Fact finding trip to New Zealand, April 2009

As I blogged earlier, Kevin Barron has just returned from a fact finding trip to New Zealand as part of his work with the Health Select Committee. The trip was tax-payer funded, and pretty expensive, so I’m sure it was very important, I’m just not clear on why, or how. The reports in the press (The Star, Dinnington Today, The Sheffield Telegraph)

So I wrote the following letter on the 22nd April:

Dear Kevin Barron,

Please consider the environmental and financial costs of your actions
before replying. I suggest using email. My address is xxxx@xxxx.xxx.

I note that you have recently returned from New Zealand as part of your
work with the Health Select Committee. I understand the trip was
investigating the causes and treatment of binge drinking, and cost
something in the region of £70,000 in total, or a little over £7,500
per person.

I have just spent no more than two minutes on the internet and found
return flights to New Zealand for under £600 and a room in a very nice
hotel in Aukland for £76 per night, so you can appreciate my concern
that this trip may not have represented good value for money, as by my
calculations a week in New Zealand should have cost about a quarter of
what it is reported to have cost even allowing a generous amount for
entertaining.

However, I do not know the full details of what the trip was for, and
how it will benefit the taxpayer, so perhaps you could help me
understand?

I see from the article that New Zealand was chosen as a venue because
the health service there is funded similarly to the NHS. This seems to
imply that the way a service is funded has implications for it’s
effectiveness – otherwise I don’t see how the way the service is funded
is relevant. Could you comment on this? I wonder if you could also
explain why, if the funding is important, you didn’t go somewhere a
little closer to home with a health service funded in a similar way to
the NHS, such as Ireland.

I also wonder what exactly you hoped to find out by physically going to
New Zealand that you feel you couldn’t have found out using the
telephone, the internet, video conferencing or post.

Finally I would like to know what you did find out on the trip
(obviously the report won’t be completed yet, but just general
observations) and if you feel the trip represented good value for money
for the taxpayer. A good way of checking this is to think ‘Would I have
paid for that with my own money?’ or ‘Is that the choice I would have
made if I was allowed to keep the budget that wasn’t spent?’

Please can you also let me know when the report of the trip will be
published and how I can obtain a copy.

Yours sincerely

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