Category: Racial and Religious Hatred Bill

Government suffers chaotic double defeat over bill to combat religious hatred

The government last night suffered a chaotic defeat over its bill to combat religious hatred when a lethal mixture of Labour rebels, abstentions and absentees from Westminster delivered an unexpected triumph to the combined Opposition in both Lords and Commons. Though the racial and religious hatred bill came from Charles Clarke’s Home Office team, and some MPs predicted that chief whip, Hilary Armstrong will today offer her resignation, Tony Blair contributed personally to the defeat by missing the night’s second key vote – which was lost by just one vote, his own. As the Home Secretary immediately confirmed to gleeful

Ministers lose religious bill bid

The government has suffered two shock defeats over attempts to overturn Lords changes to the controversial Racial and Religious Hatred Bill. In a blow to Tony Blair’s authority, MPs voted by 288 votes to 278 to back a key Lords amendment to the bill, which targets incitement to religious hatred. The prime minister voted in the first division but not in the second, which was lost by one vote. Home Secretary Charles Clarke told MPs the bill would now become law. Mr Clarke claimed what had happened had been “a purely political act” by Tories, Lib Dems and members of

Rowan Atkinson speech: ‘Every joke has a victim’

Comedian Rowan Atkinson today urged the government to back down over its religious hatred bill and accept changes made by peers to strengthen the right of performers to criticise religion. Here is the full text of his speech Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for coming. I am sorry that it’s that Luvvie again whingeing about freedom of speech. Sadly, this bill will not go away and the government seems incapable of entertaining any meaningful compromise on it and so I am forced to return to the fray. Luckily, new issues and absurdities make their presence felt every time

Religious bill attacks free speech, says Atkinson

The comedian Rowan Atkinson today urged the government to compromise on its controversial religious hatred bill and to accept changes made by peers that strengthen the rights of performers to criticise religion. The comedian, famous for his roles as Mr Bean and Blackadder, expressed his frustration at the government for refusing to so far back down on what he called a “chilling” threat to free speech. At a cross-party meeting urging MPs to support the lords’ amendments, Mr Atkinson called on ministers to cut themselves free from their “Thunderbirds puppet strings”, being pulled, he said, by factions within the Muslim

Q&A: Religious hatred law

Government proposals for a law on religious hatred are complicated – and are facing a tough time in Parliament. What is the government proposing? The government says it wants to extend protection to people so they cannot be harmed because of their religious beliefs. The proposals include some subtle and complex arguments but boil down to whether society should protect people from hatred because of what they believe. The proposal would essentially extend the concept of the UK’s race hate laws to cover belief; it would become illegal to intentionally or recklessly use words or behaviour which are threatening, insulting

New religious hate plans unveiled

Compromise plans to create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred while protecting free speech have been unveiled by ministers. The government’s original plans for the new offence were heavily defeated in the House of Lords last year. Critics said the proposed legislation was drawn too widely and could outlaw criticisms of beliefs. Ministers have now published their revised plans, which have been welcomed by some opposition peers. They have bowed to the critics’ demand that incitement to religious hatred be covered by separate legislation rather than be joined to race hate laws. Somebody could only be convicted of

Religious hatred Bill hits buffers after Lords defeat

Ministers sounded a retreat on their plans for a contentious new law to outlaw incitement to religious hatred last night as the Lords inflicted a crushing defeat by throwing out the Bill. Peers voted by 260 to 111 to tear up the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill and replace it completely with text that severely limited its scope and added safeguards for free speech. The scale of the defeat would have been larger still had it not been for an last-minute offer from a Home Office Minister to attempt to find a compromise within the next fortnight. Baroness Scotland, of

Ripe for ridicule

The Prime Minister’s ill-conceived attempt to criminalise incitement to “religious hatred” has received a lifeline that he would be well advised to grasp. A series of amendments to be debated in the House of Lords tomorrow could yet rescue the Bill from some of its inherent flaws. If ministers refuse to accept them, however, they will be responsible for ushering in some of the most serious curbs on free speech since the prosecution of Gay News under the blasphemy laws some 40 years ago. The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill is not yet the talk of locals in the public

Witches see an opportunity in new hate bill

The government faces new embarrassment over the religious hatred bill with a warning that witches and satanists could use it to trigger police investigations of their critics. The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, now passing through parliament, has been used by Labour to bolster support among Muslims. Charles Clarke, the home secretary, says the bill is of “vital importance” to protect Muslims and other groups from “religious hatred”. Opponents of the bill — including Rowan Atkinson, the comedian, and Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury — have said that it could be used to censor films, books and television

In full: Rowan Atkinson speech on hate Bill

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen Those of us who have opposed this measure since its introduction in 2001 have never had a problem with its alleged intent, viz. to counter the expression of racial hatred under the disguise of religious hatred. Rather, our problem was always the legislation’s breathtaking scope and reach far beyond that intent. The prime motivating energy for the Bill seemed to come not from communities seeking protection from bullying by the British National Party but from individuals with a more aggressive, fundamentalist agenda. Those who have sought, from the very day of the publication in 1989