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Invitation to speak at public health seminar in Wales withdrawn

A few weeks ago I reported that I had been asked to speak at a seminar in Cardiff entitled 'Improving health and wellbeing - public health programmes, legislation and integration'.

Organised by Policy Forum for Wales (a division of Westminster Forum Projects, a "private company with no policy agenda of its own which organises impartial and cross-party seminars on public policy"), it takes place on Wednesday January 22.

The invitation, sent on October 31, asked me to make a short presentation in a session entitled 'Prevention, and the role of legislation'.

It concluded:

We believe delegates would benefit from your perspective on the impact that public health legislation has on smoking in Wales.

I do hope that you will be able to take part in what promises to be a most useful event, and look forward to hearing from you.

Naturally I said yes.

We subsequently exchanged several emails. One began:

I am delighted that you will be joining us on the platform for the above event as a speaker.

Another requested a "100-word biography and a head and shoulders photograph" for the delegate pack.

This morning, two weeks before the seminar takes place, I received a further, somewhat apologetic, email:

Dear Mr Clark

Policy Forum for Wales Keynote Seminar: Improving health and well-being - public health programmes, integration and next steps for policy

I am writing to inform you that regretfully the Forum will no longer be able to include you as a speaker on the panel at the above seminar.

As you will be aware the Forum always endeavours to bring together a wide range of voices and options for the benefit of interesting debate and not to exclude any points of view as relevant to the discussion as part of our proposition of impartiality.

However, a number of our speakers, some of whom are directly linked to the Welsh Government have stated that they are no longer able to speak at the seminar if you were to participate. As I stated it is usual for the Forum to include a range of divergent opinions amongst speakers, however on this occasion we feel that in fairness to delegates that have registered to attend based on a programme that includes these speakers it would be unfair and impractical to continue the seminar without their involvement.

I am very sorry for the inconvenience that this causes and I very much appreciate the commitment that you have already made to the seminar. In recognition of this we would welcome you to attend as a delegate, this would of course be on a complimentary basis. There will be significant opportunity for you to engage on the key issues during the day from the floor.

My sincerest apologises once again for any confusion or inconvenience caused.

To be fair, I don't blame Policy Forum for Wales for this about turn. They were good enough to invite me in the first place and if a number of speakers ("some of whom are directly linked to the Welsh Government") threaten to pull out, what can they do?

Anyway, I'm not going to speculate about who refused to share a platform with me. For the record, though, here's the "current, live agenda".

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Reader Comments (18)

Here's someone who would object

I can give you one likely candidate, and that’s Professor Mark Drakeford AM, Minister for Health and Social Services in Wales. He wants to see patients take more responsibility for their own health, and that 30 years of education hasn’t worked, so he wants to see a more interventionist approach, and I’m sure we can guess what that means.

In other words if you have a BMI over 40 or smoke then you would be referred to a course to show you the error of your ways before having non-emergency surgery. How many people I wonder would refuse to give this information, and so go without treatment? This policy is already undertaken by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board – this must have been music to Drakeford’s ears!

He goes on to tell us that “In Cardiff, if you are not a (sic) position to benefit from treatment then you have to help to put yourself into a position where you can benefit from it. There’s no point in giving the treatment if patients can’t benefit from it.” So that means if as a smoker you do not go on a course before any minor surgery, quite simply you will be refused any kind of treatment.
After all as man with big brain says “There’s no point in giving the treatment if patients can’t benefit from it.” Remember its people like him that decide what treatment you should have, based on your lifestyle, no matter how much NI you've paid in over the years!

So, Simon there you have it. These people are the kind that doesn’t give two hoots in hell about you wanting to go along and give a talk about us poor persecuted lifestyle choice makers. I wonder if any such policy will apply to people taking part in sporting activities which result in needing minor surgery.

Just out of interest. If you want to make a major impact on people’s health in Wales or anywhere else for that matter…then why not ban all vehicles from the road, all those millions of tons of carcinogenic carbon monoxide filth being pumped into the atmosphere every single day of our lives.

Your contribution would not have changed minds...and would not have amounted to a hill of beans.

Happy New Year.

Monday, January 6, 2014 at 15:37 | Unregistered CommenterDennis

Isn't it hilarious Simon when the Government liars & pontificators suddenly realise that they are staring straight down a gun barrel-the usual threats have to be made so that their opposition is politely removed from the speakers list. Hilarious :) :) :)

Monday, January 6, 2014 at 15:56 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Johnson

Simon their junk science is being exposed daily in just about every paper it seems anymore. They couldn't dare allow you to speak and destroy their agenda in a few short sentences!

Imagine being the Emperor who wears no clothes and all the court is scared to death to even mention the truth and be beheaded for exposing it. Then walks in a well known name that has a reputation to be respected and well Busts the bubble so to speak and leaves all of them looking like the fools they are!

Monday, January 6, 2014 at 16:47 | Unregistered Commenterharleyrider1978

So it's they who fear open debate. Not surprising.

