Dominic Grieve – now the party’s Justice spokesman – has this afternoon defended the amendment put down by former Home Secretary Lord Waddington . The Waddington amendment – passed last year – states “for the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred”. Gay rights groups are up in arms, however. Ben Summerskill of Stonewall accused the Conservatives of throwing "a bit of red meat for the Tory Right."
This was what Dominic Grieve said in the Commons earlier today:
"Mr Speaker, it wouldn’t be a New Labour justice Bill without some attempt to curtail freedom of speech. The balance between protecting society from incitement to homophobic hatred … and preserving legitimate public debate is a delicate one.
Agreement was reached on this particular question after prolonged debate in the other place last year. Words that incite violent hatred have no place in civilised society; temperate criticism should be permitted. I would remind the Secretary of State that he and his ministerial colleagues voted to accept the amendment that he now seeks to strike out.
That amendment came at the end of lengthy debate, in both houses, in which a variety of safeguards were put forward to try to achieve consensus in a difficult area. What can possibly have changed since we last debated, and settled, this matter? There is not a shred of evidence to support the view that the saving clause introduced by Lord Waddington will prevent the new offence from being prosecuted successfully in those cases where it is justified.
After all, if the Government were really concerned about protecting gay people, they wouldn’t be amending last year’s legislation, they’d be implementing it.
Again all talk, no action. The only conceivable motivation for revisiting the question now … is the cheapest kind of party political posturing. We will resist this amendment."