“Stop funding NHS Homeopathy, MPs urge”. But who are these MPs?

As predicted the media produced the expected snow – every national paper, every TV channel ran the story along similar lines: “Homeopathy should not be funded on the NHS, say MPs”.  The Mail and Telegraph ran stories on Sunday night, which was interesting since the Science and Technology Committee were adamant that details of the report should not be released to the public until after 11am Monday.  Bloggers had already written detailed posts directly quoting the report and published them at precisely 11am.  Leaked?  Surely not,

The Guardian at least waited till Monday to report: “Stop funding homeopathy, MPs urge”.

And so it went on.  Anyone reading the news might have imagined that there had been an in depth investigation of the matter in parliament.

But who are these MPs doing the urging, and how does the Science and Technology Committee work?

The Science and Technology Committee is a parliamentary Select Committee charged with looking into what informs government policy in a number of areas – it’s a relatively recent enterprise and homeopathy is only their second investigation in this form.  One might ask why – of all the government policy the committee could have chosen to investigate, it chose homeopathy – which uses just 0.004% of the NHS budget and has been part of the NHS since 1948. We can only surmise.

Phil Willis, Chair of the committee was at pains to put on record that it was NOT to be an investigation into whether homeopathy worked or not – and then he chaired a committee which did exactly that, but restricted the investigation to the narrow remit of RCTs (Random Controlled Trials).   Surely not?

Let’s look at this committee in more detail:
At the first meeting on 25th November 5 MPs were present plus the Chair: Phil Willis: a history teacher and associate of the Pharma lobby group Sense About Science; Tim Boswell, a farmer; Brian Iddon, Professor of Chemistry; Graham Stringer, Analytical Chemist; Evan Harris, medical doctor and associate of Sense About Science and Ian Stewart, chemical plant operator and open mind.
It can be said categorically that NONE of the MPS present at the hearings have any expertise or even understanding of the homeopathic method.  It could be said that those steeped in chemistry might find it particularly challenging.
The committee spent a total of 4 and half hours questioning 12 witnesses – 7 of whom also have NO expertise or understanding of the homeopathic method – 5 of the 9 non-governmental witnesses had previously publicly declared they were vehemently opposed to homeopathy.  Only 1 witness is in clinical practice.  Biased?  Surely not?

The procedure called for written submissions – closing date was Nov 6th 2009.  Based on these submissions witnesses would be selected to give oral submissions at the committee’s meetings.

Almost 50 written submissions were received by the closing date and invitations for witnesses were apparently sent out 48 hours later. It would be interesting to know which devoted MPs stayed up all night reading the submissions and selecting witnesses.  Unless of course they had already been pre-selected.  Surely not?

Anyone who has watched the archived meetings on the parliamentary website (see posts on this blog) will know that at least two members of the committee had a clear agenda they were determined to push through.  Evan Harris and Chair of the committee Phil Willis,  Sense About Science associates made no attempt to hide their disdain for the witnesses speaking on behalf of homeopathy.  Denialist bloggers and newspapers like the Guardian had a field day with sound bites and helped set the scene for the foregone conclusions of the report itself.

All claims of bias were ignored by the committee and the draft report was written.

This is where it gets even more interesting….

At the meeting of Feb 8th 2010 the S and T committee met to ratify the report.
Present was:  Phil Willis in the Chair,  Evan Harris, Tim Boswell, Ian Cawsey, Doug Naysmith and Ian Stewart.

Ian Stewart put forward an amendment not to ratify the report as it stood but to call upon government to “fund a rigorous research programme into homeopathy”
Voting was:  Ayes: Ian Stewart   Noes: Evan Harris, Ian Cawsey, Doug Naysmith.   Presumably Tim Boswell abstained though his vote was not recorded.

A second vote was taken on the specific paragraph relating to research – to retain as written and not insert Stewart’s amendment: paragraph 77. “There has been enough testing of homeopathy and plenty of evidence showing that it is not efficacious. Competition for research funding is fierce and we cannot see how further research on the efficacy of homeopathy is justified in the face of competing priorities.”

Voting was: Ayes: Evan Harris, Ian Cawsey, Doug Naysmith    Noes: Ian Stewart   Paragraph was agreed to as was.  Tim Boswell abstained?  Vote not recorded.

The vote to accept the report and its recommendations to stop funding NHS homeopathy on the basis that the evidence did not support government policy was:  Ayes:  Evan Harris, Ian Cawsey, Doug Naysmith   Noes: Ian Stewart.   Tim Boswell abstained again?  We’ll never know.

SO this report was ratified by just THREE MPs:

Evan Harris, associate of Sense About Science and it’s fair to say rabid anti-homeopathy campaigner, 1023 participant and ‘senior counsel for the prosecution’.

Ian Cawsey – IT expert, who joined the S and T committee in October 2009, just a month before the meetings and yet chose not to attend the committee’s investigation – in fact was nowhere to be seen until the ratification meeting.

