The following statement has been issued by Professor Geoffrey Alderman:
“I have, in my personal capacity, referred to the powerful Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights the letter sent on 9 October 2020 to all English university heads by the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson.
This Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament is currently undertaking an inquiry into Freedom of Expression. It is my view that the policy set out in the 9 October letter amounts to an imminent and explicit assault on that freedom.
In that letter Mr Williamson threatened that higher-education institutions that had not by Christmas 2020 adopted the definition of antisemitism drafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) would be subject to a range of financial and other sanctions.”
Professor Alderman has told the Parliamentary Joint Committee that in his view the threatening language employed by the Secretary of State has as its purpose the bullying and browbeating of higher-education providers to force them to adopt a particular mode of thought in relation to anti-Jewish prejudice, and amounts to “a shameless act of ministerial overreach.”
“Anti-Jewish prejudice on campus [said Professor Alderman] is without doubt a serious problem. However, legislation is already on the statute book to deal with it: namely the Equality Act of 2010. Indeed, this was the very document that was recently used by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to excoriate the handling of antisemitic complaints by Mr Williamson’s political opponents in the Labour Party under its previous leader, Jeremy Corbyn.”
Professor Alderman concludes his submission by inviting the Joint Parliamentary Committee to unreservedly condemn Mr Williamson’s letter of 9 October, and to urge that it be formally withdrawn.