Parliamentary sketch – “Policy-based evidence-making”!
Ministers – across all Governments – always tell us that they only ever engage in “evidence-based policy-making”. And that they never stoop to the practice of a headline grabbing, ill thought-through short-term initiative. We’re told that they always gather the evidence first and, having first weighed everything up carefully, calmly take a pragmatic policy decision.
Of course we see a lot of the opposite. Civil servants call it “policy-based evidence-making”. It happens most of the time as far as I can see. It means “coming up with a case to justify what the Minister wants”.
So Ministers want to blame nurses for poor care outcomes on Hospital wards? But nurses inconveniently provide evidence of dangerously inadequate registered nurse staffing levels. So Ministers seek to deflect attention from themselves by snatching at initiatives; like making all trainee nurses do up to a year working as a care assistant before they fully qualify to practice. Civil servants are sent off to find evidence to justify this nonsense.
Then they want to tick the macho box by saying that they’ll kill badgers to control the appalling problem of rising bovine TB levels in our herds; when the balance of scientific evidence says that such a policy risks making the situation worse. Before that policy starts to unravel I’m trying to work with scientists to find a more workable solution.
Indeed, the very justification for the policy of extreme austerity has recently been shown to be based on inaccurate statistical analysis, but we hope that the economy won’t have to suffer much longer before the Government concedes; and invests in house building and the construction industries to find a route away from triple dip recession.
Then there’s the scapegoating of that conveniently inarticulate group, the so called ‘shirkers’, who can be told that they can manage on less than poverty incomes, when most benefits are paid to working families and pensioners. So while millionaire pensioners continue to receive winter fuel allowance, free prescriptions, TV licences and a free bus pass they don’t need, the poorest are threatened with eviction from their homes if they have one box room too many in their often less than desirable Council House.
I fear that the Government’s reaction to the appalling and savage killing of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich last weekend will be more of the same. Wanting to look decisive and responding to the media fuelled mood of the country.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot that’s going right. Raising the income tax threshold to take the poorest out of tax, increasing the basic state pension by a decent annual amount for the first time in thirty years and much more. But the Government should go back to gathering the evidence before creating policy, not the other way around.
Andrew George MP
Kernow a’n West ha Syllan
West Cornwall and the Scillies
Constituency of St Ives
28th May 2013