Lib Dem Lords defeat Labour and Tory front benches to support free speech
Lib Dem Lords have joined with crossbenchers and rebel Conservative and Labour peers in a move to remove the word 'insulting' from the public order act. This part of the act is used to suppress criticism of religions, and has been subject of a campaign by the National Secular Societ and comedians including Rowan Atkinson.
The vote to remove the word 'insulting' was carried by 150 votes to 54, despite efforts by the Conservative and Labour front benches to prevent the change. The National Secular Society gave credit to Lib Dem peers who fully backed the change in line with party policy, and the campaign united the National Secular Society with the Christian Institute. Simon Calvert, Campaign Director of RS5, said he was "delighted" at the result and commented: "Freedom of speech is such a vital part of British heritage but this law has seen many people suffer - simply for speaking their mind. Tonight we have seen that the House of Lords does not want this to continue. Now it's up to the Government to decide whether it's going to allow tonight's vote to stand. We hope they'll see sense and allow this important reform to become law."
The attention will now switch to the House of Commons, where leading Tory backbencher David Davis has been supporting the Repeal Section 5 Campaign.
You can watch the full debate at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=11993 (runs from 19.07-20.08) and the National Secular Society have more information at http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2012/12/section-5-free-speech-campaign-passes-a-major-hurdle-with-lords-victory