Paul Flynn

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Paul Flynn is the Labour MP for Newport West. He entered Parliament at the 1987 general election.

Contents

Biographical background

Flynn was educated at St. Illtyd's College, a Roman Catholic school in Cardiff, and at University College, Cardiff. On leaving education in 1955 he worked as a chemist in the steel industry, where he remained until 1983.

Flynn was elected as a councillor on the Newport Borough Council in 1972-1981 and to the Gwent County Council 1974–1982. He unsuccessfully contested Denbigh at the October 1974 General Election where he was defeated by the Conservative, Geraint Morgan, by 4,551 votes. He was elected to the House of Commons at the 1987 General Election for Newport West defeating the Tory Mark Robinson. Flynn defeated Robinson by 2,708 votes and has remained the MP since.

Healthcare

Abortion

In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), Paul Flynn voted to keep the current time limit of 24 weeks[1].

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report of October 2007[2] had found no good evidence of change since the limit was set in 1990, and hence no new reason for a reduction. However, it acknowledged that this was only one of many factors to be taken into account when legislating, and did not make any recommendations as to how MPs should vote.

Miracle Cures and Dyslexia

In June 2008, Flynn proposed Early Day Motion 1770, protesting the uncritical promotion by the media of Dore, a claimed miracle cure for dyslexia, in the absence of scientific proof of its value. [3]

Following criticism of Dore from bloggers and journalists, Paul Flynn MP proposed the motion, and wrote on his website:

"Will the media react and repent their gullibility ? Persuade your MP to sign. The number is 1770."[4]

In July, Flynn responded to a report for the Welsh Assembly on support for people with dyslexia. He wrote on his blog that:

The Assembly report says, “"All the different types of support that demonstrated to them had clearly identifiable benefits." This has not been shown to be the case: for example, Dore and Brain Gym both lack a plausible mechanism of action and any good research to show effects beyond placebo.
Dore has recently gone into administration after charging up to £2,000 per ‘cure’. The Assembly should not be giving credence to treatments that has no reputable evidence base.[5]

MMR Vaccine

Paul Flynn signed the February 2009 Early Day Motion 754: MMR Vaccine and the Media supporting the use of the MMR vaccine. The motion expressed disappointment with the reporting of the vaccine by Jeni Barnett on her LBC radio show in January 2009, and expressed the hope that future reporting of the issue of MMR would be less sensationalist and more evidence-based.[6]

Homeopathy

In June 2010, Paul Flynn signed four amended Early Day Motions critical of homeopathy: EDM 284A1: BMA Annual Representative Meeting Motions on Homeopathy[7], EDM 285A1: Effect of Homeopathic Remedies on Breast Cancer Cells[8], EDM 286A1: Homeopathic Medicines in the Treatment of Moderate to Severe Depression[9], and EDM 287A1: Homeopathy and Chronic Primary Insomnia[10]. These amended motions were all against the use of homeopathy, and highlighted flaws in studies that had been welcomed by the original pro-homeopathy motions.

In July 2010, Flynn signed EDM 387: Homeopathy[11] which supported the findings of the Science and Technology Committee's report on homeopathy: that homeopathy was no more effective than placebo and its should not be available on the NHS.

Creationism

In 2002, Paul Flynn commented on a response by former Prime Minister Tony Blair in Parliament regarding the teaching of creationism in schools. Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Tonge had asked Blair if he was "happy to allow the teaching of creationism alongside Darwin's theory of evolution in state schools" - to which Blair readily agreed, triggering a row over the issue.[12] Paul Flynn commented, "Why couldn't he come out and say such teachings should have no part in state education?"[13]

Flynn has also made comments critical of creationism in his blog. Flynn commended the work of 'Pastafarians', activists concerned with the intrusion of religion in schools (primarily in the US), for "exposing the claims of some of the creationists".[14]

Plymouth/Exclusive Brethren

In December 2012 Mr Flynn proposed Early Day Motion 873: Exclusive Brethren and Charity Status which stated:

"That this House congratulates the Charity Commission for denying charitable status to the Exclusive Brethren sect; notes the sect's doctrine of separation which has divided families and excludes Brethren from society to the extent that members refuse to live in semi-detached houses for fear of contamination from non-Brethren; and is appalled by the definition of their faith expressed by their leader Bruce Hales that the whole principles of the world have to be scorned, disdained and hated and that members of the sect have to develop an utter hatred of every feature of the world to avoid being sucked in and seduced by it."[15]

