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 Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour 7:00 pm, 3rd March 2008

I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington; indeed, I am a signatory to it. I do not intend to say very much, because most of what I would have said has already been said.

On 27 February, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said that he was short of time and that he wanted the Bill through by 8 May, I think it was. I asked him whether, if he was short of time, he would drop Clause 126. There would then have been no need for the amendment or this discussion tonight. As the noble Lord seemed happy that people should ask him further questions about what clauses should be dropped, I wrote to him and asked him whether he would either drop Clause 126 or agree to an amendment. I have not had a reply yet, and I am taking that to mean that he is still considering it. I sincerely hope that he will. Perhaps he will indicate what he intends to do when he winds up the debate.

I cannot understand, especially in the light of people's views, which have been expressed to all of us in many letters, why the Government will not agree to accept the amendment or some other amendment that safeguards freedom of speech, which is absolutely vital to our democracy. Without freedom of speech, we have no democracy. The more legislation of this sort you produce, the more concerned and confused people will be as to what they can say. I simply do not understand why the Government do not accept that. The Minister's reply to the debate on Second Reading was totally unsatisfactory. It did not properly explain—to me, anyway—why there should be a difference between racial and religious incitement and incitement on sexual orientation, in that two of them have the safeguard for free speech, but he will not accept a safeguard for the third, which we are discussing at present.

I want to make another point to the Government. This is the third set of clauses of this sort that we have. Where will it stop? Never, apparently, because all sorts of special pleading is going on. Indeed, on 28 February, the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, asked a Question for Written Answer about making the incitement of hatred on grounds of disability a criminal offence. So it has already started. What was the reply? Although the Government rejected the idea for the present, they added that they would,

"continue to consider this carefully".—[Hansard, 28/2/08; col. WA 131.]

Ominous words indeed. Exactly where is that special pleading going to stop?

People over the age of 65 are considered to be aged and decrepit. They cannot speak and should be sent back home, instead of talking in this House. The fact is that the aged are under attack. They are being told that they are no longer of any use to society, so they will not get operations under the health service. The latest that we have heard is that a lady of 59—by no means aged, but obviously some people thought that she was—was refused an operation. People are now beginning to attack old people because they are affecting the economy. They are drawing too much on the economy. Let us get rid of them at a certain age.

Exactly where are we going to stop with writing special cases into law about people against whom incitement should not be made? The answer is that we should all be equal before the law, and the law should be constructed in a way that incitement to hatred is an offence not against certain people but against everyone. I wish that the Government would understand that because, if they do not, and the decline of the right to free speech carries on, we are on the road to fascism. They really ought to know that.

My final point is that the clause refers not to homosexuality but to sexual orientation. It is quite possible that certain groups would want to incite hatred against heterosexuals. I am fed up with hearing people who dare simply to say something that might be a little derogatory, or perhaps to make a joke, about homosexuality, being described as homophobes. That is insulting and could in some contexts lead to violence. Another thing that we see regularly—I do not know whether it is an annual event—is the gay pride parade, which I and many others consider to be triumphalist and could be used to incite hatred against other sexualities. People may think that that is far-fetched, but these days nothing is far-fetched. This is why this House in particular must be careful to uphold our freedoms, particularly the freedom of speech, because, as I said at the beginning, once we lose that, we are lost for ever.

Annotations

David Wright
Posted on 4 Mar 2008 1:28 pm (Report this annotation)

A solemn warning which the government will disregard in its relentless pursuit of the votes of special interest groups, knowing that the majority of us will blindly ignore the constant dripping which wears away the stone of freedom.

david skinner
Posted on 27 Mar 2008 11:54 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. As soon as one singles out a certain section of society or species for special protection, the corollary is that those without protection are fair game. 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 many Islamic countries.? 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.

Ben Summerskill has obviously been inspired by Hitler, where the blue-eyed Aryans were at the top of the evolutionary ladder followed by the British and other Germanic ethnicities; after this perhaps came the slavs and poles, followed by gypsies and coloureds Finally there were the insane , mentally and physically handicapped with the Jews at the bottom. Vote for this hatred bill and you will be voting for your own oppression.

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”.