Lang has a BSc in Chemistry from Edinburgh University.
Skeptical Voter Questions
I e-mailed Kevin Lang some of the ten questions on 14 April 2010, and received the following response nine days later.
- Many thanks for your email. I certainly appreciate you taking the time to contact me. I will try and answer each of your questions in turn.
Do you support the use of public funds to provide unproven alternative health products such as homeopathy?
- As you may be aware, a recent report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee examined the provision of homeopathy through the NHS and called for funding by the NHS to be stopped. The Committee did recognise that many users derive benefit from its use and did not argue that such treatments should be banned.
- The Liberal Democrats believe that, as a basic principle, individuals should have maximum freedom about how they choose to get treated, so long as the therapy is safe. When it comes to NHS provision, we support a review by NICE into the cost effectiveness of Complementary and Alternative (CAMs) therapies, including homeopathy; as well as expanding the work of NICE to look at the cost-effectiveness of existing conventional treatments.
- We know that many complementary therapies are popular with the public. The NHS budget is limited and we want to make sure that NHS funding is focused on treatments which are efficacious and cost-effective. NICE reviews of all existing treatments would give us the best possible basis for future decisions over funding.
Do you believe that testing on animals (within strict criteria) is a necessary part of the development of medicines?
- The subject of animal testing is one which understandably arouses strong instincts and emotions. I believe it is important to balance concern for the animals involved with concern for those humans who will suffer should vital life saving studies not be carried out. Under no circumstances should animals be used for the testing of household products or cosmetics; however I do believe that animal testing is unfortunately necessary in some areas of medicine.
- The replacement, refinement and reduction of trials involving animals should be vigorously pursued but we cannot ignore the progress such trials have provided. Major advances in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, for example, came about as a direct result of research using primates. Therefore we must accept that the research involving animals can be vital in treating cruel and debilitating conditions in humans.
- Where it is not possible to avoid animal experimentation it is of great importance that these tests are carried out in accordance with best practice. In order to ensure this the Liberal Democrats propose to establish a permanent Animal Protection Commission, answerable to Parliament through a Cabinet Minister, to act as a ‘one-stop shop’ for all animals used by humans and to ensure animal welfare considerations are upgraded.
What are your views on creationism and should schools be allowed to teach it as an equivalent theory to evolution?
- As someone with a science background, I simply do not believe creationism since scientific evidence disproves it. Whilst I have no issue with schools educating children about the existence of the creationist doctrine, I do not believe that it should be taught as an equivalent theory to evolution.
Do you believe that religious belief should be legally protected from ridicule?
- I would not propose any changes to the current laws in this area. I believe the 1998 Human Rights Act effectively challenges Scotland's outdated blasphemy laws and works well in practice, shown by the complete failure by some sections to bring forward a prosecution of blasphemy.
Should an independent government adviser whose views in their area of expertise conflict with government policy be able to express those views publicly without fear of being sacked?
- I will presume that this question has been asked with respect to the UK Government's drugs policy.
- I believe that Labour have consistently failed to take the advice of expensively assembled experts when it comes to drugs policy. It was a disgrace that the former chairman of the ACMD was sacked just because he told Labour what they did not want to hear. Scientists should be able to tell the truth to politicians without fear of reprisals.
- That is why the Liberal Democrats will make the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs completely independent of Government. Ministers will then be bound by the recommendations of experts. As a result, drugs policy will always be based on expert scientific advice, rather than being kicked around as a political football. In the long-term, the Liberal Democrats will undertake a complete review of drugs policy
Should policy-makers trust scientific evidence even when it appears counter-intuitive?
- I am afraid that it is simply impossible to give a yes or no answer to this question - this will entirely depend on the circumstances of the particular issue. I say this as someone who comes to my politics from a science background and knowing that science evidence can and does change - I know this from my own science research whilst at Edinburgh University!