Department of Health
Market Towers 1 Nine Elms Lane London SW8 5NQ
Telephone 0171-273 0600
Facsimile 0171- 273 0737 .Our Ref: OG 98/59
8 September 1998

Dear Mr Medawar,

Thank you for your letter of 21 August which followed up my earlier letter of 17 August (ref OG 98/49). I attach a copy of the paper I referred to in para 5 (i) and (ii) of that letter. The respondent requesting confidentiality was not the CSM. That statement related to the reference in my letter at para 10 to ongoing correspondence with MA holders and other regulatory authorities.

I regret that I am not prepared to release any documentation or record of our consultation with the CSM on 26 March regarding SSRIs. I have taken this decision on the grounds of exemption 2(iv) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information "Confidential communications between departments, public bodies and regulatory bodies.". My reasons are that that the MCA and CSM facility for confidential exchange of views is justifiable in relation to the the need for candid and effective communication (para 2.20 of the Guidance on the Code). Whilst you are quite correct that the Code envisages limited circumstances where expert advice is not disclosed, a refusal to disclose is justified where the information requested is a systematic part of the process of policy formation (ibid para 2.23). On this occasion, I consider disclosure would damage this process, would jeopardise our internal policy advice and analysis mechanisms and that there is is no overriding public interest that I should disclose the information sought.

If you have a query about this letter, please contact me. If you are unhappy with my decision you can ask for it to be reviewed. If so, should write to Dr Jones at the above address in the first instance. After that, if you are still unhappy, you may ask your Member of Parliament to make a complaint on your behalf to the Ombudsman (known officially as the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration) who will decide whether or not to conduct his own enquiry. His address is Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SWIP 4QP.

Yours sincerely
Roy Alder
Head of Executive Support


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List of MCA/CSM Correspondence