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« Smoking ban costs landlord his liberty | Main | What does Gillian Merron know about pubs? »

Government consultations: why bother?

I have just been reading the summary of responses to the consultation on proposed tobacco control regulations for England, which was published this week. (You can download it HERE.) The seven-page Forest response was submitted on Monday 4 January (the closing date). At 16:23 we received an email that read:

Thank you for responding to the 'Consultation on proposed tobacco control regulations in England (under the Heath Bill 2009)' ...

Yours faithfully
Tobacco Consultation Team
Department of Health

The following day we received a second, identical, acknowledgement so there is little doubt that our submission was received - and before the deadline.

Odd, then, that the summary document contains a list of organisations that responded to the consultation and Forest isn't listed. (I've read it several times and, no, we're not there.)

In fact, we're not mentioned anywhere in the document. In contrast, quotes from ASH are prominent throughout - to the extent that three of the four comments attributed to ASH are highlighted in green to make them stand out!!

Perhaps the DH was upset by the tone of our submission which concluded with this observation:

We note that the introduction to the consultation on proposed tobacco control regulations states that: “In 2008 the Department of Health published the Consultation on the future of tobacco control which received almost 100,000 responses and prompted further debate on what measures need to be taken to move toward a tobacco-free future.”

What the document does not make clear is that, of the 96,515 responses, the overwhelming majority were pre-written postcards or e-mail campaigns organised by publicly-funded anti-smoking groups, notably Smokefree Northwest (which was responsible for 49,507 respondents), Smokefree North East (8,128) and D-MYST, SmokeFree Liverpool’s youth organisation (10,757).

In total, 79,272 of the 96,515 responses were generated by anti-smoking organisations, most of them funded with public money, a classic example of a government consultation being manipulated to suit government policy.

With this in mind, we look forward to seeing a breakdown of responses to the proposed tobacco control regulations in England (under the Health Bill 2009). It should be at least as interesting as the regulations themselves.

I note that in the introduction to the summary of responses, it reads:

The Department of Health wishes to thank all respondents for taking the time to send us their contributions to this consultation.

Frankly, I don't know why we bother.

Reader Comments (9)

After the jailing of pub landlord Nick Hogan for six months I know why I bother Simon, don't get dispirited...the fight continues.

February 27, 2010 at 11:53 | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYin

"... prompted further debate on what measures need to be taken to move toward a tobacco-free future."

That sort of begs the question whether we should move toward a tobacco-free future. A bit like "When did you stop beating your wife?" begs the question of whether you ever started beating your wife. And, anyway, when did "smoke-free" metamorphose into "tobacco-free"?

I expect this sort of thing from ASH. But I expect somthing else from DoH. It only goes to show that the DoH is as full of anti-smoking zealots as ASH is, and that they are in effect the same organisation.

Exactly this sort of thing was happening with Global Warming, as revealed by the Climategate emails. Phil Jones and co worked hard to keep sceptical opinions out of the journals. And now the AGW movement is deservedly in meltdown. The antismoking movement is overdue for the same treatment, because they're far worse, and have been doing it for far longer.

February 27, 2010 at 14:19 | Unregistered Commenteridlex

Simon says "I don't know why we bother"

Do you know why hundreds of people bother to log onto this site and pour their hearts out every day Simon? Why they spend hour after hour of their unpaid time, writing on here, writing to their MPs, and swatting up on statistics, and trying to raise public awareness of the way they are being treated?

They do this because they need to be heard by someone. They listen to government ministers and hope that their visions for the future are at the very least, being discussed, and that their fears for a future even worse than what we already have, are being taken seriously. But the sad truth is, as we all know, our Government acts like two thirds of the three wise monkeys, they see nothing and they hear nothing (from smokers that is).

There is an estimated 15 million smokers in the UK. That is 15 million reasons why we all need to bother.

When I write to someone and do not get an answer, you know what I do? I write again, and again, and I bombard them with letters and emails and phone calls, until I do get an answer.

And with something as important as the document you speak of, I wouldn't dream of sending that by anything other than recorded delivery. They have absolutely no excuse for ignoring it once you can provide proof of sending.

Two and a half years into the ban and from where I'm standing, this is still a one sided argument, with the big organisations and the big government money (our money) fighting hard to put us down and shut us up.

When you shop at certain stores, they offer you Loyalty Cards, with provide you with discounts for shopping with them for so long. Don't you think it is about time the big tobacco companies started offering us, their loyal customers, something in return for the loyalty we are showing them, by putting up a real fight on behalf of smokers?

February 27, 2010 at 16:17 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

These NHS consultations are a complete farce and rigged like any other banana republic election.

Even if an overwhelming majority of respondents went against the prevailing policies of New Labour, they would still bulldoze ahead with further liberty-sapping initiatives against smoking or smokers. This is getting very personal now, I smoke, I vote.

New Labour has had their day in the sun, do people SERIOUSLY want another FIVE years of these PC idiots?? Get up from your PCs and join the forthcoming GE campaign to rid this country of New Labour for GOOD!!

February 27, 2010 at 19:15 | Unregistered CommenterBill

The thing is Bill, it seems that we smokers do not count any longer, therefore the majority of 'pro smoking' responses received will be ignored so that this criminally ignorant and pathetic government can reach the 'facts' they want to see.

Politics/politicians, corrupt? Could I possibly comment?

February 27, 2010 at 19:52 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

You could have knocked me over with a steamroller !

As to:

"Exactly this sort of thing was happening with Global Warming, as revealed by the Climategate emails."

Good point, Idlex.

As I understand it, many (if not all) of the computer programs that 'predict' Global Catastrophe from increased CO2 emissions are themselves based on the ASSUMPTION that 'CO2 causes Global warming.'

Built into this convenient algorithm, therefore, is the VERY thing it seeks to prove.

Hardly MY idea of Sound Science.

Ditto, of course, the absurd notion (and the ASSUMED desirability) of a Smokefree World.

Hardly MY idea of Sound Philosophy.

The Dodgy AND the Presumptuous in one convenient package.

And they call THIS 'Civilisation'.............?

February 27, 2010 at 22:57 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

You're on a hiding to nothing, trying to talk about voting the Labour Government out of office on here Bill.

I have been trying to say exactly this for the past 2 years, and you know what answer you get? You get "well they're all the same aren't they...the Tories are as bad...etc etc etc. Their other tactic is to tell everyone to vote UKIP, and that, they say, will solve all this country's problems in one fell swoop.

Have you seen the latest polls today, bringing the Tories even lower to just a 2 point lead, which wouldn't even mean a hung parliament, which is what UKIP say they want. This means there is now every chance in the world of another 5 years of Labour.

You try talking sense to them Bill, I feel strained.

February 28, 2010 at 10:39 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

I would not believe opinion polls, Peter. We know who controls the media. We are told that everything is so wonderfully optimistic and bright in this green and pleasant land - and we believe it! Well, it appears that we believe it. They still have to announce the date of the election so when that happens, we will be told that everything is great, fine, cool and wonderful and that we should return our masters to their rightful positions. I don't think, now, that any of us really know what will happen because some results could be very unpredictable.

February 28, 2010 at 11:01 | Unregistered CommenterJenny of Yorkshire

There's only ONE thing amidst all this pre-election feverishness that we can be ABSOLUTELY certain of:

THEY want Cameron to win.

Or Brown.

Or Clegg.

I'd put money on it................

February 28, 2010 at 22:06 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

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