Orders of the Day — Racial and Religious Hatred Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 21st June 2005.

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Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary 4:19 pm, 21st June 2005

I am going to give way in a few moments. I know a lot of hon. Members want to intervene. I will make a bit more progress and then give way.

The offence is not a new blasphemy law, despite what some critics of the Bill say. It is about protecting people, not faiths. It is there not to stop people criticising religions or the symbols of faith but to prosecute those who seek to set one community against another. It would not stop a play such as "Behtzi" or "Jerry Springer the Opera". The offence would not cover anything that denigrates a particular faith or causes offence because of ridicule. Robust debate about belief is central to the very being of this country. The Bill will not affect that in any way.