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


Mrs. D A Leakey, Information Pharmacist
Medicines Control Agency
Market Towers, 1 Nine Elms Lane
London SW8 5NQ

21 July 1999

Dear Mrs Leakey,

Thank you for your letter of 9 July, ref ICE 2003, the one with my name misspelled and the inexplicable coda in bold. Believe me, I am still trying to make sense of it all. I recognise that the MCA/CSM have unlimited access to funds from pharmaceutical companies, and appreciate that this would encourage them to indulge secrecy to quite abnormal extents. But it isn't just the crate loads of dead parrots and the megadoses of pap we've been sent in the past two years. The real thing is the timbre of this whole correspondence. I mean, the corporate body language is fantastic; no wonder the tension gets to me. In a world professing love of openness, I regret I can still only visualise the MCA as a beacon of darkness. Market Towers has come to represent in my mind a little shrine to secrecy, a near-perfect synthesis of medical, commercial and government interests, all trumpeting about the public good but playing their own tune. I just can't help thinking this is a recipe for public ill. Maybe I need a vacation.

In due course I look forward to hearing which EC Standard you were referring to in your letter of 30 June. In the meantime, perhaps you could also respond to the question I raised in my letters of 18 June and 2 July: does the MCA have any sort of environmental policy?

Since I asked if "the MCA ever uses A5 paper", I am rather inclined to think that when you say that "the MCA does not routinely use A5 paper", you probably mean it has none. But never mind.

On the other hand, this email thing really intrigues me; seems to me we might have a little gem of correspondence in the making. It would be perfect for the Summer months, a little oasis in a desert of silly stories - an object lesson relating to government and public trust.

Let me recap. I observed that the MCA was wasting much paper, as well as time, as part of the elaborate process of fobbing us off and covering its tracks. I singled out two-line letters of acknowledgement on large sheets of paper, as symbolic examples of insensitive, inadequate government. I thought there was a better alternative: communication by email. So, I asked for an address list of MCA staff.

If I'd asked the FDA, they might have yawned, but they would have sent it. Yet every response from the Agency rather suggested that they had never heard of email. Are you really telling me you never touch the stuff?

I tell you what. I'll give you three points for every NO answer you give, and I'll just take one point, for every time you say YES. Here we go:

1. Do many MCA executives have assigned and dedicated email addresses?

2. Is there not extensive email traffic between executives in the MCA and the world beyond Market Towers?

3. If, for some obscure reason, Frank Dobson or the Permanent Secretary had requested an email list of the addresses of MCA staff, to be provided within an hour or so, would the MCA have been able to fulfil?

4. If a pharmaceutical company executive had requested a list of the email addresses of people he/she would be likely to be in contact with, would you not supply him/her with such a list?

5. Doesn't this insistence that there is no list of email addresses suggest some reluctance to disclose?

6. Wouldn't non-disclosure of a policy of non-disclosure be indicative of pretty sick and unresponsive organisation?

You win if you score six points or more. If so, please identify the questions to which you responded NO, then ignore the rest of this letter.

Otherwise, please send us a list of the email address of the main people involved in the MCA/Social Audit correspondence over the past two years. A list including Dr Jones, Mr Alder, Mr Dunlevy, Dr Munro, Mrs Thyer, and your good self, would be fine. Please treat this as a formal Code request, and feel free to charge us if you think this goes above and beyond the call of the Agency's public duty.

Thank you for your attention and please do not hesitate to send help right away if you feel I need it. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing from you before too long.

Yours sincerely,
Charles Medawar


Contents page
List of correspondence with MCA/CSM