The UK government has responded to concerns over proposals in its Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, after universities and organisations claimed some measures could curtail freedom of speech.
The Bill, which seeks to prevent extremism in colleges and universities in England and Wales, had also included measures to vet speakers and presentations given at Christian Unions (CUs) and other religious meetings on campus.
However, following strong responses to a consultation on these measures, the government has now introduced a freedom of expression clause, Clause 31, and pledged to reword the problematic section of the draft guidance.
The 38-page Prevent duty: consultation document, which closed to submissions in January, aims to bring more measures to the Bill to prevent young people at university from being exposed to terrorist activity. The amendments are scheduled to be voted on in mid-March.
In a statement earlier in the year, Christian Concern said it was right for the government to be concerned about extremism as ‘a pathway to terrorism’. However, it also warned that the presented measures could provide an ideal tool for authorities hostile to biblical beliefs to obstruct the operation of CUs.
Universities had also warned of a loss of religious liberty and freedom of speech. In its submission, the London School of Economics wrote: ‘Universities need the freedom to allow — indeed encourage — free discussion of ideas, however radical, within the law.’