Hereditary peers tip balance on “gay hate” law

44 hereditary peers were among 179 Lords voting to retain a "free speech" amendment on new laws against inciting gay hate. Labour & Lib Dems peers also voted.

44 hereditary peers were among 179 Lords to vote last night to retain a “free speech” amendment on new laws against inciting homophobic hatred – the precise difference between ‘contents’ and ‘not contents’. 14 Labour and 4 Liberal Democrat peers also voted for the amendment.

On Monday, MPs voted by 342 to 145 to defeat Lord Waddington’s amendment, which activists believe would provide a loophole for those inciting violence on homosexuals. But last night Lords voted by 179 to 135 to retain the clause. Jonathan Finney, head of external affairs at Stonewall, told Left Foot Forward:

“Stonewall’s concern is that the House of Lords insistence on retaining the Waddington clause sends a worrying message just when homophobic attacks are on the increase. The tone of Lord Waddington’s unnecessary amendment is offensive and stigmatising. Furthermore, an exemption of this kind risks allowing some people to seek to evade rightful prosecution for stirring up anti-gay hatred. Having long campaigned for incitement protections we’ll be pressing the Government to implement these necessary and important measures as soon as possible.”

In the debate last night, Lord Chris Smith said:

“If the signal that the House sends is that it is all right to be intolerant, I fear that we will end up seeing more violence and more attacks and more difficulty for people simply because of their sexual orientation.”

Explaining the provisions in the bill to MPs on Monday, Justice minister Claire Ward said, “In order to fall foul of the bill, the person’s words would have to be threatening and their behaviour intended to stir up hatred.”

UPDATE 10.23, 13/11

You can see the roll-call vote here.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.