Thursday, 13 May 2021 20:42

Chippenham MP responds to concerns of anti-semitism after free speech row Featured

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CHIPPENHAM MP Michelle Donelan has responded to concerns of anti-semitism following a row over the new free speech bill.

On Radio 4 , the MP described the strengthening of legal duties of universities to protect free speech.

Ms Donelan said any speaker denied a platform could take their complaint to the office of students who would pick up the case.

This comes as the government introduced a new bill which could see universities and students’ unions fined for barring speakers to stop “unlawful silencing”.

She was asked if the law extended to Holocaust deniers -- which is not illegal in the UK -- and she replied that it would but this depended on whether the speaker expressed racist views.

Responding to the Twitter storm in the wake of the comments, the MP said: “Some people have asked me how this bill will interact with the government’s work to combat anti-semitism.

“Let me be clear, anti-semitism is abhorrent and will never be tolerated at our universities.

“Government is clear that any attempt to deny the scale or occurrence of the Holocaust is morally reprehensible and strongly condemns any views expressed to this effect.”

She went on to say that Holocaust denial is “offensive and heinous” and “could” be deemed as unlawful speech.

The bill, as she described, would not overwrite a university’s duties to prevent harassment and discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

“When promoting and protecting free speech, we do indeed have to accept listening to the counter view, even if we disagree, but there is no place in universities for an extremist view which masquerades as fact but is complete fiction whilst grotesquely seeking to misrepresent our global history in a deeply offensive way,” she continued.

“The joy of the British legal system is that we can hold and articulate views which are objectionable to others as long as they don’t cross the threshold of hate speech.”   

Ms Donelan added that she is proud of the government’s work to promote free speech and would continue “to protect the rights of all students and academics to enjoy open, critical debate while also tackling extremism”.

Read this article on the Gazette and Herald here...

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