An MP who criticised the Islamic burka during a Parliamentary debate has been subjected to a police investigation after a complaint from an equality group.
Philip Hollobone’s remarks are protected, like all comments made by MPs and Peers in Parliament, by Parliamentary privilege to ensure freedom of speech.
The MP described the burka as “the religious equivalent of going around with a paper bag over your head with two holes for the eyes”.
A burka is a full body length garment, completely covering the wearer, except for a small mesh for the eyes.
Mr Hollobone later received a call from the police and was questioned over the telephone by officers.
The Conservative MP for Kettering said: “I refused to be silenced by threats of prosecution and I am going to speak out on what is a perfectly legitimate topic for debate.
“There will be those who agree and those who disagree and that is fine. What we cannot have in this country are MPs being threatened when they speak out on contentious issues.”
The complaint that Mr Hollobone had incited racial hatred came from the Northamptonshire Racial Equality Council (NREC), a taxpayer-funded group.
Mr Hollobone commented that the police had behaved “impeccably” but slammed the NREC.
The MP said: “I do have huge criticisms of the Northamptonshire Racial Equality Council, which is a taxpayer-funded organisation and should not be spending time trying to prosecute Members of Parliament.
“Their behaviour is outrageous.”
Anjona Roy, the NREC’s chief executive, said she contacted police by email after her organisation received complaints about the MP’s comments.
A police spokesman said: “It was brought to our attention and we looked into it but the CPS decided there was no case to answer.”
The MP was speaking in a Commons debate on 2 February.
He said: “I must say that I have huge sympathy with those who want action taken against people who want to cover themselves up in public.
“How ridiculous would the House of Commons be if we were all to wear burkas? How would Mr Speaker be able to identify which Member to call next?”
He added: “The voters might well prefer it, but it is the religious equivalent of going around with a paper bag over your head with two holes for the eyes.
“In my view, it is offensive to want to cut yourself off from face-to-face contact with, or recognition by, other members of the human race. We should certainly look at ways to tackle that issue.”