Statement in response to Mail on Sunday, August 21 2005, pages 4 and 5
The article in the Mail on Sunday concerning Kate Fox, Dr Peter Marsh, The Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) and MCM Research contains numerous factual errors and distortions and is misleading in the extreme.
The article alleges that Dr Marsh, Co-director of the Social Issues Research Centre and MCM Research, ". has been among the main advisers to the Government over alcohol policy." This is untrue. His views have been sought on only one occasion when he was among a group of researchers invited for informal discussions on the subject at the Cabinet Office.
The article declares that ". now the Mail on Sunday can reveal that Dr Marsh — far from being entirely 'independent' — has worked for dozens of different pub, restaurant, nightclub and brewing companies." The reason why the MoS was able to make these so-called 'revelations' is that the names of these companies are all openly declared on the SIRC and MCM Research web sites.
The article repeatedly alleges that research conducted by Dr Marsh and Ms Fox fifteen years ago for the Portman Group has had the biggest impact on government policy. While this is perhaps rather flattering, it is also untrue. Their report Drinking and Public Disorder, published in 1992 and freely available on the SIRC web site, listed among its many recommendations:
"On the basis of this evidence we propose that amendments should be made to the relevant Licensing Acts to permit experimental trials of either extended or deregulated licensing hours in certain local areas. Participation by licensees would be voluntary. Permission to carry out such experimental trials would be granted to local authorities on a number of conditions."
Dr Marsh and Ms Fox consider that the introduction of new Licensing Act, in the absence of data from the experimental trials that they recommended, has potential risks.
The comment from the DCMS spokesperson in the article also makes it clear that:
"The reference to the work of MCM was one of 120 from different academic and expert sources in a review of 25 years of literature about alcohol and crime."
The unflattering and contrived photograph of Dr Marsh in the article was taken at around 9.30pm, not 11.30pm as claimed, and not while Dr Marsh was "emerging at closing time". There are numerous witnesses to that effect. He denies that he was "screaming abuse". Rather, he was expressing annoyance at the invasion of his privacy by a paparazzo-style photographer. He also strongly resented the presence of another journalist from the MoS at the same time who was seeking information about him from other customers and staff in his local pub. This journalist was seen to consume two pints of beer immediately before driving away in his Saab.
Kate Fox, described in the MoS article as a "44-year-old Julie Christie lookalike" with "designer outfits and leggy supermodel good looks", is in fact a 43-year-old Cambridge graduate and an author of considerable distinction. The banner headline by her photograph — "This is the 'expert' who is behind Labour's 24-hour drinking law" — makes an entirely false claim for the reasons noted above. The implication that an attractive woman cannot be an 'expert' is insulting to Kate Fox and offensive to women in general.
The work that MCM Research and SIRC have conducted over the past 20 years for the drinks industry has mainly involved the development of specialized training for pub and club licensees and staff in conflict prevention and management. Their research has shown that almost 50% of violent behaviour in pubs occurs as a result of ineffective or inappropriate management, and Ms Fox and Dr Marsh have published such findings widely, despite the fact they were not welcomed by many pub companies (see, for example, Conflict and Violence in Pubs). This is clearly inconsistent with the claim made in the MoS that they are "hired guns for the drinks trade."
21 August 2005