Department of Health
Market Towers 1 Nine Elms Lane London SW8 5NQ
Telephone 0171-273 0600
Facsimile 0171- 273 0737 .
26 August 1999

Dear Mr Medawar,

Thank you for your letter of 12 August. You will know from the Cabinet Office's introduction to their Model Code of Practice for Board Members of Advisory Non-Departmental Public Bodies (ANDPBS) that departments are at liberty to use that Code as a basis for developing "local" codes which are able to reflect in greater detail the characteristics and circumstances of individual ANDPBs and the work they are designed to undertake. The Cabinet Office also makes clear that the Model Code has no legal force, that any code adopted by ANDPBs must be in line with relevant statutory provisions and that local codes may need to contain detailed guidance on particular matters.

The advisory bodies' Code of Practice relates only to declarations of interest in the pharmaceutical industry. In that respect, it is fully consistent with the requirements of the Model Code and provides much more detailed guidance on the circumstances in which members could be regarded as having an interest and when those interests should be declared. The purpose of the advisory bodies' Code of Practice mirrors that of the Model Code - namely to avoid any public concern that commercial interests might affect the advice of those advisory bodies. We keep the advisory bodies code under continuing review and we plan to re-visit it during the course of the coming months: you may be aware that the Medicines Commission will have a new membership from 1 January 2000.

On the question of the advisory bodies upholding the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information (the Code), you will know that a lot of information is already available about their work and that there are plans to develop this further. The medicines advisory bodies provide advice to the executive arm of the licensing authority - the MCA. As you also know, the MCA readily accepts that it is subject to the Code and that MCA decisions about disclosure are subject to the scrutiny of the Ombudsman. The MCA provides Secretariat services for the advisory bodies and holds information relating to their work. It can and does deal with requests for information under the Code for information about the work and decisions of the advisory bodies. Therefore, in practice, the fact that the advisory bodies are not themselves subject to the Code does not prevent the disclosure of information, by the MCA, about their work nor does it bar a right of appeal against decisions of the MCA to withhold information.

I am sending a copy of this letter to Mr John Colmans, OPCA

Yours sincerely
R.K. Alder
Head of Executive Support


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List of correspondence with MCA/CSM