Monday, January 6, 2014 at 17:10 | Unregistered Commenterchris

So what happened was that certain speaking members of the conference declined or refused to participate as speakers if you where to be speaking with them. It does sound a bit unusual and doesn't do much credit for our voice not to be heard on that occasion but I bet that those individuals tried their best to achieve this outcome by calling themselves anti-smoking charitable guests and such fruit. How about now then?

Monday, January 6, 2014 at 18:43 | Unregistered CommenterCostas Kitis

a number of our speakers, some of whom are directly linked to the Welsh Government have stated that they are no longer able to speak at the seminar if you were to participate

Simon, they can't speak with you around because under the Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, they are not allowed to.

11. "The measures recommended in these guidelines aim at protecting against interference not only by the tobacco industry but also, as appropriate, by organizations and individuals that work to further the interests of the tobacco industry."

Or in other words,it applies to anyone who objects to smoking bans or the continued denormalisation of smokers.
To allow an appeal for compassion or fairness might interfere with future policy, you see.

Monday, January 6, 2014 at 19:04 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

I see that one speaker is listed as 'Head, Active and Creative Lifestyles, Conwy County Borough Council'. I wonder whether and how much that costs the ratepayers. The whole event needs a session of 'What is meant by?'

'Well-being' , for example. I see old people are mentioned. I'm old and my well-being would be greatly improved if those who claim to care about it would shut up. There should also be a scrutiny of the ethics and scope of application of 'legislation' - which might also be interpreted as 'interference'. Similarly a definition of 'public health' would be helpful. The state of the drains is definitely a matter of the health of the public. Whether I eat 'five or day' of veg and fruit or five hamburgers a day is for me as an individual. It is not a matter for Government, great or small. And ... I could go on but, enough!

Monday, January 6, 2014 at 19:17 | Unregistered CommenterNorman Brand

Rose, Article 5:3 is a guideline only. It doesn't stop anyone meeting or sharing a platform with representatives of the tobacco industry (or groups such as Forest). However it is mentioned so often by Tobacco Control that some people seem to think politicians are bound by it. They're not.

Monday, January 6, 2014 at 19:49 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Most the the people who would have objected to your attendance, Simon, pay their mortgages through the public purse...unproductive jobsworths, wasting our taxes. What give them the right to effectively censor an alternative point of view? They represent the true bigots in society today, but it also weakens their own arguments. Are they afraid of being exposed?

Monday, January 6, 2014 at 19:51 | Unregistered CommenterBill C

Having looked at the Agenda and the attendees I think they've just saved you from a day of mind-numbing boredom. Or dangerously elevated B.P!!

Monday, January 6, 2014 at 20:58 | Unregistered CommenterDragonmum

Ha ha! I think you're right.

Monday, January 6, 2014 at 21:13 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Looking at the speakers, it seems that this 'debate' has become a Public Health jamboree.
Might as well cancel it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 0:48 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 1:07 | Unregistered CommenterIvan D

Looked at from another perspective, Simon, it’s actually quite a coup that you were even asked in the first place. Up until a few years ago, no-one would have dared to even <I>suggest</I> that someone from “the other side” might be asked to speak, let alone actually gone ahead and invited them. It’s a small sign that the tide is gradually turning. OK, it’s disappointing that ultimately they didn’t have the courage of their convictions to stand up to the bullies who want to have it all their own way so that they can stand up and crow about how wonderful they are and how many lives they’ve “saved” and how many people they’ve “helped” without a peep of opposition, but the fact that they asked at all has got to be a tentatively good sign. The “green shoots” of recovery and all that …

Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 2:13 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Happy new year Simon, it seems all one sided.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 13:29 | Unregistered CommenterGary Rogers

What they "could do" would be to tell these self important schmucks that they will not be bullied into restricting the freedom of debate, that the forum is a public, free speaking and non-partisan organisation, and tell them to cancel thier bookings if they want to continue to be so childish about it.

But they didn't did they? The capitulated. And so once again free speech and freedom of opinion is curtailed a little bit more, simply because someone figured that if they complained hard enough they would be able to coerce the organisers to thier narrow minded views.

Pretty disgraceful. I'm slightly surprised by how sanguine you appear to be about it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 21:19 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

It seems to me that the correct course for the organisers would be to tell attendees about the problem. A short statement such as:

"We contacted Forest to see if they would like to participate and they agreed to. However the other speakers refused to share a platform with them so we had to withdraw our invitation.”

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 19:03 | Unregistered CommenterTony

Dear Mr Clark

Your exclusion by anonymous, petulant and cowardly public servants and/or politicians demonstrates the level of moral bankruptcy to which government has sunk in this country. It is no wonder that people increasingly regard our government with disgust.

The company organising the event (which is CPD certified, apparently - - does the company's capitulation not prejudice the quality of the certificate?) ought not to permit such anonymous threats, especially from politicians and public servants.

This seminar - probably in common with most such events - has devolved into a mutual grooming session for public control freaks who treat the public as livestock.

Any politicians who threatened to pull out ought to resign: any public servant who did so should be sacked. This is unlikely to happen, since the only difference between government and organised crime is that one is illegal.


Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 23:31 | Unregistered CommenterDP

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