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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 January, 2004, 14:55 GMT
South: Nanny State?
Chrissy Sturt
Chrissy Sturt
Researcher, Politics Show South

From 2006 all new homes should have anti-scalding devices fitted to taps. The Government is planning to set up a helpline to instruct parents on nappy changing. We are advised to drink at least six cups of water by the Food Standards Agency.

Breast feeding
Mothers cannot breastfeed in some public places

Is this the nanny state? and is nanny becoming a little too bossy?

The Politics Show investigates, spending the day with a very regulated guy, Politics Show reporter Mark Sanders.

At every step, whether he's eating cake, drinking champagne or driving his car, he runs into rules and regulations.

As Mark's day develops the dilemma is expounded, we want personal choice, but the state also has a moral duty to safeguard the our welfare.

State protection or restriction?

That the state should strive to improve our health and protect us from harm and hardship is certainly the view of Laura Moffatt, MP for Crawley (lab). Ms Moffatt said;

Government help can prevent children growing up to become fat adults and dying prematurely.

Sometimes it takes severe intervention to make that happen. For everyone with a freedom, someone else loses.

She echoes Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who wrote recently;

I believe we have to treat grown-ups as adults, and everyone has to be free to make his or her own choices.

At the same time, however, the Government would be failing in its responsibility to promote the welfare of the country where it can, if it did not give warning and, sometimes, wield the legislative stick

... So call it a nanny state if you like; I call it the empowering, co-operative state.

Personal freedom essential

But Simon Clark, director of Forest, the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco, has a very different view.

As a non-smoker, he runs Forest because of his belief in personal freedom.

This year he will launch The Free Society, an offshoot of FOREST.

His aim is to "get government off people's backs and defend freedom of choice right across the board."

He suspects the state is applying to our dietary habits the same tactics used against the tobacco industry. Simon Clark stated;

The Government's attempt to influence what we eat is now really taking off.

We are being patronised, people are making decisions for us.

Party politics?

We also talk to Dr Tim Bale, a political scientist at the University of Sussex.

He suggests the Conservative Party is returning to a more traditional form of Tory attack by accusing Labour of unnecessary nannying. Dr Bale explains;

Criticising speed cameras on the grounds of interference is a very traditional form of Tory attack.

In the 1940s Tory critics of the Atlee Government pushed the idea that Labour's big state solutions were circumscribing people's rights to go about their own business.

It goes right back to the divide between a party which promotes liberty and fun, and the cardigan wearing spoil sports.

The Politics Show

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