MPs are losing the right to waive Parliamentary privilege so that they can draw on evidence relating to proceedings in Parliament in libel cases they bring against newspapers and broadcasters.
The move comes in an amendment to the Deregulation Bill which will repeal section 13 of the Defamation Act 1996.
Section 13 was inserted in the Defamation Bill as it was going through Parliament following a case in 1995 in which Neil Hamilton, then a Conservative MP, was trying to sue The Guardian over “cash for questions” allegations.
The case was stayed on the grounds that the Parliamentary privilege protecting proceedings in Parliament – dating from the Bill of Rights 1689 – was seriously hampering the newspaper in the conduct of its defence.
The repeal of the clause has been supported by media organizations including the Newspaper Society.
Bill Cash MP told the Commons: “The Newspaper Society opposed ‘any discretionary power to waive privilege, the use of which would be unpredictable and retrospective. It argued that,“the power of waiver could create a chilling effect, by the mere threat or possibility of its which would be detrimental to openness of debate and press reporting of proceedings in Parliament.”