Tory MP Sally-Ann Hart has proposed an amendment to the Financial Services and Markets Bill that would make it illegal for a financial provider to deny service on political grounds.
In a statement on Twitter Sally-Ann cited PayPal’s recent closing of the Free Speech Union’s account as motivation for her move, adding “This is not party political; we must protect everyone’s right to free speech”. Elon would be proud.
The Free Speech Union welcomed the move and joined Hart’s call for the government to support the amendment. Toby Young, General Secretary of the organisation, said:
“Every MP who’s concerned about the emergence of a Chinese-style social credit system in the U.K. should support this amendment. British people should not be denied access to essential financial services because some liberal authoritarian in California disapproves of their political views. It’s cancel culture at its worst.”
If recent government action on the Online Safety Bill is anything to go by, they might be in luck…
The 22-year-old woman who was arrested after holding up this anti-monarchy placard at St Giles’ Cathedral has been charged “in connection with a breach of the peace” and is reportedly due to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today. Amid the emotional royalist fervour, the country is feeling it is even more important to stand up for universal and enduring values. The Free Speech Union has expressed concern that the protester been arrested for voicing anti-monarchist views during the Proclamation of King Charles III yesterday. Defenders of free speech know that if they don’t stand up for views with which they disagree or even find offensive, they’re not defending free speech. Whatever your views on the monarchy, this protester has a right to hers.
Some anti-woke supporters of free speech are standing back in this case with the excuse that the banner includes the words “f*ck imperialism”, profanity on a placard isn’t going to hurt anyone and certainly doesn’t merit the placard holder being arrested. Guido’s view is that the police over-reached themselves given there was no actual breach of the peace. The Free Speech Union has already reached out to the protester to offer their assistance.
The Free Speech Union has identified five potential policy commitments for the next Prime Minister. They’re asking Conservative party members to reach out to all the candidates in the current leadership contest to see where they stand on each of these issues. Guido doesn’t really understand the first policy as a free speech issue, “Making sure children are not indoctrinated” by “creating an enforcement mechanism” seems to be restricting teachers’ free speech. If teachers don’t teach the syllabus then maybe the teacher is in breach of contract, that’s a different matter.
Anyway, the Free Speech Union have built a handy little web-form to allow you to email candidates to find out where they stand on free speech issues. If you want to find out where Rishi, Liz, Penny, Kemi and Tom stand on free speech, ask them here.
The Home Office is continuing its push toward compulsory pronouns for Civil Servants. In a new email sent today to all customer services staff – including in Asylum and Protection, UK Visas and Immigration, and the HM Passport Office – civil servants are once again being told to add their preferred pronouns to their email signatures as an “important step towards inclusivity in the workplace“. Along with a helpful guide on how to do it…
Back in April, the Free Speech Union wrote to Home Office Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft to express concerns that the department was compelling staff in Visa, Status and Information Services to also add mandatory pronouns to their email signatures. They claimed it was a violation of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the right to free speech (Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights). At the time a Home Office press officer contacted Guido to deny – in the face of evidence – the pronoun push was a mandatory instruction, merely a recommendation. This renewed agitation suggests it wasn’t the voluntary exercise they claimed…
The Free Speech Union has written to Matthew Rycroft, the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, to complain about a directive to Home Office staff to include their pronouns in their email signatures. They are concerned that this instruction, which appears to be mandatory, is a form of compelled speech that violates the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the right to free speech (Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights). They also argue it is a breach of the Equality Act.
Staff in the Visa, Status and Information Services department have been instructed to format their email signatures to include their pronouns on their email signatures:
[Name of unit] | Visa, Status and Information Services
Customer Services Group | UK Visas and Immigration
Address/office location [on one line – e.g. Level 3, Foundry House, Sheffield]
T: +44 (0)XX XXXX XXXX
M: +44 (0)XX XXXX XXXX
OUR VSI Our People Our Operations Our Customers
This is they have been told because of “the wider cultural changes” taking shape in the department. The Free Speech Union is asking the Home Office’s Permanent Secretary to ensure that no employee is penalised for refusing to include their pronouns in their email signatures and to make it clear to civil servants that stating pronouns on email signatures is not, and must not become, mandatory. They are hopeful of success because Matthew Rycroft has not included his pronouns on his official uk.gov biography…
Yesterday it emerged the government’s dropped plans to limit MPs’ earnings from second jobs following the Geoffrey Cox row last year. Beyond their opposition to this proposed reform, Guido spots the government has also stuck two fingers up at another proposal from Chris Bryant – to add “respect” to the parliamentary behaviour code, to “demonstrate anti-discriminatory attitudes and behaviours through the promotion of anti-racism, inclusion and diversity”. All very wet…
Looking through the government’s response, Guido notes Stephen Barclay and Mark Spencer have strongly rejected the proposal on the grounds of free speech:
“we think it is of overarching importance to emphasise tolerance of different viewpoints and protect free debate when considering any changes.
We would not want to stifle legitimate debate on politically contentious issues which are important to our democracy – as an indirect consequence of the proposed new requirement for ‘anti-discriminatory attitudes’ or demonstrating ‘inclusion and diversity’. This could have a chilling effect on free speech on contentious and polarised political issues. This has recently been illustrated in the Lords, in the controversy over the role of the Lords Standards Commissioner in relation to a complaint made against four peers for comments they made in a debate. Even if a Members’ views or opinions are not in scope of the standards process, such a provision risks generating partisan complaints that could ultimately discourage Members’ free speech on highly contentious matters of public policy.”
This point is something supported by the Free Speech Union, who submitted evidence as part of the consultation arguing against adding the ‘respect’ principle, which would “attempt to regulate the ‘attitudes’ of MPs, i.e., their views and opinions.” Presumably it would also prevent Boris from correctly calling out Starmer’s role in the CPS’s failure to prosecute Jimmy Saville…