British Refusal to Outlaw Incitement Evokes Criticism in Commons

Government leaders today came under sharp criticism for a flat refusal to outlaw racial hatred, in a debate touched off by the civil rights bill sent to Congress by President Kennedy last week.

Fenner Brockway, Labor MP, said in the House of Commons that he had tried to introduce a bill to make incitement to religious and racial hatred a criminal offense and asked “Is it not desirable that this country should give a lead to America, rather than always following America?”

Ian MacLeod, speaking for the Government, said it was “not prepared” to find Parliamentary time for the bill and preferred instead to increase the penalties of existing laws. He was challenged by Opposition Leader Harold Wilson to “stop this logic chopping.” MacLeod replied that the subject of racial discrimination was “foreign to the law of the country.” Wilson retorted sharply that was just why a bill was necessary -so that such hate would be an offense.

Meanwhile a second reading was given in the House of Lords to amendments to the Public Order Act and the Public Meeting Act which would increase the penalties for the use of insulting words at public meetings and for trying to break up meetings.

Lord Chancellor Dilhorne said the courts took the view that the existing laws were sufficient to deal with fascists who provoked race hatred but if the measures proved inadequate, the Government would review them. Lord Morrison, former Labor Home Secretary, commented that the best thing the critics of the British Nazis could do in such situations was to stay away from their meetings.

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