Last chance for libel reform: mass lobby of MPs next Tuesday

March 19th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, legal chill, libel | 4 Comments »

This is your last chance to convince your MP that libel reform is a good idea before parliament dissolves. Politicians can feel like a dispiritingly disengaged shower of till-dippers, but here is one issue that you can care about, and it’s worth one final stab at making them see sense. Our libel laws stifle critical discussion of ideas and practices in science and medicine, and when you see cases like Matthias Rath, Simon Singh, and in particular Dr Peter Wilmshurst, a cardiologist, sued for raising concerns about a trial of a surgical device in which he was the primary investigator, it seems to me that these laws present a significant risk to public health, by restricting the public’s access to information. Please come if you can, details below.

This Tuesday 23rd March we are organising a mass lobby of MPs for libel law reform at the House of Commons from 2pm. Some of the parties are wavering – they don’t want to commit to reforms unless they are under pressure to. We need everyone to help to bring that about before manifestos are published and Parliament rises for the election. Can you come to a mass lobby in the House of Commons on Tuesday 23rd at 2pm? This is the closest we’ve been to fundamental libel law reform in a century, but we need everyone to help it succeed.

What is a mass lobby?

A mass lobby is when a large number of people go to Parliament to raise the same concern each with their own MP at the same time. You have a right to go to the House and to meet your MP in the heart of Parliament, and they are usually keen to see you if they are free – especially with an election soon. We will also be joined by high profile supporters of the campaign.

What do I need to do?

1) Find out who your MP is, and their contact details, here:

2) Email them or write to them.

Identify yourself as a constituent
– give your postal address.

Tell your MP
: I will be coming to the House of Commons on Tuesday 23rd March at 2 pm for a meeting on libel law reform in Committee Room 15. I would like to meet you at that meeting or afterwards in the Central Lobby between 3 pm and 4pm to find out where you and your party stand.

If your MP has already signed the EDM please explain that you would like to meet them to discuss how they can help push the campaign in their party and wider.

3) Turn up on the day

What will happen on the day?

Come to the Cromwell Green entrance to the Houses of Parliament. You will have to allow about 20 minutes to pass through security and to get to Committee Room 15 between 2 and 3pm. We will hear from high profile Champions of the campaign on why the political parties need to commit to reform libel laws which are unjust, against the public interest and an international menace and, we hope, from spokespeople for the parties on justice matters. Your MP may be there if you wrote to them. We can ask them en masse what they are doing to get a manifesto commitment for libel law reform or you can ask them personally.

Usually your MP will reply to your email agreeing to meet you in central lobby or apologising for not being around (you should ask to meet their researcher in that case).

Please let us know if you can come and if your MP agrees to meet you by emailing

The House sits from 2 until 10 pm on Tuesday. If you can only come in the evening please let us know – if there is enough demand we will do something then as well.

The election in the UK is expected to be on Thursday 6th May so Parliament will rise very soon. This is our only chance for a mass lobby to change these archaic, restrictive laws.

If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

4 Responses

  1. kkbundy said,

    March 20, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Being a citizen of the United States, I can do little but wish you luck on this one. The ability to sue anyone who can slow or stop blatantly unethical and dangerous behavior is a travesty.

    In this day and age it’s hard to understand that these restrictions on truth still exist, but then I recall that we in the States have these groups called The Moral Majority and Answers in Genesis and … Oh damn, what’s that other one called… Just on the tip of my tongue…. Oh yes! The Republican Party!

    Kick their asses!

    Blessed Atheist Bible Study @

  2. els76uk said,

    March 20, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    marcus brigstocke (@marcusbrig) talked about this on the now show this week on radio 4 – an excellent way to introduce the subject to people who probably won’t have heard about it.

  3. pode said,

    March 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I already wrote to my MP, and he responded that Britain’s wonderful libel laws have saved him from the evils of media scrutiny, so he won’t be supporting reform. He’s never struck me as the type to listen to his constituents, so lobbying him further seems unlikely to help.

    Whatever he may or may not have done, it was enough to get him excommunicated by the Tory party…

  4. thenighttripper said,

    April 1, 2010 at 10:41 am

    At least the Appeal Court has allowed Simon Singh’s appeal, so one small victory for rationalism.