Sunday, January 22, 2012

Is being an MP a proper job?

Dr Phillip Lee has been a Conservative MP for almost 2 years - as have I. He's written an interesting article for today's Mail on Sunday. The gist of it is that as a GP he feels that he takes important decisions at his workplace, but does not feel he does so at Westminster, and is discouraged from being proactive in his work as an MP. After my first year as an MP, I might have agreed with Phillip, but I don't agree now. Its not possible as an MP to directly save lives as a GP does, or say deliver calves and lambs as I used to do as a livestock farmer, but I've learned that MPs can make a real difference - not so much as an individual but as part of a team.

I can think of several areas where through working with others I think I'm making a difference. Not necessarily going to always win, but could well limit serious damage to the nation. First up is what I consider the madness of onshore wind farms. I feel part of a growing outrage amongst MPs over the damage this policy is inflicting - on fuel poverty, business competitiveness and rural landscapes. Already we are seeing more under grounding of grid lines, and I still hope we can defeat the utterly outrageous Mid Wales Connection Project. I know I'm out of line with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change about this - but the whips have never raised this issue with me. I really feel that I am defending the UK for future generations. On its own, this war makes my job as an MP worthwhile.

And there are an increasing number of other issues where I can play a leading role. There's the need to prevent the adoption of 'presumed consent' in respect of organ donation. The assumption and assertion that this will increase availability of organs for donation is unproven. And I can play a positive role in promoting changes which will bring about a real increase in organ donation levels - which is what will actually help those on the waiting list.

And then there is the developing campaign to legalise 'assisted suicide'. We are just about to be faced with the appalling prospect of an orchestrated campaign to change the law - a sensitive and complex issue. But legalisation is a terrible threat to vulnerable people and must be resisted. As Parliamentarians, we are charged with basing legislative change on evidence rather than intuitive responses. I find these battles every bit as challenging as anything else I've ever done. Will have to have a word with Phillip. There is a massive job facing him as an MP.


JohnJ said...

"I really feel that I am defending the UK for future generations" Glyn, if that is true, can you please state your opposition to New nuclear power as well? The past fifty years or so has left the UK with vast amounts of highly radioactive waste stored on site at nuclear power plants that can NEVER be safely disposed of for ever! and you want to build more!

Glyn Davies said...

JohnJ - Cannot give you a straightforward answer. Until around 6/7 years ago I was solidly anti nuclear. But when I was elected to chair a group of AMs who were charged with discussing disposal of nuclear waste with a group set up by Tony Blair, I changed my mind. Not that I felt there was an answer (there still isn't a credible answer). Its just that I realised another generation of nuclear power stations were inevitable, and I took the view that we should move forward methodically and cautiously rather than wait until we had to rush it in panic. Describe me as a very reluctant supporter of nuclear. Daresay this could start an argument.

Anonymous said...

I don't know Glyn.
I have seen many bright and clever Welsh MP's that have not made it into Government, and if they're lucky in 20yrs they manage to get a single Act. The one man that springs to mind is Daf Wigley.

I think the main reason is because Government is just far too powerful in London. And essentially those that can make a BIG difference is the PM and a handful of close advisors.

The role of backbenchers should continue to increase so that non partisan Acts can be passed. I don't know how it would work, so not to upset the Government.... you're an MP - you think of somin'!!

Anonymous said...

For all its ills, politics is a necessary part of our constitution, without which there would be no democratic society.

What irks me about MPs though, they can hold down other jobs and not necessary have to be in parliament (whips aside). This is sticking two fingers up at democracy and your constituents. There is also the conflict of interest matter, which you can't escape from (everyone has) ... just minimise it.

Anonymous said...

JohnJ> we can easily dispose of it, 'give it to me'. The core of the Earth is 'hot', it's the reason we have mountain ranges, new land, the Galápagos and Charles Dawin's "Origin of Species".

JohnJ said...

Anonymous> its the simplistic view that has got us where we are today.We here in the UK live in a fairytale land that it will all work out in the end.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has said today in the Daily Mail the scale of the UK's debt is the "greatest moral scandal" facing the country (1 trillion pounds) must say I agree with him.The other great moral scandal (though overlooked by the vast majority),through ignorance and arrogance is the ongoing ever larger stockpiles accumulating of radioactive waste stored up for our children's, children's, children's......... to continue virtually for ever. And to pay from tax payers money billions, or trillions of £s to store this atom poo, is moral insanity on a mega scale.
Pylonophobia or Turbineophobia is treatable.
Take a look at this web site for the beginning effects of atom poo.

frankie said...

