In the talk this evening, Norman Baker will outline his position on drugs and government regulation.
Norman Baker has been MP for Lewes since 1997. Born in Aberdeen, Norman moved to Hornchurch in Essex in 1968 and was educated at the Royal Liberty School, Gidea Park, before taking a degree in German (and being elected three times to run one of the college bars) at Royal Holloway College, University of London. He was elected to Lewes District and Beddingham Parish Council in 1987 and, two years later, to East Sussex County Council.
In 1991 he led the Liberal Democrats to victory at Lewes District Council, becoming that council’s first ever Lib Dem leader. He was elected to Parliament on his second attempt in 1997, becoming the seat’s first non-Conservative MP since 1874 and overturning a Tory majority of more than 12,000. In 2001 he was named “Inquisitor of the Year” in the Zurich/Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards and in February 2002, Channel 4 named him “Opposition MP of the Year”. Following the 2010 General Election, he was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport as part of the Coalition Government. He served in this position until his promotion, in October 2013, to Minister of State for Crime Prevention at the Home Office. He resigned from this post in November 2014.
While in Government, Norman Baker repeatedly called for changes to drug policy, claiming that patients should have access to cannabis for cancer pain relief and multiple sclerosis and that, in some cases, legal highs might be better off regulated rather than prohibited. In August 2014 he wrote an open letter to the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, in which he said "I think it is time to reconsider the medicinal properties of cannabis, given what I've learned in my role as a minister. I've seen more and more evidence that cannabis can provide genuine medical benefits to treat a number of conditions. There is a growing body of research that shows the medical properties of chemical components of cannabis. I am uncomfortable that there are credible people I have met who tell me that cannabis is the only substance that helps relieve their condition, but not only are they stopped from accessing it officially but they have to break the law to help their health … Obviously we have to do this right; we need to ensure that the proper medical processes are applied. But I've always said that we should follow the evidence, even if that takes us into uncomfortable areas of policy-making."