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“the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.
I have to say, preliminary to speaking to the detail of this amendment, that the more that I have thought about it, in one sense the less concerned I am about Clause 25(1). It is not the heavy duty that in some ways it has been presented as, but probably in some ways it simply encapsulates common sense. That is in one sense. Where I find a real problem is in the elaborate infrastructure or superstructure—I am not sure which it is—that has been built around this simple proposition and the context in which the clause, and the whole of Part 5, is now being viewed: the feeling among the Muslim communities that they are being got at. That is why I am still of the view that it would be far better not to have a statutory duty with all the bureaucracy, costs and difficulties that that carries. However, my amendment is much more modest than that principle.
As I said, Clause 25(1) provides for “due regard”. Under Clause 28, the Secretary of State is to issue guidance, and under subsection (2) of that clause the authorities must “have regard” to the guidance. Therefore, is the heavier duty the duty in Clause 25? Is there significance in the difference? Is it technical perhaps that Clause 25 is about a statutory duty and that Clause 28 is about guidance, which does not have the same status as legislation and therefore less regard might be had to it? However, what was a two-faceted question became triple-faceted when the Government laid an amendment on freedom of expression in universities. I do not want to anticipate the debate on that issue but I note that the institutions are to pay “particular regard” to the freedom of speech duty in the 1986 Act. So we now have three levels. Indeed, the Secretary of State is to have “particular regard” to that duty when issuing guidance and considering directions.
It is clearly important to understand the relative weight of these terms. In respect of education, perhaps the freedom of expression duty, because it prompts particular regard, trumps the duty concerning preventing people being drawn into terrorism. On reading all this again, I have to say that, as well as being about the relative weight, it is about which duty is the one in the new clause. In other words, the hierarchy seems to be particular regard, due regard and then plain regard. I am looking for assistance from the Minister on this.
Amendment 13B provides that,
“each specified authority shall have”— why not?—
“regard to the impact … on local communities”,
which I have put in the plural, and on people connected with the authority, and,
“of the manner of the exercise”,
of this on local communities.
Among various briefings over the past few days, I have received the response to the Prevent duty guidance consultation from the London Borough of Sutton. I should like to share with your Lordships some of the comments that have been made. It states:
“There is a further issue of risk of negative impact from the duty if it is undertaken without careful consideration of local context. There is already evidence to suggest that the delivery of interventions such as around female genital mutilation and honour based violence adding to polarisation of communities. The interventions are important but must be delivered with understanding”.
In the response, a young Muslim woman is quoted as asking,
“‘why in my class are the girls taken out and spoken to about FGM and honour based violence and everyone looks at me and the other girl in a headscarf—these things have nothing to do with my life and are not risks I’m interested in. I’d rather know more about how to stay safe walking across my park’”.
As the London Borough of Sutton response says:
“The guidance is silent on such issues”.
The phraseology of this amendment was prompted by an amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, towards the end of the last day in Committee on the new Privacy and Civil Liberties Board. We have quite properly spent time in our debates emphasising the importance of a positive approach to community engagement—in other words, engagement, not disengagement—and it being a continuing process. Time and again, it has been put to Members of your Lordships’ House that the Muslim communities feel that they are viewed as the problem; namely, that if you are a Muslim, if you are not a terrorist you are a potential terrorist and you need to prove that you are not. Obviously, that is the most enormous slur or slander on the vast majority of Muslims, and it is very counterproductive in that it is polarising and alienating.
My amendment refers to the impact on communities, pupils, clients, patients and so on. As has been said to me, there are questions about workability, functionality and encroachment into the private sphere by the state. I mention the manner in which the duty is exercised because attitudes show in actions and words, and we all know that it is not only what we do but the way that we do it. I beg to move.
We had a considerable debate in Committee on these issues. I shall speak to Amendment 13B and about the danger of making the Prevent strategy statutory rather than voluntary and the fear that it might prove to be counterproductive. It is clear, however, that the Government feel strongly that these powers need to be statutory to ensure that those authorities which to date have lagged behind in their observance of the Prevent strategy recognise their obligations.
Amendment 13B, therefore, takes a somewhat different tack, as my noble friend mentioned. We had some discussion also about the importance of community involvement and working with the grain of community culture and the mores in different areas. In other words, it is vital that the implementation of the Prevent strategy should be flexible in approach and take into account the sensibilities of different communities.
These points were stressed, in particular, by the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, and my noble friend Lady Hussein-Ece—neither of whom is in the Chamber today—in relation to Muslim communities. Again, this point was raised in the example quoted by my noble friend Lady Hamwee of the advice given by Sutton. However, it applies just as much to other communities, where institutions and customs will vary from one to another. In some, the civic organisations—the mayor’s office and the agencies run from that office—may be the dominant players; in others, organisations such as the YMCA, third sector youth groups or faith groups may be most influential. It is a matter of recognising that one size does not fit all. Those behind the Prevent strategy must work with the grain of each community rather than trying to impose a standardised agenda on all.
My Lords, I should like to speak in defence of the amendment, because, more and more, parliamentary legislation is identifying Muslims as “the others”, or the enemy within. The “otherisation” of an entire community through insensitive approaches which do not give them the leeway to fit in is the surest way of driving them away and towards actions that are undesirable on all sides, and which their religion forbids.
If people are defined by their religion, and if the strategy is such that they cannot find a person to whom they can comment or a position to which they can adhere, then, given the difficulty of the alienation created by these labels, I fear that violence will become an alternative. I hope that the House will take heed and offer a far more inclusive approach rather than one which is intent on labelling certain groups and faith groups as “others”.
First, I say to the noble Baroness who has just spoken that there is no mention of a particular community in the legislation. It is because, as we all know, it is predominantly people from the Muslim community who have been carrying out these appalling atrocities that those labels are being banded about. The Muslim community has to accept and understand why that is.
Furthermore, the other day I heard about something which I think amplifies why what the Government are seeking to achieve is incredibly difficult. I understand why they want to put this duty on a statutory basis. What I am going to say is almost more shocking to me than what happened in Paris. Somebody I know quite well was telling me the other day that his wife was shopping in a supermarket about three weeks ago in Manchester. She was scouring the shelves, as we do, when she stopped because she could not help overhearing a group of young British Asian Muslim girls talking about going to Syria.
This makes my heart jump when I talk about it and when I think about it. What does that say? It says that there are young people out there of different ages, and probably from different financial backgrounds, who have varying exposure to other faiths and so on and who, we are now hearing, find the idea of going to Syria quite cool. In other words, the importance of Prevent and of the need to try to deter these young people from thinking that somehow it is the right thing is absolutely paramount now. Therefore, we have to find every which way to send out a message, even though it may seem rather severe because it is on the face of the Bill. The threat that we face is severe.
Some of the people coming back from Syria now have carried out the most appalling atrocities. We do not want them talking to these girls, whether it is in supermarkets, in schools or in clubs—wherever it is—and encouraging them to think that it is cool. There has to be another point of view. There has to be a way that we encourage—we urge—all public authorities to do what they can to help these girls and many others like them who may be taken down the wrong path. I understand where my noble friend is coming from and the spirit of these amendments, but I do not think that we should shy away from sending a powerful message through this legislation that we have to do everything to support young people in preventing harm.
My Lords, my name is attached to Amendments 13A and 13B. I want to comment on my noble friend Lady Buscombe’s contribution a minute ago. I am not sure that it helped the Minister. I think it explained why we need Amendments 13A and 13B, because the most important thing about implementing Prevent is to recognise that each of our communities differs and that each community, area and specified authority should have due regard to the impact in order to understand it and to pass that message back to central government to understand the change in the nature of terrorism and radicalisation.
That is why I believe that Amendment 13B is valid. It is an extra tool in the box to make sure that we are monitoring what is happening, at whatever level and in whatever specified authority, to the range of people it is going to affect—including, interestingly, pupils who are under sixth form and under student age. What is happening is not consistent across the country. There may be young girls in one area talking about going to Syria; there are young Muslim British girls in other areas who are appalled by that. As a society we need to understand the nuances of that. The briefing that we have had from the Muslim Council of Britain sets that out very clearly. The one thing that we must do is to make sure that we do not have alienation on a grand scale. We need to understand that what is happening is not the same in every single community.
My Lords, I, too, support my noble friend in Amendment 13A. I want to share my experience as a former leader of Sheffield City Council to say how difficult this is. We make a grave mistake by talking about the Muslim community as though it is a homogenous group of people. They are people with many different beliefs, different processes and different understandings of what is happening worldwide. When I was leader of Sheffield City Council, very strict central guidelines came in with Prevent. That ended up setting not just community against community but different people of the same community against each other, because we were not allowed to have leeway to make judgments or to put in place policies and practices that were relevant to our local context.
What became clear to me, and to many other council leaders across the country, was that unless we got it right from a bottom-up approach, by working with and for those different people in the community, we would alienate more people than we brought in. One of the key findings of the Audit Commission report on the last Prevent programme back in 2008 was that there should be more of a bottom-up than a top-down approach. I have no doubt that the Government’s intentions are well meaning. I have no doubt that there is a view that if you have a set of guidelines from somebody in Whitehall, it is applicable across the country. However, my personal experience tells me that it is best to be more bottom-up than top-down on these issues, otherwise we will not just set community against community but cause tension because of the people within those communities who have different opinions.
I ask the Minister to consider this amendment very seriously. Past experience of my own and the Audit Commission report of 2008 make it very clear: a top-down approach which does not take this into consideration as a major part of implementing Prevent will have unintended consequences and will mean that we have good intentions but bad implementation of something that we all support.
My Lords, I, too, commend this amendment for very serious consideration by the Government. We all have different experiences in life.
As the House will know, I have spent a good deal of my life with the developing world, and have learnt a great deal from the experience. To put it as succinctly as I can, if I have learnt one overriding message above all, it is that if you are trying to strengthen communities you must not talk at them or about them but with them.
I may have mentioned this in the House before and, in that case, I do not apologise for repeating it. I remember the Bishop of San Cristobal making a brave stand for the Indians in Chiapas, in Mexico, who were being persecuted very badly. I said to him, “Have you got a message for us back in Britain?”. He said, “Yes, I have. What is important is solidarity. You speak about people, you talk to them, but how often do you really listen to them, work with them and build with them their strength and future?” We cannot overemphasise the danger and the urgency in this situation, but whatever we do, we must not inadvertently stereotype people and put them on the defensive, because that does not help. Even in the most normal times—if we can talk about normal times with all our recent experiences—successful policing always seems to me to be the policing that works with the community and not just in it. From that standpoint, this amendment touches on very important principles about building confidence and building upwards.
It strikes me, just from my experience as a citizen, like most other people in this House, that the great horror of terrorism is that it involves a very small number of people. Terrorism works most effectively when there is a climate of ambivalence around the people who do the terrible things. There are people who sometimes feel, “I could never do that, and it’s horrible, but I can understand people doing that because of how they find the reality of living in this situation”.
We must not build up that constituency of ambivalence by taking action that is unnecessarily heavy-handed and authoritarian. The greater the dangers, the greater the urgency and the more essential it is to work with the community and be seen as friends of the community, working with it to strengthen it; to build a situation in which those people are not being told, “After all, they are good decent citizens”. They can feel that they are ordinary, decent citizens in society. That is the point: it is creating an ethos and social reality that people experience in their everyday lives. We must be careful that we do not give extremism a victory by allowing it to provoke us into doing things that do not help.
My Lords, as somebody who has been deputy leader of Luton Borough Council, I support my colleague’s amendment. Luton has been in the media because of its extremists, and we do have a small number of people who hold extreme views. Nevertheless, it is on record that out of the 22—or now perhaps 24—mosques in the town, none of them allows those few extremists to use its platforms to spread their messages. Some of them have worked with ex-offenders and those who might have been involved in other activities.
Might I give an example of how this is going to affect them? One of the imams of those mosques, whom I knew very well, was working on a project with ex-offenders. It was a successful, well recognised piece of work that he had been involved with for years. He had worked with internationally recognised charities in Syria. Recently, when he gave in his passport to be renewed, the passport was held. We do not know the reasons; he has approached me and said, “Can you help me?”. He has tried to speak to the Passport Office; he spoke to the crime commissioner and his local Member of Parliament, but he is not getting anywhere. He said to me, “Lord Hussain, if I have done something wrong, just tell me that I have done something wrong. If it is wrong for me to go to work with a charity in Syria, I will not go to work with those charities in Syria, much as I would like to. But I don’t think I have done anything wrong”.
We have to give proper training to our staff in order to carry out these laws. Experience shows what went on when we tried to implement stop and search, a piece of legislation that the police actually admitted that they were not sufficiently trained to carry out. My fear is that we are going to alienate communities if we do not accept the amendments, which I support.
