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Thursday 22 November 2012

Black Seoul Days

In these uncertain times of austerity, this dark fiscal age where every taxpayer's penny spent is rightly scrutinised, is it reasonable to ask whether the Department of Health has shown financial prudence by sending not one but two junior civil servants 5,510 miles (8,876 kilometers), as the crow flies, to attend the Fifth Convention of the Parties for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in Seoul, Korea?

From London to Seoul -- a really, really long way to travel
According to this document (PDF pg 18) posted up on the WHO's FCTC documents page (site link here), we learn that both Andrew Black, DH Tobacco Programme Manager, and Sarah Restarick, DH Tobacco Policy Manager, are listed as official United Kingdom and Northern Ireland delegates to COP5.  In fact, UK taxpayers have paid for return flights, meals and accommodation of at least five people that we know of at present:

Money well spent? You decide.
So while the NHS has seen its budgets dramatically cut over the past few years under the coalition of Tories and LibDems, and there are real concerns that the standard of care will be reduced as a result, is it really an acceptable expenditure of the public's money to send two Department of Health representatives to Seoul?  Was this really necessary?  And even if we concede that perhaps only one DH employee should be allowed to travel thousands of miles to the heady delights of Seoul, should that person in attendance be a mere junior civil servant or should it be someone a bit higher up in the Department?

These are serious matters.  The DH must be held to account and answer for this clearly frivolous spending of taxpayers' money at a time when the public's money is clearly in short supply to those organisations that desperately need it in order to provide even the most basic services to the citizens of the United Kingdom.

Of course, we don't know yet how much the DH spent on sending Black and Restarick to Seoul.  We don't even know if our government provided money to other NGOs or charities for them to attend COP5, too. One can only suspect that the money must be rolling in hand-over-fist at ASH London, because pictures found on-line show that Deborah Arnott was having a huge laugh in Korea.

Arnott and spouse - Photo credit G.Fong
Photo credit G.Fong
Photo Credit G.Fong
Yep. It was one huge party at COP5, replete with the finest wines and bubbly the taxpayers all over the world can buy.

Cheers! - Photo credit G.Fong
Let's all raise a glass to a relentless campaign of hate against smokers!
Photo credit G.Fong
And finally, I provide one last photo that indicates that those Pictorial Health Warnings (PHWs) are not really up to scratch and the anti-smokers know it.  This is a slide from somebody's presentation that clearly shows that PHWs cease to have much effect shortly after their introduction, which is what we've all been saying all along, but somehow making them larger and larger and introducing plain packaging will magically alter their effects on smokers:

PHWs do not work, but we must press on anyway! Photo Credit G.Fong
Good to know.

There are more documents that I must comb through, so if I find anything else of interest, I will blog about it.