Wednesday 16 September 2009

How Labour Lord Darzi Misled The House Of Lords (And Documents To Prove It)

Well, not intentionally, perhaps, but he did nonetheless. Without seeing fit to right his undoubted wrong despite incontrovertible evidence.

In his briefing to the Lords on April 23rd, prefaced 'Dear Colleague', he dispelled a few so-called myths about the tobacco display ban Labour have squirrelled into their new Health Act.

Number 2 is very interesting.


It's important to point out that Darzi, in his own words, was writing to "clarify the government's position" on the matter.

The government's position, then, is that such a measure will be a mere financial piffle for convenience stores to install.

Removing displays need not be costly - even professional covers cost as little as £120 for an area measuring 1 metre by 1.3 metres.

Which is, of course, bollocks.

And how do we know it's bollocks? Because the person they asked for advice - that being the Director of the Canadian company who installs such things - says so.

It's just that Darzi and his Department of Health/Charity/Fake Charity pals chose to ignore him.

Be Der

4 Solutions Displays cannot produce, deliver and install for the minimal dollars you are publishing nor can any other covers for the retailer be represented in the fashion we are being quoted. We would ask that you remove 4 Solutions Displays from any of your promotional materials as the numbers are misrepresenting the actually (sic) costs to a wide base of retailers in the UK.

Hence this is already misleading information from Darzi (or those who advise him) in pursuit of a favourable result in a {cough} democratic debate in the Lords.

Lord Darzi was well aware of this prior to the Lords vote. If his advisers were a little late on such an important matter to 50,000 retailers, then perhaps someone may have pointed him in the direction of the Evening Standard who highlighted it the week before.

The Ministry of Health asked anti-smoking organisation ASH (which is hardly a disinterested party) to check on the cost, and it claimed the figure for the gantries was just £120. This figure was sent by health minister Lord Darzi to every member of the House of Lords.

So how did Darzi stumble upon this derisory cost to retailers when the Health Bill's own Regulatory Impact Assessment had indicated a cost running into thousands?

Simple really. It's because the Department of Health didn't like that big number and sought to reduce it. To do so, they seconded a Cancer Research UK bod to their offices and liaised with accomplished lie manufacturers ASH to come up with something more easy to swallow.

ASH found the supplier, looked for the smallest gantry possible and then corrupted the information in four, count 'em, four ways.

1) They didn't like the cost of permanent solutions, so they asked for ones which would wear out in a couple of months.

2) They then asked what discount could be offered for bulk purchases. Beder gave them the cost for 1,500 units purchased at the same time.

3) ASH ignored delivery and installation costs.

4) They also ignored the cost that was conveyed to them in favour of their own shonky calculation. A lie, as Beder mentions.

We quoted £200 (not £120) for the materials necessary to fit a standard small gantry, based on a minimum purchase of 1500 stores.

This bulk purchase quote does not include the cost of shipping, installation, or specific changes to size and dimensions.

In short, the only way that Lord Darzi's briefing could be accurate would be if 1500 independent corner shops, with identical gantry sizes (which just happen to be exactly the same size as the covers offered), were to club together and buy a temporary solution to the government's ridiculous law, without any cost to have it delivered or installed, they would be able to comply for a couple of months before they had to club together again to replace it ... and it still wouldn't be as cheap as £120.

I don't know about you, but I'd call that a pretty misleading statement.

Darzi had plenty of time to correct it but he chose not to. He also failed to reply to the Association of Convenience Stores who tackled him on the subject - twice.

The third reading of this bill is due next month. Now that Darzi has spirited himself away, it would seem that the government position on the costing will be left to someone else to correct.

But then this is Labour we are talking about, and when did they ever let the truth get in the way of their odd brand of democratic process?

Further reading: The Dark Market, as partially picked up by the Guardian.


Junican said...


Much as I admire your blog, this article, in blogosphere terms, is SO yesterday....

Or is it?

There is a question which hangs in the air...."How many Lords already knew before they voted that the facts were untrue?" Even if they knew that the facts were untrue, were these untrue facts (which they knew to be untrue) a nice excuse to go ahead and vote for the motion anyway?

There are wheels within wheels within wheels.

What I seriously do not understand is WHAT DO THEY OR ANY OF US GAIN FROM IT?

Anonymous said...

Now, Junican, don't be silly, WE are not supposed to gain anything and THEY gain by further denormalising smokers who, not only will suddenly be asking for a product that is so shameful it has to be hidden away, but who'll be pissing off the shop assistant and the queue of people behind in the process.


Dick Puddlecote said...

Maybe, Junican, except Lord Darzi's briefing was omitted from the published correspondence about this so I thought it deserved an airing.

BTS said...

I think the sole point of this ban is to give those twats at ash something to write in their next annual report. They dearly love jizzing on their annual report..

Christopher Snowdon said...

A very good summary.

How frustrating it is to know all this and to even see it exposed in the Guardian, but no one resigns or apologises. The DoH just say 'we're doing it anyway, so tough'. They are untouchable.

Unknown said...

Thanks Dick for showing us these documents. I have never seen these before, and I've had my eyes opened.

These papers also show just how duplicitous ASH have been on this whole issue.

Junican said...


The fact that Darzi misled the House of Lords cannot be denied.

It is clear that certain Civil Servants conspired to present him with information which was untrue. He may have been complicit - we do not know.

The fact that members of the Lords also complied, without asking serious questions, suggests compliance with RECEIVED WISDOM. The received wisdom is that ...........etc, etc.

Anomimous (please, Anonimous, change your name! It is so anonimous.) But you make a valid point. However, I am trying to make the point that there is no serious WE and THEY. Lots of MPs stuff their faces with grub and get obese - really, really obese. Curiously, nobody in Parliament gives a damn!

One thing is sure. If it turns out to be that smoking is good for you, politicians will be the first people to say, "I told you so".