So-called safe spaces are being “incorrectly used” and are detrimental to speech at universities, a Christian MP has warned.
Fiona Bruce made the statement during a debate in Westminster Hall, following a report by Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR).
Mrs Bruce, who sits on the JCHR, said the committee “did not find the concept of safe space policies helpful at all” as they were “applied too broadly and vaguely”.
The Conservative MP for Congleton also pointed out that there have been “incidents of unacceptable intimidatory behaviour by protesters intent on preventing free speech and debate”.
“I think the chilling effect and unreported inhibition of speech is far wider than we recognise.
“Often the chilling effect inhibits students with minority views, and that emboldens students who want to silence or censor views they consider wrong or offensive.”
Mrs Bruce also said that some students have “considerable confusion” about what the ‘Prevent’ strategy actually entails.
‘Prevent’ is part of the Government’s wider counter-terrorism strategy, aimed at stopping people being radicalised.
Mrs Bruce and others on the committee believe it is having a negative impact on freedom of speech.
“Some students were frightened about the possibility of being reported for organising or attending events, and of being investigated, as a result, as potentially involved in extremism”.
And describing free speech as “a foundation for democracy in society”, she said minority views “should not be shut down” by universities.
She highlighted an issue raised by the Alliance of Pro-Life Students, which said that “pro-life societies are often given undue burden to host events” and are “subject to mediations to which other societies are not”.
Earlier this month, the Government pledged to introduce a “new chapter” for free speech on university campuses, saying students need to be exposed to views they may not like.