New Clause 11 — Guidance on offences that involve hatred on grounds of sexual orientation

Part of Pension Credit and Personal Expense Allowance (Duty of Consultation and Review) – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 24th March 2009.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Secretary of State 5:15 pm, 24th March 2009

Yes. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for the fact that, in the time allowed, I have not dealt with that point.

The question of insulting behaviour raises an important issue. I am not sure that I can do full justice to it in this short debate, but if the hon. Gentleman wishes to revisit it, I shall be happy to discuss it carefully with him. I can see that there may well be merit in getting rid of an expression that, I think, carries a number of connotations in wider legislation and that may be undesirable. There is, however, an issue that I think we cannot completely avoid. In some cases, insult, particularly if it takes place in a public arena, can reach a point at which it becomes incitement to a breach of the peace. We must guard against that possibility, but subject to that, I am sympathetic to what the hon. Gentleman has said.

For the present, we have quite a simple issue to deal with. We have a piece of legislation, passed on to the statute book last summer, that has not yet been brought into operation and that has not yet been given the chance to see whether it works. I do not see anything in Lord Waddington's amendment to justify its deletion at present. Its support goes much wider than people with a religious viewpoint. It extends across a wide spectrum of those who have deep anxieties about the erosion of freedom of speech, including within the theatrical world, as has been shown by Rowan Atkinson.

For those reasons, although I am mindful of the mischief that we are trying to address and I want the incitement of hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation to be prohibited, I believe the amendment does nothing to prevent that from happening that and does a great deal to ensure that the legislation that we pass is balanced. For those reasons, I support the amendment.

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