James Plaskitt

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James Plaskitt was the Labour MP for Warwick and Leamington from 1997 until 2010, when he lost the seat to Chris White (Conservative).

He is the 2012 Labour Party candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner in Warwickshire.

Questions & Answers

On 16th April 2010, James Plaskitt gave the following answers to the Skeptical Voter questions in a letter to Al MacLeod.

1. Do you support the use of public funds to provide unproven alternative "treatments" such as homeopathy?

I have received strong representations on homeopathy from both sides of the argument. I have always favoured the approach that local people should decide the best way to deliver healthcare for their community. That is why I supported Warwick hospital's campaign for Foundation Trust status, whereby local people have a greater say in healthcare provision.

2. Should schools be allowed to teach creationism as an equivalent theory to evolution?

I think schools should be required to teach evolution, but also be allowed to discuss creationism if they wish. It would not be right for the government to interfere in teaching faith matters. But it is essential that pupils are not denied access to fundamental principles, even if schools believe these to be wrong. Labour passed new laws on this principle just last month, which mean that all schools must now teach evolution, as well as sex and relationship education.

3. Do you believe that religious belief should be legally protected from ridicule?

No - there is no right not to be offended, and I can see no reason why religious faith should have legal protection from ridicule. We have legislated to ensure that there is no incitement to hatred or violence on the grounds of religious belief.

4. Should an independent government adviser whose views in their area of expertise conflict with government policy be able to express those views publicly without fear of being sacked?

Yes - but anyone who agrees to advise the government must stand by their obligations under the Codes of Conduct. I think you are probably referring to the case of Professor Nutt who resigned as an independent advisor. Professor Nutt was not sacked for his views. Labour set up the process whereby independent advisors publish their conclusions for all to see - therefore Professor Nutt, like all other advisors, are perfectly entitled to publicly disagree with the government. What they cannot do, however, is lobby for a change in government policy once the government has made a decision. It is right that the public see any difference in opinion, but advisors must respect the government's democratic authority to govern.

5. Should Sharia law be allowed as an alternative system within UK law?

UK law is always sovereign. However I would not see a problem if people from a particular group consent to abide by their own codes in matters solely concerning themselves - so long as UK law is not broken. There are already, for example, Jewish family 'courts' which settle some conflicts. But there can be no challenge to the supremacy of UK law.

6. Do you agree that testing on animals (within strict criteria) is a necessary part of the development of medicines?

I am confident that the strictly controlled animal testing which currently operates in the UK is necessary for the safe development of medicine.

7. Should policy-makers trust scientific evidence even when it appears counter-intuitive?

Policy makers should be able to trust scientific advice - but in my experience the scientific community often fails to form a single view.

8. Do you think that abortion time limits should always be determined by the current scientific and medical consensus?

In 2008 I voted on abortion term limits. I spent months looking through all the relevant scientific data and speaking to medical experts as well as those directly affected by abortion. I found that the scientists never explicitly take a view on term limits. But based on the scientific evidence I saw - which had been significantly updated since the last Parliamentary vote on abortion - I voted to lower the abortion limit to 22 weeks, from 24. This is because new studies had found fetal viability is possible from around 22 weeks. But I think this is a decision that must be taken by politicians as they have to be accountable to the people.

9. Should religious leaders be entitled to vote in the House of Lords?

I favour a fully elected House of Lords.

10. Do you support the reform of English and Welsh libel law to allow a stronger 'public interest' defence?

Yes, I do and I believe that the government has recently begun a review of our libel laws. I think this will be an important issue for the next Parliament.

Abortion

In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), James Plaskitt voted for the abortion time limit to be lowered to 22 weeks against scientific and medical consensus which is currently 24 weeks[1]. After four separate parliamentary votes on varying time limits, the majority of MPs voted to keep the abortion time limit at 24 weeks, in keeping with scientific and medical consensus, hence no abortion amendments were added to the bill.

MMR Vaccine

James Plaskitt signed the February 2009 Early Day Motion 754: MMR Vaccine and the Media supporting the use of the MMR vaccine. The motion expressed disappointment with the reporting of the vaccine by Jeni Barnett on her LBC radio show in January 2009, and expressed the hope that future reporting of the issue of MMR would be less sensationalist and more evidence-based.[2]

Homeopathy

In March 2010, following the publication of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's report "Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy", James Plaskitt signed Early Day Motion 908: Science and Technology Committee Report on Homeopathy, which was critical of the report[3].

He said of the motion: "I signed this because I support the right of local people to decide. That's why I backed Foundation status for Warwick hospital" [4]

Libel Law Reform

In March 2010, James Plaskitt signed Early Day Motion 423 calling for a reform of the English libel law[5]. The motion noted that human rights activists, scientists, writers and journalists are currently prevented from publishing, and the public prevented from reading, matters of strong public interest due to the chilling effect of the law.

References

  1. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmsctech/1045/104502.htm
  2. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2008-09/754
  3. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2009-10/908
  4. http://twitter.com/JamesPlaskitt10/status/11703818985
  5. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2009-10/423

External Links


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