Jo Johnson: We Will Implement Free Speech Regulators At Universities

26 December 2017, 10:59 | Updated: 26 December 2017, 11:04

The Universities Minister spoke to Ian Payne on LBC this morning.

Universities could face fines from a new regulator, if they fail to protect freedom of speech within the law.

The Universities minister Jo Johnson says some viewpoints are being stifled, because of "no-platforming" policies.

The new universities regulator, The Office for Students, could be allowed to fine those that fail to protect free speech on campuses.

The Government says universities must be places that "open minds, not close them."

There's an ongoing debate about free speech at universities across the UK, including reports of speakers, debates, literature and organisations being opposed or criticised - often by student unions or societies.

The universities minister Jo Johnson's opened a consultation on giving the new Office for Students, powers to fine institutions.

He'll say they must also ensure there's no place for hatred, discrimination or extremism.

Johnson told Ian Payne on LBC this morning that freedom of speech is being eroded at some campuses in the UK.

They could face fines from a new regulator in the new year - if speakers or groups are banned from universities, under "no-platform" policies.

He said the institutions must protect freedom of speech: "It's important to put it in context. Generally speaking our universities are homes to free speech, the issue is there are pockets of erosion of this core principle.

"We see it in no-platforming, safe spaces, banned words, the removal of books from libraries and so forth.

"It's being nibbled away at at the margins, it's important we take a stand now because this could become a slippery road that gravely compromises our university system and testing and challenging ideas.

"It's about making sure we have freedom of speech within the law, they're there to inhibit speech that incites religious or racial hatred, or incites hatred on the grounds of someone's sexual orientation.

"We're making sure that legal free speech is properly promoted at our universities."

Watch the interview at the top of this page.