Those who have ever visited St Woolos Cathedral will have travelled up Stow Hill. Political anoraks will perhaps be familiar with the name, Baron Stow Hill. Or better know as Sir Frank Soskice. He was the MP for Newport between 1956 to 1966.
Sir Frank was Premier Harold Wilson’s first Home Secretary from 1964 to 1965. He proved to be useless and was moved to the post of Lord Privy Seal until 1966 when he retired and became the good Baron of Stow Hill.
Excuse the history preamble but there is one aspect of Sir Franks political career that provides an useful insight into how flexible are the principles of politicians. And it involves another rather wretched Welshman – Timothy Evans.
Timothy Evans was wrongly executed for the alleged murder of his wife and infant daughter, murders that were eventually discovered to be the work of John Christie. The discovery was a bit too late for Evans, he was hung in March 1950. A miscarriage of justice. But it being the British legal system it doesn’t like to admit to its mistakes and it took along time before Evans’s family saw justice done.
Shadow Home Secretary Frank Soskice MP, who give him his due, was a campaigner against capital punishment, started a petition to secure a posthumous pardon for Timothy Evans. He worked diligently on the said petition. Millions of signatures were collected and were duly handed in to the Home Office.
Shortly afterwords the thirteen years of Conservative rule came to an end. Labour won the 1964 election. Harold Wilson became Prime Minister. The petition landed on the desk of the new Home Secretary, he who? You’ve guessed it a certain Sir Frank.
And what did you think happened when he was handed his own petition? He rejected it.
You couldn’t make it up could you.
Not quite on the same scale, but nevertheless something to keep an eye out for. The Health Committee of the National Assembly, today, hand their collective wisdom to the Health Minister on the Human Transplantation (Wales) Bill. The Health Minister, Mark Drakeford will have to decide what to do about that wisdom.
The committee back the general principle contained in the Bill. That is, to change the current donation system to one of deemed consent.If individuals don’t want their organs harvested they have to say so by opting out.
Whilst the committee have agreed in principle to deemed consent, they seem to have very grave reservations about the practicalities of the Bill.
They ask what about the role of the family? Can they use a veto to stop it happening. They demand that the Minister really spell out what is meant. “To give greater public confidence in a system of deemed consent and to provide certainty for medical staff.”
And they want the Minister to look again as to how the publicity programme will be carried out. “We remain to be convinced that the one detailed to us is sufficient to meet the Government’s own aspiration.” In other words Minister put more cash into it.
The committee are far from convinced that there is enough cash in the system to meet the additional costs incurred to deal with any extra transplants. The want the Minister to “prepare and publish a detailed plan of the resource implications of the Bill for the future of critical care capacity in Wales.”
So all in all food for thought about the whole Bill and a real challenge to the Minister. Well, he will do, what he must. Straight forward you may think. That’s the job of a Minister.
Yes, indeed so. Except that the Health committee’s views were determined under the auspices of the Chair at the time, a certain Mark Drakeford. Let us see whether Drakeford does a Soskice and rejects the advice he played such an active part in articulating.