My Lords, I rise briefly on this. I was reflecting on my own student days when we had serious problems with extremists in Leicester, but extremists as referred to in the Prevent draft guidance—from the extreme right-wing. We had numerous problems and things were at times quite frightening. I also recall attacks on gay bars in London by extremists who were anti-gay. We have to be very equal and balanced when we talk about extremism.
I was grateful for the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, when he talked about Muslim communities as being as broad and wide as any other communities that share a set of beliefs or religion. I can equate that with some Muslim friends of mine who do not all think the same. I was slightly disappointed by the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. In my experience, when there have been attacks where Muslims have been blamed or some Muslims have been responsible, the greatest condemnation has come from those who are Muslim.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. I never in the least bit insinuated that that was my point of view. I was just trying to explain why people out there have applied labels to the people who have carried out these atrocities. That is nothing to do with my point of view. I would never label that community as being one. I think that various noble Lords misunderstood me and I am sorry if they have misunderstood me. That was not what I was talking about. I was talking about the fact that this legislation does not actually mention any particular community—that is nowhere in the Bill—and therefore presumption should not be made in that regard.
That clarification is helpful and I am grateful for that. I did not know that the noble Baroness was able to intervene on Report and was unsure whether to accept the intervention, but it was a very helpful clarification.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, I first raised this issue about the impact on communities when talking about the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board. On this issue the Minister and other noble Lords have in numerous contributions made it clear that the views of communities and the impact on them must be taken into account. Looking again at the guidance we are debating—I sent out for copies—it goes some way to doing that but, given the comments that have been made, it may be that the guidance could be a little clearer and more explicit on this issue. I am sure that when exercising this duty under Prevent we will all be seeking the same objective, which is to prevent people turning to or being drawn into extremism that could lead to violent behaviour. The sentiments are exactly right and what every Member of your Lordships’ House has said since the beginning of the debate, but if the noble Lord could clarify that and put it on record, and perhaps consider how the guidance could be made more explicit in that regard, that would be helpful.
My Lords, this has been a good curtain-raiser debate because we will come back to this issue in five successive groups, looking at different aspects of the Prevent strategy. I was lulled into a slightly false sense of security by my noble friend Lady Hamwee when she said that the more she read, the more she felt that the clause made sense and her amendment was perhaps not necessary. She then elaborated on it in a way that provoked a very helpful debate.
I should say two things in the context of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and my noble friend Lady Buscombe. When we talk about communities here, it is helpful to start from the position that everyone is equal before the law. Everyone is of equal value and they have the same vote and the same rights. Everyone is equal in our society. That is part of what a democratic society is about and what we are seeking to protect and uphold through this strategy. In a sense, to overfocus on particular groups is sometimes not helpful. All these measures are about prevention of terrorism and extremism. As the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, mentioned, there is far-right extremism, such as the murder of Mohammed Saleem, an 82 year-old, and bombs being placed nearby. Some 25% of the people on the Channel programme at present are from extreme right organisations. We have faced a lot of violent threats such as violence in Northern Ireland. We fear violence from animal rights groups and far-right groups. There are a range of people who would seek to attack that central principle that all people are equal, and are of equal value and worth in our society. That is what is really under attack.
We must never be drawn into a situation where, for fear of offence, we are not able to speak that truth. I do not want to link too far back, but I am afraid my mind is still full of the horrors of what we were talking about before—
I apologise. I have just rushed into the Chamber and caught my noble friend’s words. What interests me is the phrase used in the guidelines to which we shall come later. That phrase is “non-violent extremism”. My noble friend has talked about extremism and terrorism, but will he talk specifically about non-violent extremism? We heard the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, about the teaching of Plato and other people talked about classes in which they had discussed the pros and cons of authoritarianism versus democracy. I once attended a meeting at Queen Mary College where a lot of Muslim students said—very politely and while making it clear that they opposed violence and terrorism—that they did not believe in western-style democracy. That was what the discussion was about. What sort of non-violent extremism are the Government worried about? Some people might consider some forms of modern art to be non-violent extremism.
The definition that we are working to—I shall put it on the record for my noble friend as we have been through this a number of times in Committee—is,
“vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.
We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our Armed Forces. People may want to argue with that or take issue with it, but that is the definition we are working to.
The point that I wanted to make, in referring back to the earlier Statement, relates to something that the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, asked me about. In Rotherham, one of the central findings of Louise Casey’s report was that because of “cultural sensitivities”, people had failed in their duty to protect children at risk in that area. We cannot be in that position. All that we are interested in here is protecting the liberty of the entire community of the United Kingdom. That includes people of all faiths and none, from a range of different backgrounds and traditions. I wanted, first, to put a marker down for that principle—that we need to focus above all on the values of democracy and individual liberty, which some people would seek to undermine.
The second point made was a fair one—that what we should be doing with Prevent is, at best, not something imposed from the top down. The noble Lords, Lord Hussain, Lord Scriven and Lord Judd, and my noble friend Lady Hamwee made that point. That is why, in the consultation on the guidance, we have said that we want people to come up with their own plan. We cannot not have a plan for dealing with something that is focused on trying to undermine the things that free speech, universities, schools and British values are all about. We cannot step aside from that. But if ideas come from the bottom up, so much the better. That would be entirely compliant with the spirit and the letter of the Bill.
I shall now deal with a couple of the specific points in the amendments. Amendment 13A probes the use of the word “due ” in the context of the requirement in Clause 25 to have “due regard” to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. The amendment probes why the word “due” appears here but not in
Clause 28, which requires specified authorities simply to “have regard” to guidance issued relating to compliance with the Prevent duty. This is quite a technical drafting point, but I will seek to address my noble friend’s concerns. The term “due” in Clause 25 indicates that, in the exercise of their functions, specified authorities will need to have regard to a number of different factors and the intention is that by stipulating that they must have,
“due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”,
they place sufficient, proportionate weight on this consideration among the many that are relevant to the performance of those functions. In complying with the Prevent duty, however, authorities should have regard to only one guidance document, so there is not the same requirement to weigh up competing guidance and “due” is therefore unnecessary here.
Amendment 13B would require specified authorities to have regard to the impact of this part on local communities and on pupils, students, clients et cetera of the authority. The duty in Clause 25 is to have due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism. Implicit in that is the consideration of all relevant factors, which may include the impact of it on local communities and so on. That would certainly be a relevant factor. If an authority was contemplating an action in compliance of the duty which it believed would have a demonstrably negative effect on community relations, it would be open to that authority, for that reason, not to take the said action.
Accordingly, with these additional reassurances and those key points of context and purpose, which we must never lose sight of—as my noble friend Lady Buscombe said, the threat we face is real and severe, and it is directed against all people’s liberty and mutual respect—I hope that I have reassured my noble friend enough for her to withdraw the amendment.
The short answer is that that inspiration is perhaps on its way to me. Perhaps I may come back to that on a later group of amendments, if the noble Baroness would allow me.
I can tell the noble Baroness that the “particular regard” element is actually in relation to the Secretary of State’s duty. It is to say that she must have particular regard to the duties under freedoms of speech. The difference between due and particular in this context is that the latter, in all cases, elevates the freedom of speech consideration among all the considerations that must be borne in mind, whereas specifying that due regard must be had to a factor simply underscores the importance of that factor while leaving the degree to which it must be elevated by the specified authority to be determined by the circumstances of the case.
I will leave that to the schoolmasters. However, in this regard, my noble friend should find this reassuring because we are saying that the Secretary of State should have a particular regard. That is a higher threshold to be aware of: the importance of academic freedom of speech within universities. It is a higher test and it is appropriate to say that before she offers direction, she ought to be able to satisfy whether that test has been met. I shall hand back to the noble Baroness.
My Lords, as I said, there is something of a hierarchy in this. “Having regard” implies proportionality, whether it is “due regard” or simply “regard”. I am grateful for the Minister’s explanation. However, I should like regard to be had to the impact of this part of the Bill and to the manner of the exercise of the duty. I am grateful to noble Lords who have commented and who have supported that proposition. The bottom-up approach is precisely what I am seeking to articulate.
The Minister and other noble Lords have referred to far-right extremism. I have acknowledged that in previous debates as well. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, it is the current context that has caused so many comments from members of Muslim communities. That is why so many of us have made such reference to it. I too am shocked—but not surprised—by her report of girls talking about going to Syria. She asked, “What does that say?”. To me, it says let us look for the best way of addressing this issue. All the comments I have made about a bottom-up approach are directed to doing that. The noble Baroness, Lady Afshar, said that, and she is nodding vigorously now.
I am sorry that the Minister has not been able to suggest further ways of acknowledging this approach and these concerns. However, the guidance is not complete. Although the consultation is closed, over the last few days responses have indicated that points made by Members of your Lordships’ House will be taken into account in finalising the guidance. I hope that this approach will have at least that status, as the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, suggested. That would give a degree of comfort. I beg leave to withdraw my pedantic amendment.
Amendment 13A withdrawn.
Amendment 13B not moved.
Moved by Lord Hope of Craighead
14: Clause 25, page 17, line 31, at end insert—
“( ) The general duty under subsection (1) is subject, in England and Wales, to the duty in section 43(1) of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 (freedom of speech in universities, polytechnics and colleges), and in Scotland, to the need to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured in universities and other further and higher education institutions.”
My Lords, it falls to me to move Amendment 14 which is the first of five amendments in this group. I want to make it clear that the fact that I am speaking first and that my name is listed first on the amendment has nothing to do with the relative quality of the contributions which I and the three noble Baronesses who have added their names to this amendment made in Committee. My contribution was much lighter than theirs and I am sure they will have much more to say as the debate develops.
This group also contains Amendment 15, in my name and in the names of the noble Baronesses, as well as government Amendment 15D which is a significant amendment. It has been designed to meet some of the concerns which have been expressed about freedom of speech—especially academic freedom of speech in higher education institutions and, in particular, in universities.
As became clear in Committee, there are three aspects to this problem. The first is how to reconcile what the Government are proposing in the Bill as it stands—the duty which is being imposed on universities and other higher education institutions by the provisions of Section 43(1) of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986. This is a duty to secure freedom of speech in the institutions listed in this subsection. That is the first chapter, on how to reconcile these apparently competing duties.
The second deals with how to achieve the same reconciliation in relation to Scotland, bearing in mind that Part 5 of the Bill applies to Scotland just as it does to England and Wales, and that the 1986 Act does not extend to Scotland so there is no statutory duty on the universities and other institutions in those terms. Nevertheless, one would think—having regard to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, among other things—that the right to freedom of speech was just as powerful in Scotland as it was in the other jurisdiction.
The third point relates to how to reconcile the duty to secure freedom of speech with the guidance being proposed in the consultation paper. On the first point, I pay particular tribute to the Minister and his team for the way in which they have responded to the particular problem about reconciling the two competing statutory provisions. They have done so with commendable speed, given the rate at which we have been proceeding from Committee to Report. For my part, it seems that Amendment 15D, which the Minister will speak to later in the group, deals exactly with that point and makes it clear that the two duties can live together in the way in which the amendment describes. I express gratitude for what the noble Lord is proposing, which is a step in the right direction, although a small one.
My amendment is divided into two parts. The first deals with the position in England and Wales in relation to the 1986 Act; the second deals with the position in Scotland. That matter is not addressed by Amendment 15D, nor was it mentioned in the very helpful letter that the Minister wrote on
The problem to which I tried to draw attention was this: the vehicle that is being used for the Prevent system, both north and south of the border, is all built into Part 5 of the Act. One would like to think that one would find everything one needed in statute to deal with the Scottish position, as one certainly does for dealing with the position in England and Wales. It is the absence of a reference to Scotland and the need to preserve freedom of speech, and at least respect the right to it, that have caused me concern. I raised this in Committee but so far there seems to be no answer.
There is a real puzzle about what exactly the Government’s thinking is about the position in Scotland, because the Bill is silent about it. It may be that because of the shortness of time the necessary discussions with the Scottish Government have not yet been completed; indeed, I would understand the need for those discussions to proceed to a solution. If that is the reason, then my fears would be allayed to some extent. But one is still left with the problem that the Bill will leave this House—and, if nothing is done about it, will no doubt leave the House of Commons as well—without anything in it that addresses the problem. With respect, that seems to be an unsatisfactory situation, bearing in mind that one is trying to achieve exactly the same thing in Scotland as one is seeking south of the border.
So there is something missing here, and I would be very interested to hear the Minister’s explanation of what is being done to address the situation. My suggestion when we talked about this last time was that once the Bill is enacted, I imagine that the only way one can deal with the Scottish position, if it needs to be dealt with, is by fresh enactment, which is a very heavy-handed way of dealing with the problem. One would rather see the matter dealt with now before the Bill leaves Parliament and is enacted.
