Lobbyist Ian Greer and former Government minister Neil Hamilton are to
revive their libel action against the Guardian following Monday’s
Commons vote in favour of a change to the law on defamation.
Members of Parliament voted by a majority of 63 to amend the Defamation
Bill in order to close a loophole in the Bill of Rights of 1689 which
prevented Greer and Hamilton from pursuing their case last year.
Hamilton resigned from his post as corporate affairs minister in October
1994 to fight ‘cash for questions’ allegations made by the newspaper
against him and Greer.
The Guardian alleged that Hamilton accepted a payment of pounds 2,000
from Harrods chairman Mohamed Al Fayed to ask questions on Harrods’
Legal action was ‘stayed’ in July 1995 when the newspaper’s lawyers were
successful in arguing that the privileges conferred on MPs over what
they say or do in parliament made it impossible to mount a full defence.
The amendment to the law means that MPs will now be able to waive
parliamentary privilege in individual cases if they believe their
political reputation has been damaged.
‘Naturally I am absolutely delighted with the result as it enables me to
continue my libel action against the Guardian newspaper,’ said Hamilton.
‘Once the Defamation Bill receives Royal Assent I will immediately apply
to the High Court for the stay to be lifted and for the case to proceed
as quickly as possible,’ he added.
The bill is expected to receive assent within the next few weeks.
Greer is seeking special damages from the newspaper of over pounds 2
million for the harm he claims the allegations have caused IGA’s
IGA itself lobbied MPs to vote in favour of the changes to the law.
‘We’re very pleased with the result,’ said Ian Greer Associates managing
director Andrew Smith.
‘We issued a writ at the time of the allegations - we were serious then
and we’re serious now. We will pursue it to the ‘nth’ degree.’