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Higher Education and Research Bill - Committee (6th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 25th January 2017.

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 9:00 pm, 25th January 2017

I thank all speakers in this debate. It is a difficult area and we certainly went into several of its most difficult parts. Surely my noble friend Lord Judd is right that there is a tension in attempting to address the worries expressed by the Minister in her concluding remarks by preventing the debates and discussions that might win hearts and minds and protect us, and which need to be protected against the changes the Government are seeking to impose.

The analysis is relatively straightforward. There is no room for illegal acts in any institution. I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, will accept that in proposing this amendment we do not wish to change that very obvious and important guideline. But the tension between free speech, which should exist in universities, and actions taken to inoculate against unpleasant and difficult ideas taking root does not seem well expressed in the legislation. This is a probing amendment which attempts to take that forward. In that sense, I felt that the Minister struck an odd note by suggesting that even discussing these issues in this Chamber was dangerous. If I am mistaken, I will withdraw that remark.