Libel law reforms watered down after Commons vote

COMPANIES could have to prove they have suffered “significant financial loss” before being allowed to sue for libel after the government made concessions in order to head off a Lib Dem rebellion.

But libel reform campaigners said they were unhappy after the House of Commons last night voted to remove a Lords amendment that would have banned public organisations from suing journalists.

Lib Dems agreed to join with the Conservatives and remove the public sector clause after justice minister Helen Grant promised to “actively consider” including an exemption for businesses at a later stage.

A revised amendment is expected to be tabled next week but Labour’s Sadiq Khan said Lib Dem MPs had been bought off “on the basis of vague assurances” from the minister.

Yesterday’s motion was moved by Sir Edward Garnier, a Conservative MP and practising libel lawyer. In a quirk of timing Garnier spent yesterday in court acting for Lord McAlpine in his libel case against Sally Bercow, the wife of Commons speaker John Bercow. She allegedly used a tweet to link him to false child abuse allegations.