Rethinking Freedom in the age of health and safety

Thursday 15 October, 6.30pm until 8.30pm, Leeds

Venue: Committee Rms 6 and 7, Leeds Civic Hall, Calverley Street, Leeds, LS1 1UR

Tickets: This event is FREE but ticketed (a voluntary contribution towards costs will be asked for on the night). Please contact: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

ASBOs, bans on smoking and drinking in public places, the fight against obesity and regulation of school meals, parenting orders and the vetting of adults working with children and vulnerable people are only a few examples of the seemingly unstoppable rise of legislation and regulation designed to control people’s behaviour in areas of civic and personal life that were previously free from state interference. In 2005 then Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged that only a few years before the British people would not have found these changes ‘acceptable.’ For example, interference in the family through parenting orders ‘would have either seemed somewhat bizarre or dangerous, and indeed there are still people who see this [as] an aspect of the nanny state, or [that] we are interfering with the rights of the individual’.

Yet the erosion of such ‘individual rights’ has proceeded unhampered and at increasing pace. For the most part, these developments are neither presented nor experienced as infringements on liberty, but rather as commonsense measures to improve the health, security and well-being of all. Is it really worth standing up for the right to smoke or drink wherever we please, to behave without consideration for others, and to expose children to unnecessary risks? Should we welcome state guidance and regulation designed to help us leading healthy and happy lives? Or do we lose something when individuals must defer to a benevolent state?

Are our political leaders exploiting ‘health and safety’ to impose laws and regulations that are incompatible with a democracy of free citizens, or are they just responding to popular demand? Can indeed citizens be free that value health and safety above all things? Are restrictions of individual liberties a price worth paying for the sake of our communal life, or might they actually harm civil society?

Yvonne Crowther
youth manager, Cardinal Community Enterprise Project

Cath Follin
city centre manager, Leeds City Council

Dr Philip Hadfield
associate fellow, University of Leeds; author, Nightlife and Crime

Dr Stuart Waiton
lecturer in sociology and criminology, Abertay University; author, Snobs' Law: criminalising football fans in an age of intolerance

Dolan Cummings
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; author, That Existential Leap: a crime story (forthcoming from Zero Books)

Produced by
Michele Ledda coordinator, Civitas Supplementary Schools Project, Yorkshire; co-organiser, Leeds Salon
Paul Thomas civil servant; qualified FE teacher; organiser, Leeds Salon
Session partners