Promoting quackery in Parliament: debating Tredinnick

When Dennis Skinner made the news bulletins last Friday for his apposite swipe at the Tory-UKIP curs Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell, what wasn’t made so apparent was the context in which he delivered his barb – a Commons debate on the Second Reading of the National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill.

To which I’ve been drawn via a ‘TheyWorkForYou’ e-mail alert to the activity of the bumbling humbugger, David Tredinnick, MP for Bosworth. Aside from this debate’s addressing of the arguable privatisation of the NHS – and Tredinnick’s apparent endorsement of such – he does, as is his way, exploit this prime opportunity to promote his agendum – the promotion of CAM quackery and its ‘integration’ into the NHS. And, though predictable and somewhat amusing, some of his statements are nevertheless quite disturbing in their sheer lunatic effrontery.


Commencing with an apology for having to leave early

‘… because I have to be in Hinckley for the switching on of the Christmas lights, which is something I always look forward to… ‘

which reinforces perception of his infantilism, he then proceeds to take the opportunity – as he often does – to flag up his credentials:

‘I have a long-standing interest in health matters and I have been a member of the Health Select Committee since it was set up in this Parliament, as well as of the Science and Technology Committee in this Parliament. I am also the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on integrated health care.’

And then proceeds with:

‘I have had many conversations about these things with the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend Dr Poulter—the Minister on the Front-Bench today. He has entrusted me with being vice-chair of the herbal working group, which is trying to sort out herbal medicine regulation. When we examine the support services that are not now part of mainstream health care, we see that we have a fundamental problem relating to the insistence that we rely on evidence-based medicine. I do not know where that phrase came from—it has not been around for a long time. Various bodies protect the public, and all new drugs are carefully scrutinised, by the pharmacists and the Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee, which has put together a list of what are, in effect, poisons and bans the use of some herbs. The public are protected in that way, but it is very difficult to use normal measurements to assess the effectiveness of, for example, acupuncture, which the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has approved for treating lower back pain. A lot of evidence shows that acupuncture can reduce the effects of lower back pain and save the NHS a lot of cost. With homeopathic medicine, which I have long supported and advocated, it is impossible to run trials on every dilution: some are so dilute that they do not show up.’

(My emphasis in bold.)

Ignorance is forgive-able. But wilful ignorance is the resort of the deluded. And this is wilfulness writ large. Reliance on evidence-based medicine is certainly a problem to those who persist in advocating (for whatever reason) alternatives for which there is no evidence of efficacy – such as homeopathy, the prima facie exemplar of CAM-ite double standardising.

Thankfully, there was at least one in attendance savvy enough to attempt rational interjection. Tredinnick gave way to Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge, who appropriately reminded him and The House that:

‘My hon. Friend will be well aware that there have been many trials of homeopathic medicines, and the fact is that none of them has shown that they work better than a placebo. He is right that they are very dilute; that is why they do not work.’

Tredinnick’s confused response is pure pratfall:

‘The hon. Gentleman makes my point. I remember when some of his friends went to Boots in Kensington high street and consumed the entire stock of homeopathic medicine. They saw that as a huge triumph, as they felt it illustrated the fact that homeopathic medicine was not effective. Of course it did nothing of the sort; it proved that it was absolutely safe to take these preparations under any circumstances, and that the only time they work is if they are in the right preparation and are taken in the right amount, as prescribed by a professional.

I say to the Minister—I hope he will tune in to what I am saying—that we must move away from this insistence on evidence-based medicine and look at evidence-based practitioners. This is an area that has been overlooked for a very long time. There is much evidence that practitioners are well regulated, and we do not need to insist on checking every single preparation that people consume.’

(My emphasis in bold.)

‘Homeopathic medicine’ is an oxymoron. Of course it was safe – it was water, you dunny! Why, I wonder he didn’t resort to the ‘There is no proof it doesn’t work’ fallacy. (He wouldn’t do that, would he?) At this point Tredinnick was, quite rightly, ticked off by the Deputy Speaker:

‘Order. The hon. Gentleman is aware that I am watching very carefully the matters that he is addressing in the House right now. He must speak to the Bill. We are discussing whether the Bill should have a Second Reading and go into Committee.’

And things are brought back on track. However, of further concern is that it is not unclear whether Tredinnick has a CAM ally in The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, Daniel Poulter:

‘… the [Health and Social Care] Act placed great importance on and sought to drive increased integration across our NHS, a point clearly articulated by my hon. Friend David Tredinnick.’

I wonder whether Poulter is clear on what it is that Tredinnick wants to see integrated.

Earlier in the debate, Tredinnick had attacked Labour on its representation of NHS privatisation:

‘It is regrettable that Labour is taking the Goebbels-esque approach of saying something that is fundamentally untrue and then repeating it and repeating it in the hope that the electorate will buy into it.’

What putrid hypocrisy from one who exploits any opportunity to propagandise quackery in Parliament. In a recently reported interview Tredinnick labelled his critics ‘bullies.’ His critics, or his ridiculers (though they are often the same, such is the ridiculousness of much of what he deems valid)? Dismissed with the logically fallacious appeal to bandwagon, moreover, they are ‘ignorant’. Because they are unqualified in, or do not understand, that which they criticise and ridicule. (Astrology? Homeopathy? What is there to understand?) Well, one who, as far as I’m aware, is neither medically nor scientifically-qualified perhaps ought not to throw stones in the layman’s glasshouse.

Tredinnick holds a pretty safe (‘semi-marginal’) Tory seat whose blue constituents apparently tolerate and/or forgive whatever foibles and faults he displays. He may, for all I know, be very good at representing them and be wholly deserving of a pay rise; but, wittingly or unwittingly, they’re granting him licence to waste Parliament’s time with pseudoscience and quackery – and in doing so to persist in making a fool of himself.




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