Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill Debate

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Department: Leader of the House
Lord Macdonald of River Glaven Portrait Lord Macdonald of River Glaven (CB)
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My Lords, I do not oppose this amendment at all. I can see why it might be possible for material relating to this issue to be included in codes of practice. However, it is worth observing that a lot of the behaviour described by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, is patently criminal. It is a great shame that universities, colleges and other authorities do not always appreciate that.

As I said in Committee, a group of masked men letting off flares and shouting threats and abuse about a professor of philosophy inside her workplace is conduct that, in my view, is properly characterised as criminal. It is a great shame that the University of Sussex or other relevant authorities did not see it that way.

Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con)
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My Lords, I am thoroughly with the spirit of this amendment. I have a child currently at university and I know that it is about not just the speaker, but the effect this has on the students. It becomes impossible to discuss anything when you expect to be shouted down. That is far harder for a student at a university to take than it is for a visiting speaker. Universities have to get this right.

In my youth, the extreme right openly contended with Maoists in the junior common room. It was debate. They argued in debate. To shut that down now is to tell students that they are not allowed to express their own opinions. That makes a university pointless. Universities have really not stood up for the purpose of universities, in a way that I hoped they would.