So it has proved, but the extent to which this quango acts as a partisan pressure group is only gradually coming to light. Using the Freedom of Information Act, I have found hundreds of e-mails between PHE and the Institute of Alcohol Studies (née the UK Temperance Alliance). IAS is a private organisation with strong views on alcohol policy and their members are entitled to have their voice heard, but the e-mails show that PHE has been working hand-in-glove with them for several years. Other strident neo-temperance campaigners are also heavily involved with PHE's alcohol team, including Alcohol Concern and the fanatic Ian Gilmore (who co-chairs one of PHE's main alcohol committees).
The e-mails only give a glimpse behind the curtain but it is revealing nonetheless. I've written about them for Spectator Health...
Emails released to me under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that IAS not only enjoys a close relationship with the Chief Medical Officer, but is also very friendly with Public Health England (PHE). PHE and IAS were in almost continuous contact in the two years leading up to the publication of the agency’s report on alcohol in December 2016. PHE officials gave its members access to unpublished documents, shared their contacts in government, promoted IAS material, invited IAS members on to three committees and even moved their official meetings to the IAS’s offices in Caxton Street, London.
Between November 2014 and December 2016, IAS had meetings with Public Health England almost every month, exchanged more than 330 emails and had numerous off-the-record conversations in person and over the telephone.
Do have a read. If you want to see the e-mails in full, you can access them here and here.