Doug Naysmith – an immunologist – did not join the S and T committee until January 2010 – so was not even on the committee until after all the hearings – yet was present for the ratification of the report.  And he is standing down at the next election.

A committee would invite a new member to join knowing that in a matter of a few months he would be leaving again?  Surely not?

So let’s get this straight – the report and its recommendations that led to the media snow this week, and the dramatic assertion that the public have been duped since 1948 by NHS placebos masquerading as medicine, is the result of a report ratified by THREE MPs: TWO of whom were NOT EVEN PRESENT AT THE COMMITTEE MEETINGS  – and ONE of the two was NOT EVEN A MEMBER OF THE COMMITTEE when the hearings were held, and is due to stand down at the election in May this year.

This Science and Technology Committee investigation into homeopathy was a set up and a sham from its inception to the final meeting and delivery of the report to the UK press.  And there’s no “surely not” about it.

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25 Comments

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25 responses to ““Stop funding NHS Homeopathy, MPs urge”. But who are these MPs?

  1. Pingback: Who are the MPs who recommend the end of homeopathy in the NHS? « Homeopathy4health

  2. Sato Liu

    Can I use extracts (or reprint in full) your article – acknowledging the ‘Voices’ website? Such a good summary!

  3. Thank you this very interesting analysis of this kangeroo court.

    Please clarify something. You wrote: “Phil Willis, Chair of the committee was at pains to put on record that it was NOT to be an investigation into whether homeopathy worked or not.” Do you actually have any specific quote from him on this subject?

    • vonsyhomeopath

      Thanks Dana.

      Here is the quote from the second session of the Evidence Check 30th Nov 2009 – you can read it on the parliamentary website – the link is in another post.

      Chair Phil Willis : “…….Could I first of all apologise that we are slightly late starting today and also put on record, because there seems to be a little confusion about the nature of the work that we are doing, this is not an inquiry into whether homeopathy works or not. This is an inquiry which follows a series of evidence checks across a number of government departments to see whether in fact there was any evidence to support the Government’s policy towards homeopathy. I want to make that absolutely clear.”

      And then he goes on to say: ” I wonder if we can therefore start with you, Minister. Does the Government have any credible evidence that homeopathy works beyond the placebo effect?”

  4. This is fantastic. I have been trying to find out who did what voting on the report. This is a great report of a hugely biased sham of an evidence check. now we need to get this information out there to other MP’s. It would be really good if this could unite all the homeopathic interest groups, registers, HCPF, HMC21 etc. and that together they could make a formal complaint which could go to the parliamentary standards committee, (and the press complaints committee) There must be some way we can get the truth about this shambles of a report into the public arena. All of us at Lakeland College really appreciate your efforts. Thanks. All the best.

  5. For comparison, can you say (if you know) how the November 2000 Law Lords S&TC CAM report was organised? How many people considered how much evidence over how much time, and how qualified those people were? It was clearly a much more serious report: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_4009086

  6. Alex Lawrence

    I have been a patient of homoeopathy for over 40 years. I am 89 years old and thriving. In France, Poland and other European countries to my knowledge, homoeopathy is practiced side by side with other medical practices. A doctor from Pakistan practising in UK told me that on the Indian sub continent homoeopathy is applied equally with “conventional” medicine. In Britain we abhor anything that departs from the teachings of our medical institutions and from the advertisements of the pharmaceutical industry!!!

  7. Zep

    Who would you have chosen instead?

  8. Are you suggesting that it was a conspiracy? Just like homeopaths suggest there is a conspiracy against homeopathy to explain away the huge volumes of evidence disproving its theories?

    If there are to be allegations of wrongdoing on the committee then dare I say it is the homeopath influenced Ian Stewart who should be the subject of criticism. He was lobbied extensively by Carol Boyce, a homeopath of some standing, to pass on her conspiracy theories and allegations of bias. Strangely this isn’t mentioned above.

    • vonsyhomeopath

      Welcome gimpy.
      No conspiracy theories on this blog – just the facts. Any thinking person can draw their own conclusions.
      As for Carol Boyce and Ian Stewart – I read somewhere that he is her MP and therefore she presumably has the right to lobby him about anything which concerns her. I’m sure she would be pleased to hear you consider her a ‘homeopath of some standing’.

  9. Sam

    If anyone wants to read more about the pro GM lobby group, Sense about Science and its sister, The Science Media Centre then Monbiot explained their bizarre leanings in 2003. Unfortunately they are still going strong.

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2003/12/09/invasion-of-the-entryists/

  10. They say there is no such thing as “bad” publicity. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing with patients coming out of the woodwork, who had presumably forgotten what homeopathy did for them, till it hit the headlines. The proof of the pudding is in the results – and hopefully not all of those who have benefitted over the years will have amnesia as one of their symptoms.
    Thanks to those who have put in the leg-work to expose this ridiculous farce – none of which surprises me in the slightest.

  11. Tim

    What an excellent disection of this sorry saga.