On the third point—the question of reconciling the duty to secure freedom of speech with the consultation document and the guidance given in it—there is an interesting contrast between the document which is being produced for Scotland and the one which we are all familiar with, the one for England and Wales. We have all seen and referred to paragraph 68 of the England and Wales document, which states:
“Universities must take seriously their responsibility … We would expect the policies and procedures on speakers and events to include at least the following”,
after which there is a series of four bullet points which dictate to the universities what they need to do. It is those provisions which caused some alarm among those who were concerned about the problem universities would face in dealing with speakers who come along at short notice with incomplete speeches, or would prefer not to reveal what they are going to say before they say it, and so on.
The Scottish consultation paper deals with the matter in a different way, which is worth noting. Much of it repeats, almost word for word, what we find in the English paper, but at paragraphs 63 to 65 it is strikingly less prescriptive. I shall read these two short paragraphs, since this paper is not in the Printed Paper Office and not available online, as I understand it. It was given to me by Universities UK, to which I am grateful. Paragraph 63 says:
“Institutions must demonstrate that they have regard to the duty in the context of their policies and procedures on speakers and events. We would expect this to include a system for assessing and rating risks associated with any planned events, providing evidence to suggest whether an event should proceed, be cancelled, or whether mitigating action is required, for example, a guarantee of an opposing viewpoint in the discussion or someone in the audience to monitor the event. There should be a mechanism in place for managing incidents or instances where off campus”.
Paragraph 65 says:
“Where appropriate and legal to do so, a university should also have procedures in place for the sharing of information about speakers with other institutions and partners. In many instances this could be achieved through engagement with the Association of University Chief Security Officers who will provide a member to the Prevent subgroup. However, the sharing of information is expected to be on a case-by-case basis with appropriate procedures adopted by the relevant partners”.
I draw attention to those paragraphs because they are notably less prescriptive than the provision in the English consultation paper. There is an element of trust, of the Government and the institutions working together, which one would prefer to see more plainly demonstrated in the consultation paper for England and Wales. I draw attention to this as background to what others will say in the course of this debate. A lot of the concern is due to the way in which the consultation paper for England and Wales is at present framed.
I think I have said all I need to say in support of my amendment, which was drafted with very particular concern about the position in Scotland. Without developing the point any further at the moment, I beg to move.
My Lords, I support Amendment 14, to which I have added my name. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for combining his original amendment with the amendment by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Once again, I declare an interest as emeritus professor at Loughborough University.
In Committee, the consensus in favour of amending this part of the Bill was striking. Noble Lords did not consider that the Government had made a persuasive case for putting a statutory duty on higher education institutions—moving “from co-operation to co-option”, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, put it. Where was the evidence base? Until the evidence for the necessity of such a statutory duty is marshalled, to use the Minister’s phrase, it is not possible to assess it.
Concerns were raised on grounds of both practice and principle. Warnings were given on unintended consequences and counterproductive effects, including the erosion of trust between staff and students, which could undermine any attempts to engage with students who might be tempted down the road towards terrorism. I do not think that anyone was reassured by ministerial assertions that academic freedom and freedom of speech would not be endangered. Indeed, I think that it is fair to say that the majority of those who spoke were in favour of the total exclusion of the HE sector. However, I am a realist, and, given the Minister’s welcome commitment to reflect and bring forward an amendment, which he has done, in a spirit of compromise, I have not retabled the JCHR amendment designed to exclude HE institutions from the duty altogether, or to provide a narrower exemption for their academic functions.
We all agree on the value of academic freedom and freedom of speech. As yesterday’s letter to the Guardian, signed by 524 professors—I can tell the House that trying to organise 524 professors is like herding cats, so to get them all to sign was quite an achievement—put it:
“One of the purposes of post-compulsory education is to foster critical thinking in staff, students and society more widely. Our universities and colleges are centres for debate and open discussion, where received wisdom can be challenged and controversial ideas put forward in the spirit of academic endeavour”.
Since last week’s debate, I have received a copy of a legal opinion provided for the University and College Union—my former union—by Robert Moretto QC, who has advised government departments, including the Home Office, in the past. I pay tribute to UCU for showing leadership on this matter. The opinion states:
“It is difficult in my view to square the Prevent duty with academic freedom enshrined in, for example, the Education (No. 2) Act 1986”,
“the Prevent duty as set out in the Draft Guidance appears to envisage that decisions may be taken”,
which prevent lawful speech.
The opinion also raises questions about possible incompatibility with the Human Rights Act in particular situations. This opinion lends weight to the JCHR’s concerns that the legal uncertainty created by the new duty in relation to existing duties concerning academic freedom and freedom of speech will have a seriously inhibiting effect on bona fide academic debate.
This takes us to the nub of what we have to decide today. While I very much welcome the fact that the Minister has tabled an amendment which makes explicit reference to the freedom of speech duty in the Education (No. 2) Act, it does not provide the clarity that HE institutions need. Here I am afraid that I part company with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. An obligation to have regard is a familiar device of the legislative drafter when faced with duties which might conflict in practice. We see it in Sections 12 and 13 of the Human Rights Act, for example. The problem is that it still means that the Bill says nothing about the hierarchy of duties, and it leaves it to other things to influence decisions where the duties come into conflict. In effect, this means the Home Secretary’s guidance.
I note that the amendment in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Macdonald and Lord Pannick, refers to “due regard”, as does the new Prevent duty in Clause 25(1). There was an exchange a moment ago about “particular regard” and “due regard”, and I have to admit that I did not understand the Minister’s explanation of where he saw the difference. I am not quite sure why the Government have chosen “particular regard” in this instance as opposed to “due regard”. I think that the Minister said that he regards “particular regard” as stronger than “due regard”. It would be helpful if he could confirm that later, because my understanding is that “due regard” carries greater legal clarity because of the case law interpreting the same phrase in the public sector equality duty. If he can confirm that by using “particular regard” he wants it to be stronger than “due regard”, I would be happy with that.
Amendment 14 provides the necessary clarity by making it explicit that the new Prevent duty is subject to the existing freedom of speech duty. In Committee, the Minister said there are good reasons why the freedom of speech duty should not be elevated above the Prevent duty, principally that freedom of speech is not open-ended or absolute. Of course the existing freedom of speech duty is subservient to the laws the Minister listed in Committee, including criminal law on the use of threatening words or inviting support for a proscribed terrorist organisation, and the civil law on defamation. In other words, there is already a duty to secure freedom of speech within the law.
This amendment would not change that, but it would make it clear that the Prevent duty could not be used to prevent lawful speech, and the importance of protecting lawful speech is underlined by Universities UK in its response to the draft guidance. I cannot see why the Government should resist that if they genuinely believe in protecting freedom of speech and academic freedom in our universities. Universities are looking for clarity and an explicit statement in law that in the context of higher education, freedom of speech and academic freedom within the law carry greater weight then the Prevent duty. The amendment has the support of Universities UK, UCU and million+.
We have an important decision to make today. Universities and other institutions are looking to us to provide them with the clarity they need to operate the new Prevent duty in a way that does not have a chilling effect on academic freedom. When he has heard the debate, and in light of the strength of feeling expressed in Committee, I hope that the Minister might be prevailed upon to reflect further before Third Reading, even though I accept that he has already moved some way from the original position of the Government—and once more I thank him for that.
My Lords, I speak to Amendment 14 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. I have put my name to this amendment, which is designed to give absolute clarity to the continued protection under the law of freedom of speech in our universities, something which the Joint Committee on Human Rights strongly recommended in its legislative scrutiny report. This amendment is very simple. The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, has spoken clearly on its effect. It locates the statutory duty to protect freedom of speech squarely in Clause 25. It gives clarity to the fact that the new statutory Prevent duty, subject to the existing obligations of universities, polytechnics and colleges to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure freedom of speech within the law, is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers.
I thank the Minister for his movement and recognition of some of what was said in Committee. However, throughout his amendment he adverts to the duty in relation to freedom of speech in universities which is imposed by Section 43(1) of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986, in terms both of the relationship between the new duty and the duties imposed under that Act on the universities, and of making the Secretary of State have “particular regard” to that duty in any guidance or directions issued. The difficulty I have is that surely universities must not only have particular regard but also comply with their obligations under Section 43. Therefore if they are trying to have due regard to a duty to prevent people being drawn into terrorism at the same time as having particular regard to something which they must do anyway, there is a conflict for them in the hierarchy, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, referred.
With respect, the amendment tabled by the Minister, Amendment 15D, is not as clear or effective as Amendment 14. I urge him to think very carefully about its limitations, and to accept the very real concerns articulated by so many leading academics and university vice-chancellors and chancellors that this Bill will seriously affect freedom of speech in the country. It will also affect our international reputation as the guardians of freedom of speech. The Prevent duty, as articulated in this context, would be a very blunt instrument. It will not prevent terrorists from using our universities as breeding and grooming grounds. That is best done by using more sophisticated means to identify and infiltrate groups who seek to recruit to terrorism through coffee shops, bars and things like that. We have a real battle to fight, but we must be cautious in the processes that we use so as to secure maximum impact in the fight, not to generate further unnecessary problems.
My Lords, there is no doubt that freedom of speech and universities is utterly essential. Without it, there can be no concept of a real university. Freedom of speech is of course a basic human right, but in a university it is the very bedrock on which its concept is founded.
A week ago, in Committee, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, reminded us that if a university loses freedom of speech—the right to discuss, examine, disseminate and comment on all manner of opinions in the widest possible range—it becomes an intellectual closed shop. I do not think that it could be better put than that. It is against that template that one has to consider all these matters.
I raise a point which follows very closely that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. It relates to Section 43 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986. The question is whether what is proposed by the Minister in Amendment 15D goes far enough. The fact that “particular regard” has to be paid leaves an open question as to exactly how the two concepts can sit together: the concept in Section 43 of freedom of speech in a university and the concept of statutory guidance, around which the clauses of Part 5 are built. To my mind, it still leaves a dubiety. That is why I support Amendment 14.
I am not sure exactly what wording should be used to improve the situation—it is always dangerous to try to make legislation on the hoof—but I should have thought that one could look to a different precedent. In Section 1 of the Children Act 1989, a court is enjoined, in dealing with a child’s case, to consider seven or eight different situations, but it is stated that the welfare of the child shall be regarded as the “paramount consideration”. Whether the word used is paramount or prime it could so be made clear that, where the two matters—the principles of Section 43 and those set out in the statutory directive—are in conflict, Section 43 should remain paramount.
Section 43 does not stand alone. Another very relevant section is Section 202 of the Education Reform Act 1988. That protects the employment of a person who may be teaching out-of-the-way subjects. Section 202 states that university commissioners,
“shall have regard to the need … to ensure that academic staff have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges they may have at their institutions”.
Why has Section 202 not been included in the same bounty as Section 43 of the 1986 Act in the Minister’s amendment? I am sure that he will pay close attention to that situation.
I also wish to raise a point which may or may not have relevance, which is the position of Wales. Like Scotland, Wales enjoys devolved powers in relation to higher education. Does the problem identified by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, apply to Wales? I do not think so, but I would like to be totally reassured on that point. These are not simple matters, but they are well worth our best and most detailed and concentrated attention at this very moment. I have very great respect for the Minister and indeed I have some sympathy with him, because 47 years ago—hard as that is to believe—I held exactly the same position in the other place as he does now, and dealt with the same subjects. These are matters which deserve our very best concentration.
In speaking to my Amendment 14A, I again declare an interest as warden of Wadham College, Oxford. Last week in Committee I put my name to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, the purpose of which was to remove universities entirely from the ambit of the Bill. I did so because of what seemed to me to be the self-evidently paramount importance of free speech in universities, and because the obligations that the Bill placed on universities appeared to conflict with their statutory duties under the Education Act 1986 to secure freedom of speech, not only in their institutions but for visiting speakers.
It is fair to say that in debate in Committee there was overwhelming support for the proposal that universities should be removed from the ambit of the
Bill. I remain firmly of the view that the definition of “non-violent extremism”, which the Minister has recently set out again, is absolutely hopeless in its application to universities. This is because one can with the greatest of ease imagine all sorts of discussions, lectures and seminars taking place on topics which would be caught by the Government’s definition, and people in those lectures and seminars expressing intellectual views which would also fall under the definition. As far as I am concerned, it is hopeless for the Government to seek to apply such a definition to universities, which are particular places of debate, discussion and intellectual inquiry.
There was overwhelming support in debates—virtually every Peer who spoke did so in favour of the removal of universities from the scope of the Bill—yet, when winding up, those on the Opposition Front Bench made clear that they would be unable to support such a proposition, so last week I tabled a further amendment. The purpose of this Amendment 14A was to secure some reassurance that any risk that the Bill would undermine academic freedom would be mitigated, by placing in the Bill an obligation on universities to approach their duties under it in the light of their pre-existing free speech obligations under the Education Act. Like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, obviously I was pleased when on Monday the Government tabled their own amendment, which in effect secures the same thing.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, I should have liked much more on this, for all the reasons which she articulated so ably. I should be delighted if the Government were minded to accede to her amendment. Nevertheless, it seems to me to be important that we secure the Government’s acknowledgment—and an acknowledgment on the face of the Bill—that these provisions apply to universities only within the critical context of their statutory freedom of expression duties. This is so that in future it cannot be argued that those duties are displaced by the passage of the Bill: they are not. The Government’s amendment seems to me to make explicit that they are not. I am grateful to the Minister for securing the Government’s movement, such as it is, on this important and fundamental issue.
