As I understand it, parliamentary privilege means an MP can say whatever he/she likes in The House, without fear of libel – excepting calling another MP a liar in The House. Because when MPs speak in the House, they are presumed to be speaking truthfully (to the best of their knowledge). A condition of this privilege is that when MPs stand to speak, they do not knowingly mislead.
This last week (on Tuesday 13th January), during a ‘House of Commons Oral Answers to Questions — Health‘ session, one of the topics on which Health Ministers were quizzed was Adult Autism Strategy. And up rose David Tredinnick, MP for Bosworth, to ask:
‘Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is clear evidence that homeopathy is effective in treating autism, especially when doctors have not found a solution? Now that the Society of Homeopaths is regulated by the Professional Standards Authority, will he make more use of homeopathy in the health service generally, and in this particular instance?’
Now, I’m not calling David Tredinnick a ‘liar’ – I don’t doubt that, in his muddled delusion, he believes what he says (which is the simplest explanation and kind of preferable to the opposite, which would raise all manner of sticky issues). However, I do accuse him of yet again seizing any opportunity to promote pseudoscience and (so-called) ‘Complementary & Alternative Medicine’. I’m certain some of his parliamentary colleagues have him sussed – he was accordingly quickly ticked off by The Speaker. But framing as a question distracts from what is not merely a misleading statement. It is utter bollocks!
What/where is this ‘clear evidence’? I tried searching with the keywords ‘homeopathy AND autism’. PubMed returned two hits, neither of which are accessible without subscription. However, one appears to be a news interview with someone who got lost; the other is a CAM-friendly review article. The Cochrane Library returned one hit, apparently not describing a study of effectiveness. And the Evidently Cochrane website threw up nothing.
No scientific, peer-reviewed, published research papers. Perhaps I’m not being thorough enough, so by all means do your own search and get back to me. Oh, and I don’t mean Google-searching – that’ll return you loads… of links to homeopaths or CAM/homeopathic ‘literature’ claiming treatments for autism and pretty much anything. If you consider that ‘scientific’ then, well, I imagine you and Tredinnick would get on famously (though that might depend upon your Zodiac sign).
Moreover, Tredinnick considers that his reference to ‘regulation’ by the Professional Standards Authority somehow lends ‘authority’ to his statement question. But this just provides homeopaths/homeopathy organisations with claim to an imprimatur. Not unlike his own frequent credibility badge-claiming for sitting on the House of Commons Select Committees for Health and for Science and Technology, whereupon he often adopts these tactics.
There is no evidence that homeopathy is effective at treating anything; and quite how it could work for autism is especially confusing. Wouldn’t you think that if there was any ‘scientific’ evidence of an effective treatment for autism, it would be pretty easy to find? Because it would be pretty important. So where, then, is it?
Tredinnick settles for responding to criticism thus:
“The few people who criticise homeopathy tend to be ignorant bullies. They all have one thing in common – they’ve never studied the subject. And rather than trying to increase patient choice, they’re against it for their own vested interests.”
David Tredinnick, Daily Politics: ‘Soap Box’, BBC2, 18/12/14
The ‘few’? Big Pharma conspiracy theorising, anyone? His scientifically illiterate sympathisers will doubtless venture that he ‘means well’. Whatever, David Tredinnick MP – the self-appointed ‘Minister for CAM’ – is abusing parliamentary privilege in order to promote his inappropriate and irresponsible agenda.
He’s also into astrology. Says it all really, doesn’t it?
Oh, big time! Has raised that in The House, also.
Is this a matter for the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards? I think I might find out.
Interesting. I previously corresponded (via my MP) with the Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on my concern at Tredinnick’s contributions to its inquiry in to antimicrobial resistance (and his membership, period). The response was a disappointing rebuff, apparently defending Tredinnick’s right to say what he likes.
Lemme know what you find out.
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