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Free Speech: Universities

Volume 679: debated on Monday 7 September 2020

We are all shocked and saddened to learn of the incident in which a young person was seriously hurt on their way to school in Suffolk today. Our thoughts are very much with the young person, their family and the whole school community at this difficult time.

Free speech is a fundamental underpinning of Britain’s liberal democracy, and universities should always do as much as possible to champion it, ensuring that students, staff and visiting speakers are free to explore a range of ideas and challenge perceived wisdom. We are exploring a range of legislative and non-legislative options to ensure that this is the case.

If universities are not prepared to enforce free speech, is my right hon. Friend prepared to legislate to ensure they do?

Many of us take free speech as an absolute given and expect it to be an absolute given in every part of this country, and if legislation is required, that is what we will do. But it is not just at universities that we sometimes see a challenge to free speech. Conservative Members understand the importance of free speech, whether in universities or a free press, and that is why we will always be the ones who stand up for a free press so that people can enjoy their newspapers every single day.