This Government seems determined to abolish freedom of speech. It has made it a criminal offence to incite religious or racial hatred and, as of last year, there is also an offence on the statute book (but not yet in force) of inciting hatred based on
sexual orientation. If this legislative trend continues, telling someone you don't like their slacks could soon land you in the slammer.
Bucking this trend, the House of Lords inserted a "free speech" exception to the gay-hate offence, which protects people who discuss or criticise sexual conduct, or urge others to refrain from it. Now, though, the Ministry of Justice has added
a clause to the current Coroners and Justice Bill which, if passed, will repeal that "free speech" exception. The justice secretary, Jack Straw, said that there were no circumstances in which the right to freedom of speech could justify
When seeking to outlaw homophobic acts, Mr Straw is thinking of extreme political groups and nasty rap lyrics. He probably doesn't have in mind the "only gay in the village" sketches from Little Britain. But his political opponents fear that
that kind of comedy could fall foul of his new law