James O'Brien reacts to Tory Minister being put on spot over free speech bill

13 May 2021, 14:55

By Sam Sholli

This is James O'Brien's reaction to a Tory minister responding to questioning on if the Government's free speech bill could be used to defend visiting speakers who are Holocaust deniers.

The Government has introduced the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill in Parliament as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has vowed to counter what he has described as "the chilling effect of censorship on campus once and for all".

When questioned by BBC presenter Evan Davis on if the bill could be used to defend Holocaust deniers invited to speak on university campuses, Tory Minister of State for Universities Michelle Donelan said: "Obviously it would depend on exactly what they were saying, whether they were straying into racism, whether they were straying into hate crimes."

She then said, "a lot of these things that we would be standing up for would be hugely offensive [and] hugely hurtful".

James responded to her remarks by saying he thinks "she probably made a mistake", but also said her answer represents "what happens when you promise to make laws that are designed to attack something that doesn't really exist".

He later added: "And I stress again I think this will be rowed back from, or the Government is introducing legislation that would compel universities to give platforms to Holocaust deniers, which is certainly an interesting development,"

READ MORE: Education Secretary warns against 'silencing' on campuses as he unveils free speech plan
READ MORE: Free-speech campaigner tells LBC about 'stifling culture of restricted debate on campus'