Daniel Zeichner – 2022 Statement on the Conduct of Iain Duncan Smith

The point of order made by Daniel Zeichner, the Labour MP for Cambridge, in the House of Commons on 13 July 2022.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. During the debate on Report of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill on 13 June, the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) made a series of charges about Jesus College Cambridge, which is in my constituency. I have informed the right hon. Member of my intention to raise this point of order.

The College is rightly concerned about the reputational damage that is done when Members of this House make such accusations, particularly when there is little opportunity for those being criticised to defend themselves. It is particularly galling, in that the college had written to the right hon. Member more than a year ago to correct previous misrepresentations. The college insists that intellectual independence is always safeguarded, and points out that the financial contributions in question had in fact been promoted and supported by the then Conservative Government. It is very happy to meet any Member who has concerns, to ensure that these often complex historical situations are properly understood. I seek your advice, Madam Deputy Speaker, on how such misrepresentations may be prevented in future.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving notice of his point of order and also for confirming that he told the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) that he intended to raise the issue. The Chair is not responsible for the content of Members’ contributions. Also, freedom of speech is essential to our effective functioning and I am sure the hon. Member will appreciate that it is important that Members are able to set out their views, even if those views are questioned or opposed. I appreciate that he was keen to put on record his views and the response of the college, and he has obviously done that.