Minister: MP's 'misinterpreted' Brexit letter should probably not have been sent

A letter from a Government whip to universities asking for the names of professors teaching about Brexit should "probably" not have been sent, Universities Minister Jo Johnson has said.

Chris Heaton-Harris, the Tory MP for Daventry, faced furious accusations of "McCarthyism" and "idiotic Leninism" after his letter to vice chancellors came to light.

Mr Johnson said that while Mr Heaton-Harris had been pursuing an "academic inquiry" with a view to writing a book on attitudes towards Europe, he had left himself open to misinterpretation.

He insisted the Government was committed to protecting academic freedom in the university system.

"Chris has been engaged in the European question for many, many years. He probably didn't appreciate the extent to which this would be misinterpreted," Mr Johnson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I am sure Chris is regretting this very much. The Government is absolutely committed to academic freedom and freedom of speech in our university system.

"I think a letter that could have been misinterpreted should probably not have been sent in this way."

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