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House of Commons Hansard
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Universities: Freedom of Speech
10 September 2018
Volume 646
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14. What steps his Department has taken to ensure that freedom of speech is protected in universities. [906758]

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17. What steps his Department has taken to ensure that freedom of speech is protected in universities. [906761]

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We want our universities to be bastions of free speech where a free and robust exchange of ideas thrives. I am very encouraged that the Office for Students has made it very clear that, as a regulator, it will be encouraging free speech in our universities and that, if it intervenes, it will never be to restrict it.

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Earlier this summer, the Universities Minister made it clear that free speech on campus should be encouraged and that those attempting to shut it down should have nowhere to hide. Does my hon. Friend agree that hearing, considering and debating different views are a key part of learning?

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We want free speech, diversity of opinion, diversity of thought and civility in debate, where people do not easily take offence or give offence too easily. That is why I am working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and key stakeholders to come up with new guidance on free speech to deal with the dizzying array of regulations that wreckers on campus can exploit to frustrate free speech.

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My hon. Friend will agrees that many of us in the Chamber would not be here today were it not for the culture of free speech and our ability to engage in it on our campuses to develop and hone our political philosophies and arguments for right or wrong. Does he agree that we in this place who have benefited most from that right have a duty to stand up for it wherever we see it under threat on far too many of our university campuses?

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We must always stand up for free speech. We must not allow bureaucracy on campus to stifle free speech, and it is our duty to make sure that it is promoted, because if universities are not about free speech, what are they for?

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What progress has been made in developing guidance with universities to clarify the rules surrounding free speech for students and for the universities?

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New guidance on clarifying all the rules around free speech will be published this autumn.