I thank my right hon. Friend for saying at the beginning of his response that he is determined to find a solution to this. That will also be welcomed by my right hon. Friend the Attorney General, Alfie Dingley’s MP, who has been working hard, if necessarily privately, on his behalf.
I hope that the Home Office is going to find a way to cease standing behind a 1961 UN scheduling of cannabis as having no medicinal benefit whatsoever. My right hon. Friend mentioned Sativex. However, there are now 12, soon to be 15, states of the European Union and 29 states of the United States of America, and the District of Columbia, that have all found a way to license the medicinal use of cannabis. Is he aware of the position of the Republic of Ireland, which, with a legal framework very similar to ours, gave its Health Minister the explicit power to license use of the medicine in cases such as Alfie’s?
My right hon. Friend’s position, and that of the Government, currently flies in the face of the popular view in the United Kingdom, where 78% of people think that we should find a way of using cannabis-based medicine. Out there, most people instinctively understand the pain and symptom relief that is available from cannabis-based medicines. Here, we know from the Barnes review of 2016, commissioned by the all-party parliamentary group on drug policy reform, that there is good, peer-reviewed medical evidence of the effectiveness of cannabis-based medicines for conditions associated with multiple sclerosis, the side-effects of chemotherapy, and epilepsy.
Failure by the Government to move from their current position will sentence Alfie to the steroid-based treatment he was receiving before he went to the Netherlands, which is likely to give him early psychosis and a premature death. Their position also means that British citizens are being denied all the potential medical and symptomatic benefits that could come from a properly licensed, regulated and researched access programme to cannabis-based medicines. If we do not give people the licences to do the medical research, we will not get the products. Granting the licences would mean that we would not have to rely on the wisdom of crowds and illegally sourced and unreliable products, and would have peer-reviewed, evidence based treatments produced to pharmaceutical standards.
I urge my right hon. Friend, who is very far from being cruel and heartless—as indeed are the rest of his colleagues in the Home Office—to help either the manufacturers of the drug that will save Alfie’s life, or his doctors or the family to find a way through to get a licence to treat him, and to instruct his officials to assist. It is an indication of just how messed up our management of this issue is that my right hon. Friend from the Home Office is answering this urgent question and not a Health Minister. On health grounds, this is an open-and-shut case.