HC Deb 09 February 1995 vol 254 cc446-7
7. Mr. Gapes

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to change the law concerning the publication of racially offensive and anti-Semitic material.

Mr. Nicholas Baker

The Government share the disgust of all hon. Members for racially offensive and anti-Semitic material. That is why we introduced in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 a new power of immediate arrest to deal with the publication or distribution of written material intended or likely to stir up racial hatred. This will significantly improve the enforcement agencies' investigative powers to take swift and effective action against those engaged in the dissemination of such offensive literature.

Mr. Gapes

Will the Minister go further and take up all the proposals of the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Labour party to strengthen the law in that area? Is he aware that I wrote to the Home Secretary on 1 November and forwarded to him material which was sent to me by Lady Birdwood and her racist organisation? I have received a reply from the Director of Public Prosecutions saying that he is not prepared to prosecute in that instance.

Is the Minister also aware that Hizb ut-Tahrir, an extremist organisation, has been issuing leaflets in my constituency calling for death to Jews, and that the Radio Authority recently gave a broadcast licence to an organisation associated with Hizb ut-Tahrir? Will the Minister please do something to stop this?

Mr. Baker

We have made the publication or distribution of racist material which is intended or likely to stir up racial hatred an arrestable offence. We have very strong laws in place and we hope that they will be enforced.

On the hon. Gentleman's second point, we welcome the recommendations in the Home Affairs Select Committee report on racial attacks and harassment. We were not able to accept every recommendation, but much of the work called for in that report is already being carried forward by the interdepartmental racial attacks group.

On the question of Hizb ut-Tahrir, I am aware that the Jewish community is very concerned about the activities of extreme Islamic groups. If any group engages in illegal activities, it is liable to be dealt with using the full force of the law. I believe that the laws that we have in place are effective in dealing with precisely the kind of literature to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Dame Angela Rumbold

Will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to remind the House about the Government's consistent attack on racial discrimination? Will he remind the House that that has always been the Government's policy and that we shall continue to condemn racist attacks and any kind of racist or offensive material?

Mr. Baker

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The new law that we have introduced to deal with intentional harassment goes further in dealing with racial attacks which concern so many hon. Members.

Mr. Trimble

What steps have been taken to deal with the printing and distribution of racist and anti-Semitic material in Dublin? Has the Minister made any representations to the Irish Government about that?

Mr. Baker

I am not aware of any such representations. I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern only too well, but it is not a matter for which I can take responsibility.

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