Capture by activists

The Spectator reports:

I’ve been reading the minutes of the meetings held by the committee that reviewed the guidelines recently. You may recall that this was the first full review since 1995 and led to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Sally Davies, lowering the recommendations for men from 21 to 14 units a week. The female guidelines were left at 14 units. She also claimed that the health benefits derived from moderate drinking were an ‘old wives’ tale’ and claimed that there was ‘no safe level of ’.

The most striking difference between the 1995 review and the 2016 review is the make-up of the panels. Whereas the 1995 committee was dominated by civil servants who had no obvious prejudices for or against alcohol, the meetings held from March 2013 to discuss alcohol guidance were dominated by activist academics and temperance campaigners.

The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), a small but hardline anti-alcohol organisation, was heavily represented on the committee. The IAS was formed in the 1980s as a direct successor to the UK Temperance Alliance which, in turn, had been formed out of the ashes of the UK Alliance for the Suppression of the Traffic of All Intoxicating Liquors, a prohibitionist pressure group. The IAS receives 99 per cent of its income from the Alliance House Foundation whose official charitable objective is ‘to spread the principles of total abstinence from alcoholic drinks’. Its director, Katherine Brown, was on the CMO’s panel, as was its ‘expert adviser’ Gerard Hastings, although he failed to disclose his IAS role in his declaration of interests.

This is a problem in NZ also. The fervent activists on an issue dominate the government committees, and then come up with advice reflecting their strongly held opinions.

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