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Should there be limits to freedom of speech in the UK? Lords opens chamber for annual intergenerational debate


On Friday 25 November, the House of Lords will host its 10th public chamber event with 200 participants from across the UK taking part in a debate on free speech.

The House of Lords opens up the chamber every year, inviting people from across the UK to take part in an intergenerational debating event. This year, the House of Lords is partnering with English PEN, Migrants Organise, Newham Sixth Form College, Speakers' Corner Trust and 38 Degrees, as well as over ten schools to give a variety of generations the opportunity to have their voices heard in the House of Lords.

The adults and young people will come together to contribute their unique perspectives and debate the following motion from the red benches of the Lords chamber: Should there be limits to freedom of speech in the UK?

The English-Speaking Union has trained all the floor speakers participating in the debate, and created three intergenerational teams, who will each propose a different option:

  • No limits: Speech should be as free as possible. The best counter to harmful speech is debate not censorship.
  • Censor it: We should be able to restrict or censor harmful voices or divisive figures from expressing views that aren't consistent with our nation's values.
  • Monitor it: Speech shouldn't be censored but the government should be allowed to monitor closely what people are saying and intervene if they need to for security reasons.

Ahead of presiding over his first Chamber Event since taking up the post of Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler said:

"As the way in which we communicate with each other constantly evolves; whether through technology or social media platforms, so do the rights that are associated with freedom of speech. This debate aims to identify and explore the issues that surround free speech in today's society and will consider the benefits as well as the ethical issues that censorship can incur.

"For centuries the Houses of Parliament have been at the very centre of our democratic right to speak freely, and I can think of no better setting for this debate to take place. I look forward to hearing from our partner organisations and other participants as this fascinating subject is debated.”

 

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