12 Jan 2015
The university think-tank million+ has welcomed the report by MPs who sit on the Joint Committee on Human Rights which highlights the risks to freedom of speech posed by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill. The report recommends that universities should be exempt from the new ‘prevent’ duties which the Bill proposes. In light of the report, Professor Michael Gunn, the think-tank’s Chair and the Vice-Chancellor of Staffordshire University, has called on peers to scrutinise the implications of the Bill and the draft guidance issued by the Home Office, at the debate on the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords on 13 January.
Professor Michael Gunn, Vice-Chancellor of Staffordshire University and Chair of million+, said:
“We welcome this timely report which highlights very real concerns about the impact of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill on the existing statutory duty that universities have under the 1986 Education Act to promote freedom of speech and debate.
“Ministers advised Vice-Chancellors that the guidance would provide some reassurances, and it does in some respects. However, as the Joint Committee has pointed out, the guidance refers to extremism and does not provide a clear legal definition of what it might cover.
“If not reconsidered, this may have a chilling effect on free speech and debate in universities. The implications of this Bill for universities and the recommendations of the Joint Committee must now be closely scrutinised in the House of Lords.”
Notes to Editors