
see
Mr.
E.
Hall Williams’ critical analysis in
12
M.L.R., at
p.
217.
3
467
H.b.Deb.
613
;
468
H.C.Deb.
474.
4
477
H.C.Deb.
20;
487
H.C.Deb.
375;
see
also
13
M.L.R., at
p.
353.
5
494
H.C.DcL.
103.
6
Ibid.,
at
2390.
1
343
H.C.Deb.. at
576.
198

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