Social Audit Ltd
P O Box 111 London NW1 8XG
Telephone/Fax 44 (0)171 586 7771


Mr Roy Alder, Head of Executive Support
Medicines Control Agency
Market Towers, 1 Nine Elms Lane
London SW8 5NQ 28 July 1998

Dear Mr Alder,

Thank you for your letter of 23 July: at least it clarifies the pickle the Agency is in. It has also persuaded me to do something to break this impasse.

The Code entitles me to a response, normally within 20 working days. So far I have waited over four months even for you to produce a list of dates. I can see no end to the thin excuses and regrets. I waited in the hope of getting a better response. I no longer shall.

Your letter indicates that the MCA/CSM are trying to have my cake and eat it. On the one hand the Agency will not disclose; on the other hand, it will not actually refuse to disclose. In other words, so long as I remain patient, the Agency is spared the embarrassment of having the information disclosed - and also the embarrassment of having to defend a refusal. This is not honest-to-goodness dithering. This has to be part of a conscious policy of delay, and it seems to me to flout the Code.

Anyway, I'm not going to hang around waiting while you cherry-pick from the ten outstanding questions. Instead I shall be redrafting each of them as a formal complaint, starting with those which make your refusal on IQOP grounds seem most like bringing government into disrepute. That hotch-potch of reasons you give for resisting on the grounds of "Important Questions of Operational Practice" provide not so much as a fig leaf of justification for all this delay. You might just as well have been pointing out some tasteful arrangement of drapes around the cage, assuring me that the parrot was never dead - just deep in thought, and in need of an indefinite amount of time for quiet contemplation.

I shall be working my way through the ten questions, probably starting next week. Any I think should be sent to the Parliamentary Commissioner will of course have to be routed via a Member of Parliament. As he is also my constituency MP, I would first want to ask Frank Dobson if he would assist me with the referral, before turning to an opposition or independent MP instead.

Also, I don't know if it was your legal department that suggested you provide those quotes from the Open Government White Paper, but I'd like to make a formal complaint specifically about the misrepresentation here. If you compare these extracts with the original, in relation to the questions I asked, I expect you'll see what I mean, but I'll spell it out on the website anyway.

If you can let me know, before the end of the week, the dates by which you undertake to respond to each of the ten questions outstanding from March - either by providing the information requested, or with a refusal - it might prove every bit as constructive as ceasing to dig when in a hole.

Yours sincerely,
Charles Medawar


Contents page
List of correspondence with MCA/CSM