Orders of the Day — Student Unions (Funding)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:39 am on 10th March 1988.

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Photo of Mr Derek Fatchett Mr Derek Fatchett , Leeds Central 12:39 am, 10th March 1988

Yes. My view is on the record and there is no attempt to fudge the issue. I make the point clearly to the hon. Gentleman that that principle of freedom of speech within the law must be maintained. Those who break the law are not exercising the right of freedom of speech; they are abusing it. In terms of student union politics I have always held that position.

I should like to turn to two aspects of the hidden agenda before coming to the real agenda. That hidden agenda has become clear because of the failure of Conservative student politics. The Conservative student movement has been an incredible embarrassment to the party and to Conservative Members. It is not surprising that Conservative Members now look slightly sheepish.

The record of the Federation of Conservative Students is a catalogue of abuse. Those who need the press reports about the Young Conservative conference at Eastbourne just a few weeks ago will know about the behaviour of the former Federation of Conservative Students and the way in which it tried to use physical and political violence to make sure that it could impose its views. We saw the behaviour of the FCS when its members damaged the students' union at Loughborough. Was that two years ago? We have seen the intervention of the right hon. Member for Chingford when he was chairman of the Conservative party. He had to intervene because the FCS had become such an embarrassment to the Conservative party.

All that is not surprising, because the politics of the far Right clearly has some influence in the Conservative party, but it is an influence that the party wants to hide. The right hon. Member for Chingford is not known for niceties and acted when it became known that the FCS was becoming a political embarrassment. It talked in many contexts about legalising drugs and intervening in central America. It produced the scandalous draft of the newsletter at Aston university after the Bradford City football club fire. After those events, the political wing of the Conservative party in student organisations was in disgrace and the right hon. Member for Chingford was right to close it down.