There are a number of Christian denominations under the banner of the Exclusive/Open/Plymouth Brethren with a shared history but distinct doctrines. Some of them practice extreme separation. Concerning the particular case of the Preston Down Trust, the Charity Commission submitted written evidence to the PASC which stated: "Preston Down Trust promotes particular beliefs and practices, in particular the doctrine of separation which is central to their beliefs and way of life and this has the consequence of limiting their engagement with non-Brethren and the wider public."[16] Because of this the Commission judged that there was not sufficient evidence to show public benefit, as is required for all groups following the 2006 Charities Act.

Policymaking On Drugs And Alcohol

Paul Flynn signed Early Day Motion 2244 calling for Government policy on alcohol and drugs misuse and harm to be based on scientific evidence. The motion came shortly after the sacking of Government drug adviser David Nutt by Home Secretary Alan Johnson in 2009.

Climate Change

In 2006, MPs were asked three questions by the Rough Guide's Mark Ellingham on how seriously they took climate change as politicians and as responsible, active citizens. Paul Flynn replied:

"The giant priorities of politics for the next decade are global warming, ending rigged world trade and the waste and slaughter of wars. I am horrified at the reports of the imminence of global calamities that could make our world uninhabitable. Continuing to foul our environment could raise sea levels by 7 meters in 15 years. Timid and blinkered politicians are failing. Politicians have a duty to lead and educate public opinion and not to pander to its lowest common denominator of ignorance and prejudice. Courage and vision of a high order is essential.
"Our donkey-brained leaders could take us over the precipice. We need a paradigm shift to change our fundamental assumption on the way we live and how we run our economies. Action should be massive and swift. The alternative is to continue stealing a sustainable human habitat from our grandchildren."[17]

In February 2010, Paul Flynn signed Early Day Motion 524: Recognising Climate Change which states that "this House agrees that climate change is happening and is man-made" and calls this statement a "fact, which has the support of the overwhelming majority of the scientific community"[18].

Sellafield

In March 2008, Flynn proposed Early Day Motion 1148: Mixed Oxide Plant. The motion was signed by 27 MPs and read:

That this House is appalled at the revelation that the Sellafield mixed oxide (MOX) plant is one of the most comprehensive and catastrophic failures in Britain's industrial history; recalls that it was built at a cost of £473 million to produce 120 tons a year of nuclear fuel but has managed only 5.3 tons in five years of operation resulting in plans to ship plutonium to France; recalls the science-based campaign by environmental groups, The Independent and hon. Members which exposed the futility of this proposition in the year 2000; and condemns the naivety and scientific illiteracy of those who invested taxpayers' money in Mox in the absence of rational evidence of its viability.[19]

After tabling the motion, Flynn described his reasoning on his blog:

"In 2000 there was an impassioned campaign by, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace to expose the idiocy of spending on Mox. That argument was won. No rational case was presented by Government. Out of loyalty, inertia, ignorance and misplaced trust in Government, MPs refused to act to stop the madness.
Was there any point is all our science and reason based arguments eight years ago? It changed nothing. The only justification would be if there was recognition now that a dreadful mistake has been made."[20]

Badger Cull

In March 2011, Mr Flynn proposed Early Day Motion 1591, which states:

That this House notes the encouraging downward trend in bovine TB incidence in England and Wales; urges the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairsnot to put these improvements at risk by culling badgers; further urges the Secretary of State to follow the peer-reviewed advice of the Independent Scientific Group to concentrate on improving and rigidly enforcing cattle-based controls and testing procedures in order to bring the disease under control; and calls on the Secretary of State to take account of the opportunities now offered by successful badger vaccination trials and to prepare the way with Brussels for the earliest possible application and introduction of cattle vaccines that offer the only real long-term solution.[21]

Flynn lists "animal welfare" as an interest on his Parliamentary profile[22].

