Saturday, 23 March 2013

Leveson Debate - Harriet Harman is bizarrely afraid of me?

The debate is now online. My speech and Jacob Rees Mogg's intervention is here:
At 2 hours 46 and a half minutes in, for 6 minutes

The bizarre Question and Answer between myself and Harriet Harman, the Labour Spokeswoman is at 1 hour 36 minutes in. I did not realise Harriet Harfman was so scared of me. The transcript is a delight [and a worry], given that she was co-proposing the Bill.

Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 18 March 2013, c705)

Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham, Labour)
If the hon. Gentleman is going to ask me a difficult, complicated question, I can tell him the answer. It is “The Secretary of State will respond on my behalf.” However, he is welcome to ask the question anyway.
Guy Opperman (Hexham, Conservative)
I am delighted to observe that the Labour party studied the legislation in such detail before presenting it.
I should probably declare that I am a qualified mediator and arbitrator. Under the current system, people involved in arbitration can appeal against the process if they are not happy with it, and the litigation can begin anew. Would that arrangement continue, and how would an individual litigant defamed by a newspaper or any other publication bring an action, given that—contrary to what the right hon. and learned Lady has just said—the costs of arbitration are very high?
Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham, Labour)
The royal charter requires the regulator to provide for an inexpensively run arbitration service which will impose no costs on complainants. As the hon. Gentleman will know, things can happen further along the chain after arbitration has been agreed to, but the essence of arbitration is that both sides embark on it agreeing that the arbitrator will settle the issue.
I think that this will be a great step forward, because it will deal with the problem of inaccessibility. Most people who are defamed, or whose privacy has been invaded in what is termed a media tort, would never dream of being able to go to court, although many lawyers are prepared to act on the basis of conditional fee arrangements. A free-to-use arbitration service is therefore an important component of the Leveson package contained in the royal charter. It is good news for claimants, but it also means that newspapers will be well and truly incentivised not to remain outside the regulatory body. If they are not in the regulatory body and arbitration
is therefore not available to those who may complain about them, it is possible that when the case goes to court, costs will be awarded against them even if they win.

The reality is that an awful lot depends upon the house of lords revision assessment of the Charter on Monday