    I’ve spoken to my MP who though he doesn’t sign Early Day Motions on a point of principle – “there are far too many of them!” – will make an exception in this case and sign Tredinnick’s pro-homeopathy EDM, he says, because of the “stitch up” here clearly devised in advance by Willis, Harris et al. and orchestrated with their anti complementary medicine friends in the media (Goldacre/Guardian etc) and doubtless in Big Pharma.

    Those guys ought to be required to pay back the taxpayers money they wasted in this exercise and the HoC should either disband this Committee or reconstitute it with some members with integrity.

    Gimpy by the way is the pseudonym of a rabidly anti-homeopathics blogger who spends an inordinate amount of time denying that there is any evidence for homeopathy’s effectiveness regardless of the irrefutable evidence that has been presented to him on many blogsites. A living fossil himself/herself.

  12. F. Joan Macdonald

    Hello;

    Thanks for the background of the committee members, as there is a UK election coming, I so hope there is a change in government members.

    As a homeopath in Canada we had start of this nastiness a couple of years ago – when a UK medical doctor interviewed on CBC public radio – The presenter let him spew very virulent comments about all types of complementary practices – said homeopaths and other natural health care practitioners were “killers”.

    Then across Canada the public backlash. CBC Radio experienced public repercussions for allowing such a nasty interview. Tons of emails, posts, telephone messages – CBC had to offer a chance for a rebuttal from 2 natural health care professionals.

    Now, this Canada government, parliament is in the process of dismantling access to Natural Health Products by making movements toward the European Codex ailmentarius.

  13. free choice

    I resent having my healthcare choices limited by a doctor, an immunologist and an IT guy. If I have the right to a second opinion regarding my health then surely we should have more than one doctor consider whether or not homeopathy might be suitable in any given condition? They can make mistakes, right? But let’s not let them bury this one!

  14. Very many studies proving homeopathy’s effectiveness were submitted to the S&C committee. In addition, the five homeopathic hospitals have been curing people of real diseases for over a hundred years. That includes some of the worst epidemics in history. It’s all documented.
    In France, five medical schools give post graduate degrees in homeopathy.
    In India homeopathy is practiced in hundreds of hospitals by 70,000 board certified medical doctors.
    The fact is that homeopathy does work and it is very scientific. The people who test homeopathic medicines have no financial stake in the outcome.
    Compare this to research on conventional drugs, which is carried out by the Pharmaceutical companies who repeatedly lie about the safety or effectiveness of drugs which are often recalled after killing thousands (eb. Vioxx 60,000 deaths). There is nothing scientific about drug research.
    Only ONE witness who appeared before the S&T committee was a practicing homeopath. The committee members included representatives of the drug industry and individuals with NO knowledge of homeopathy.
    The whole thing was a sham to remove homeopathy as competition from the drug industry. I guarantee the committee members who voted never read the evidence submitted by homeopaths.

    • Sheelagh

      Hi – I am an Irish Homeopath and a member of the Irish Society of Homeopaths. Thank you for all the information on this whole issue. I have done an interview with a local science communications graduate available on: http://sciencechat.podomatic.com/
      using some of this information and much more. To listen go to the middle of the podcast as the first half of it is a phone interview with a UK sceptic but the quality of the recording is bad – the 2nd half is much better. In Ireland we are trying to use any media coverage to put out positive messages about Homeopathy. Keep up the good work and keep us posted on developments please.

  15. Pingback: Worldwide Popularity Grows for Homeopathy Alternative Medicine « Ukiah Blog Live

  16. Daf Bergin

    Thank you for your positive words. I don’t think my words will be so positive- I’m feeling defeated. It’s sad the general public don’t think for themselves and try to encourage the use of Homeopathy. I co- run a low cost clinic, which may close on the 15th March, because the local authority have raised the rent for the landlord, I am low cost so don’t want to charge my patients more to pay the rent. It seems the public get what the public want- as Paul Weller says, and it doesn’t appear to be Homeopathy- so why should we care so much about others welfare, we may just end up looking after ourselves and our own families while the rest of the world quietly poisons itself with drugs. Sorry to be so negative, but that’s how I’m feeling today.

  17. Pingback: US Tele-Medicine Blog » Blog Archive » Homeopathy in Europe Today

  18. Pingback: Homeopathic Medicine: Europe's #1 Alternative For Doctors

  19. Herbert Driessen

    I am VERY concerned that we are then only left with pharmaceutical company’s supplying us with some medications that will leave us with multiple side-effects or DEATH and worst still is that it has the approval of government and doctors ( and IT nerds????????).
    My wife has used Homeopathy during the time she had cancer. We believe that it helped. Even if it was not the only reason why she was cured including an operation, but it certainly DID NOT DO ANY HARM. SO LEAVE IT ALONE FOR GODS SAKE>

  20. Pingback: Homeopathy Plus

  21. Pingback: 100 Facts About Homeopathy « Noor Homeo Hall

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