Clarke entered Parliament in 1970, and has held positions in cabinet including Secretary of State for Health (1988-90), Secretary of State for Education and Science (1990-92), Home Secretary (1992-93) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1993-97). Since the May 2010 general election he has been Secretary of State for Justice in the coalition government.
In 2006, MPs were asked three questions by the Rough Guide's Mark Ellingham on how seriously they took climate change as politicians and as responsible, active citizens. Kenneth Clarke replied:
- "1: I do regard climate change as an extremely important issue.
- 2: I do believe that the United Kingdom should take steps as quickly as possible to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that this country produces. This will require sensible and practical measures such as investing in more environmentally friendly methods of generating energy and developing new technologies, the various forms of transport and industrial activity that create emissions. When I was Chancellor of the Exchequer I did make use of environmental taxation as I introduced the Landfill Tax and Aircraft Passenger Tax. However, I am cautious about some of the taxes now being proposed as they would need to be pitched at very high levels indeed to make a serious difference to air travel or road travel, which I do not think should be made the prerogative of the wealthy.
- 3: I take as many steps as I can to ensure that I do not waste energy in my private life."
British American Tobacco
An article by George Monbiot about Clarke's connections with the tobacco industry: http://www.monbiot.com/2005/08/23/burnt-out/ (or http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2005/aug/23/conservatives.smoking).
As Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke played a principal role unveiling the Government's March 2011 Draft Defamation Bill Consultation dealing with libel reform. Although the draft did not contain everything asked for by reform campaigners, it was generally welcomed positively. In a news release, Clarke was quoted as saying:
- "The right to speak freely and debate issues without fear of censure is a vital cornerstone of a democratic society. In recent years though, the increased threat of costly libel actions has begun to have a chilling effect on scientific and academic debate, and investigative journalism."
In February 2015 Kenneth Clarke voted in favour of allowing mitochondrial donation, which would allow women who carried mitochondrial diseases to give birth to children who would not inherit the disease. An October 2014 briefing report by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which had been investigating the issue for three years, stated that there was no evidence to show that mitochondrial donation was unsafe. However, some religious groups had said that such procedures should not be allowed. After clearing both Houses mitochondrial donation is now legal, regulated by the HFEA.
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