Details are a little sketchy tonight, but Guido understands that there has been a last minute ambush of Jack Straw’s libel reform bill in the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments.
The ambush was apparently galvanised by Tom Watson, with the support of Chris Mullins, Peter Kilfoyle, Jim Sheridan and Julie Kirkbride.
It seems inexplicable, the reform carries widespread support across all parties. Cynics note that some of last minute opponents had in the past benefitted from Conditional Fee Arrangements (CFAs). Others point to the closeness to former speaker Michael Martin, who opposes the reforms in the Lords. Others note that some of the oppents have themselves been beneficiaries of CFAs . Solicitors Carter-Ruck are lobbying intensely against to keep the no-win-no-fee system. Carter-Ruck won £50,000 for Tom Watson on that basis. Coincidentally.
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Guido Fact : Carter-Ruck solicitors had a table at the Index on Censorship Awards.
UPDATE : Index on Censorship has more:
LIBEL COSTS REFORM STALLED BY LABOUR MPS’ REVOLT
30 Mar 2010
A Statutory Instrument that would have reformed costs in English libel cases was stalled at committee stage tonight after several Labour MPs voted against their party whip to bock a reduction of lawyers’ success fees from a 100 per cent mark-up to 10 per cent. Chris Mullin, Peter Kilfoyle, Tom Watson and Jim Sheridan and Julie Kirkbride voted against the move. Watson and Kilfoyle have both taken advantage of Conditional Fee Agreements in past court cases. Conservative MPs abstained from the vote.
The proposal will now go to a full parliamentary vote.