Thursday 10 January 2013

The Times Digs Deeper

In a rare outbreak of objective press coverage, The Times has picked up on the dodgy bill of health given to the plain packaging consultation impact assessment as reported here back in June last year. The regulatory policy committee (RPC) weren't altogether happy with it, you see.

It's mostly behind a paywall, sadly, but Times journo Alex Ralph has again been beavering away.
The impact assessment was given an “amber” rating by an independent committee last year, meaning that it needed more work. The Regulatory Policy Committee, a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, found that the assessment was fit for purpose but requested that it “provide more analysis to support the claim that the proposal will have an overall neutral effect on business”.
That is contained in the Scribd file I posted in June, but this bit is news to me.
In a separate report last March, the committee also raised specific concerns about the flaws in the department’s assessments on proposed tobacco regulations. It said that they “tended to provide a full analysis of benefits but failed to estimate the full economic costs to producers and retailers”.
Now, forgive me if I'm wrong, but hasn't such an approach been the stock in trade of tobacco control for decades now? Indeed, it is now a mirrored tactic employed by anti-alcohol, anti-food, and anti just about anything else you might care to mention.

Go to extremes, talk up every best case scenario while ignoring resultant consequences is the norm. It's an approach best exhibited by an appallingly-compromised wonk from Policy Exchange two years ago.

It's encouraging to see that the RPC recognise this fact, though.

We now must only guess which official whitewashed piece of 'evidence' the RPC might have been alluding to with plain packaging. Because, you see, there are so many bastardisations within this consultation that it's hard to pin it down.

Could the RPC's concerns be about the carefully selected judges of impacts to trade should plain packs be introduced, who just happen to be those who are promoting the policy and are paid to do so?
The tract admits that there's no way they will be impartial, and that many will have a personal stake in seeing one side of the argument prevail over the other. However, the civil service doesn't seem to envisage any problem with this.
Or could they be a bit spooked by the fact that other governmental departments have been purposely excluded from giving their input?
You see, the Department of Health were mighty pissed off in 2009 that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS) had the temerity to raise concerns about the damage the display ban would have on retail shops. They were forced to water down the proposals as a result, and that just won't do. 
So, this time, they have excluded the DBIS entirely to ensure that no-one can raise a silly objection like, you know, 58,000 small businesses - which are overwhelmingly against the idea for good reason - being shafted on the whim of the lucratively tax-funded tobacco control industry.
Or perhaps they are uncomfortable with the revelation that the entire raft of 'evidence' for the proposal in the first place has been written by the same people who dreamed up the daft idea.
So, thus far, we have a proposal which wasn't in any manifesto; government shovelling artic-loads of money towards lobbying itself; an evidence review which includes tobacco control referencing their own (already paid for) fantasies; and a set of expert opinions to be taken from the same people who imagined, demanded, got paid for advancing, and submitted biased 'evidence' for, plain packaging of tobacco.
Your guess is as good as mine.

If you, like me, would prefer to see these questions answered publicly before the Department of Health gives us its decision on the matter of plain packaging, you'll be sadly disappointed. The finalised impact assessment, as I understand it, is only released after the decision has already been made.

How very convenient.

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