David Cameron warned over anti-extremism plans

Free speech would be restricted under Government plans to combat extremism, a senior Conservative MP has warned.

David Davis said proposals for anti-extremism orders “just won’t work”.

His comments were echoed by the Shadow Home Secretary who cautioned that ministers must “proceed with the utmost caution”.

Extremist

The criticism came ahead of David Cameron launching his Government’s counter-extremism strategy today.

Writing online the Prime Minister said the “extremist narrative needs to be fought every day at the kitchen table, on the university campus, online and on the airwaves”.

The new Counter-Extremism Strategy includes plans for Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs).

Discussing the Government’s approach this morning, Home Secretary Theresa May came under pressure from the BBC’s John Humphrys about the definition of extremism.

Dangerously loose

Humphrys – who at one point described a definition used by Theresa May as “dangerously loose” – noted that the former head of MI5 has said Christian street preachers could be caught under the plans.

He also said that Conservative minister Dominic Raab has commented that people debating same-sex marriage could be “slapped down”.

Mrs May insisted that the plans to combat extremism would not stifle freedom of expression, saying free speech “underpins our socety”.

However, she did acknowledge that the Government was taking its time on the legislation in order to avoid “unintended consequences”.

Utmost caution

David Davis, a former Shadow Home Secretary, cautioned: “The government of the day cannot easily lay down what British values are.

“If you enforce tolerance of other religions you cramp free speech”, he said.

Labour’s Andy Burnham noted that while combating terrorism was a big challenge, “we have a job to ensure that, in this difficult area, the government gets the balance right and doesn’t go beyond that”.

Commenting that ministers should take care to ensure the measures are not “heavy handed”, Burnham added: “The government must proceed with the utmost caution”.

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