Greens call on parliament to protect civil liberties
MPs face vote on future of freedom of speech
Green Party Home Affairs spokesperson Rajeev Thacker today called on MPs to crush the latest government attempt to restrict one of the cornerstones of healthy democracy: the right of free expression.
Speaking as the controversial Racial and Religious Hatred Bill faces its final Commons stage, Thacker said: "The government's attempt to distinguish between the belief and the believer displays a lack of understanding of the way religion works, while shackling a value, of which Britain has long been proud.
"We need to encourage discussion and involvement between cultures and religions, not foster resentment and distrust, as this law risks doing."
He also spoke about the fact that nearly all of the new offences are already considered illegal. "This is not the first law that is supposedly written to punish acts which are already criminal," he said. "As with others, such as the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, the danger is that they will be used to stifle anti-government dissent.
"Another real danger is that we will see a mirror of what has happened in commercial media, which panders to the sensitivities of its corporate sponsors: that artists and writers will start to censor themselves. This will have as grave an effect on British art as it has had on British investigative journalism.
"It is vital we stand up and be counted as the government tries to snatch our civil liberties one by one. Our system is one of representative government and as such I call on MPs to stand up for us and quash this affront to our democracy."