Government Minister Lord Parkinson has condemned controversial antisemitic views expressed by Bristol University’s Professor David Miller during a House of Lords Question this week.
Responding to a question from non-affiliated peer Lord Austin, the Minister asserted that the Government considers them “ill-founded and reprehensible views” which should be “wholeheartedly reject[ed]”.
Lord Parkinson observed that Bristol University “could do more to make its condemnation of Professor Miller’s conduct clear to current and future students”. He also outlined that affected students “can and should inform the police if they believe that the law has been broken”.
CFI Parliamentary Chairman (Lords), Rt. Hon. The Lord Pickles asserted that Bristol University’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) antisemitism definition was “only the first step” and that the university had “failed to offer safety, reassurance or even the slightest suggestion of competence”. The UK Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues pressed the university to “take the necessary action to restore the public’s lost confidence” in the institution. Lord Parkinson agreed: “He is right that adoption of that working definition is only a first step. While the Government think it is vital, it is not enough on its own. That is why we continue to work with the sector to make sure that it is doing everything it can to stamp out antisemitism”.
Lord Leigh called for the Universities Minister to write to universities to clarify what actions they will be taking against academics “who appear to be supporting Professor Miller’s antisemitism, as defined by the aforementioned IHRA”. Responding, the Minister said the Government has “been clear that we expect universities to be at the forefront of tackling antisemitism and ensuring that they provide a welcoming experience for all students”. He added that 50 additional institutions had adopted the IHRA definition after being written to by the Education Secretary.
Recognising that universities are “independent and autonomous organisations” and “responsible for their own staffing decisions and for meeting duties under the law”, the Minister said it was “concerning” that Professor Miller had reportedly suggested that Jewish students disagreed with his views “because they are political pawns of a foreign Government or part of a Zionist enemy, which has no place in any society”.
The Minister reiterated that IHRA’s definition of antisemitism “draws the important distinction between legitimate criticism of the Government of Israel and their policies and holding Jews collectively responsible for them”, and called on the University to “consider it carefully”.