Home News Woke fightback! Equality laws to change so universities can't ban public speakers

Woke fightback! Equality laws to change so universities can't ban public speakers

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Ministers are reportedly considering proposals by think tank Policy Exchange to tackle no-platforming. The changes would require public bodies to promote “diversity of political opinion” and protect people with views that might be “incompatible” with the majority.

The move comes after controversies which have seen universities use equality legislation to no-platform controversial speakers.

A new report by Policy Exchange suggests it is time to review the Equality Act, which came into force in 2010.

The paper said bans by universities on controversial speakers can be linked to the public sector equality duty.

The equality duty requires public bodies to eliminate discrimination and advance equality.

Paul Yowell, a Fellow of Oriel College and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law in the University of Oxford, author of the report, said: “When the public sector equality duty is understood and applied in this manner, it has the potential to promote ideological conformity rather than true diversity in settings such as recruitment and education.

“The view that equality requires the exclusion of viewpoints that may cause offence or discomfort is corrosive of the mission of universities to educate students to consider and debate, and to test by argument, a wide range of ideas and theories.”

The report by Policy Exchange recommended amending the duty to clarify that equality “requires tolerance of differing political opinions and religious and philosophical worldviews, and that a mark of a healthy institution is diversity of such opinions and world views”.

It added: “Especially in educational institutions and professions, such diversity should be valued. Uniformity of opinion, and an atmosphere that stifles, marginalises or discourages dissenting views, should be avoided.

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In a foreword for the report, former justice minister Lord Faulks said: “At the heart of Policy Exchange’s paper lies the need to protect free speech, academic freedom, and true diversity of opinions, however unfashionable and however upsetting some may regard the expression of such opinions to be.

“None of this should be controversial to those who promoted the Act.

“It has identified a number of ways in which the legislation should be amended so that Act’s true intentions can be protected rather than subverted by those who, while espousing the case for diversity, advance a rather narrow view of the opinions which merit protection under the Act.”



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