Today I found a piece of satire that said:
“Top universities a ‘breeding ground’ for Tories, warn Islamic groups”.
Accompanying this, there was a photograph of the Bullingdon Club from a certain era.
In my experience—and I, too, declare an interest as being the principal of Mansfield College, Oxford—universities are more or less breeding grounds for people who want to get a job. In fact, in many universities, there is not enough debate and sharing of ideas, because the real drama is around acquiring the kind of qualifications that will do well in the job market. Universities, as has been said, should and must be places for the exchange of ideas. Yet already there are concerns that, even as it stands, there are real pressures on universities around the issue of inviting speakers. For example, there was a piece in the Guardian’s online comment pages by Dr Karma Nabulsi, an academic at Oxford who speaks regularly at other universities, saying that constraints are already felt by universities—that if, for example, someone seeks to invite in a speaker on Islam, for comparative religion, some universities become very sensitive and anxious. If there is an invitation to a speaker on Islamic studies or the history of religion, anxiety is expressed and often the support of the police is encouraged and advice is sought from external sources. So the chilling effect is very worrying for the academic world.
When I chaired the British Council in that period from 1998 to 2004, we did a lot of work in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. One of the great things about going to universities there, when we did various projects, was how academics talked about the iconic value of academic freedom, which they associated with Britain and of which they had been deprived for so long. That is something that we should feel proud of. In this Chamber, particularly, we often go back to this business of the pride that we take in British values and wax lyrical about the importance of freedom and liberty—yet, at the same time, here we are, when it comes to the bit, going into retreat.
I support the position taken by my noble friend Lady Lister. I feel that universities should not have been included in this legislation and that voluntarism is the way forward. We should not be creating a statutory duty because adult institutions of learning are different. They are where the great debates happen—the exchange of ideas—and they are the crucible in which people formulate ideas and in which ideas can be challenged. You could create a different set of arguments as to why you exclude universities. However, given that that is not going to be the direction of travel—and I greatly regret that my Front Bench is being required to retreat from taking that principled stand—I urge on this House to consider the amendments proposed by my noble friend Lady Lister. I welcome and pay tribute to the Minister for seeking to keep pushing this issue to a better place, and I thank the Home Office for doing that, and for the efforts of those involved. However, we are still not there. We are getting a parity as between the duties, when we should be saying that academic freedom has to be prioritised; it should be the duty which has primacy, because it is so important and something that we value so greatly when we talk about “British values”.
I know that we are getting towards the closing days of this Parliament and that there is anxiety about not spilling over in our time, but I urge the Minister to go back before Third Reading and see whether we cannot have a formulation that gives primacy to academic freedom. The complaints and anxieties of the many academics as well as others in the academic world who have expressed concern are not trivial; they are being expressed for a reason. That is one reason why our institutions of higher and further education are respected around the world. We have to be the protectors of this, and I hope that we can find a formulation that is better than the one that we currently have.
My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 14. This is one of those moments when I feel, as I suspect other noble Lords also feel, quite frustrated by the procedures of this House. In a way, it is a pity that we cannot hear from my noble friend the Minister about his amendment ahead of the debate. If that were possible we could perhaps give our reasons why some of us feel that, although we are hugely grateful to him for tabling it, his amendment is still—to put it politely—a little timid. There remains a lack of clarity. But there we are; we have the situation as it stands.
Obviously, I support Amendment 14. As a fellow member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, I will not seek to repeat everything that other JCHR members—including the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister, Lady O’Loan and Lady Kennedy of The Shaws—have said already. We looked at this subject extremely carefully when we considered the legislation as a committee.
Although we are, as I say, grateful that my noble friend has brought forward his amendment, he will not be surprised to hear that there is still a lack of clarity. I think that that was demonstrated by the letter in the Guardian yesterday. It was sent by 500 signatories who are genuinely concerned about academic freedom. I would point out one part of the letter in particular. It states:
“Ensuring colleges and universities can continue to debate difficult and unpopular issues is a vital part”— of responding—
“to acts of terror against UK”,
citizens. It said that it is important,
“to maintain and defend an open, democratic society in which discriminatory behaviour of any kind is effectively challenged”.
We want to be sure that when this legislation leaves your Lordships’ House, there is real clarity and an acceptance and understanding among the academic community and others that we have done all that we can to ensure that the Prevent duty cannot be used to prevent lawful speech. As I said on Second Reading and again in Committee, for so many young people, university is their first opportunity away from home to be able to debate openly and freely and to hear other points of view from different cultures. Therefore, to send out a message that that possibility has been diffused in any way would be a great mistake.
I wonder why—as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, has said—my noble friend the Minister’s amendment does not deal with Scotland. Perhaps that silence is due to the Bill team’s lack of time to respond to our request for referencing Scotland. Perhaps it is to do with negotiations; perhaps it is because the Minister has a strong argument for why Scotland should not be included. We are, as I said, somewhat compromised, because although we will hear from my noble friend, we will not be able to respond.
I hope my noble friend is able to take on board the fact—I think that this feeling is shared around your Lordships’ House—that we have come an awfully long way since the meeting that took place only, probably, three weeks ago. My noble friend as well as the Minister from another place came and gave us and others in another part of your Lordships’ House the time to listen to the concerns of the academic community and others about these clauses. I should perhaps declare that I am not a member of the academic community. We very much hope that we can be more persuasive today.
My Lords, this has been a long and fascinating debate and, like other speakers, I pay tribute to the Minister for his rationality, willingness to conciliate and awareness of the seriousness of these issues. Like my noble friends who have spoken, I wish that we were able to go further and to have a government amendment which expressed terms such as “statutory duty” and “the role of university personnel” with much greater clarity. As on previous occasions, I wish our Front Bench had not been less than wholehearted on this matter and taken a view, which many of us knew nothing about, which apparently has guaranteed academic freedom—so that is all right then. It is not a satisfactory position.
I speak not as a party person but as someone who has spent his entire career in the university world. I was a university teacher—I am a university teacher now in my retirement in King’s College—and I was a vice-chancellor for seven years. Universities are a unique marketplace for ideas—that is their ultimate purpose. They may additionally assist with creating wealth and giving local employment but their main function is to be uninhibitedly and courageously involved in ideas, particularly language. If we are talking about terms such as “terrorism” or elements which are conducive or similar to terrorism, you need extreme clarity, including the capacity to debate these matters.
I was concerned when we had a helpful meeting the other day that the reasonableness of the Minister was not paralleled by his government colleague, who talked not about terrorism but about pathways to terrorism. It seems that if you produce a concept which is in the mind of terrorists you are automatically creating a pathway. However, pathways cover many things. They can emerge in an unexpected way and can lead nowhere or everywhere. My friend, the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, referred to the University of Wales, where he knows I had the pleasure of working with him, and how a pathway, when we were talking about the theme of nationalism, led to one or two misguided people blowing up buildings. That was not a necessary consequence of that debate. The effect of opening up the theme of what nationalism was—its different political and cultural expressions and so on—had a civilising effect and nationalism resulted not in bombs but in devolution being debated in this House and on the statute book. Pathway is a dangerous concept. Non-violent extremism has been dismissed as nonsensical by other noble Lords and I need not stress that again.
I wish to make two more points: this duty is unworkable and it is wrong. It is unworkable because I can say that as a vice-chancellor—perhaps other vice-chancellors will disagree—it would not have been possible to carry out this role, this statutory duty: we would be obliged by the nature of our professional role not to apply it. As I say, the purpose is for universities to be free to debate ideas. You would be forced to discuss with student societies who they were going to invite, whether alternative views would be presented and what the general tone would be. You would, in effect, be censoring or monitoring the interchange of ideas in a way which is not compatible with being the head of or a senior figure in a university.
The nature and the force of the statutory duty and the way in which it would be exercised are still not clear in the Bill. It appears to have satisfied our Front Bench but it has not satisfied me or people such as my noble friends who have first-hand experience of working in universities. So, first, it is completely unworkable. It would destroy the very essence of collegial collaboration within a university institution and the element of trust which is absolutely essential to the way in which a university operates.
Finally, this duty is wrong. It is trying to undermine precious, unique and special institutions in this country which are honoured all over the world. These institutions do different things: they are impressive for their intellectual standards, which are widely acknowledged and admired, and for their internationalism. The whole point of being in a university is that everyone is equal there; you do not identify or marginalise any particular minority groups. To even suggest that universities should do anything other than what they do and act as a kind of thought police is deeply damaging to something which has been a pride of the history of this country for many centuries.
I hope that the Minister, with the tolerance, rationality and courtesy that he has shown, will feel able to go further and pursue the path suggested by other noble Lords of removing universities from the Bill.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a former independent adjudicator for higher education, in which role I received complaints from students from every university. So I have that experience in addition to having spent decades at Oxford.
I take the unusual position that whether or not these amendments are passed it will make absolutely no difference to the law. They are tautologous. They say that one has to have regard to freedom of speech within the law. However, if the Bill is passed, freedom of speech within the law will mean that the law in this Bill is incorporated, so it will not take you any further.
Sadly, over the past 30 years academic freedom, which is one thing, and freedom of speech in the universities, which is another, have been savaged. I wish I could share the rosy view of academic freedom put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Morgan and Lord Elystan-Morgan. Some noble Lords may recall that in 1988 all university statutes were arbitrarily removed and new ones imposed without consent which removed academic tenure. The House must know that the selection of students is controlled, one way and another, by the state to the nth degree, as is the direction of research. I do not have the time to go into it but academic freedom has been greatly undermined.
As to freedom of speech, again, sadly, there are umpteen laws that reduce it in the university. I do not have time to go into all of them but they include protection against harassment and racial and religious hatred. Can your Lordships imagine what would happen if someone turned up as a lecturer or as a visitor to say that one race was inferior to another? They would not get to the end of their lecture, I can assure you. There are some things that ought not to be said—and, indeed, are not said—but there is no absolute freedom of speech. The Equality Act 2010 put special duties on universities to promote racial harmony between different groups on campus and the Terrorism Acts of 2000 and 2006 likewise curbed freedom of speech. I am sorry to shatter the illusion but it is not there any more, not as we would wish it to be. To say that in promoting the objects of this Act, as it will be, the universities will have to have regard to freedom of speech within the law simply means that they will have to have regard, whatever that means, to freedom of speech as already curtailed as I have described, plus as it will be curtailed, for good or ill, by this Act. So I do not mind whether or not the amendments are accepted because they do not mean much legally.
I remind the House that it is not in the academic arena where the trouble, if any, arises; it is with the visiting speakers and the societies. Under the Education Act 1986 universities already have onerous duties in regard to risk assessment, stopping speeches if necessary and checking on visiting speakers. They have codes of practice on this which, I have to say, are very often ignored. There is nothing new about this. They chafe, but it has been the law for 20 or 30 years that there have to be checks on visiting speakers.
However, this has not stopped some speakers from being howled down. Again, I have not the time to give examples, but I can assure noble Lords that visiting ambassadors sometimes get howled down; that other speakers get hassled and jostled; that there are meetings where cries go up of “Kill the Jews” and that sort of thing, when the Middle East is debated. It is not a happy situation. I wish it were better, but it is not. Basically, I am saying that this will not make much difference. We should also recall that some 30% of those convicted of offence—
I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. Will she accept that this Bill does make a difference, even with these provisions in it? Universities will now be under a legal obligation to follow directions imposed by the Government, which goes beyond the legislation to which she has already referred.
It is the amendments which I do not think will make any difference. Whether the noble Lord’s dire predictions will be the case remains to be seen but I am very worried about the situation that already exists with interference. I have a list—again I will not trouble your Lordships with it. There are lists of convicted terrorists who sadly went through our universities—the underpants bomber on the plane, the man who drove his car into Glasgow airport, and so on. I only wish it were as some noble Lords remember in their youth, but it is not. Because of the umpteen laws that we already have about circumscribing freedom of speech, whether or not we pass these amendments will not, in my view, make any difference, sadly.
My Lords, we ought to realise that we are talking not just about the problems of terrorism but about something which has been much wider than that. I am very concerned about the situation in which we now find ourselves.
It is 55 years since my right honourable friend Kenneth Clarke and I debated with Sir Oswald Mosley in front of 2,000 students at Cambridge University. There were many who wanted him banned, but we said that if there was to be a new generation of students who understood the threat of fascism, they had to hear the arguments and we had to respond to them. We had the response because the Jewish Society went to huge trouble to give us all the evidence from Sir Oswald Mosley’s activities before the war. Noble Lords may remember that that would have been a time when we were a generation who knew nothing of this, but I venture to say that a whole group of people went away from university knowing how to argue the case and understanding what this very emollient, brilliant speaker was really like. It was from that moment that I became an even more enthusiastic supporter of the concept of the freedom of speech as a mechanism against extremism.
