Lords opens chamber for free speech debate

Participants in the 2016 House of Lords Chamber Event.
28 November 2016

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's event took place on Friday 25 November 2016, with participants debating free speech in the UK.

Participants were drawn from partnerships with a number of organisations including 38 Degrees, English PEN, Migrants Organise, Speakers’ Corner Trust and Newham Sixth Form College, as well as students from various schools in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The debate focused on freedom of expression, asking the question: Should there be limits to freedom of speech in the UK? Participants could support one of three statements on freedom of speech: no limits; monitor it; or censor it.

The final vote result was:

  • No limits: 98
  • Monitor it: 75
  • Censor it: 16

The Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, speaking ahead of the event which he chaired, 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 can I 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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Image: House of Lords 2016 / Photography by Roger Harris

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