Govt accused of dragging its feet over free speech plan

The Government has been accused of dragging its feet over a proposal to protect freedom of speech by amending the public order law.

Earlier this week Peers urged the Government to remove the word ‘insulting’ from Section 5 of the Public Order Act.

Lord Dear said that public opinion was now strongly in favour of the change.


And Lord Mawhinney questioned why the Government had taken nearly six months, as opposed to the standard three, to analyse the responses to its own consultation.

Speaking during a late night debate in the House of Lords the Conservative Peer said there was “widespread opposition to the continued inclusion of the word ‘insulting'”.

He added: “It is so widespread that one wonders what is the Government’s problem. It is nearly six months and they still cannot make a decision.”


And Lord Dear, while indicating he was prepared to wait for the Government to come to a conclusion, said, “we are still waiting and patience is perhaps being stretched a little”.

Minister of State Lord Henley apologised for not responding “within the appropriate three months”.

However, he said he was “not in a position” to set out the Government’s position on the matter.

And he stressed that the Government wanted to “carefully” consider the 2,500 consultation responses they had received.


Earlier this year a new campaign group, Reform Section 5, which is seeking to remove the word ‘insulting’, was launched.

In 2008 a sixteen-year-old boy was arrested for peacefully holding a placard saying that Scientology “is a dangerous cult.”

A teenager from Newcastle was arrested and fined for saying “woof” to a dog. The prosecution cost the taxpayer £8,000.

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