I want to say to my noble friend that we are at this moment in a very dangerous position. A close friend of mine, an Anglican priest—a man whom I would vouch for in any circumstances—has just been sacked as the episcopal chaplain to Yale because he dared to write a letter in response to others in the New York Times. It was a very moderate and reasonable letter in which he talked about the activities in Gaza of Prime Minister Netanyahu. No one in this House would have thought that an unsuitable letter to write, but he was sacked.
In the past few years, there have been many occasions in universities when people who hold unpopular views have been unplatformed in one way or another—for example, people who want to argue the case against abortion. I think that is an argument that it is proper to have on whatever side you stand. However, there are universities where it is almost impossible to have that debate.
One of the problems that we are faced with is that my noble friend has a real difficulty. We have a terrorist threat which is greater than we have had certainly in our lifetimes. It is a threat which is particularly difficult because it is associated not only in the popular mind but, because of certain facts, with a section of the community. Therefore, those of us who seek racial integration have to be extremely careful in the way in which we handle this threat, but we also have to recognise that it is a threat. It is not acceptable just to say, “Well, you know, we will just have to put up with it”. That is not where we are today.
I understand my noble friend’s problem, but I remind him that down the ages the threat of terrorism has been used to restrict the freedoms which the terrorists wish to remove. That is the fundamental problem. I worry immediately when we ask universities to inform upon and to investigate, and to assess what is a proper debate and what is not a proper debate, because I happen to believe that there are no improper debates in universities. There are improper actions as a result of debates; there are improper actions during debates; but to put a case and to argue the case is an essential part of university education.
I thank my noble friend for his amendment. If he had not tabled this amendment, I think I would have found myself very hard put to support any of this part of the Bill. However, I hope that he will have listened carefully to what others have said. I do not want universities to be able to use this as an excuse for interfering not only in these subjects but in others. That is my worry. It is not the worry as put forward in the excellent speech of the introducer of the lead amendment. My worry is that, by analogy, people will say, “Just as we have to think about terrorism in this way, so we have to think about this or that unpopular view”, whether it is an issue of left or right, an issue of morality or an issue of politics. I hope that my noble friend will give me an assurance that, if he feels that he cannot say that his amendment covers that, he will go away and think again to ensure that the narrowness which he hoped to apply to this matter is sufficiently safeguarded. I do not want to have a world in which today’s version of those students cannot have that debate with today’s Sir Oswald Mosley—with today’s fascists, communists, or extremists of any kind. If that were true, we would have sold out on a central British value.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Deben may remember that the subsection in the 1986 Act was embedded in that Act precisely to combat the no-platform developments that had taken place in the 1980s. Like others, I hope that the Minister will have listened to this debate and may be able to give us greater clarification than there is in the amendment he has brought forward. We had a debate in the first group about the hierarchy of regard—due regard and particular regard—which perhaps has relevance to this. It would be good if one could feel that that was embedded.
Amendment 14C is in my name and those of my noble friends Lady Hamwee, Lady Brinton and Lady Williams of Crosby. So far in this debate, as we did very largely in the debate in Committee, we have talked about universities, and I was very pleased to see that the Minister’s amendment makes express reference to further education colleges. Many noble Lords may not realise that there are some 850,000 young people aged 16 to 18 studying in further education colleges compared to 441,000 in schools. A very large number of young people in further education colleges—something like 100,000—are studying for higher education qualifications. So further education colleges are a very important part of the hierarchy.
I have a specific question for the Minister: where do sixth form colleges fall? There is explicit mention of further education colleges but there is no mention of sixth form colleges, which were in fact, under recent legislation, made into a separate category of college. Perhaps I can leave that thought with the Minister, and he and his Bill team can ponder on it and see whether it is perhaps necessary to make some minor further amendment.
Amendment 14C, which I want to speak to, is a very different amendment from the ones to date. It is a fairly straightforward amendment, which asks that the guidance, when issued,
“shall recognise the respective duties of specified authorities in the education sector … to secure freedom of speech … to promote tolerance and encourage respect for democracy and … participation in it … to offer a broad and balanced curriculum promoting spiritual, moral and cultural development”.
As I say, it is less specific, but in some ways a lot broader, than the other amendments that are being considered in this group.
Schools are already subject to a fair number of statutory duties which embody these issues. The Education and Skills Act 2008 requires schools to promote British values and respect for the civil and criminal law, to further tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions, and to encourage respect for democracy and support for participation in it. The Education Act 2002, which is referred to in the Academies Act 2010, requires schools to offer,
“a balanced and broadly based curriculum which … promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of … the school and of society, and … prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life”.
The Education Act 1996 includes duties not to express,
“partisan political views in the teaching of any subject”,
or to allow pupils to pursue “partisan political activities”.
We have rather deliberately widened the framework in the amendment we have put forward. It is important to recognise that very many young people of the ages of 15, 16 and 17 who are in schools or colleges are very susceptible to the propaganda of extremism. They are active users of Facebook and other social media and, as adolescents, are keen to challenge authority. Throughout their lives, they have often lived, through television, with violence and horror. Our education institutions, as a whole, have a very important role to balance these influences and, as we say in this amendment,
“to promote tolerance and … respect for democracy”.
We talk about British values, but surely at the heart of British values is freedom of speech.
My Lords, not for the first time in my political life, I applauded every word of the noble Lord, Lord Deben. I hope that that does not embarrass him. Thank God for what he said, and I hope his noble friend the Minister listened, because it was a very powerful argument. In talking about his noble friend listening, I want to put on the record that I believe that the Minister we have leading for the Government on this debate does listen. What he has put forward today is an indication of how he listens and how he is prepared to argue in government for what he has heard. I beg him to accept that those of us who want to encourage him to persuade his friends to go still further are not doing this with any sense of hostility but are trying to support him in the pathway he has now chosen to take towards the position that the rest of us find ourselves in.
I hope that I will be forgiven if, just for a moment, I introduce an international perspective of a different kind in this debate. I am sure that I was not alone this morning as I heard and studied the reports of the latest depravity by ISIS. I almost despaired—if humankind is capable of this, what can happen? But then I found myself turning back very strongly to the conviction which I have had, probably tentatively, from a young age that peace, understanding, stability and decency are built in the minds of men and women. It is not therefore a cliché to say that we are in a battle for hearts and minds—we are. Central to that battle for hearts and minds—the powerhouse of it—is higher education and the universities. That is why the arguments that we have been hearing from all sides today have been so important.
I sometimes allow a little element of cynicism to creep into my mind and think that some of the proposals that come forward, not least what originally came forward from the Government here, might almost have been scripted by the highly intelligent, ruthless leaders of movements such as ISIS. This was almost beginning to do exactly what they want us to do in beginning to undermine and limit those things which are central to the fabric of everything that we say we believe in.
From that standpoint, I hope that the Government will see the profound dangers of a gigantic own goal and of a victory for the ruthless extremists. This is the time when we have to make absolutely clear that we stand for something totally different. The central powerhouse of that is thought, analysis and creative intelligence, and the workplace for that is the universities of our society. It is not just what course should be done, what is acceptable or what lecture is not acceptable; it is the whole atmosphere and ethos of the place. Anything that undermines that destroys something that is an absolute lodestar of the things we say we believe in.
My Lords, I added my name to Amendment 14A, to which the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, spoke. I very much welcome Amendment 15D, tabled by the Minister, which goes a very long way to addressing the concerns that were expressed around the House in Committee and have been expressed again here today. It puts on the face of the Bill that these new Prevent duties for universities are to be read and understood alongside their duties to protect freedom of speech—and, indeed, that particular regard must be given to free speech.
Some noble Lords have expressed concern today about a lack of clarity, but free speech is not absolute, even in universities. It has to be balanced against other considerations; the balance must depend on the particular circumstances, and the guidance will be of particular importance in this regard. All the more welcome, therefore, is the amendment that we will discuss in a later group that ensures that the guidance must be approved by a positive resolution of both Houses.
I most respectfully do not agree with my former tutor, the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, that Amendment 15D will make no difference to the law of the land. I would expect the courts to say, reading the new clause as part of the Bill, that the Part 5 duties must not unreasonably or unnecessarily restrict or impede the performance of the universities’ core function, which is and remains to promote academic inquiry.
I have two questions for the Minister concerning his Amendment 15D. The first arises out of the fact that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord,
Lord Macdonald, and me refers both to freedom of expression and academic freedom. The Minister’s amendment does not mention academic freedom. Can the Minister confirm—I hope he can give a positive response to this—that it is unnecessary expressly to mention academic freedom in his amendment, because in the context of a university, academic freedom is implicit in the very notion of securing freedom of expression? That would be my understanding, but I would very much welcome his reassurance on that.
Secondly, there are limits to the scope of the Minister’s Amendment 15D, because it incorporates the duty of freedom of expression in relation to three aspects of Part 5 of the Bill. New subsection (2) applies freedom of expression to the duty of universities under Clause 25(1). New subsection (3) applies this freedom of expression duty to the role of the Secretary of the State in issuing guidance under Clause 28 and the role of the Secretary of State when considering whether to issue directions under Clause 29.
However, there are two important aspects of the Part 5 scheme to which this new clause on freedom of expression does not appear to apply. One is the duty of universities under Clause 28(2) to “have regard” to the guidance, and the other concerns the duties of monitoring authorities under Clause 30. The freedom of expression duty applies to neither of those important matters, and I am concerned about that. So this is my second question. Will the Minister tell us—he might be unable or unwilling to answer today, but I would very much welcome an answer before Third Reading on Monday—whether there is a reason why his new freedom of expression clause, which I welcome, does not apply to Clause 28(2), the duty of universities to have regard to the guidance, or Clause 30, the duty of monitoring authorities? Would he please look at the matter before Third Reading to consider whether it might be better to include those matters also within this new provision?
I have attached my name to Amendment 14C, and rather than repeat the points made by my noble friend Lady Sharp of Guildford, I will just say that I endorse them. I will make a comment and then ask my noble friend the Minister a question on his Amendment 15D—which, as many other noble Lords have said this evening, takes us some way forward. I am grateful to the Minister and his civil servants for coming back with a proposal that means that we can actually discuss some of the boundaries—and therein lies my question. This relates to guidance: in particular, we discussed in Committee the revisions of the guidance to some of the very specific duties about checking presentations and making sure that people had been trained in specified authorities.
I have a more fundamental question about paragraph 50 in the current guidance, which I do not believe was proposed to be amended. It says that,
“universities must take seriously their responsibility to exclude those promoting extremist views that support or are conducive to terrorism”.
It is the phrase, “their responsibility to exclude”, that I want to focus on.
I am not sure that the qualifying statement,
“that support or are conducive to terrorism”,
is sufficiently clear as to provide reassurance. It is already illegal to directly or indirectly encourage others to commit terrorist acts, and universities are obliged to exclude those who do so. Beyond this, it is not clear which views should be understood to be conducive to terrorism. Non-violent extremism is not generally unlawful, and the Prevent strategy defines extremism as,
“vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values”.
These values and concepts include those that are rightly the subject of debate and consideration in universities. It is not appropriate for universities to be required to exclude those who lawfully oppose them.
“addresses terrorism and not extremism”,
which he described as, “a highly subjective concept”. I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that the Secretary of State’s comments will be fully reflected in future versions of the guidance; and that universities will not be required to exclude from campuses those who, while acting within the law, advocate views that are classed as extreme.
My Lords, I will briefly remark on the labyrinthine complexity of the law in relation to education and universities as it is already. I have a terrible anxiety that this Bill—well intentioned as it may be—along with the guidance, will add a dimension of further complexity that will be counterproductive to a quite significant degree. It is going to make the task of the authorities in schools and universities—and I should declare an interest as a former Chancellor of the University of Essex—burdensome to a remarkable degree. I support this group of amendments, but very much hope that the Minister, who has a gargantuan task in shepherding through this Bill, will tell us whether there is any prospect at all that this side of the finalisation of our deliberations, anything could be done to cast light and clarity on what I believe is a forest fit only for lawyers.
Finally, I echo what many others have said, most recently the noble Lord, Lord Deben: that it is so easy to contrive a situation in legislation that is counterproductive. I have a fear bordering on a certainty that the good intentions of the Bill will prove to be just that: because what I believe the Government have not taken nearly enough into account is that universities are engines of enlightenment, truth, fact and tolerance. However, what is being imposed upon them will have a chilling and bureaucratic effect, particularly—I repeat—via the guidance that, we must not forget, as the Joint Committee on Human Rights put it, will expose universities to being found,
“in breach of the new duty and therefore subject to direction by the Secretary of State and, ultimately, a mandatory court order backed by criminal sanctions for contempt of court”.
