Jacob Rees-Mogg has told MPs that freedom of speech is “fundamental to how our society operates”.
Responding to a question about freedom of expression in schools, the leader of the House of Commons said that without freedom of expression, liberty would collapse.
Last week, an open letter championing free speech was signed by more than 150 leading authors, academics and thinkers.
Joy Morrissey, MP for Beaconsfield, told the House that students had approached her saying, “We no longer feel that we are allowed to share our opinions if it’s contrary to that of the pervasive world view”.
If we only accept views that we like and find unchallenging, then there is no freedom of speech
She asked for a debate on “protecting free speech and diversity of opinion within education”.
In his reply Rees-Mogg noted: “If you take away freedom of speech then you undermine all the other pillars that have supported our constitution… We all have to accept the right of people to express views that not only we don’t like, but on occasions we even find offensive.”
He added: “If we only accept views that we like and find unchallenging, then there is no freedom of speech.”
Free to disagree
An open letter championing free speech and rejecting a new culture of censorship has been signed by more than 150 leading authors, academics and thinkers, who say people must be free to disagree with one another.
In ‘A Letter on Justice and Open Debate’, the signatories said a “new set of moral values” is being embraced which weakens “our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity”.
Those signing the letter included well-known authors JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood, feminist writer Gloria Steinem and humanist academic Steven Pinker.