Questions – Skeptical Voter
Loz Kaye – Pirate Party Candidate Manchester Central by-election
Skeptical Voter puts focus on candidates' attitudes to evidence-based policymaking. Here are my responses to their candidate survey. By way of introduction, I would like to point out that acting on the basis of evidence is one of the core principles of our entire policy platform as endorsed by the party membership this year.
Q. Do you support the use of public funds to provide unproven health products such as homeopathy?
No. Unproven products can not – by their very nature – be shown to be beneficial to health. On the specifics of homeopathy, it was hugely disappointing to me that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was unable to rule it out when asked specifically on the Today programme.
Q. Do you think that abortion time limits should always be determined by the current scientific and medical consensus?
Any decision on abortion should be determined by the woman in question, together with the health professionals she choses. Recent debate on this issue has started to sound like some of the worse excesses of American politics, which is not a development I welcome.
Q. Do you agree that testing on animals (within strict criteria) is a necessary part of the development of medicines?
Reluctantly yes. We should continue research in to alternatives.
Q. Should schools be allowed to teach creationism as an equivalent theory to evolution?
No. Creationism is not equivalent to evolution, nor is it a theory in a meaningful sense that it can be properly tested. For this reason, Free Schools should be locally responsible. It is possible to devise alternative teaching plans without losing rigour.
Q. Should religious courts such as Sharia and Beth Din be recognised as alternative systems within UK law?
Supplementary bodies are allowed to make adjudications on their members- for example the FA. There is no reason why this can not continue as long as all parties consent to the framework, and do not come under undue pressure. I don't think it is necessary to single out religious courts. However, I think the key word in this is ”alternative”, to which the answer would be No. Even so, I do not see the evidence that religious bodies are fundamentally challenging the authority of the legal system.
Q. Do you believe that religious belief should be legally protected from ridicule?
No. I do not think extra powers are necessary. I see this as a free speech issue, which is a core commitment of the Pirate Party. I would put this in the context of the Reform Section 5 campaign which I support.
Q. Should religious leaders be entitled to vote in the House of Lords?
Not as of right. Reform of the House of Lords through a national discussion is Pirate Party policy, though the likelihood of this seems remote in the short term.
Q. Should an independent government adviser whose views in their area of expertise conflict with government policy be able to express those views publicly without fear of being sacked?
Yes. Transparency and the right to freedom of expression are core Pirate Party values. Independent advisers must be allowed to be just that. In my view politicians need to be better at listening, not just expecting to be told what they want to hear.
Q. Should policy-makers trust scientific evidence even when it appears counter-intuitive?
Policy-makers should be able to ask the right questions and listen to the right advice to assess evidence properly. We should not shy away from counter-intuitive results, it is our job to be able to communicate the reason for decisions clearly to voters.
Q. Do you support the reform of English and Welsh libel law to allow a stronger 'public interest' defence?
Yes. Libel law is in need of a thorough overhaul. The Pirate Party would make it clear that the truth is an absolute defence against any defamation claim, and significantly reduce the burden and costs faced by defendants in defamation cases.