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UK Politics

Libel law reform Bill thrown into doubt

Plans to reform Britain's arcane libel laws have been thrown into doubt after the House of Lords last night approved amendments introduced to the Defamation Bill by the film producer Lord Puttnam.

The Bill, which has been three years in the making and had been intended to dispel the reputation of the High Court in London as the "libel capital of the world", faces being scrapped.

Lord Puttnam introduced changes to the legislation as a means of indicating the unhappiness in the Upper House at the failure of the Government to introduce proposals for press reform recommended by Lord Justice Leveson following his inquiry.

But the Labour peer's amendment went further than Leveson and included plans for publishers to face "exemplary damages" and be answerable to a press regulator with statutory underpinning and an appointments panel headed by the Lord Chief Justice.

The Defamation Bill returns to the House of Commons where Conservatives are determined to halt it in its present form.