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.