Cross-party support for free speech amendment

Prominent MPs have signed an amendment to improve the law on free speech – offering more protection for Christian street preachers.

The amendment would remove the word “insulting” from Section 5 of the Public Order Act.

It was tabled by Conservative MP Edward Leigh and is backed by Lib Dem President, Tim Farron, and Labour’s Tom Watson, a former Government Minister. An additional six MPs from across the parties have signed the amendment.


In recent years a number of street preachers have been unjustly arrested because someone claimed to be “insulted” by their message.

The amendment is expected to be debated in the House of Commons next month.

The Government is so far resisting the change, arguing that the problem can be solved by better police training.

But Simon Calvert, The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs, says the law needs to change.


Mr Calvert said: “Genuine Christians don’t want to insult anyone. But insult can often be in the eye of the beholder.

“Too many Christian street preachers have been unjustly silenced by the police and even arrested simply because someone doesn’t like what they are saying.

“That’s got to stop and that’s why we are backing this proposed change in the law.”

Civil rights groups Liberty and Justice have previously called for Section 5 to be amended along with Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights.


And former Lib Dem MP Evan Harris has said: “We need to get rid of the idea of insult, especially unintentional insult – as in section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 – from our statute book”.

Parliament, he argued, “must make it clear, in statute and in the minds of the police, that there is no right not to be offended”.

Last year Christian street preacher Dale Mcalpine also voiced his support for a change to the public order law.

Mr Mcalpine, from Workington in Cumbria, was arrested in 2010 after he described homosexuality as a sin during a conversation with a police community support officer.

Mr Mcalpine said: “I should not have been treated like this, and I don’t want other people to be treated like this either.”

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