Attempt to ban genocide denial

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Racists and neo-Nazis who claim that the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust did not happen would be prosecuted under a Bill to be introduced in the Commons next month.

The Bill would make it "a criminal offence to claim, whether in writing or orally, that the policy of genocide against the Jewish people committed by Nazi Germany did not occur".

The Holocaust Denial Bill is being introduced by the Labour MP Mike Gapes, who says it has the support of Jack Straw, shadow Home Secretary.

Mr Gapes, who will bring in the proposed legislation under the Ten-Minute Rule, said: "We don't have a law against Holocaust denial in this country, but there are a number of other European countries, including Germany, which do.

"I've become increasingly concerned about some of the material published in this country and circulated. It seems there is a serious anomaly in the legislation.

"Some people will say, `what about freedom of speech?' But the fact is we have got other laws which are constraining.

"We've got incitement to racial hatred laws and a blasphemy law in this country. There is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech. In a world where we have seen neo-Nazi groups, it is important we close what I think is a current loophole in the legislation.

"My position is in line with a Labour Party conference resolution last year and Jack Straw has made statements as shadow Home Secretary that a Labour government would be interested in looking at this issue."

The Bill stands no chance of becoming law because of lack of parliamentary time. However, Mr Gapes, MP for Ilford South, hopes that his Bill will highlight the issues and possibly lead to an eventual change in the law under a government led by Tony Blair.