I fear that it will end up undermining the unique virtues of the university sector. Of course, that would be the ultimate farce because the Bill is designed to uphold the values of which universities are exemplars.
My Lords, I speak as a teacher of courses on Islam and the Middle East, in both the UK and Strasbourg. I support the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, as I am beginning to feel that it will be impossible to teach a course that explains what Muslims think, what their ideas are or the way they think without at one point or another being accused of promoting terrorism. My courses are controversial. Particularly, Muslims object to what I say. Parents of Muslim women object to what I say, as do many British people. I would like to feel that universities remain places where people such as myself can teach courses that are controversial but can be enlightening and prevent future terrorists from finding that they have no refuge anywhere.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Bates has done an amazing job in inching this legislation slowly towards becoming a bearable and acceptable piece of law. However, we are not there yet. I put on record my thanks for my noble friend’s two amendments. One of them still awaits greater clarification. I am still not clear what the hierarchy is of, in particular, “due” and other kinds of regard. It is important that that is made clear. In doing so, I hope that my noble friend will recognise—as I am sure he will—that the heart of university education lies in academic freedom. Therefore, it is not one of a number of considerations but at the very centre of what it is to have a free system of tertiary education. My noble friend can get there but we need another little heave before he does.
The second thing I thank my noble friend for is the movement towards making sure that the so-called guidance is subjected to parliamentary consideration. We all appreciate that very much, not just because it helps to make the guidance itself clearer and reflect the experience of Parliament but because it is essential in dealing with terrorism that we bring into the pattern the greatest possible commitment by Parliament and all parts of university, not least including students. I will talk a little further about that later. At this point, I simply contribute the thought that it is critical that Parliament should be a significant part of the whole of this legislation so that it can exercise its wisdom, experience and commitment. Secondly, as we discussed, I hope my noble friend, for whom I have a great deal of respect, will recognise that academic freedom is not one of a number of priorities but the central one.
My Lords, I add my voice to these questions about the guidance that may be issued. I very much welcome the fact that such guidance would have to be approved by both Houses before it came into force but we have heard about one sort of guidance which raises particular fears for anybody who cares about freedom of speech or academic freedom.
I must declare an interest. Yesterday evening, I was a visiting lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University, speaking on an extremely dangerous topic: freedom of expression. I distinguished different conceptions of freedom of expression and had a very engaged audience who had a great deal to say and came from many directions. Now, I said the other day in our debate that I am not one of those lecturers who always has her full text available in advance. I give too many visiting lectures in the course of a year—probably about 40—for that. At that rate, as this is an ancillary, unpaid activity, I cannot be held responsible for producing text at some defined moment such as a fortnight ahead. I would simply have to give it up. I hope the Minister realises how much of the intellectual life of our country flows through visiting occasions—seminars, lectures, panel discussions and the like—in and also beyond universities for which providing prior texts is just not feasible.
I have a definite point to make here. The first arguments about freedom of expression—which we then called freedom of speech or freedom of the press in this country—opposed the idea of prior restraint. The former Member of Parliament for Hull, Mr John Milton, put this argument admirably in the mid-17th century in his great work, Areopagitica. Prior restraint is what he called “licensing” and “misdoubt”. Can the Minister give the House an undertaking that we will not get into prior restraint, thereby taking British values back to where they were in the middle of the 17th century, if not further? Without prior restraint, some things can go on. It is not enough but I think the House would probably welcome an undertaking from the Minister when he winds up that prior restraint will not be one of the methods by which guidance is imposed.
My Lords, I will be extremely brief but I support the very powerful speech made by my noble friend Lord Deben. I was actually in the audience when he and Kenneth Clarke debated with Sir Oswald Mosley. I remember shouting out some rather abrasive heckles at Sir Oswald Mosley and getting a rather rude reply. My noble friend was absolutely right in what he said: the meeting demonstrated very much the shortcomings of the arguments put forward by Sir Oswald Mosley, and the British movement before the war as well.
I have one or two points about the guidelines. I know we will come to an amendment on them later, but given the way that this House works I suspect a lot of future debates will get collapsed into this particular amendment. As I said earlier when I intervened rather rudely on the Minister, what particularly bothers me is this whole concept of non-violent extremism. I listened to his answer but, to be honest, did not really feel that it really met the point—I will study it very carefully in the Official Report tomorrow in case I missed something.
The point I addressed particularly was about this meeting where I spoke, along with the editor of the Sunday Telegraph, at Queen Mary college in London. The meeting consisted entirely of Muslim students, a large number of whom made it very clear that they did not support terrorism or violence but wished to dispute the basis of western democracy and elections. They preferred a more consultative process—Shura—rather than western democracy, and I and the editor of the Sunday Telegraph argued with them. I believe that it was a good thing to hold that meeting openly, on the campus, and have that thoroughly aired. At the end of the meeting, some expressed some sympathy with what was said and some did not. However, I do not believe for one minute that it would have been right to ban such a meeting. That seems to be an example of exactly this phrase, “non-violent extremism”. We should be careful here. As the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, said, so many things restrict freedom of speech in this country already.
There are many things in the guidelines that I think are open to argument. The noble Lord, Lord Morgan, highlighted the talk of “pathways”. That struck a chord with me, because there is a sentence about,
“intervening to stop people moving from extremist (albeit legal) groups into terrorist-related activity”.
How, precisely, is one to stop people moving from a legal group into something that is illegal? There is also the sentence:
“Islamic extremists specifically attack the principles of civic participation”.
That relates directly to the meeting that I attended at Queen Mary college in London—and I would say it was a very good thing that we discussed whether to participate or not to participate.
Various people have commented on the guidance for speakers at universities, and stressed the point—I shall not make it again—that it is most unlikely that speakers will have a full text. I gave a lecture at a university last week, and I shall not disclose, for fear of offending the university, how late I left the preparation of my remarks.
The guidance also mentions:
“A system for assessing and rating risks”.
If ever I heard of a box-ticking exercise, it is “rating risks”. Are people going to give someone seven out of 10 because he is more dangerous than someone who only gets five out of 10? This, I am afraid, reminds me of the FSA—or the FCA, as it now is—which thinks that it will somehow prevent a financial disaster if risks are rated on a scale of one to 10.
Lastly, there is the point that my noble friend Lord Renfrew raised last week in an intervention on the Minister, when he asked, “What about societies at universities, as opposed to universities themselves?”. If my recollection is right, and if I heard the Minister correctly, I think he said that there would be no problem with societies. However, the guidance document contains a whole section on “Student unions and societies”, in which we are told that they must have regard to who comes to speak to them, what the speaker’s platform is, what supervision there is to see that people can be allowed to challenge them, and so on. There are even phrases about “managing prayer … facilities”. Why should prayers be managed by some sort of authority? This all seems to me far too intrusive, and I would be grateful if the Minister gave the assurance that a lot of these things will be looked at—and, I hope, dropped.
My Lords, I support the comments made by my noble friends Lord Deben and Lord Lamont. It may give my noble friends some comfort—or perhaps some concern—when I say that I have many a grey hair from having held these very conversations over a period of four years. Conversations have gone on within government over and over again about what the definitions of “extremism” and “non-violent extremism” are and about where legitimate debate ends and concerns about terrorism and extremism start. Fortunately, the Government did move to a position of providing further definition, but that now has consequences that affect what we are trying to do with the Bill.
I want to raise two specific practical issues in relation to the amendments. The first is about Islamic societies. There is no doubt that there is a battle of ideas within Islam. Certainly there are conversations going on among British Muslims about the flexibility within Islam and the parameters of how Islam should be interpreted, especially within a state where it exists in a minority form, as opposed to a country where Islam is in the majority. These are very real discussions, which need to be had. They will determine what Islam looks like in Britain in a decade’s time and how Britain can feel at ease with a religion that is more comfortable within that environment.
Those debates need to be had, and they are being had, and one of the places where they need to take place is within universities. Specifically, they need to take place in Islamic societies within universities. We have all heard of individual incidents of Islamic societies in universities having had speakers, or having said something, or having configured their meeting, in a way that could be considered unacceptable. Many British Muslim parents who send their children to universities have, in the past, sat down and had “the talk”. That talk does not relate to drugs, sex or anything else that may be more freely available at university. It relates to Islamic societies, and it goes something like this: “When you go there, you need to be careful about some of the ideas you’ll hear. You may want to stay away from those ideas, because you could get in with a group who may have very extreme ideas, and those are not the people we want you to get involved with”.
However, the talk in my household goes further. It says, “Yes, you will meet people who don’t have great ideas, and have ideas you may not agree with. That’s why you’re going to university, because part of your job is to challenge those ideas. So make sure you turn up at Islamic societies. Don’t let people with extreme views take over those societies just because the majority of you want to stay away because they have views you don’t agree with”. But if the provisions in the Bill are enacted without these amendments, the talk from parents like me will become, “Stay away completely, because you could be caught up in something that would label you as an extremist”. That would not be encouraging debate—that very real debate that needs to happen within Islam about the battle of ideas and about what British Islam will look like in a decade. We must not stifle that debate.
The second very practical issue is one that I have now been raising for a number of weeks, both in this Chamber and in the media. That is the Government’s position on engagement. There has been a debate within government about whether we should engage with the Federation of Student Islamic Societies—FOSIS. Some within government consider that organisation beyond the pale. It is the umbrella organisation for Islamic societies throughout the country, and it is an important organisation, as it represents a large number of Muslim students on campus.
There has been no official indication or evidence to show that this is an extremist group that should not be engaged with, but because the Government have taken that view, and because of the climate and culture that has been created, FOSIS is not formally engaged with. Indeed, I was criticised for engaging with FOSIS when there was a meeting right here in Parliament, which many parliamentarians attended. My concern about the duty in relation to universities is that if the message goes out from government that FOSIS is not an organisation that we engage with, it will therefore, by default, be seen as an extremist organisation. It will therefore, also by default, be an organisation that can no longer operate on university campuses. Therefore Islamic societies, too, will be organisations that can no longer operate on university campuses, because universities will have a Prevent duty to stop potential terrorism, which it is thought could be caused by this extremism that the Government believe is on a linear journey towards terrorism.
Universities, of course, in protecting themselves, will go for the position that makes them most secure. That will have a chilling effect, and will ultimately lead to a stifling of the very conversations that need to take place. There will be a chilling effect in the very communities that can, in the end, be the biggest answer to dealing with the issues of radicalisation and terrorism and those discussions will not be allowed to happen.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a former Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office and as a former chancellor of the University of Hull. I have therefore listened to this debate with great interest and concern. I find myself in a situation that was described in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. I agreed with everything he said then, although I shall not repeat it.
The debate has swayed around the issue, and it seems very difficult for us to try to assign primacy between the duties under the Bill and the duties towards freedom of speech. The duty of preserving freedom of speech is, as so many speakers have said, of fundamental importance. However, we have seen that it is possible for people who wish to do so to be rather successful in radicalisation within the restrictions on freedom of speech within the law, so I have sympathy with what the Government are trying to achieve.
The merit of Amendment 14A proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Macdonald and Lord Pannick, and Amendment 15D proposed by the Government is that while the duties obviously conflict, the ultimate choice of what to do is left to the universities. No primacy on one or the other duty is expressed. The decision is left, presumably case by case, to the universities. That seems to be almost the only position possible if we are to retain some kind of inhibition on radicalisation in places of higher education.
My Lords, there have been some memorable speeches this evening. I want to add just a word or two. I have an interest: I have four children, two of whom are Muslims, and 12 grandchildren, seven of whom are Muslims. They are as indignant as anybody else about the outrages that are committed from time to time by members of their religion. They would be wholly supportive of everything that has been said in this debate.
Amendment 15D, as proposed by the Minister, seems to deal satisfactorily—with some exceptions which I propose to mention—with the main issue in this debate; that is, to reconcile the conflict between, on the one hand, the duty on universities to encourage and allow freedom of expression, and, on the other, the Clause 25(1) duty to protect people from being influenced into terrorism. Amendment 15D seems to deal with that, subject to some grammatical points on its second subsection where it refers to the two relevant duties.
One of the duties, imposed by Clause 25(1), is to protect people against terrorism; the other, under the Education Act (No. 2) 1986, is to allow and encourage freedom of speech. Those two duties are often in conflict, and the reconciliation between them is sought to be done with subsection (2) of the proposed new clause in Amendment 15D. It says:
“When carrying out the duty imposed by section 25(1)”— which is the protection against terrorism, “a specified authority”, such as a university,
“to which this section applies must, if subject to the duty imposed by section 43(1) of”,
the Education Act,
“have particular regard to it”.
I read that several times as I was quite uncertain which of the two duties the “it” referred to. I hope it was referring to the freedom of speech duty but, as a reading of the subsection shows, it is grammatically perfectly capable of referring to the Clause 25(1) duty. That really ought to be sorted out before this amendment becomes final. It could be dealt with perfectly easily by ending subsection (2) with the words: “having particular regard to the freedom of speech duty”.
