The Daily Telegraph has urged the Government to accept last week’s House of Lords vote to reform Section 5 of the Public Order Act.
The editorial came after the House of Lords voted overwhelmingly for an amendment tabled by Lord Dear, which removes the word ‘insulting’ from Section 5.
The revised Bill will need to be approved by the House of Commons and the Telegraph has called on the Government to “listen to the Lords”.
As well as encouragement from the Conservative-supporting Telegraph, Kate Hoey, the respected Labour back-bench MP has added her voice.
She said: “The House of Lords spoke for the broadest possible cross-section of society when it voted to reform Section 5 of the Public Order Act. I urge the Government and Opposition to recognise the powerful case for change and support the Lords’ amendment.”
The Daily Telegraph accused the Government of threatening freedom of expression in its attempts to curb so-called ‘hate’ speech.
It said: “The modern world offers people many opportunities to make fools of themselves – to say, or more usually type, things that may be threatening, hurtful or simply disagreeable to others.
“Regrettably, the response of government, under both Labour and the Coalition, has been to impose curbs on hate speech that also threaten freedom of expression more broadly.”
The newspaper acknowledged the “admirably broad” group calling for the reform of Section 5, stating: “Lawyers, priests, comedians, police officers – all have agreed that it goes too far”.
It said: “Perhaps the most depressing thing about this saga has been the way in which the state automatically reached for a sledgehammer when faced with a nut. It would have been far better – and far more liberal – to have left out the word “insulting”, trusted society to police itself, and stepped in later if there proved a need.”
But the newspaper concluded: “Fortunately, there is still time for ministers to listen to the Lords, and think again. We urge them to do so.”