Universities should be responsible for upholding free speech with fines for those that do not comply, Tory MP suggests

Danielle Sheridan
·2-min read
David Davis made the comments in the Commons today - TOBY MELVILLE
David Davis made the comments in the Commons today - TOBY MELVILLE

Universities should be responsible for upholding free speech with fines for those that do not comply, a veteran Conservative MP has suggested.

David Davis, a former cabinet minister, has criticised the cancel culture movement and the "corrosive trend" of "no platforming" of public figures, which he branded "censorship".

He said freedom of speech was "under threat in the very institutions where it should be most treasured, our universities".

Mr Davis's Freedom of Speech (Universities) Bill would place a duty on universities to promote freedom of speech and make provision for fining institutions that do not comply with that duty.

He said: "Today the cancel culture movement think that it's reasonable to obliterate the views of people they disagree with, rather than challenging them in open debate.

"They're wrong. Why? Because the unwillingness to hear uncomfortable opinion, the refusal of platforms to people you disagree with, is damaging to us all.”

Mr Davis told MPs there was "a corrosive trend in our universities that aims to prevent anybody airing ideas that groups disagree with or would be offended by, and, let's be clear, this is not about protecting delicate sensibilities from offence, it's about censorship”.

Last year at Oxford University, Amber Rudd was “disinvited” by the UN Women’s Society at 30 minutes’ notice, which led to the Government threatening intervention to protect free speech on campuses.

Mr Davis added: "When you either explicitly or indirectly 'no platform' Amber Rudd, Germaine Greer, Peter Tatchell, Peter Hitchens and others, you're not protecting yourself, you are denying others the right to hear these people and even perhaps to challenge what they say."

He added that the Bill would "in effect make universities responsible for upholding free speech throughout their campuses”.