There are many examples of wilful ignorance, blind prejudice and bare faced dishonesty on drugs policy from many former and current MPs. There is no one though who plumbs the depths of deception and hypocrisy as the new drugs minister Victoria Atkins.
Her recent performance in the Westminster Hall debate on drug consumption rooms (DCR) was riddled with inaccuracies, distorted information and downright falsehood about the success of such facilities throughout the world. She simply told brazen untruths in order to support her rejection of the clamour from other MPs to introduce DCRs because they are proven to save lives. I can do no better than Transform in explaining her behaviour. Its press release sets out her lies in detail. Ronnie Cowan MP even raised a point of order and then a Home Office question about her scandalous dishonesty but as usual the government just brushed aside any criticism.
Victoria Atkins: Barrister, MP, Home Office Minister – Dishonest And Corrupt To The Core
Ms Atkins is the daughter of Sir Robert Atkins, a former Conservative MP and MEP. She studied law at Cambridge and was called to the bar at Middle Temple in 1998. She has practised as a barrister and was formerly listed as a member of Red Lion Chambers. She has been appointed to the Attorney General’s Regulators Panel and the Serious Fraud Office’s List of specialist fraud prosecutors. She claims to have been involved in the prosecution of major, international, drugs gangs and that this, somehow or another, qualifies her as an expert in drugs policy.
I relate her background because it is clear that she is a highly intelligent, clever and well informed woman. This makes her dishonesty, hypocrisy and corruption all the more serious and completely inexcusable.
Ms Atkins has replaced Sarah Newton as drugs minister. Ms Newton didn’t last long, perhaps because she couldn’t stand the ridicule that she was subjected to for trying to hold the line on the government’s ridiculous drugs policy. When she tried to claim that alcohol isn’t really that damaging compared to illicit drugs, she had MPs either gasping in amazement or chuckling in amusement. Ms Atkins was clearly spotted for the job because she is one of the few MPs still enthusiastic about prohibition.
But of course, it’s specifically on cannabis that I must call Ms Atkins to account. Aside from the usual, hysterical and evidence-free claims that so-called ‘skunk’ cannabis is causing an enormous increase in mental illness, which she trots out repeatedly, she rejects any idea of regulation in drugs policy as a means of reducing harm. In the drugs policy debate on 18th July 2017 (before she was appointed drugs minister) she said:
“We are talking about gun-toting criminals, who think nothing of shooting each other and the people who carry their drugs for them. What on earth does my hon. Friend think their reaction will be to the idea of drugs being regulated? Does he really think that these awful people are suddenly going to become law-abiding citizens?”
and “I do not share the optimism of others about tackling the problem through regulation.”
However, in what must be the most blatant hypocrisy ever from a government minister, Ms Atkins benefits directly from regulation of drugs. She is married to Paul Kenward, managing director of British Sugar which is growing 45 acres of cannabis under licence in its mammoth Norfolk greenhouse. Mr Kenward is producing high CBD cannabis for use in Epidiolex, GW Pharma’s cannabis extract epilepsy medicine. Ms Atkins has tried to brush this off calling it “…a very different substance (from the) psychoactive version of cannabis.” Of course, anyone with even the most basic knowledge of plant science will know this is nonsense. The difference between different strains of cannabis is the same as the difference between different varieties of tomatoes. Whether they’re Ailsa Craig or Alicante, they’re all tomatoes.
With this latest scandal the shameful truth about UK drugs policy and the corrupt nature of this Conservative government is highlighted once again. It is difficult to believe this bare faced dishonesty can prevail in a country that was once held up as an example of honour and decency but as with so much that Theresa May has been responsible for since she entered government in 2010, we are disgraced, shamed and the electorate is treated with absolute contempt.