In subsection (3) of the proposed new clause, there is again this ambiguity as to what “that duty” refers to. There are two duties and it might be referring to either. I think that the duty being referred to in subsection (3) is probably the Clause 25(1) duty. These might be described as pedantic points, but they are the sorts of points that a chancery barrister, as I was when I began my legal career, would love to make in taking up the time of a judge in court. Goodness knows what answer the judge would give: different judges might give different answers, and that would mean that the legislation had a flaw in it. It is an ambiguity that needs to be corrected.
My Lords, I apologise that I have not intervened before on any stages of the Bill. I come from Cambridge, where the Government have succeeded in something that, in my experience, has never happened before in my 12 years there: they have united the Cambridge colleges, in deep concern about the impact of this provision on the universities. I declare an interest in that I am a fellow of Emmanuel College. I was a master for 10 years and still deliver a couple of lectures for the university and interview for admission.
I was also, for a period, Permanent Secretary at the Home Office. As such, I cannot speak to the Minister in private, so I will have to do it in public. I have a real concern. I understand absolutely the awful nature of the problem that he has. I have some experience of terrorism; I know what it is like from the inside. I know how—if it is not too bad a word—frightening it can be when you have a problem like this. However, if I were speaking truth unto power, I would say that I do not think that this is going to work. That is my real worry, Minister.
There are a number of reasons why it will not work. One of them is that the Government need the universities and their challenge, analysis and intellect—the Minister has heard that said eloquently around the Chamber. But the Government are setting themselves up against that. In fact, in a parody, they are almost protecting radicalism from challenge. This needs the fresh air of challenge. Perversely, the Minister is protecting terrorism and radicalism by protecting them from debate and from challenge. Young people—students—are most open to debate and to understanding new ideas when they are young adults of 18, 19 and 20. It is extraordinary, but I am the third Member who was at the Oswald Mosley debate. This is becoming a declaration made round the Chamber. As a good civil servant, however, I was observing my future masters—and I was not heckling.
It is absolutely fundamental to the success of the Government’s policies that they have the universities on side. They should be working with them rather than doing what this legislation will do, which is to generate huge amounts of paper—just like the FCA and the FSA—and laboured analysis to no good purpose. It will generate heat. It may generate conscientious objection. It will lose the universities. The Minister should read the protest that Cambridge colleges have sent him. He needs them on side and working for him—preventing. He is discouraging them from preventing. He is moving the focus from his task to the Government and their obstruction of academic freedom and freedom of speech. That is not the way to have a successful policy. So what I would say to you as a Minister is, “Minister, think again”.
The Minister has got so far with the Bill that Amendment 15D might be the best he can do. But when it comes to the guidance and the guidelines, please think again. Unless the Minister gets that right and works with the universities, he will have a failed policy that will not look after the national interest. It will protect radicalism and non-violent extremism. That is not what this House or the nation wants.
My Lords, this is the second long debate that we have held on a similar amendment, and there have been some reflections of the debate that we had last week. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, who said that it was a shame that the Minister was not able to speak beforehand. Some of our debate—with notable exceptions, of course—has been on what was in the coalition Government’s original Bill and not the amendment that the Minister has brought forward to us this evening.
The comments made tonight about freedom of speech and academic freedom were well made at Second Reading. The importance of both those aspects has been well expressed this evening. The Minister deserves enormous credit for the way he listened to the debate on Second Reading and again last week. Taking into account the comments made today, he responded not just with Amendment 15D but by saying last week that parts of the Prevent guidance would be removed. Perhaps noble Lords were not aware of this, but the Minister said last week that paragraph 66—the part which refers to having to give an outline of topics and discussions—would not be in the guidance. We have had some discussion around that, which makes it, in a sense, superfluous. I must admit, at the time, to feeling relieved that your Lordships’ House was not a specified body. I do not think that any of us would have had 14 days’ notice of the comments we were going to make today. Perhaps it is just as well that we are exempt and that he is going to withdraw paragraph 66 in the Prevent guidance.
I thank the Minister for recognising and taking on board the concerns raised about academic freedom and freedom of speech. When we have a semi-fast-tracked Bill, where the intervals between stages are so much shorter, it makes it difficult to have the kinds of discussion that we would like to have and could have, with all noble Lords taking part. I am grateful for the amendment that the Minister has tabled. I am sure he does not think it perfect, any more than anybody else does. I think it is an excellent amendment given the time that has been available. He must be reassured by what noble Lords with considerable legal expertise had to say. The noble and learned Lords, Lord Scott of Foscote and Lord Hope of Craighead, and the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Macdonald, were all of the view that what was in the amendment sought to do what the Minister would want it to do.
I would like to probe further on a couple of points, including one raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. It relates to an amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Lister in the fifth group of amendments, which we shall consider later. We have already had a wide-ranging discussion that has gone beyond just the amendments we are considering now. The point was about freedom of speech under the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 and academic freedom under the Education Reform Act 1988. I think the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, understood it. I did when I read it but, not being a lawyer, I defer to lawyers. Can the Minister clarify whether that would be encompassed or is intended to be encompassed in this amendment?
There are two lessons to be learned. One is how we regard as precious the opportunity for debate and the space for students to explore and debate views within universities and other institutions. The other is that we should try to avoid fast-tracking legislation such as this. I am not complaining about the time that has been available in your Lordships’ House for this debate—that is entirely reasonable, and I understand why. However, this House is used to scrutinising legislation in detail; so it would have been helpful to all noble Lords, including the Minister, to have had longer. This is not a criticism of the usual channels that make such arrangements. They did so with the best of intentions, but it would have been helpful to have a little more time. I congratulate the Minister on bringing forward this amendment in the time he had.
The noble Lord, Lord Lamont, spoke at length on the subject of guidance. We shall have a debate on this later. It will, of course, also be subject to affirmative resolution. Amendment 14C looks at the guidance. It covers some issues that I am sure the Minister has reiterated numerous times in debates we have had on this. Perhaps what has been said in your Lordships’ House could be fed into the consultation. It would be a useful process.
Everything that could be said has probably been said. I will listen with interest to the Minister’s comments, particularly about his own amendments and about Amendment 14C.
My Lords, this has been an excellent debate. I often say that it has been a good debate when I stand up at the end of a group of amendments, but this has been a truly outstanding discussion. We have been talking in an academic context; I think this debate should almost be required reading in many institutions, although I would not wish to encroach on academic freedom by suggesting it so blatantly.
It has evoked such strong passions because there are so many Members of your Lordships’ House who have held and hold positions in our great British universities and who have benefited from the freedoms of speech and academic research which exist there. These are strengths and the envy of the world. We have all had the opportunity and privilege of benefitting from them. When I look at the warden of Wadham College I always have particular regard to what he has to say—whether it is telling me about legislation or taking the short cut across the quad. It evokes a deep passion in us all and we are right to feel very proud of our institutions and the freedom of speech which takes place within them.
I want to put how we arrived at this situation into some sort of context. The Prevent strategy was introduced in 2007. As the noble Baroness will recall, in 2005 we had the outrage of the terrorist attack on the London Underground; 54 people were killed and several hundred people were injured. There were two Terrorism Acts—one in 2000, when the noble Lord, Lord Wilson, was Cabinet Secretary, and a subsequent one in 2006. I want to echo the points made by my noble friend Lady Warsi. There was a view which said, “Listen, there is something more afoot here. We need not just to tighten the law, to tighten the surveillance and prosecution element of it. We need somehow to prevent and to get ahead of the poisonous ideology which is pervading these people’s minds to actually think that they would consider blowing themselves up on a crowded subway train. We need somehow to engage with that”. So the previous Government, to their credit, came up with the concept of Prevent. Right from the outset the Prevent programme went across all bodies and organisations. All public bodies were encouraged to think about how they could prevent people from being drawn into terrorist activities.
One of the dangers of listening to my noble friend Lord Deben is that I get so carried away by his arguments and powers of persuasion that sometimes I forget that I am not sitting on the Back Benches and I nod vigorously towards him. Then I remember that I have a responsibility on the Front Bench and am jolted to focus on Clause 25, which says that the general duty to which we ask people to have due regard is that:
“A specified authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.
That is what it says. We can get drawn into its implications, but that is the principle that is on the face on the Bill.
So we had the Prevent strategy, which applied across all organisations and which was reviewed and refreshed in 2011. After the horrific murder of Drummer Lee Rigby on the streets of Woolwich, there was an assessment of the Prevent strategy and the conclusion went something like this. “Listen, there are some wonderful things going on. We have regional co-ordinators. They are working very well with the universities in looking at who is on campus, making sure that they have preparations in place and that views which are potentially dangerous and leading people into extremism and terrorism are noted. However, it is very patchy. There are some universities that are extremely good and there are some which, to be honest, just do not want to play ball. Invariably, as is often the case, the ones that are very good are in the low-risk areas and the ones that are very poor are in the high-risk areas”. The extremism task force which was considering this came forward and said, “We need to put this on a statutory footing, so that we get some consistency of delivery across the piece—across all organisations—and we bring the ones which are not taking their responsibility seriously up to the standard of what the others are doing already”. So we arrived more or less at where we are.
Then, because the guidance to be put out was going to be specific—and noble Lords have had some great fun at its expense—this was something that we put out to consultation. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, referred to differences with the Scottish consultation. I think I said in Committee that in relation to the particular, narrow elements, the requirements such as giving advance notice on speeches are very limited compared with the much more extensive Universities UK guidance for external speakers, which requests,
“a script or précis from the speaker outlining what they intend to say and requiring them to sign an undertaking acknowledging that their speech will be terminated if they deviate from it”.
This is from Universities UK’s current guidelines on having speakers on campus, which also talks about:
“Briefing the chair in advance of the event, making clear that they have a responsibility to ensure that no speaker or other person present at the event infringes the law; this briefing could highlight the circumstances under which they must stop the event, issue warnings to participants on their conduct or request the withdrawal or removal by stewards (or the police if necessary) of the person(s) concerned”.
I do not recall a hue and cry from the collective colleges of our great universities to say that this was outrageous and should not be happening; people just kind of said, “Listen”—
The reason why there was no hue and cry from the colleges and universities is that they just ignore it. It is a shame on Universities UK that it produced guidelines that are so ridiculous that people cast them to one side. I am afraid that this has led to a diminution of respect for the organisation, and that has been a problem across the board.
Does my noble friend not agree that the difference between the UUK guidance and the Bill is that the Bill gives the Secretary of State powers to act against the university whereas at the moment the UUK guidance merely advises universities to think about something? I hope that the Minister will recognise that.
I am grateful for both those interventions. However, I think they make my point: the fact that the guidance is there to put in place in universities for speakers but it is just brushed aside and ignored seems to give some veracity to the arguments put forward by the extremism task force, which reviewed our counterterrorism strategy and arrived at the conclusion that there is something to be said for having a more statutory footing.
It could be. I do not know what was in their minds.
The pressure and stipulation that are contained even in the consultation document issued in December, which we went out to consultation on—sadly, I have then gone and pre-empted the consultation by assuring your Lordships that certain sections of it would not apply—are a much lighter touch. There is no question, none at all, of the Government telling people who to have on their campus, in their university or in their college to speak. All we ask is that they have systems and procedures in place by which they ensure that the people who come on to their campus—
I thank the Minister for giving way. Surely it is not the case that all the Government are asking is that they have some procedures; surely it is the case that under the Bill the Secretary of State will have the power to direct universities as to what they do, and therefore it is that power that makes a difference.
On that element, the noble Baroness is correct; there is a power there. If you make it a statutory duty, there needs to be some element of saying, “Well, so what if they brush aside their statutory duty?”. What if they brushed aside their statutory duty on a whole range of things? We have talked about that: the Public Order Act 1986; the Protection from Harassment Act 1997; the Terrorism Act 2006, which talks about inviting support for a proscribed organisation or punishing statements encouraging terrorism or disseminating terrorist material; and the Public Order Act 1988, or “breach of the peace” law—these are all Acts that contain a duty. What if organisations fail to observe the health and safety Act, and an inspector comes and says—I realise that I have tested the House.
I am most grateful to the Minister for giving way, but I think that he really is fighting the last war. It is perfectly clear that the Bill is going to enter into force and that it is going to make certain new statutory obligations. Many of us have argued the case against that and for a voluntary approach, and I still believe that that would have been better, but it is not what is going to happen. So although he can have a lot of fun at the expense of UUK, there are other lessons that could be drawn from it—one of which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, said, is that no one actually paid any attention to it. So if really unwise guidance is given, as was given then, that is what will happen.
