HL Deb 02 July 1996 vol 573 cc1434-6

1 Clause page 2. line 5, at end insert 'or providing'.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1. I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

I begin by putting on record my deep gratitude for the contribution made to the Bill by Lord Justice Neill. I am sure that your Lordships will agree with me that this is a very worthwhile Bill and for that Lord Justice Neill should take a great share of the credit not only for chairing the committee which gave rise to many of the proposals, but also for the help he has generously given throughout the progress of the Bill to my officials and myself in considering how we should react to the various propositions put to us.

Amendments Nos. 1 to 3 are small technical amendments to subsection (3)(c). Subsection (3) sets out categories of defendants who will not be regarded as authors, editors and publishers for the purposes of this clause so that the new statutory defence may be available to them provided, of course, they can satisfy the other conditions set out earlier in the clause. It reflects the existence of new technologies not contemplated when the common law defence of innocent dissemination was developed. The amendments together spell out that those who are only providing systems or services making material available in electronic form are within the subsection.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am on the verge of achieving one of life's ambitions, which is to wish the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor a happy birthday. It is a very narrow squeak because the efforts of noble Lords on both sides of your Lordships' House earlier have just enabled me to speak before midnight. It is on occasions like this that one remembers what a pleasure it is to have a jury in defamation cases because one has at least a guaranteed audience of 13, which is rather more than one has at this hour in your Lordships' House.

I join the noble and learned Lord in what he said about Lord Justice Neill. He has been pre-eminent as a judge, both at first instance and in the Court of Appeal, in this arcane area of defamation, but much more than that—he has been a constant source of inquiry and suggestions for reform. He is a judge who is universally regarded with affection, respect and esteem.

Other than that, I have nothing to say to Amendments Nos. 1 to 3.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, for his good wishes and the timeliness with which he was able to express them. I join him in expressing admiration for Lord Justice Neill not only in relation to this field of law in which he is, indeed, pre-eminent but also for the great service he has given to the law in all sorts of other spheres. I commend Commons Amendment No. 1 to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.