Michael Gove has said the National Union of Students has created a “chilling environment” for Jewish students.

The former Tory leadership hopeful and prominent Brexiteer used his first speech since returning to the backbenches to defend academic freedom, particularly when it came to Jewish students.

Speaking at the second reading of the Higher Education and Research bill in parliament, the former education secretary said “at the moment there are voices and individuals within the NUS who have not upheld the best traditions of academic freedom and who have created in some respects a chilling environment and a cold home for students, particularly those who are Jewish.”

Labour MP Wes Streeting, a former president of the NUS, agreed with Mr Gove’s assessment of the organisation.

The Ilford North MP said: “I’m also sorry to have to associate myself with the remarks he made about the National Union of Students and in particular its lack of care towards Jewish students and Jewish representation.

“It’s a sad day when I find myself agreeing with Mr Gove on that particular point.”

This comes after the NUS was accused of a ‘complete lack of commitment’ to Jewish students this week, by the Union of Jewish Students.

UJS reacted angrily after a meeting of the NUS National Executive Committee ended the traditional practice of Jewish students deciding the Jewish representative on the Anti-Racism, Anti-Fascism (ARAF) committee.

New NUS president Malia Bouattia, who has antagonised Jewish students for her anti-Zionist views, was again criticised for her role in casting the deciding vote in a tied contest.

The decision is being seen as yet another snub by NUS president Malia Bouattia, who has railed against the “Zionist-controlled media”. UJS campaigns director Josh Nagli said: “It was no surprise that [Bouattia] once again showed that she has absolutely no interest in defending Jewish students’ interests by voting to remove the ability of Jewish students to shape for themselves the student movements’ fight against racism and fascism.”

He added: “Malia is still yet to adequately answer the concerns of Jewish students regarding her past rhetoric, and today provided further proof that Jewish students are right to feel unsafe in the national union that she leads.”