Campaigners welcome improvements to University Free Speech BillFreedom of Speech
Campaigners have welcomed new government amendments to the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill which they claim will make the legislation more robust and effective.
Introduced at Westminster last year, the Bill is intended to protect academic staff, students and guest speakers who have views some might consider controversial.
Behind the introduction of the Bill was stories of speakers and academics being cancelled by universities.
For example, Kathleen Stock resigned from her job at the University of Sussex because of her views on biological sex. The Canadian author Dr Jordan Peterson was banned from Cambridge University in 2019.
Polls suggest support among the wider population for free speech safeguards, with one survey highlighting that 66% of British people believe that ‘we have gone too far with cancel culture”.
The legislation has passed second reading in the House of Commons and has also received scrutiny at Committee Stage as well. Report Stage is due on 13 June.
Ahead of the next parliamentary stage, the government has tabled two amendments to the Bill which the Free Speech Union has welcomed.
One amendment will remove the caveat that the new free speech safeguards only apply to academics ‘within their field of expertise’ and another amendment will extend the Bill’s scope to Student unions.
In a tweet, the free speech campaign group said: “Great to see the Govt has accepted two of the FSU’s proposed amendments.” Meanwhile, Free Speech campaigner and Peer Claire Fox simply tweeted in response: “Phew…”