Karin Smyth, MP for Bristol South, has voted to defeat the Conservatives’ new law for universities, branded a “hate speech bill” which would enable people from Holocaust Deniers to anti-vaxxers to sue universities or student unions if they are denied a platform to spread their ideas.

Karin Smyth has backed the Labour’s record in Government which saw the Party enshrine the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law which protects freedom of expression, but warned the Conservatives’ plans are trying to solve a problem that does not exist and risks people with offensive and dangerous views being able to sap funding from universities and spread division across our campuses.

There is no evidence to support the Conservatives’ claim that further action is needed to protect free speech on university campuses. A survey last year found that just six out of 10,000 events on campus had been cancelled, mostly due to incorrect paperwork.

However, the Government’s plans would open the door to legal action which risks tying up universities and student unions in costly legal battles.  Alongside external speakers, university staff would be given a new right to take out legal action against institutions if they were passed over for promotions or new jobs, while student unions could face court battles if they turned away speakers.

Karin Smyth, MP for Bristol South, said:

It’s disgraceful that at a time when we desperately need new legislation for social care reform and employment rights, the Conservatives’ are more focused on bringing in new laws that could give a boost to Holocaust deniers, anti-vaxxers and people harmful to the public interest.

There is no evidence that supports the Conservatives’ claim that further action is needed to protect free speech on university campuses, and this ‘free speech’ bill will only serve to protect people who seek to spread division and hate.

Students and universities have struggled throughout the pandemic with little support, and this Bill will only lead to costly legal battles.  These are clearly the wrong priorities for Britain, and I will continue to stand against these dangerous plans.”

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