Government defeated on religious hatred bill

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. Analysis of the division list showed the prime minister voted in the first division but not in the second, which was lost by one vote.

Shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve said the defeats were “a victory for Parliament”. He branded the bill a “foolish manifesto commitment” introduced to “appease” some minority groups [read: “Muslims”], and which had “threatened freedom of speech”.

Mr Grieve said in multicultural Britain people had to accept that freedom of speech may mean people could be offensive to them, as well as vice versa. He said: “This (bill) was completely contrary to our national tradition of free speech.”

BBC News, 31 January 2006

No doubt the fascists will be cheering. The acceptance of the Lords amendment means that it will be virtually impossible to mount a successful prosecution for inciting religious hatred. All the BNP needs is an acquittal at Leeds Crown Court, and it will be able to celebrate a double triumph.