Michelle Donelan responds to concerns about anti-Semitism
CHIPPENHAM MP Michelle Donelan responded to concerns about anti-Semitism after a row over the new free speech bill.
On Radio 4, the MP described the strengthening of legal obligations of universities to protect freedom of expression.
Ms Donelan said any speaker who was denied a platform could take their complaint to the students’ office, which would take care of the case.
It comes as the government introduced a new bill that could see universities and student unions fined for banning lecturers from ending “illegal silence.”
The free speech bill we have introduced will not only protect but also promote a culture of free speech by strengthening existing laws and honoring our clear commitment.
– Michelle Donelan, MP (@michelledonelan) May 12, 2021
She was asked if the law extended to Holocaust deniers – which is not illegal in the UK – and she replied that it would, but it depended on whether the speaker was expressing any racist opinions.
Responding to the Twitter storm following the comments, the MP said, “Some people have asked me how this bill would interact with the government’s work to fight anti-Semitism.
“Let me be clear, anti-Semitism is heinous and will never be tolerated in our universities.
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“The government is clear that any attempt to deny the magnitude or occurrence of the Holocaust is morally reprehensible and strongly condemns any opinion expressed to this effect.”
She went on to say that Holocaust denial is “offensive and heinous” and “could” be considered illegal speech.
The bill, as she described it, would not replace a university’s obligations to prevent harassment and discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
“When promoting and protecting freedom of expression, we must indeed accept to listen to the counter-point of view, even if we do not agree, but there is no place in universities for an extremist point of view which masquerades as fact but which is complete fiction while grotesquely seeking to distort our world history in a deeply offensive way, ”she continued.
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“The joy of the UK legal system is that we can have and articulate views that are objectionable to others as long as they don’t cross the threshold of hate speech.”
Ms Donelan added that she was proud of the government’s work to promote freedom of expression and that she would continue to “protect the rights of all students and scholars to enjoy an open and critical debate while fighting against the ‘extremism”.