Amendment 26

Part of Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 7:45 pm on 7 December 2022.

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Photo of Lord Patten of Barnes Lord Patten of Barnes Conservative 7:45, 7 December 2022

My Lords, I will speak in support of those observations. I speak at a university that is in receipt of an extraordinary stream of revenue from its academic press. I think it is true to say that it has the largest academic press in the world, which is hugely successful and is a very large international business. I am puzzled at the suggestion that the contracts it negotiates elsewhere are likely to have an effect on freedom of speech and the associated freedom of inquiry at the university itself.

One reason why the university press is covered is that it is part of the university—and it is part of the university precisely to stop that sort of thing happening. So I very much hope that we can have some clarity on this and get an assurance that there will not be any question of commercial fishing trips with university presses. It is incredibly important that they are allowed to go on firing on all cylinders and doing as well as they do at present. The Oxford University Press, for example, sells 2 million copies of the Oxford English/Chinese dictionary every year in China and has huge sales of academic books in Shanghai. Our China Centre has not been prevented from teaching people about what is happening in Xinjiang, Tibet or elsewhere. So I do think we need to be careful about how we address this issue and, at the very least, as the noble Baroness has just said, make it absolutely clear that fishing trips through FoI requests are out and that the Government would not seek to get involved in what could happen commercially unless there were some evidence that freedom of inquiry or speech had been compromised.