Oxford and Cambridge unions win exemption allowing extremists to preach on campus

They have been excluded from new rules following lobbying from Conservative peers

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The Oxford and Cambridge Unions have secured an exemption from a Government crackdown on extremists being invited to speak to student audiences, it emerged today.

They have been excluded from new Home Office rules following lobbying from Conservative peers, including the former Cabinet ministers Lord Lamont and Lord Deben.

Student unions are to be informed in statutory guidance that they are required to draw up policies “setting out the activities that are or are not allowed to take place on campus”. It also suggests that student union officers and staff should receive counter-terrorism awareness training.


But the Oxford and Cambridge Unions, often regarded as the training ground of future Cabinet ministers, will not be covered because they are legally separate entities from their universities.

Confirming the exemption, the Home Office minister Lord Bates said: “They exist separately from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and as such they are not covered by the duty.”

Lord Deben, who served in the Cabinet as John Gummer, said such a ban would have prevented a famous 1960 Cambridge Union debate in which fascist leader, Sir Oswald Mosley, was challenged by undergraduates.

“I do not want to have a world in which today’s version of those students cannot have that debate with today’s Sir Oswald Mosley, with today’s fascists, communists, or extremists of any kind. If that were true, we would have sold out on a central British value,” he said.