Azara Blog: Blair defeated on Religious Hatred Bill

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Date published: 2006/01/31

The BBC says:

The government has suffered two shock defeats over attempts to overturn Lords changes to the controversial Racial and Religious Hatred Bill.

In a blow to Tony Blair's authority, MPs voted by 288 votes to 278 to back a key Lords amendment to the bill.

The government lost by just one vote a further division over the changes.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke told MPs that the bill would now become law and he was delighted the legislation was being put in place.

The government has only suffered one defeat since 1997 before Tuesday night's vote and that was on the Terrorism Bill.

Earlier in the Commons, Home Office Minister Paul Goggins told MPs that moves to combat religious hatred would not damage freedom of speech.

Objectors, including comedian Rowan Atkinson, feared the proposals would limit artistic freedom.

The votes came after hundreds protested against the bill outside Parliament on Tuesday.

Unbelievable. Once upon a time Blair would easily have been able to get this through. But once upon a time he had some credibility. Unfortunately his administration has taken away more civil rights than perhaps any other administration in modern times, and this "hatred bill" (more like "hated bill") was just along this line. Blair and his ministers tried to claim that nobody would get caught up by this draconian bill for just expressing free speech. Unfortunately anti-terrorism laws have already been used to diminish free speech, including against that heckler at the 2005 Labour Party conference. And this law would no doubt have ended up being used similarly. A well-deserved bloody nose for Blair and a pat on the back for the Lords and for those few Labour MPs who stood up to Blair.

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