Quango Tales: The Nastiness of NICE

As two recent newspaper articles reveal, politically correct officials, mostly in quasi-autonomous government organisations (quangos) continue to torment the lives of decent, law-abiding people and criminalise many of us in line with the ousted Labour Government’s obsessions, but not (we hope) with those of the new coalition.  The cases involved are both politically controversial and both stem from the social engineering role which the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has arrogated for itself.

Sex Education

The first of these concerns the reiteration by a NICE senior manager of the proposed introduction of compulsory sex education in all schools, private and public, for all children from the age of 5 onwards.  This idea, which would have been unthinkable before the all-corrupting Blair Government, is apparently justified by the ‘need’ for even very young children to ‘understand’ relationships, sexual and other, so that they will avoid the dangers of puberty and enjoy better lives in adulthood.  This, of course, flies in the face of common sense based on the experience of most parents and individuals capable of remembering their own childhood, that children love to experiment and often get a thrill from ‘being naughty’.  At best, this policy will breed a generation of cynically promiscuous individuals, countering the influence of more responsible parents. At worst, it will generate more cases like the recent ‘rape’ of an 8 year-old girl by two 10 year-old boys.  NICE has no legal authority in this field and should be ignored.


The second case relates to the study by Sir Peter North, commissioned originally by the Labour Transport minister, Lord Adonis, and now taken up by NICE (which, unlike Dept of Transport officials, does not report to elected ministers). Basing himself on academic research paid for by NICE, North recommends that the permitted alcohol level for driving be reduced from 80 mg to 50 mg (one pint of the weakest beer or one 175 ml glass of wine).  The research consists largely of a compendium of studies in other countries together with the authors’ own judgement about its reliability.  None of it relates to the UK, as the authors admit. Much is made of lower limits in force in Europe, without reference to the milder, graduated, penalties and more flexible and less vigorous enforcement there.  There are also the results of computer “modelling”, providing a bogus sense of precision on the number of lives saved.  In no way does this ‘research’ support the very strong conclusions, (involving draconian enforcement and penalties) which North himself has drawn from it. The only data which could support this is a comprehensive survey of all fatal accidents, detailing the proportion of deaths arising where the driver’s blood level at the time of the accident was between 80 and 50 mg per litre, with comparisons with cases where it was both above and below that limit and with cases where the state of the driver (rage, grief), age and drug-taking were a factor, then there might be a basis for action.  Over a quarter of all deaths in cars are for those under 25 as insurance premiums testify.  North could try banning these.  As matters stand, however, the North report is no more than a fig-leaf for the unnamed social engineers close to government who, having completed their anti-smoking crusade, were reported some time ago as saying ‘Let’s get the drinkers next’. That is no basis for the wholesale criminalisation of the very many light/moderate drinkers who drive safely and lawfully within the targeted level every day of the week.

Breathalyse Pregnant Women

On today’s news (24 June) NICE has committed another spectacular misdemeanour, demanding that all pregnant women should be breathalysed to see if they smoke.  Apparently all such women cannot be trusted to tell the truth to their midwives, who in any case will be pointing out to them the dangers of smoking while pregnant and giving strong warnings about the harmful effects they and their unborn babies can suffer.  Proving that a pregnant woman is either smoking, living with a heavy smoker or living in a home with a faulty heater, will not guarantee that the woman is able to change her habits or her surroundings, but may embarrass her to the extent that she does not turn up for essential screening, development checks and treatment.

Future of NICE

NICE has a useful though less headline-grabbing function in deciding the cost-effectiveness of medicines and medical devices for use within the NHS.  It is now exceeding its remit, perpetuating the defunct Labour Government’s anti-libertarian programme of micro-managing the way of life of individuals.  NICE is out of control and needs to be restricted to its original purpose.  It should be stripped of its independent status and integrated into the Dept of Health as a technical unit, thereby re-establishing full ministerial responsibility and involving a purge of its senior levels of management. We hope that Lord Young of Graffham will pursue this in his review of regulation and regulatory bodies.

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