Social Audit Ltd
P O Box 111 London NW1 8XG
Telephone/Fax 44 (0)171 586 7771
Dr Keith Jones
Chief Executive
Medicines Control Agency
Market Towers, 1 Nine Elms Lane
London SW8 5NQ 11 February 1998

Dear Keith,

It seems absurd to have to invite you to review your own refusal to respond to the requests for information I made on 16th January but, if that's what it takes, here goes:

1. You claim to be seeking the views on the issues I raised "of a wide range of expert advisers and other relevant bodies" and I asked for a list of all those consulted by the MCA before 16th January. You have not provided it, nor have you given any credible reason for the lack of response. Your excuse that "Disclosure of the replies we receive would harm the frankness and candour of advice and opinions given" is irrelevant here, since this request asks you only to identify those consulted, not to disclose their replies.

2. Ditto my request for "any representative example of the letter the MCA sent to the bodies consulted", alternatively an indication of "whether the MCA solicited views on any particular points". Your response that you requested "their perspective on the issues you have raised" is ridiculously vague.

3. You did not respond in any way to my enquiry about whether the MCA "sent copies or extracts of my paper to those from whom opinions were sought". I now wish to amplify this request to ask, in addition to the original question, [a] which if any extracts of my paper were sent to any of those you consulted and, [b] if any extracts were copied, whether the Agency complied fully with copyright law?

4. You did not address my question about "whether the MCA has offered to treat any replies to these enquiries in confidence". Assuming you did not, please will you now also let me know if the MCA's invitation to comment asked those consulted if they requested that their replies be treated in confidence.

Unless I can establish this, how can I know whether your point about harming "the frankness and candour of advice and opinions given" has any substance? True, it would not altogether surprise me if not one of the persons or organisations you consulted was prepared to account publicly for the advice they offered. However, the reason for specifically asking this is that: "The invitation to comment should state that, unless confidentiality is requested, it will assumed that responses can be made available to others". (Guidance on Interpretation of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, Introduction, paragraph 6).

In short, it would be hard to imagine a less informative response. Were it not for the fact that your Agency is almost entirely funded by the pharmaceutical industry, I would have complained formally about the waste of time and public money too.

Yours sincerely,

Charles Medawar


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