21 Apr HASC Drugs Inquiry – Evidence Or Spin?

The astonishing announcement by Keith Vaz on Thursday evening about next Tuesday’s oral evidence session casts grave doubt on the integrity of the inquiry’s process.

Russell Brand is to give evidence followed by the unholy trinity of Mary Brett, Kathy Gyngell and Peter Hitchens.

What qualification Mr Brand has other than his celebrity is difficult to see. Hundreds of thousands of other British citizens have battled addiction under the great immoral policy of prohibition and they did not have the advantage of huge wealth to help them through. Mr Vaz seems to have a fondness for associating himself with celebrities.

Even more worrying are Mr Vaz’ words “We have heard previously from those who support the decriminalisation of drugs. I look forward to hearing from those who oppose this measure.” as justification for inviting the three most extremist prohibitionists in Britain to give evidence. It is like asking the BNP and the EDL to give evidence about immigration.

And who are “those who support the decriminalisation of drugs” from whom “we have heard previously”? Richard Branson, who candidly admitted he is “no expert”? Hardly a match for three of the most seasoned propagandists in the business! And where is any evidence about the medicinal use of cannabis, a subject of great importance to hundreds of thousands of British citizens?

One of the fundamental problems with the inquiry is that no programme, schedule or process has been announced. I have repeatedly asked the committee’s admin team what is the next step but they do not know. It seems that everything is done merely on the whim of Mr Vaz. Therefore, we do not know if he is planning to call any of the very well informed expert witnesses who contributed to the 80% of written submissions that call for reform. It doesn’t look good though. It seems that Mr Vaz has made his mind up and that the outcome of this inquiry was predetermined. Perhaps it is just a sop to public opinion, sprinkled with a few celebrities to get press coverage, designed to mislead the public into believing this important subject has been properly examined.

I have written to Mr Vaz and the other members of the committee in private expressing my concerns in much more detail. I have asked him for urgent reassurance that the inquiry will hear evidence on an impartial basis and that there will be at least a semblance of fairness in the selection of witnesses.