A couple of weeks ago at a Full Council meeting we heard a deputation concerning the mass release of balloons and lanterns.
Whilst this practice can appear harmless, we heard that beaches in Europe are littered with thousands of deflated balloons – many from this country – and that the practice is killing birds and sea life here and across the North Sea. As a member of, or regular contributor to, The Benfield Wildlife Group, The Dogs Trust, The RSPB, The RSPCA, Sussex Wildlife Trust and the National Trust, the damage balloons and sky lanterns do is not news to me. More than 50 councils have agreed to prevent the release of balloons and lanterns and we were urged to commit Brighton and Hove City Council to do the same.
I was astonished, therefore, when it was suggested that ‘as a Tory’ I would be against banning the mass release of balloons and sky lanterns. I pondered why this assumption would be made, and concluded that it was perhaps because I believe in ‘free markets’, where it is often assumed nothing is ever banned.
A free market is really just a term for the almost infinite number of voluntary exchanges that can be made in an economy, generally based on supply and demand, with minimum of government intervention. Free markets form naturally, through a spontaneous and very natural exchange of goods or services; or they can be formed by governments and then left to function as a regulated free market. The Internet is a clear example of a government-generated system that has been set free, but that now needs some gentle regulation to prevent the increasingly common abuses we hear about daily.
So, it is clear that believers in free markets, as invariably Conservatives are, will not shirk from introducing bans where they bring benefits to society. And the principle that the freedom to do largely as you want, providing it does not harm others, if applied to the mass release of balloons and lanterns is very clear: their mass release should be banned as soon as possible.
Tony Janio is the leader of the Conservatives on Brighton and Hove City Council.