More on the (un)acceptability of pseudoscience in Parliament

My letter stimulated by David Tredinnick’s inappropriate contributions to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry in to antimicrobial resistance was copied to the Chair of the Committee. I haven’t sought permission to reproduce his response, repeat reading of which increased its irksomeness, provoking the following (sent six days ago and as yet unacknowledged):

Dear [Chair],

Thank you for your response to my e-mail of 13 January 2014, which I have received via [MP]. Perhaps I may now take the liberty of replying directly.

I can assure you I am not neglecting the ‘more fundamental principles of Parliamentary democracy’. This is nothing to do with the democratic election of any MP to Parliament. I am not concerned here with Mr Tredinnick’s suitability or otherwise as an elected MP; although I am interested in his ‘party’s acquiescence’ to his desire to be appointed to this particular committee. Was this by vote? Or just a shoo-in when no objection was raised? As such, I do not consider it ‘undemocratic’ to raise legitimate concerns regarding his continued membership of the Committee. It is somewhat vexing that you present this as a ‘free speech’ issue? Whilst I uphold Mr Tredinnick’s right to express his opinion, I do not, however, quite see how opinion is relevant here. The role of the Committee, as I understand it, is to consider good scientific advice and evidence. As such, it ought to have no truck with logical fallacies and pseudoscience.

You state ‘there are no requirements to have expertise or qualifications on the key topics of the Committee.’ That is why, presumably, the Committee invites experts to submit written evidence and appear as witnesses. However, one might reasonably expect that an MP who seeks to serve on the Committee necessarily has some interest in, and understanding of, scientific evidence. Mr Tredinnick, as you will be aware, also serves on the HoC Select Committee for Health. During its third oral evidence session on the Management of Long-Term Conditions on 29 Oct’ 2013, he made clear his attitude to the findings of the Science and Technology Committee’s Evidence Check on Homeopathy in 2009. He is apparently biased/pre-disposed towards information that accords with his own preferences, as he demonstrated during the second evidence session into Antimicrobial Resistance last week (Weds 8th Jan’), when he repeatedly drew attention to misleading evidence supplied in a joint written submission by Professor George Lewith and Dr Peter Fisher – a point of concern your response did not acknowledge. Is the Committee aware that this constitutes unsound evidence? Have Professor Lewith and Dr Fisher been contacted to ask them to either withdraw or substantiate it? Will Mr Tredinnick be modifying his contribution to the Committee’s ensuing report accordingly?

Mr Tredinnick is obviously of the opinion that the government should fund the research and provision of (for example) homeopathy (as an alternative to antimicrobials). This is of no relevance to the Committee, or the current inquiry if there is no evidence for the efficacy of homeopathic remedies (against infectious disease; or anything else, for that matter). Mr Tredinnick’s preference and opinion apparently do not accord with the stated role of the Committee.

With thanks for your attention,

Yours etc,

One response to “More on the (un)acceptability of pseudoscience in Parliament

  1. Pingback: Is the House of Commons Select Committee for Science and Technology sufficiently rigorous? | Lee Turnpenny·

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