Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 3rd March 2008.

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Photo of The Bishop of Winchester The Bishop of Winchester Bishop 7:00 pm, 3rd March 2008

Speaking as one whose name is on the amendment—I am glad it is there, and grateful for the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Waddington and Lord Clarke—and responding immediately to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, it seems that his illustration was not helpful to his case. If someone says in a BNP meeting that people "have it coming to them", it does not take a lawyer to suggest that that is clear example of threat. That is different from the kinds of things explicitly in the amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, referred, although rather generally, to the memorandum of the Public Bill Committee from the Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, and the Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England—the churches that he mentioned. The amendment's form of words, both in the other place and this place, is explicit in the last paragraph of that memorandum. It is particularly there, as the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, made clear, to safeguard the rights of expression of those who judge that they should speak and write with no intention of stirring up hatred, whether out of an orthodox Christian or other faith context. I have vivid memories of a number of times recently when the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, who is not in his place, has made it clear that although he was saying the same kinds of things in recent months in this House, he was doing so, as I think he put it to me on one occasion, not as "a paid-up member of the right reverend Prelates' faith, though perhaps as a fellow traveller".

This is not simply a question of discussion in a religious context, or by religiously motivated people. As the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, made quite clear, there is a whole range of people in this society whose freedom to talk, discuss and offer views runs the risk of being chilled unless some such amendment as this is in the Bill. I recognise that the Joint Committee on Human Rights, on page 19 of its report, believes that there is already appropriate protection for freedom of speech in the Bill. However, the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, in particular, note that the view of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and the Government in another place and at Second Reading in this House, is not well sustained.

It is important that the amendment—this form of words—should be tested. It must be there if we are to recognise the considerable weight of opinion in the country, generally as well as in the churches, not rabidly or threateningly put, or with any intention to raise hatred, but simply because many are of the view, as the noble Lord stated, that full sexual activity is for life-long marriage of two people of opposite genders. That is an extremely important point of view from whatever perspective it is put. It should not be chilled into silence by the possibility—which is not just a fantasy, but for which there is a great deal of evidence—that there have been points when, long before the question gets to prosecution, there has been investigation.

I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, is now in his place. It is very nice to see him. I hope that he does not feel that I have misrepresented what he has said in recent weeks in what I said a moment ago.

My sense is that the amendment needs to be there. Lastly, with the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, I note that a number of people, of whom Ben Summerskill is one and who speak from the point of view from which he speaks, have also expressed concern that without a provision like this in the Bill there will be a chilling effect on precisely the sort of straightforward, open discussion of these issues which, as I have understood it, people like him want to engage in. I respect Ben Summerskill and others for making that point.

There is a good reason for the amendment, which arises out of a strong sense that this point needed to be made by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches in this country. I am glad that the matter is here under the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Waddington.


david skinner
Posted on 27 Mar 2008 6:51 pm (Report this annotation)

A society, such as our own, whose behaviour used to be based on the Ten Commandments, of tolerance and trust and which put the needs of others ahead of its own, that resulted in a proliferation of charitable organisations (and which are increasingly coming under threat of closure from Stonewall) did not require legislation telling us that we could not incite hatred towards the orphan, the homeless, the aged, infirm, the insane, the left handed, ginger haired, height challenged, or the overweight. It was taken for granted not do those sorts of things. How soon will it be before we have an evolutionary ladder of rights to protection, with maybe foxes, giant pandas and whales above the old, infirm, insane and with Christians at the bottom, as they are in China and Tibetans in Tibet? One can only assume that violence may be legitimately visited on those, whose human rights card has expired?
Sadly for seven million British citizens who have never had any human rights, the best start in life is to have been aborted, like the 200,000 babies last year, under the government’s SureStart Programme.

It is not only Christians and the unborn who are threatened. We are all effected:
Martin Niemoller, a German pastor and Holocaust survivor who paid a heavy price for faith and freedom, said:

“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up”.

The corollary of a law that bans me from eating fruit from just one tree in the garden, is that it automatically gives me permission to eat from all the other trees. A law that bans me from shooting certain species of birds in my garden, automatically allows me to shoot pigeons that are not protected. A law that bans me from inciting violence against homosexuals automatically permits me to incite violence against all others. It isn’t that this bill deprives the Christian, in particular, with a weapon to personally attack the homosexual but rather that it deprives them of a weapon to defend themselves, for as soon as they attempt to defend themselves they are accused of stirring up hatred against those who persecute them- just as Jews are when defending themselves from Islamic attack