The 2nd time in 9 years Labour has lost a vote in the Commons
What can we at the Lawyer's Christian Fellowship say but PRAISE GOD!! It was by his glory and grace that our months of prayer and petition were answered! On Tuesday night the government's version of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill was defeated, despite the government's majority of 67MPs and the immense pressure exerted by the government to get people to vote for the Bill. It is only the second time in 9 years that Labour have lost a vote in the Commons. It was a vote which even the opposition MPs said could not be won. It is a vote which Christians knew, faithfully trusting in God's sovereignty, could always be won.
It was on Tuesday at 7:45pm that the House of Commons voted against the government's version of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill. There were two votes held: in the first vote, the question was whether the RACIAL hatred laws would be changed, and the government was defeated by 10 votes. On the issue of the RELIGIOUS hatred laws, the government was defeated BY JUST ONE VOTE. Tony Blair voted in the first vote, but left before the second vote. That means it was the failure of the Prime Minister to vote which in human terms meant victory for those opposing the government's Religious Hatred Bill.
The BBC news website described it as a 'surprise defeat', the London Metro and The Daily Mail described it as a 'Shock defeat', and in the Guardian, Labour minister Mr. Hain 'admitted the government had been taken by surprise by the defeat.'
The upshot of the vote was that the Religious Hatred Bill was passed, but it was the House of Lords' version of the Bill, not the Government's version, that will become law. The Lords' version was a dramatic improvement in the protection of the uninhibited freedom for Christians to preach the Gospel.
The Bill which will now become law will only allow someone to be prosecuted if:
1) the accused used threatening words or behaviour;
2) he intended to stir up religious hatred; and
3) the words or behaviour cannot be classed as an expression of criticism or dislike, or a discussion of, particular religions or the beliefs or practices of those religions.
It is now hard to envisage a case where a Christian, preaching from the word of God in good faith and from good motives, would fall foul of this legislation.
As you will know, from the very start of this campaign, the LCF has opposed the idea of the Religious Hatred Bill in any form. However, it is our view as lawyers, that the Bill that has been passed has so many safeguards and protections built in, that it will represent almost no threat to Christians preaching the word of God. We would still prefer that the law was removed from the statute books, but the victory last night in the Commons was real, and allays almost all the fears which we have talked about over the past months.
Below is set out the list of Labour MPs who resisted the enormous pressure put on them by the government, and voted against their own party's version of the Bill. The list can also be found on the BBC website It would be great if after all the campaigning letters criticising the government's approach and asking for MPs support, as many people as possible could write to or e-mail these MPs to thanks them for their crucial votes. It would be great to thank them for voting based on principle and based on the need to protect freedom of expression.
Equally, the BBC webpage given above contains a list of ALL the MPs who voted to oppose the government's version of the Bill, so please, check how your local MP voted and write to thank them if they opposed the government's version. It seems likely that every single Liberal Democrat and Conservative MP voted against the government's version. Those two parties went to great lengths to ensure the MPs were there to oppose the government, and whatever motivated them to do that, we should thank them because, (again in human terms) if they had not been so staunch, the government would have won. Additionally, it was absolutely crucial to the victory that the SNP and (I believe) Plaid Cymru decided to vote against the Bill. Please thank those MPs as well.
God Bless all of you who prayed and lobbied on this issue. Thankyou for all the encouraging and supportive e-mails you have sent as well. The media may not recognise it, but the victory is God's. Praise the Lord.
Here is the list of the 21 Labour MPs who voted against their government in the second vote.
- Joe Benton, Bootle
- Ronnie Campbell, Blyth Valley
- Colin Challen, Morley & Rothwell
- Frank Cook, Stockton North
- Jeremy Corbyn, Islington North
- Bill Etherington, Sunderland North
- Mark Fisher, Stoke-on-Trent Central
- Paul Flynn, Newport West
- Ian Gibson, Norwich North
- John Grogan, Selby
- Kate Hoey, Vauxhall
- Kelvin Hopkins, Luton North
- Andrew MacKinlay, Thurrock
- Robert Marshall-Andrews, Medway
- John McDonnell, Hayes & Harlington
- Gordon Prentice, Pendle
- Geraldine Smith, Morecambe & Lunesdale
- David Taylor, North West Leicestershire
- Rudi Vis, Finchley & Golders Green
- Robert Wareing, Liverpool, West Derby
- Tony Wright, Cannock Chase
In the past, Andrea worked as Public Policy Director for the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, an organisation with a membership of over two thousand lawyers. She was called to the Bar in 1988. Initially she specialised in Criminal and Family Law.
Andrea is married with 4 children.
View all articles by Andrea Williams