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Gay MP questions David Cameron over incitement law

Tony Grew November 7, 2007
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The Leader of the Conservative party has been challenged on his position on a proposed new law to make incitement on the grounds of sexual orientation an offence.

Yesterday the government announced that the proposal would extend to trans and disabled people.

Chris Bryant, the MP for Rhonnda, asked David Cameron during yesterday’s debate on the Queen’s Speech:

“He voted four times against legislation that introduced a new offence of incitement to religious hatred.

“The government have given in to calls from honourable members on both sides of the House for a new offence of incitement to homophobic hatred. Will he support that?”

Mr Cameron responded that his party will table an amendment to “make sure that any such approach is about stopping people inciting violence and is not an infringement of free speech.”

He said that on religious hatred: “we got the government to compromise and produce something that was not against free speech.

“The honourable gentleman is not the best person to bring about change. After all, he was the person who tried to have the coup to get rid of Tony Blair that collapsed in complete ignominy.”

Shadow Justice Secretary Nick Herbert told MPs during the second reading of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill last month that the right to free speech must be balanced with protecting gay people from hatred.

The Liberal Democrats welcomed the proposed new offence, which will be added to the bill as an amendment in committee stage.

Evan Harris MP pointed out that a homophobic incitement law was a manifesto commitment for the Lib Dems.

However, in an exclusive interview with, candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats Chris Huhne questioned the need for it.

“I think that incitement for any violence is, frankly, it’s already illegal. I’m not sure that taking in a further offence adds an awful lot,” he said.

“I think where you know you draw the line is on those issues where you can’t, where you don’t want to chill free speech on issues where people can makes decisions legitimately about what they’re saying and doing.

“And therefore I wouldn’t want to go so far as to act as an obstacle in the law to freedom of speech, but I would want to protect people.”

As the Commons continues to debate the Queen’s Speech today, there will be no Prime Minister’s Questions.

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