Student unions may have to pay for controversial speakers, even if they don’t want them

The new Tory crackdown will see student unions banned from passing on a speaker’s security costs to the society that invited them – a move the NUS has described as “deeply disappointing”.

security costs
Unions would have to pay for security costs

Student unions would have to fund security for controversial speakers they don’t want to host under a Tory crackdown.

The government plans to include the requirement in a free speech bill in the House of Commons today.

It would prohibit unions from passing on a speaker’s security costs to the society that invited him.

The government claims speakers could be “made platformless through the back door” by imposing prohibitive costs on small companies.

A spokesman for the National Union of Students called the move “deeply disappointing”.

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University Minister Michelle Donelan


western daily press)

The Government has proposed an additional statutory requirement as the bill returns to the House of Commons today. According to an amendment, student unions are to be prohibited from passing on the cost of a speaker’s safety to the company that invited them.

The Department of Education claimed this would have allowed speakers “not to get a platform through the back door” by making small societies bear prohibitive costs.

According to the amendment, security bills must by law be settled by the Studentenwerk or another “relevant body”, such as the university itself.

The DFE claimed that a company was faced with a security fee of £500 by the University of Bristol Students’ Union to allow the Israeli ambassador to speak while charging nothing for his Palestinian counterpart.

It’s part of a long-promised crackdown on student unions that “do not platform” speakers with far-right or objectionable views.

The law will also ensure that no speaker will be “denied” the premises of the Studentenwerk because of his “ideas, beliefs or views”.

University Minister Michelle Donelan had previously declined to allow genocide deniers to speak in the bill.

She told MPs: “The law does not give anyone the right to a platform and I am categorical on that.”

Another change on Monday will force universities and student unions to share details of funding from certain overseas countries.

Donations over £75,000 would be made public. Ms Donelan said: “We are taking new measures to protect our universities from improper foreign influences that run counter to British values.”

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A spokesman for the National Union of Students said: “We do not believe that outside speaker events should be canceled because a society – which in most cases is not legally distinct from SUs – feels it cannot afford the security costs.

“Student unions should be equipped with grants to cover the security costs for external speaker events.

“It is therefore deeply disappointing that the government has rejected changes that would require SUs to be funded to carry out the new tasks imposed on them.

“Instead, they discourage future off-campus speaker events by suggesting that unaided SUs should face potentially large financial liabilities.”

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