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Lords concludes line by line scrutiny of Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill

15 November 2022

A university lecture hall

Members of the Lords concluded their detailed check of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill in committee stage on Monday 14 November.

The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill seeks to strengthen freedom of speech in higher education (HE) providers registered with the Office for Students by promoting academic freedom among students and staff, creating a complaints system and enabling legal redress for breaches of freedom of speech rules.

Proposed changes 

Three days of committee stage were scheduled: 

  • Monday 31 October
  • Wednesday 2 November
  • Monday 14 November  

Members speaking on the last day of committee stage put forward amendments(PDF) (changes) to the bill to be discussed. 

These amendments covered a range of subjects, including:

  • a statutory regulator with power to resolve disputes 
  • the threat and shadow of potential litigation which could bankrupt a student union 
  • specifying the route through which complaints must go, i.e., the Office for Students cannot intervene until a university’s own procedures, or those of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, are exhausted
  • ensuring that the Office for Students has a duty to monitor over-reliance on overseas funding from a single country.

Catch up 

Explore further information

Read background on the bill in the House of Lords Library Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill briefing.

Next steps

Report stage, an opportunity to closely scrutinise elements of the bill and make changes, is yet to be scheduled.

What's happened so far?

Committee stage day two: Wednesday 2 November.

Proposed changes 

Members speaking on day two of committee stage put forward amendments (PDF) (changes) to the bill to be discussed. 

These amendments covered a range of subjects, including:

  • managing duties of care with commitments to free speech
  • preventing discrimination in distribution of research funding
  • regulation of student unions and the impact of duties created by the draft law.

Catch up 

Committee stage day one: Monday 31 October

Members speaking on day one of committee stage put forward amendments (PDF) (changes) to the bill to be discussed. 

These amendments covered a range of subjects, including:

  • the definition of freedom of speech in the bill
  • extending academic freedom protection to academic visiting speakers
  • forbid punishment of academics for lawful exercise of academic freedom.

Catch up 

Second reading: Tuesday 28 June

Members discussed the main issues in the bill during second reading and drew attention to specific areas where they thought amendments (changes) were needed.Topics covered during the debate included:

  • wider issues the higher education sector and students are facing
  • the scale of the issue of free speech in higher education
  • overseas funding of universities
  • the administrative burden on universities created by the bill, including financial reporting requirements
  • how new complaint schemes fit with existing routes
  • alignment of the draft law with the Online Safety Bill and Bill of Rights Bill
  • the new role of ‘Director of Freedom of Speech’ and its appointment process.

Members speaking

Earl Howe (Conservative), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, opened the debate and responded on behalf of the government. 

Members speaking in the debate included: 

Find out more about the issues discussed:catch up on Parliament TV or read a transcript inLords Hansard

Get involved

Watch and read the debate

Catch up on Parliament TV or read a transcript inLords Hansard.  

Image: Adobe Stock