Some background on evidence relating to badger culling to control bovine TB and the Independent Scientific Group's advice: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10227556

Animal Experiments

In June 2013, Mr Flynn proposed Early Day Motion 263: Animal Experiments, which stated:

That this House notes the new campaign For Life On Earth which is critical of avoidable experiments on animals; is alarmed that all studies measuring the claimed ability of animals to predict human responses expose a low success rate in the region of 31 per cent; further notes that a success rate in the region of 90 per cent is required by medical practice; further notes that the National Cancer Institute has said that cures for cancer have been lost because studies in rodents have been believed; and calls for properly moderated scientific public debates on the misleading results and bad science of animal experiments.[23]

The group Speaking of Research (who describe themselves as "an advocacy group that provides accurate information about the importance of animal testing in medical and veterinary science") examined the claims made in the EDM[24] and described the 31% figure as "a guessed percentage based on an incorrect interpretation of a paper from 35 years ago wrongly extrapolated" and the 90% figure as "complete nonsense". They also noted that National Cancer Institute has a website "devoted to demonstrating why animals are essential to researching cancer" (here) and that the EDM's "lost cures" claim was based on a cherry-picked quote.

David Gorsky of Science-Based Medicine also blogged about the claims of the EDM[25], takings some of his information from Speaking of Research and thus reaching similar conclusions. On the 90% figure he noted that "There are lots of tests in routine use whose predictive value is less than 90%, sometimes considerably less than 90%".

Science Funding

In October 2010, Paul Flynn signed Early Day Motion 767: Science is Vital Campaign. The motion stated that the house "believes that continued investment in research is vital in order to meet the technological and social challenges of the 21st century, and to continue to attract high-tech industries to invest here; further believes that large cuts to science funding are a false economy, due to evidence that research investment fuels economic growth".[26]

Libel Law Reform

In March 2010, Paul Flynn signed Early Day Motion 423 calling for a reform of the English libel law[27]. The motion noted that human rights activists, scientists, writers and journalists are currently prevented from publishing, and the public prevented from reading, matters of strong public interest due to the chilling effect of the law.

Skeptical Voter Questionnaire Response

1. Do you support the use of NHS money to provide unproven health products such as homeopathy?

1 No

2. Should schools be allowed to teach creationism as an equivalent theory to evolution?

2 No

3. Do you believe that religious belief should be legally protected from ridicule?

3 undecided

4. Should an independent government adviser whose views in their area of expertise conflict with government policy be able to express those views publicly?

4 Yes

5. Should religious courts such as Sharia and Beth Din be recognised as alternative systems within UK law?

5 For limited areas of law

6. Do you agree that testing on animals (within strict criteria) is a necessary part of the development of medicines?

6 Rarely

7. Should policy-makers trust scientific evidence even when it appears counter-intuitive?

7 yes

8. Do you think that abortion time limits should always be determined by the current scientific and medical consensus?

8 Yes

9. Should religious leaders be entitled to vote in the House of Lords?

9 No

10. Do you support the reform of English and Welsh libel law to allow a stronger 'public interest' defence?

10 you bet - with enthusiam.

References

  1. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2008-05-20&number=203&mpn=Paul_Flynn
  2. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmsctech/1045/104502.htm
  3. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2007-08/1770
  4. http://www.badscience.net/2008/06/rock-and-roll/
  5. http://paulflynnmp.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/07/most-welsh-sport.html
  6. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2008-09/754
  7. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/284#284A1
  8. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/285#285A1
  9. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/286#286A1
  10. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/287#287A1
  11. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/387
  12. http://www.epolitix.com/latestnews/article-detail/newsarticle/pm-sparks-row-over-creationism/
  13. http://www.dg.dial.pipex.com/articles/educ23.shtml
  14. http://paulflynnmp.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/08/elected-meanies.html
  15. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/873
  16. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmpubadm/writev/charity/m63.htm
  17. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/climate-change-what-mps-think---d-to-f-424395.html
  18. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2009-10/524
  19. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2007-08/1148
  20. http://www.paulflynnmp.co.uk/uniportance.htm
  21. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-11/1591
  22. http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/paul-flynn/25647
  23. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/263
  24. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/animal-rights-activism-petitions-arent-science/
  25. http://speakingofresearch.com/2013/07/31/you-can-fool-some-of-the-mps-all-of-the-time/
  26. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/767
  27. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2009-10/423

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