Monday, July 14, 2008

Putting The (Tom) Brakes On

The Lib Dem blogosphere generally does a good job of covering comprehensively the political events of the day, even though in the Information Age there's always something more to talk about (and usually someone more to discuss it). Nevertheless, some of the things the blogosphere miss can be a little surprising. Indeed, I was working on a review of some energy matters we'd missed the other night when a bout of idle channel-hopping led me to something that had me hopping in a rather different way...

Last month there was a brief tizz about a protest in Wallington regarding the imaginatively-titled shop, “Your High”. There was a brief discussion about the nature of liberalism and the demands of councillordom, but very little came of it. Until, that is, I was flicking through the channels at the back end of Freeview and alighted on BBC Parliament's coverage of the introduction of a Ten-Minute Rule Bill last Wednesday, July 9th by our own Tom Brake. The title of his putative legislation?

The Cannabis Seeds (Prohibition) Bill

In case anyone needs reminding why that would be a serious problem, allow me to quote from the Party's existing drugs policy;

“While retaining the criminal penalties on the statute book, we therefore propose to issue policy guidance that it is not in the public interest to prosecute individuals for possession of cannabis for their own use, cultivation of small numbers of cannabis plants for their own use, or social supply of cannabis.

(Honesty, Realism, Responsibility; Policy Paper 47, 2001)

Theoretically, of course, there can be no prohibition on any Member of Parliament bringing any legislation he so desires and it would be highly dubious for any political party to attempt to restrict the rights of individual members. But in case you'd missed it, Tom Brake is not just MP for Carshalton and Wallington; he is a shadow minister in Chris Huhne's team and is our names spokesperson on Home Affairs.

Acting as a local member in the perceived interests of your community is one thing. It is completely inconsistent, however, for a member of our party's shadow ministerial team to introduce legislation that runs contrary to approved party policy.

Yes, it's a Ten-Minute Rule Bill, it's chances are slim and none. Nevertheless, a Bill sponsored by The Right Honourable The Earl Of Vaz, GCB, CH, VC, DFC and Bar must be considered fairly serious when it falls within the purview of his select committee. And in any case, there is a distinct matter of principle involved.


Andy said...

Quite. Well spotted!

What exactly can the membership do about this, though?

Jock Coats said...

Read, read! Thanks for flagging this up. I can't say I'm terriby happy at him taking this so far - there's representing your constituents, and providing a liberal example to your constituents. Liberalism is surely about not giving in to the tyranny of the majority.

Now, I wonder if we can get someone to table a ten minute rule bill along the lines of "The Prohibition (Prohibition) Bill".

Steph Ashley said...

Good grief, I'm GLAD it hasn't attracted much media coverage - it would be so hard for me to defend this if it were spotted by some of the people on our target wards who have had long chats with me about how we are the only mainstream party with a sensible and realistic attitude to drugs instead of the normal shrill, reactionary throwing-up-of-hands present everywhere else. What was he *thinking*? Even if it's a matter of pleasing his constituents, it could and should be taken to a council level to deal with this one particular shop IMO.