Chippenham MP Michele Donelan has been caught up in a row over whether  universities should allow speakers to deny the Holocaust.

Her comments have created a storm of protest on Twitter.

She was speaking on Radio 4 about strengthening legal duties on universities to protect free speech.

"It's not just about protecting free speech," she said. "It is ensuring a cultural change that we promote it."

She said any speaker being denied could take their case to the office for students who will decide what to do. 

She added depending on it "not being unlawful" and was instead something that was "basically intolerant or offensive" then they would have a case under the new bill. 

When asked whether historian David Irving - a Holocaust denier  -  would merit the defence of the bill if invited, she said he would. 

She said that the bill was designed to protect any free speech that was lawful. Under questioning from Evan Davis, she said the bill would defend a Holocaust denier speaking on campus as it was part of defending free speech.

"Obviously it would depend on what they are saying," she said. "Whether they were straying into racism or straying into hate crimes. A lot of these things we are standing up for would be hugely offensive."

When pushed she agreed that Holocaust deniers would have the right to speak at universities as Holocuast denial is lawful in this country and that they would have recourse to compensation if blocked. 

"There is a difference between condoning and supporting something when standing up for free speech," she said.

The minister later followed up on Twitter, adding: "Some people have asked me how this interacts with the government’s work to combat antisemitism.

"Let me be clear antisemitism is abhorrent and will not be tolerated at our universities. This bill will protect and promote lawful free speech.

"Universities will still need to adhere to the Equality Act, the Prevent Duty and ensure that speakers do not incite violence, harassment or hate crimes."

Last October, Michelle Donelan who is the universities minister, threatened higher education institutions who have refused to back the international definition of antisemitism, during the education select committee.

She told the committee: “I urge all universities to adopt it. If not, then we will have to be forced into taking action to ensure that they do.”