Lisa Appignanesi asks members to continue writing to their MPs

Dear PEN members,

You will have heard that the government’s Racial and Religious Hatred Bill was passed by the House of Commons last week, though only by 56 votes.

On the day before the Bill’s second reading, Ian McEwan, Hari Kunzru, Rowan Atkinson and Nicholas Hytner all took part in a press conference together with Shami Chakraberti and cross-bench MPs. You will have seen excerpts from this in the media.

The BATTLE IS NOT OVER. The Bill now goes to committee stage where there is time for the liberal democrat amendment, supported by the Tories and some Labour backbenchers, to influence the shape of the ultimate legislation. Please carry on writing to your MPs and in particular if they are Labour, to tell them PEN is behind the Lester amendment which would protect Muslims by outlawing incitement where religion is clearly acting as a proxy for race, but would do so without harming our basic freedom of expression.

The more Labour MPs we can get to abstain or vote against the bill at the report stage, the more chance we have of influencing the ultimate shape of the legislation.

Lisa Appignanesi

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