Thursday 15th September
Paul Flynn Shadow Leader of the House
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business.
Today is the International Day of Democracy. Democracy was invented in Greece two and a half thousand years ago and has come to these islands in instalments. We are the only country in the world, other than Lesotho, that still has hereditary chieftains in its legislature. David Cameron’s final awards have been described in the Daily Mail and The Guardian—at both ends of the political spectrum—as “devalued”, “debased”, “discredited”, “egregious”, “grubby”, “tawdry”, “tainted” and “tarnished”, but otherwise okay. At the heart of our democracy is this rotten system with, as the Lord Speaker said, 200 unnecessary people prancing around in ermine down the other end of the corridor. The changes introduced by the former Prime Minister over the years involve £34 million of spending. This is a wanton waste of public money at a time when his justification for the massive disruption to elected Members by the boundary changes was that it would save peanuts. Will the Leader of the House add some new lustre to his parliamentary halo and not be just a leader who is here today and nowhere tomorrow, but take on real reforms?
I also strongly recommend that the Leader of the House takes up this report I have with me, published this week by distinguished Members of all parties. For 25 years, parties of all colours have failed to respond to the appeals from the seriously ill who have suffered agonies of pain when they ask for relief that is provided by the only medicine that works for them, which is cannabis. Because of the prejudice-rich, cowardly, knowledge-free policies of both Governments, we have continued with a system that has criminalised seriously ill people. Now there is a clear call from distinguished and knowledgeable Members here and in the other place to end this barbarous practice whereby we criminalise people for using cannabis but allow heroin to be prescribed. Other countries throughout the world are doing this; there is no excuse for continuing with this practice.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s warm support on this matter, which I have enjoyed over the years.
How does today’s decision on Hinkley fit into the parliamentary timetable? It has never been properly debated here, and any new proposals have certainly not been debated here. This could be the greatest financial and technological catastrophe for 50 years. The price is a rip-off and the technology does not work. Finland was promised that nuclear power from the EPR would be working by 2009, but it is still not working and no date has been offered for when it will, while Flamanville is in a mess because of a technical problem. Yet the Government are going to blunder ahead because they do not have the courage to examine the scheme again. They are going ahead because of political inertia. My party’s policy will be spelled out later by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner), but in the meantime we have to tell the Leader of the House that he must gain parliamentary approval, because this is going ahead without any parliamentary imprimatur at all. As the years and decades go by, and as the futility of this operation continues, this will be seen not as a parliamentary disaster or a parliamentary error, but as a Tory error.