Monday 11 September 2023
Culture, Media and Sport
Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation Taskforce
This is a joint statement with the Lord Chancellor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk)
We are pleased to inform the House that HM Government are today formally announcing the launch of a taskforce dedicated to tackling Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, known as SLAPPs, which target journalists.
SLAPPs seek to silence investigative journalists, writers and campaigners, often on unfounded defamation and privacy grounds which prevent the publication of information in the public interest. This abuse of the legal system is used by the wealthy to intimidate and financially exhaust opponents, threatening them with extreme costs for defending a claim and therefore undermining the reporting of important public interest issues. The Government recognise the need to protect defendants from abusive litigation while ensuring access to justice for properly conducted claims.
The new taskforce, which will have its inaugural meeting today, 11 September, will sit within the framework of the National Committee for the Safety of Journalists, which was set up to ensure that journalists operating in the UK can do so free from violence or threats. It will bring together key stakeholders from across Government, civil society groups, representative bodies for journalists, and legal services regulators and stakeholders to develop a non-legislative response to SLAPPs targeting journalists. Its work will complement incoming legislation tackling economic-crime linked SLAPPs which cover up to 70% of such cases brought to UK courts. The changes, introduced in the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, will allow SLAPPs to be thrown out by judges more quickly and place a cap on the costs for those targeted, making them less effective at strong-arming reporters into abandoning their stories. The Government have also committed to legislating to tackle SLAPPs beyond economic crime as soon as parliamentary time allows.
The establishment of the taskforce will be key in driving forward the Government’s agenda to make sure that appropriate protections exist for journalists who are tirelessly working to investigate and publish stories in the public interest, holding power to account and supporting our strong democratic tradition. Its first priority will be to establish an ambitious plan of activity to deliver its objectives over a fixed, 12-month period after which its future will be reassessed. It will be led by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport along with the Ministry of Justice and its inauguration is a key milestone in our roadmap for bolstering the safety of journalists in the UK.
This is an important development in ensuring that journalists in the UK can continue to serve the vital democratic function of holding the powerful to account.
Health and Social Care
Suicide Prevention Update
Every suicide is a tragedy with devasting impacts on individuals, loved ones and communities. Today we are publishing a new National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England, which refreshes the national strategy for England that was published in 2012.
The strategy considers the latest evidence collected through our mental health call for evidence and discussions with experts, including those who have experienced the suicide of a loved one, academics, those who work within suicide prevention and the Government’s National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group.
I am incredibly grateful to everybody who took the time to provide feedback to ensure that the new strategy reflects the most pressing challenges and opportunities.
The result is a new cross-Government and cross-sector strategy for the next five years, with a core message that suicide prevention is everybody’s business. Over the next five years, we intend to reduce the suicide rate—with initial reductions in half this time. The strategy also sets out measures to improve support for people who have self-harmed and those bereaved by suicide.
Together, this strategy lays out over 100 concrete actions across national Government Departments, the NHS, local government, employers, the voluntary sector and many others. It includes new priority areas of action, such as improving online safety, addressing the links between suicide and factors such as gambling and domestic abuse, and combating different methods of suicide.
We have already provided funding to improve access to crisis support and support the voluntary sector to deliver suicide prevention activity including:
The £10 million from 2023 to 2025 to support non-profit organisations to meet the increased demand seen in recent years and support a range of diverse and innovative activity that can prevent suicides, including targeting groups of concern identified in this strategy.
Over £2.3 billion more a year for mental health services by March 2024 compared to 2018-19 , with £57 million specifically for suicide prevention and suicide bereavement services.
The £150 million capital investment made available to urgent and emergency care mental health pathways, including mental health ambulances, crisis cafes, children and young people’s places of safety and new mental health assessment spaces.
We will continue to review progress and update actions to prevent as many suicides as possible. I look forward to continuing to work with members of this House, the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory group and colleagues across the NHS, local government and the voluntary sector to deliver on our ambition to reduce suicides.
I will deposit a copy of the strategy in the Libraries of both Houses.