Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Lord Digby Jones wants to legalise drugs

It always amazes me how sensible the views of government ministers can be once they leave office.

Lord Digby Jones who until a year ago was Minister of State for Trade is a good example. After leaving the government he was quoted as saying that his time as a junior minister was "one of the most dehumanising and depersonalising experiences" anyone could have. Perhaps his comments last night on Newsnight reveal part of why this might have been as it is clear that Lord Jones favours legalisation of drugs which as we know is anathema to our current government.

Lord Jones was asked as part of the "Politics Pen" segment for ways to reduce spending and/or raise more taxes. He could have chosen anything. Here is what he said:

It’s a time for desperate measures because we are in desperate times. I would legalise prostitution. I would regulate it and out of it I would produce billions of pounds of revenue. I could also appoint a working party to look at a form of legalisation, regulation, clinically clean up and taxation of drugs, in a form. (My emphasis)

He also suggested a flat tax as his final point.

OK, so he hedged it a little bit with appointing a working party (although this sort of approach is sensible and probably necessary to ensure it was done in the best way) and used the words "in a form" or "at a form" twice (old obfuscatory habits clearly die hard) but there is no mistaking what he is saying. There is no fundamental reason in his view why drugs cannot be legalised. It would just come down to the details of how exactly this was done. Good on him for speaking out like this.

So the next time a government minister tries to paint the idea of legalisation and regulation of drugs as a far out, wacky idea on the margins, just remember that the eminently sensible and mainstream Lord Jones (former DG of the CBI and Knight of the Realm) was until recently a member of the government and he doesn't think so.

Then ask yourself how many more in our government actually agree with him but cannot speak out because of the straitjacket of collective responsibility.


Mark Wadsworth said...


Ewan the liberal beardy said...

It's remarkable how many of the other ideas proposed were political non-starters, whereas Digby's were eminently sensible. He's now a cross-bench peer rather than a Labour one so he may be courtable for the cause...

Yeti said...

I'm pretty convinced most of them would agree with it but realise it's one of those issues you can't hint at, you're either right behind it or against it.

I believe David Cameron supports it privately but realises that he's still not a shoe in and doesn't want to rock the boat. This is from Wikipedia (I know, I know but it is referenced):

Upon his election to Parliament, he served as a member of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, a plum choice for a new MP. It was Cameron's proposal that the Committee launch an inquiry into the law on drugs,[78] and during the inquiry he urged the consideration of "radical options".[79] The report recommended a downgrading of Ecstasy from Class A to Class B, as well as moves towards a policy of 'harm reduction', which Cameron defended.[80]

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

(Another grossly inappropriate swipe from you at the doctrine of collective responsibility, the abandonment of which would do very great harm by undermining the necessary unity of Government. [sigh]) (Also, since when has been being a Knight of the realm been any recommendation?)

Jones' views accord with those I have long held - although for some dangerous drugs I would like the government to be the monopoly supplier, thereby to assure quality and better regulate use and rehab. practises. He will come in for some criticism though for perhaps seeming to elevating revenue raising over welfare considerations.

Mark Reckons said...

CRM - As you know I have commented about my views on collective responsibility before (I include the link for the benefit of anyone who has not read it and your response on that thread).

I do not think that my comments are "grossly inappropriate". I think I am perfectly within my rights to point out the negative consequences of collective responsibility illustrated with Lord Jones' comments on Tuesday.

If anyone is being inappropriate it is the government. Thousands of lives are ruined and/or lost every year as a result of our current drugs policies. In 1970 there were 2,000 heroin addicts, there are now 200,000. That has happened under the current regime and there are all sorts of problems such as dirty needles, poisoned and cut supplies, massive amounts of crime all of which are caused or exacerbated by the illegality of drugs. The fact that there are clearly members of the government who recognise all of this and that there must be a better way to save lives and reduce harm and yet are prevented from speaking out or influencing the debate at all is what's inappropriate.

I am pleased you share Lord Jones' (and my) views on the potential legalisation and regulation of drugs. I agree with you by the way that the economic argument is not the best one although it is a factor and there are some states in the US where it is being used and has strong support for legalising cannabis.