Friday, April 16, 2010

How About Some Science Fact Tom?

It looks like Tom Harris is having a go at Nick Clegg over policy regarding the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). He says:

"Hang on a second – "interfering in the advice they are given"? What on earth is [Clegg] talking about? If he means that literally, then he’s accusing ministers of changing the advice that the council gives them before they give it. Since this has never happened, I guess that what he actually means is that ministers – now brace yourself for this and have those smelling salts within easy reach – sometimes reject the advice they receive."
Err now Tom, I think you will find he is talking about the reality of the situation that is the implosion of independent experts prepared to serve on the ACMD, currently counting seven individuals either sacked or resigned since Home Secretary Alan Johnson sacked Professor David Nutt last October as Chair of the ACMD.

Don't take mine or Nick Clegg's word for it here's what Professor Nutt said at the time he was sacked:

"If scientists are not allowed to engage in the debate then you devalue their contribution to policy making."

Or look at what Polly Taylor's statements on her own, the sixth, resignation in March:

"The government's first response [to the guidelines] was highly unsatisfactory and appeared to justify ministers appointing and dismissing independent scientific advisers according to trust, which is an arbitrary and subjective matter."

Going on to add.

"I feel that there is little more we can do to describe the importance of ensuring that advice is not subjected to a desire to please ministers or the mood of the day's press."

Then look at Professor Nutt who was sacked by the Minister as Chairman of because he made a statement based on science:

"I am very concerned that too many scientists have been left in the position of having to decide between advising government and maintaining their scientific independence.

"I established the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs because I felt it was vital to develop scientific knowledge on drugs independent of the perception or reality of political interference. The new guidelines on scientific advice suggest to me that the government has still not understood the matters of scientific principle at stake, nor what it means to work respectfully with independent scientific advisers."

What the Lib Dems are saying and it is on page 74 of the shiny new Manifesto that landed on my doorstep yesterday:

"Always base drugs policy on independent scientific advice, including making the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs completely independent of government."

Yeah let's quantify that advise on scientific evidence. After all politicians mocked Galileo when he said the earth wasn't at the centre of the universe, they mocked Christopher Columbus when he said the world wasn't flat. Thank God there were both allowed independence to prove their theories and come up with the scientific evidence. It may not have always been what the leaders wanted, but it was accurate.

Under Labour without the facts we may well find ourselves on a disc carried on the backs of four elephants called Berilia, Tubul, Great T'Phon, and Jerakeen, carried on the shell of a star turtle Great A'Tuin

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