Campaigns. It is important that I continue to know the strength of feeling on an issue and I prefer to respond to every inquiry, but the sheer size of campaign correspondence means that it is hard to justify to the tax payer the cost and time taken for individual written replies, so regrettably I will no longer reply to every item of campaign correspondence.  I will  post a response to the campaign on the "Responses to campaigns" page of my website.

I am sorry to do this, as it is rather impersonal, but can see no other way of maintaining a good service for all my constituents unless I approach campaigns this way.

31 OCT 2017

Academic Freedom

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about freedom of speech at universities.

I understand your concern on this matter and I agree that the freedom and independence of universities should be respected. I hope the following information on this topic from the Department of Education is of interest:

Our universities have a proud history of encouraging freedom of speech and it is vitally important that this right is preserved. The Prime Minister has said our universities should not be just be places of learning, but should also be placed where there can be open debate.
The Minister for Universities has been clear that universities have a legal duty to secure freedom of speech for students, staff and visiting speakers and must have clear policies in place to support this practice. This duty extends to both the premises of the university and premises occupied by the students' unions, even if they are not part of the university premises. This means that universities have a legal obligation to ensure the use of student union premises is not denied to individuals on the grounds or their beliefs, policy or objectives. Universities must also follow the statutory Prevent duty surrounding terrorist and extremist groups.
Universities also have a responsibility under of the Equality Act 2010 to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all staff and students. This helps ensure that all individuals are able to express their opinions without fear of discrimination, or harassment by the university.
The Department for Education provides additional support to universities to ensure that ideas and opinions can be heard, challenged and debated - including help to assess the possible risks around external speakers. It also proposes to raise the issue of freedom of speech as part of the consultation on the public interest principles to be included in the public interest governance condition that the Office for Students will be able to improve on higher education institutions.

Freedom of speech is vital in society, and in particular in higher education. It is essential for academic thinking to remain cutting-edge and for ideas to be explored and challenged. Procedures are in place to uphold this right.

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