LONDON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- British lawmakers will consider a petition seeking to bar Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump from the United Kingdom after he called for a "total and complete shutdown" on Muslims entering the United States.
A British Parliament committee will take up the issue on Jan. 18 after more than 572,000 people signed an online petition demanding Trump, who is leading in Republican polls, be barred based on his use of "hate speech."
"The U.K. has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech. The same principles should apply to everyone who wishes to enter the U.K.," the online petition says. "If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the 'unacceptable behaviour' criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful."
Trump, in early December, called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on," prompting an outcry from religious groups and lawmakers worldwide, including British Prime Minister David Cameron. Trump's comments followed several of his other statements that indicated he favors restrictions on Muslims in the United States.
While the British petition gained traction, the British government was initially quick to distance itself by saying it will not comment on individual cases. The about-face in addressing the issue has at least one British leader questioning the move.
"Trump is a bloviating billionaire with downright offensive views. But I'd rather we debated inequality or the NHS," Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat leader, said on Twitter.
Labour MP Paul Flynn will lead the House of Commons petitions committee debate. The committee will also debate a counter petition with nearly 40,000 signatures asking Trump not be banned from the country.
Committee Chairwoman Helen Jones said, "By scheduling a debate on these petitions, the committee is not expressing a view on whether or not the government should exclude Donald Trump from the U.K. As with any decision to schedule a petition for debate, it simply means that the committee has decided that the subject should be debated. A debate will allow a range of views to be expressed."