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August 24, 2009

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Kay Tie

"Americans were recently abusing our health service. With the possible exception of France, there is no nation on earth that is more addicted to the myths on medicinal drugs more than the USA."

Perhaps you'd like to be the one to ask Gordon Brown whether he is taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors for depression? And if he is you might like to then tell him that he is addicted to unnecessary drugs and that he should just cheer up and snap out of his depression?

Paul Flynn

Great article KayTie. The Daily Mash is new to me.


The aricle and John are right. This is coarse politics. There is no evidence that prohibiting drugs reduces harm. The point is well made in the Daily Mash.

John

The proposed prohibtition of currently legal highs notice that the 2 worse legal highs tobacco and alcohol remain legal is ridiculous. We had the Tory spokeperson banging on about it today. A more uninformed hypocritical spokeperson on drug policy they would have trouble finding. Lets see him respond to being criminalised for using his drug of choice ie alcohol.
THe drug laws are discriminatory and an assault on the personl freedoms of all adult citizens. If this was about a choice of religion rather than a method of intoxication there would be uproar.
Politicians of both parties excepting our host and one or two noticeable exceptions are so far up their own backsides on this issue there is no daylight of intelligence.

Kay Tie

Lewis Page is a sterling chap. Writes on military/security matters for The Register (www.theregister.co.uk)

Paul, you should see the Daily Mash today. Again, it nails the zeitgeist: this time on the Government's plans to outlaw herbal drugs:

http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/herbal-highs-will-soon-be-as-rare-as-heroin%2c-say-experts-200908252006/

Paul Flynn

Many thanks David it was extremely good of you to write. The information you supply is new to me and fascinating. There was one Government Act in 2001 that was so incomprehensible that nobody understood it and a 'reform' act was passed in 2006 to explain what it meant. The committee has not reached any conclusions yet and I would like to add your comments into the evidence - anonymously or otherwise. I will certainly push the unique points that you make.


While it was an amiable end of term meeting, the committee take the issue very seriously. I am writing a book at the moment. The chapter I am on noww is about select committees and the obfuscations we suffer. This is what I wrote last night:-

PASC is a new world of politics. The common purpose of revealing the truth swamps political sectional interests. One of the un-answered puzzles of New Labour is why Tony Wright was not offered a job as a minister. He has an abundance of political gifts and he inspires trust.

He has led PASC with charm, courage and persistence. Some of the Whitehall walls of silence and secrecy have been breached. Others remain unassailable.

I thought I had a landed a small coup when I was seated next to Tony Blair’s blue sky thinker at Channel Four awards dinner. Lord Birt had been forbidden to give evidence to PASC while he was working for the Strategy Unit. ‘Now that I’ve retired,’ he told me ‘I can come along’.

I was eager to question him on Blair’s rejection of the strategy unit’s condemnation of the Government’s drugs prohibition policy. Alas his appearance taught up nothing. He gave a master class in jargon-clogged obfuscation.

The language he used was clearly derived from English, but incomprehensible to all PASC members "Policy is a sub-set of strategy," with "three-to-five-year horizons" that "improved system outcomes" and "forward strategy".

"You wouldn't have a backward strategy, would you?" Tony Wright mocked. The sarcasm was lost on Birt. He ploughed on. ‘Some embedded strategies are rooted in incentive structures ... conventional performance measurement capability,"

Ian Liddell-Grainger asked Birt what he thought his three towering achievements at No 10 had been. ‘It is not appropriate that I share with you the insights I gained in government.’ We are the inquiring select committee. Who else should he share his insights with?

In some desperation I asked, “If Blairism ever becomes a religious cult, do you think you will be its Pope?". He was mystified; possibly because I was not speaking management speak. He said he was a great admirer of the Prime Minister.

Later a shell-shocked PASC convalesced with a brief inquiry into official use of jargon.

David Richardson

Dear Mr Flynn I listened to part of a programme last night on Radio 4 as I was in the car on my way home at about 11.15pm. It was about the use of plain english and you were involved. The programme struck a resonance with me and so I am afraid you are the recipient of this email! I believe that many of our problems in business and so many other areas of activity and life are because we cannot properly understand what is actually meant when things are written down by other people at almost any level. I am a chartered surveyor who is frequently involved in large commercial property arbitrations. I have been until recently the chairman of the RICS sub-committee on dispute resolution. Property disputes and particularly rent reviews are a major source of significant arbitrations both in terms of numbers and their complexity. That general area of activity is governed by the Arbitration Act 1996, which you will see if you have a look at it is a model of the use of plain english. To the best of my knowledge there has never been any dispute or doubt about the meaning of any part of the Act - no mean feat for the draftsman. If you are serious about the use of plain english I commend the Act to all in Parliament as a model. Those drafting it had the great skill of having used only reasonably short and pithy phrases and sentences - genuinely simple but understandable english. Those of us who are responsible for the performance of arbitrators and for the Dispute Resolution area of the RICS have always been very keen to ensure the use of good simple english by arbitrators in their Awards so that the participants can understand why they have won or lost! When the 1996 Act came into effect we set up new training programmes for property arbitrators. Part of the training (in groups of say 20 people) involved an excellent trainer who got 2 members of the group to sit back to back at desks. She gave each of them a bag containing quite a lot of children's bricks of all different sizes and shapes, but each bag contained exactly the same number of each size and shape of brick. The first surveyor had to build a building out of these bricks and at the same time describe what he was doing so that the other surveyor could try to build the same structure from the identical bag of bricks, just from the description given by the first surveyor, without seeing the structure. You can imagine the chaos and amusement which followed. However, firstly, I am sure we all remember it well and, secondly, we very quickly realised that the chaos was caused by the inability of the two surveyors to use english properly, to understand it and to carry out the instructions correctly. A salutory lesson which we could all benefit from! You might want to try this out on some of your fellow MPs some time. My reason for mentioning all this is firstly to draw your attention to the quality of english used in the Arbitration Act 1996 and secondly to encourage you and your committee to take the issue seriously. If relatively senior and well educated surveyors find it hard to use simple english well, it is likely that the problem is much greater than we may all wish to admit. I would also add that I understood some of the objections in the radio programme to the Plain English lobby and perhaps it would be better if we all aspired to use "simple" or "clear" english instead. I hope this may be of some interest to you.....

HuwOS

It is a welcome improvement, if a few more improvements are made who knows, we may even manage to get a dr who spinoff of our own.

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