I mentioned I was going to raise a number of contentious issues and invite readers’ comments. I have three issues in mind, each of which attracts strong feelings but which deserves being debated, if only for the purpose of rejection. They are the sort of issues that are appropriate to debate in the Lords, in that we have the opportunity to raise topics outside the context of partisan debate and which may not necessarily be popular – but nonetheless deserve an airing. The three issues are ones on which I would be interested to hear arguments on both sides. Expressions of opinion are fine, but unlikely to be persuasive: it is the arguments I am interested in, especially any informed arguments not normally heard. I don’t have an interest to declare in any of the issues. My only interest is in determining what is in the public interest.
The three issues are those of drugs, divorce and prostitution. I thought I would start with the issue of drugs, if for no other reason than that I see the Adam Smith Institute has published a pamphlet which, among other recommendations, argues the case for liberalising the law on drugs. Is this a path we should be considering? On the one hand, drugs have a devastating effect on the body, but then so does tobacco. If we ban drugs, should we not also ban cigarettes. If we permit cigarette smoking (other than in confined public spaces) should we not also do the same for drugs? Perhaps more importantly from the perspective of the public good, would legalising drugs not serve to undermine or destroy the current evils associated with the drugs trade?
In an ideal world (or at least in my ideal world), no one would smoke or take drugs. However, we don’t live in an ideal world. As a Conservative, I start from the perspective of the real. What, then, should be done? Should we follow Switzerland and treat drug taking as essentially a health issue? Or should we leave things at they are, even possibly tightening the law?