11 Jul 2009

UK Govt defeated on incitement laws

9:55 am on 11 July 2009

The British government has been defeated in the House of Lords over the issue of free speech and laws against inciting homophobic hatred.

Labour ministers sought to remove a clause which permitted free speech to be used as a legitimate defence in such cases. But an amendment preserving the clause was agreed by 53 votes.

Former Conservative home secretary Lord Waddington said the issue was not about legal protection against homophobia, but whether any "criticism of sexual practice" should be regarded as inciting hatred.

Ministers sought to overturn a provision in last year's Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill over the law on incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation and defences against prosecution under the legislation.

The BBC reports the government was under pressure to pass the bill at the time for broader political reasons, but indicated that it would revisit the matter at a later date.

However, attempts to overturn the provision during passage of the Coroners and Justice Bill failed on Thursday.

The Ministry of Justice said the defeat was "disappointing" and it would seek to overturn it when the bill returns to the Commons later this year.