Don't really understand your fierce opposition to assisted suicide. You seem to have missed out a very important word in your argument, and that is choice. I think it is a fundamental human right to be able to choose when one wants to put to an end one's own intolerable suffering. It is arrogance in the extreme to think that we can make that choice for someone who is suffering a terminal and ghastly illness, and certainly not for anyone else to say "we have decided to let you suffer until the bitter end".

It should not be that difficult to put in place strict protocols, so that no-one else can hasten someone else's death without their full consent.

You said recently that if an assisted suicide bill had been passed, that Stephen Hawking would not be alive today. I find that rather a spurious argument, as it seems Stephen Hawking is quite happy to carry on living and if he had been given the choice when he became so terribly infirm, presumably he would have chosen life not death at that time, as he still feels he has so much to offer the world.

Palliative care can work up to a point, but the doctors don't always get it right, and despite all their best intentions and interventions, people can still suffer terrible pain and go on to have a miserable death. In my many years of working in the NHS, I have witnessed this so many times.

As people very often say - you would never let an animal suffer in that way and it is done with enormous compassion when a beloved pet is euthanised.

It is time we showed our fellow human beings the same compassion, and allow a bill to be passed so that people can make that choice themselves.

Anonymous said...


“I think it is a fundamental human right to be able to choose when one wants to put to an end one's own intolerable suffering.”

Yes and what happens when the government or a government agency decides to make that choice in all but name?

Glyn Davies said...

Frankie - Your's is a common view, with which I fundamentally disagree. Always have done Legalisation would be incredeibly dangerous. There will be full blooded debate on this issue in early March.
One point I should make is that if someone is driven to assist with a suicide, the Director of Public Prosecutions has made clear that if the motivation was entirely compassionate, it is very unlikely that there woudl be prosecution. Over the two years since he established guidelines with this comment, over 30 cases have arisen where sufferers have been assisted to commit suicide through compassion, there have been no prosecutions. In general, legislaters cannot create laws for individuals, they create laws fro society as a whole.

frankie said...

The motivation for assisted suicide is always going to be for compassionate reasons, unless I'm being totally naive, which of course is what you would say. But as there have been over 30 cases brought before the DPP,rather shows there should be a change in the law at least for clarification if nothing else. But presumably your worry is there could be unscrupulous people out there coercing someone to consent to assisted suicide when they were not ready to die, hence the need for strict protocols to prevent this sort of thing happening.

Glyn Davies said...

Frankie - Many oppose assisted suicide on moral and ethical grounds. My opposition is based on a belief that legalisation would be very dangerous. There would be less of an issue if every potential suicide was actually terminally ill (either physically or mentally). It is not possible to predict life expectancy accurayely, and people sometimes make remarkable recoveries. And if every doctor had the bexperience and skill to manage such complex situations. And if every 'loved one' was motivated by compassion. That simply is not the real world. For me the worst aspect of legalisation would be 'normalisation' of assisted suicide where elderly see it as their responsibility to remove themselves from being a burden eating up the family inheritance. Where it becomes difficult for me is in cases like that of Martin, which is currently in the news, who is challenging the DPP's guidelines. It is impossile to frame alaw to account for every individual case. Law has to framed for 60million people. Sorry this is just a brief response. There was a very good 90 minute debate in Westminster Hall a few weeks ago, where 21 MPs spoke, 19 of them in agreement with me.

Anonymous said...

Assisted suicide will have the unintended consequence of devaluing the lives of Seniors. We already see awful situations where seniors are denied even basic care in the NHS - left without meaningful water and food supplies and dying in dreadful dehydrated conditions. This assisted suicide, should it become law, will just be another 'nail in the coffin' for seniors. cw

frankie said...

The tragic case in the news at the moment of a man aged 47 who is almost completely paralysed after suffering a devastating stroke, is a case in point.

Here is a man who has no quality of life and just wants an end to his undignified and miserable life and has been told he can in all probablility travel to Dignitas to die, without the risk of prosecution of the people who will have to organise it and travel with him.

How much more civilised it would be for him to be allowed to quietly die in his own home with his family around him at a time of his choosing.

I must reiterate the word choice again - this is HIS choice and HIS wishes.

Glyn Davies said...

Frankie - Martin's case is deeply tragic. I hope we can find a way of helping him, without opening the door to the inevitable dangers and devaluation of elderly's contribution to society that will follow. In passing have you read the transcript of the debate in the House of Commons. Westminster Hall - 17th January, 9.30-11.00. If it was as straightforward as you seem to think, why do so many of us take a different view. Along with Lord Carlile and Baroness Ilora Finlay, I'm a Board Member of Living and Dying Well, an evidenced based research body which looks the issue of Assisted Dying. I accept that you and others disagree, but I believe to open the door to legalisation would be a disaster for society. At present I feel a majority of MPs and Lords seem to agree.