We are talking now about a statutory obligation, though, and that is something completely different. Let us simply work on the basis that something like Amendment 14D is going to come into force. I ask the Minister to address in his winding-up speech one or two modest ways, which have been suggested around the Chamber, in which it could be improved before Third Reading, drawing on some of the excellent language in Amendments 14 and 14A. That is what would enable the Home Secretary of the day. In the next lot but one of amendments we will get on to the guidance, but that is the heart of the whole matter. I do not think that we should dilly-dally much longer on whether or not there is going to be a statutory obligation.
I certainly take the noble Lord’s point but perhaps I may address some of the key points in the amendments that have been put forward.
I just want to put this in some kind of context. I admit to having had a bit of fun at Universities UK’s expense, but I think that quite a few noble Lords have had a bit of fun at the expense of the consultation document. Given that my noble friend Lord Deben has exhorted us to be in favour of all debate, one should not necessarily try to close off one part of it. However, I accept that perhaps I have pushed far enough, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has got me on track. I shall address some of the particular points that have arisen.
I shall turn to the amendments themselves, but I think it would be helpful to address first the general principle that many noble Lords have spoken about, today and in Committee: the inclusion of universities and further education institutions within the scope of the Prevent duty in Clause 25. In Committee I outlined specific case studies, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, of students and graduates who had gone on to commit terrorist atrocities. For the avoidance of doubt, in all the case studies I mentioned, including the 2010 Stockholm attack and the 2009 Detroit aircraft attack, the perpetrators had studied in UK institutions.
Young people accounted for around 31% of terrorist-related convictions between 2001 and June 2014. Within that date, the figure for at least two years is even higher, at 35%. The Prevent duty is designed to apply to sectors that can most effectively protect vulnerable people from radicalisation and from being drawn into terrorism.
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, who have previously asked for evidence—I went back and said, “What evidence do we have from the regional co-ordinators at BIS that there is a level of non-compliance?”, and I have already referred to part of it—in the year up to
I do not mention all this to suggest that these speakers should necessarily be banned—that is not what our guidance says is required under the Clause 25 duty—but to demonstrate the point that extremist views are propagated on campuses, that students are at risk of being drawn into terrorism and that a disproportionately high number of young people go on to become involved in it.
Since we last debated these issues, the consultation on the draft guidance has finished. Officials are still working through the responses, but an early indication shows that 42 higher education institutions emailed a response to the Home Office and, out of those, only eight stated that universities should not be subject to the duty. Furthermore, Universities UK—I qualify, of course, praying that organisation in aid of my position—which represents 133 vice-chancellors and principals, has not called for universities to be excluded from the Prevent duty. It reiterated its support for the duty when it met my honourable friend the Minister for Immigration and Security and my right honourable friend the Minister for Universities and Science earlier this week.
All this is not to say that universities have not raised issues with the current draft guidance. Almost all of them have done so, in a constructive fashion, and we thank them for their responses. That is the point of this form of public consultation and we will be making a number of changes to the guidance before it is published in its final form. I have already mentioned in Committee two changes that we propose to make: amending the reference to all speakers having to give prior sight of presentations; and making clear that not all staff need to receive Prevent training. We will be working through other changes and of course, as has been said, all that guidance, which will be issued to chancellors, will now be the subject, in a later group of amendments, of an affirmative resolution in both Houses of Parliament.
I now turn to the issue of freedom of speech, which has been heavily focused upon. It was mentioned that placing the duty on universities could have a chilling effect on freedom of speech and academic freedom, which would be contrary to the core function of our universities—a function which, as I have already said, makes universities one of our most important arenas for challenging extremist views and ideologies. As my noble friends Lord Deben and Lady Warsi said, I drew your Lordships’ attention in Committee to existing guidance referring to how speakers are treated. That is why I have tabled Amendment 15D.
This amendment would require further and higher education institutions, when carrying out the Prevent duty, to have particular regard to the duty to secure freedom of speech contained in the Education (No. 2) Act 1986. This will require higher and further education institutions, when considering all the factors that they need to consider when complying with the Prevent duty, to place particular emphasis on the duty to secure freedom of speech. I am sorry that I caused my noble friend Lady Hamwee so much confusion earlier with the difference between having due regard and having particular regard. The reason we put that in is that we want to have a higher test to differentiate between having due regard to the guidance and having particular regard to freedom of speech under the 1986 Act. That was not accidental; it was absolutely intentional and, had I been a little sharper, I might have mentioned that to noble Lords earlier.
The noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Macdonald, have tabled an amendment along similar lines, Amendment 14A, although we would argue that the Government’s amendment goes further. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, has tabled Amendments 14 and 15 with a view to ensuring that, to the extent that Scottish higher and further education institutions are subject to the Prevent duty, their compliance with that duty is also subject to their need to ensure freedom of speech. This is quite clearly a logical approach, given that those bodies are not covered by the duty in the 1986 Act, and we are not in disagreement with the general principle of the noble and learned Lord’s amendments.
Given, however, that no Scottish bodies are currently listed in Schedule 6, these amendments are unnecessary. If and when Scottish institutions are added to Schedule 6 by order, the Government can use the power in Clause 26(3) to make consequential amendments to this chapter. We would at that point seek to ensure that Scottish institutions had the same requirement as those in England and Wales to pay particular regard to the need to secure freedom of speech, as contemplated by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. I hope that that goes some way to reassure the noble and learned Lord on this point.
My noble friend Lady Hamwee spoke to her Amendment 14C, which would require that guidance to the education sector must recognise the duties of that sector to secure freedom of speech, to promote tolerance and respect for democracy and to offer a broad and balanced curriculum. The guidance already makes these points in the relevant sections. I refer my noble friend to paragraph 105 of the draft guidance in particular. There were a number of points, but I am conscious of the time I have taken to respond.
The Minister, in talking about Amendment 14, seemed to imply that it related only to Scotland. He said that he agreed with this amendment, but Amendment 14 incorporates an amendment from the Joint Committee on Human Rights which makes very clear that the Prevent duty should be subject to the duty in Section 43(1) of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986. Is he now saying that he agrees with that?
I take that point and will come to it as I go through my notes. I will go through them in no particular order but will start with my noble friend Lady Brinton, who asked about paragraph 50 in the guidance. We will reflect on my noble friend’s points about the language in the paragraph and look to clarify this in future. We will also reflect on the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, about prior restraint. I hope that I have reassured the noble Baroness that there is nothing here which would take us back to the times of prior restraint.
The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, asked why academic freedom is not specifically covered. He is quite right in his interpretation that freedom of expression, as secured by the duty in Section 43(1) of the 1986 Act, includes academic freedom, which is articulated in Section 202 of the 1988 Act, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan. The freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions is therefore legislated for.
There is no specific reference, of course, in the new clause, Clause 29, to Section 202 of the 1988 Act. The Minister is, no doubt, well aware that the Joint Committee’s report speaks of the necessity for a specific reference to Section 43 and Section 202 in the very same breath. In other words, my submission is that one is the obverse of the other. Section 43 of the 1986 Act guarantees freedom of speech and academic freedom, as it refers to students, employees and so on. Section 202 of the 1988 Act is the obverse of that in that it refers to the freedom of a person to do those things and yet retain employment. The two are inseparable, in my respectful submission.
I will reflect again on the point about Section 202 of the 1988 Act and will see whether it is there, or whether it is, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, suggested, implicit in our wording.
My noble friend Lord Deben talked about the importance of debate. I hope that I have gone some way to reassure him that that is entirely consistent with our view. The guidance stipulates that and it is now stipulated in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Butler, asked about the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary can issue directions to universities and this makes a real difference. The power to issue directions will be subject to multiple layers of protection, including judicial oversight and that of the Prevent oversight board, on which my noble friend Lord Carlile provides independent representation. We agreed, following a discussion in Committee, to look again at this, and a direction will be issued only as a last resort.
A point was raised about the position of the Oxford Union and the Cambridge Union. My noble friend Lord Renfrew asked about this in Committee. They exist separately from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and as such they are not covered by the duty.
The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked why the Bill refers only to the 1986 and 1988 Acts. I have covered that point by saying that they are implicit.
I have a number of other points to respond to, particularly that made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. We need Clauses 28(2) and 30 to ensure that those subject to the duties have particular regard to freedom of speech. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, asked for clarification about why the duty in Clause 28(2) requiring specified authorities to have regard to the guidance, and the duty on monitoring bodies provided for in Clause 30, are not also subject to a requirement to pay particular regard to freedom of speech. I will write to him, as suggested, but I confirm that we are satisfied that the provisions in Amendment 15D do enough to ensure that higher education and further education institutions and monitoring bodies will pay sufficient regard to the protection of freedom of speech.
My noble friend Lady Sharp asked why education for under-16s, including some sixth form colleges, is not covered in the amendment. It has been the case for many years that FE and HE institutions are bound by the duty in the Education (No. 2) Act 1986. Schools are not subject to the same duty. They are what we are debating here.
The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, just intervened. To be clear, the treatment of Amendment 15D does not make the Prevent duty subject to the freedom of speech duty. Instead, it provides that particular regard should be given to the freedom of speech duty. The Government are clear that this is the correct position. As the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, pointed out, it is for universities to balance each case depending on its circumstances.
I am aware that there have been many points that I have not covered in the time, but I hope that I have gone some way to reassure noble Lords on the importance of how we share the commitment to preserve free speech while at the same time being resolute in wanting to do all we can to avoid people being drawn into terrorism. In that regard, I ask the noble Lord to consider withdrawing his amendment.
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, he has not really addressed the issue of whether between now and Third Reading he will have another look at his draft of Amendment 15D. It has been broadly welcomed across the House, but imperfections in it have been noted, mostly notably by my noble and learned friend Lord Scott, which the Minister has not addressed. It would be helpful if he would now reflect a little on whether the new clause inserted by Amendment 15D could be improved by some very modest clarification. At the moment, it reads like a piece of parliamentary draftsmanship: that is, totally incomprehensible to most members of the human race.
Some of the amendments, such as Amendments 14 and 14A, are much clearer to a normal reader in their meaning. This clarity is rather important because the concerns that have been expressed about freedom of speech and academic freedom are not going to be settled simply by cross-references to some article in some other piece of legislation. I hope that the Minister will look at that between now and Third Reading. I believe that it will not change one iota the thrust of what he is trying to achieve, which I am sure he will succeed in doing by this article.
My Lords, I have a fairly simple question. I have various connections with universities, but I shall not bother with that just now in order to save time. Subsection (2) in the new clause inserted by Amendment 15D refers to,
“carrying out the duty imposed by section 25(1)”,
and goes to state that “it” must have particular regard to the freedom of speech. “It” definitely refers to the freedom of speech part. I have no difficulty with that. I do not share the difficulty of my noble and learned friend Lord Scott, which is obviously a Chancery difficulty, but my difficulty is fundamental. When carrying out the duty imposed by Section 25(1) may lead you in one direction, the freedom of speech duty may lead you in the opposite direction. In that case, which wins? That is why it is so important that the amendment states that we should,
“have particular regard to it”.
The noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, suggested that it should be the top priority where there is a conflict. I do not know what quite what the intention is in that respect, but it is quite obvious that there can be a conflict, and if there is a conflict, what is to happen? With great respect, the Government’s new clause does not so far conclusively answer that question.
I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for that intervention. He hit upon a real issue, and we are going to have to write on that point. When exploring how to indicate that the commitment to free speech is to be taken seriously and nothing should take away from that, we did not want effectively to phrase the amendment in such a way as to say, a bit like Universities UK, “You can now just disregard it because you can claim everything is free speech and therefore do not need all the rest of it”. This is a serious thing that the Government are saying. We believe that there is a particular risk and that universities ought to have due regard to it. We would like that to be done consistently. That was the reason that we landed upon to,
“have particular regard to it”.
This answers the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and with this I will sit down. You cannot have a debate of this quality, with such incredibly perceptive points being raised, and not be open to it. As I hope I have demonstrated throughout this process since we began our journey at Second Reading, I have tried to listen and have due regard to the views expressed in your Lordships’ House—and nothing will change on that. We will reflect very carefully on the particular points raised. Of course, if there are ways in which we can tighten the language that we use and points to take on board, we still have time to do that, but we feel that in putting forward Amendment 15D, we have something that can give real reassurance to universities in this regard.
My Lords, in view of the hour which we have reached, I am sure that all noble Lords would like me to bring this debate to an end as soon as possible. First, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken. This has been a debate of very high quality, and many interesting points have been raised. I am most grateful for the answer the Minister gave on
Scotland, which satisfies me. We can no doubt return to that by order, if necessary.
As for the rest, I think that it is a search for clarity. I ask the Minister to bear in mind the contribution of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, and the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, when she was complimenting the Minister on Amendment 15D. I think she said, “We are not there yet”. In a way, that sums up the essence of the debate. Many points have been made in various ways and many questions have been asked which the Minister clearly has not been able to answer. I think we are reassured by the open mind which he expressed in his concluding words. In view of that, the proper thing for me to do is to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 14 withdrawn.
Amendment 14A not moved.
Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 8.40 pm.