Daventry MP at centre of controversy after writing to university professors asking about Brexit-related courses

Chris Heaton-Harris
Chris Heaton-Harris

Daventry MP Chris Heaton-Harris received criticism from academics and members of the House of Lords after it emerged he had written to all universities inquiring about what their lecturers are teaching students about Brexit.

The Guardian revealed the Conservative MP had sent letters to vice-chancellors at the start of October asking for names of professors "involved in the teaching of European affairs, with particular reference to Brexit."

In the wake of the news, Mr Heaton-Harris has been criticised for his "McCarthyite" behaviour, prompting Tory peer Lord Patten to label the letters as "idiotic and offensive" on BBC Radio 4's The World At One.

Julie Smith, director of the European Centre, who is also a Liberal Democrat peer, told The Guardian: “If it is the case that a politician thinks he should interfere in the content of what universities are teaching and look at syllabi in order to see whether the correct line is being delivered, that is profoundly worrying.”

Mr Heaton-Harris tweeted: "To be absolutely clear, I believe in free speech in our universities and in having an open and vigorous debate on Brexit."

Prof David Green, vice-chancellor of Worcester University, told The Guardian he felt a chill down his spine when he read the “sinister” request.

He said: “This letter just asking for information appears so innocent but is really so, so dangerous."

"Here is the first step to the thought police, the political censor and newspeak, naturally justified as ‘the will of the British people’, a phrase to be found on Mr Heaton-Harris’s website.”