Government plans to protect free speech in universities across England and Wales could allow Holocaust deniers and anti-vaxxers to sue the colleges that did not give them a platform.
The warning by Labour comes as the party promised to vote against the ‘hate speech bill’, which they say is very divisive and harmful, according to The Guardian.
Universities UK have also expressed serious concerns about the Tories’ bill and its potential consequences.
Free speech bill
According to the newspaper, the government argues the bill would let the Office for Students implement measures which ensure freedom of speech in higher education settings.
The measures would include “a complaints system and redress for breaches of free speech duties through the introduction of a statutory tort, extending duties on free speech to students’ unions and creating a role of director of freedom of speech and academic freedom at the OfS.”
Under the bill, university staff could also sue if they think they were denied promotions or new jobs because of their opinions.
Kate Green, shadow education secretary, said: “It is shocking that the Conservatives are introducing a new law to give Holocaust deniers, anti-vaxxers and people harmful to public interest the opportunity to sue their way to a platform at universities.”
She added the government is wasting time whilst supporting those whose only goal is to spread hate and division.
Universities UK, representing 140 universities, said there is “significant concern over what the unintended consequences of this bill could be.”
“This bill could make it easier for those who promote conspiracy theories or ‘alternative facts’ to speak on university campuses – as well as provide them with the opportunity to take the university or students’ union to court if they feel they have been denied a platform,” the organisation said.
It added the bill could “lead to courts becoming filled with minor disputes, while incurring significant cost, time and reputational damage to universities, and ultimately detracting from their efforts to champion freedom of speech”.