The Civil Justice Council (CJC) is an independent public body, funded by the Ministry of Justice whose members are drawn from the judiciary, the legal profession, lay experts and include the Master of the Rolls. Its objectives are to promote the needs of civil justice in England and Wales and monitor the system to ensure that progress to modernise it continues.

Its report, published in June, concluded that the Bill “will not significantly improve defamation law in England and Wales”.

“In that sense the draft Bill does not do ‘what it says on the tin’. Indeed, by providing more room for expensive argument and uncertainty, in some respects the Draft Bill may make things worse. In other respects it does not address the target that really matters”.

The CJC recommended that jury trial be restricted to specific types of cases, that there be early determination of ‘meaning’ where possible, and that more procedures and remedies be made available.

A not-for-profit arbitration scheme for libel disputes launched in June, with the aim of helping parties cut costs by dealing with key issues such as ‘meaning’ at an early stage.

The new scheme, Early Resolution, has been set up by Sir Charles Gray, a retired high court judge, and Alastair Brett, a former legal manager of The Times. It has already signed up some high-profile arbitrators, including retired Court of Appeal judges, Sir Henry Brooke and Sir Brian Neill, former Bar chair, Desmond Browne QC, and Doughty Street’s Heather Rogers QC.