Department of Health
Market Towers 1 Nine Elms Lane London SW8 5NQ
Telephone 0171-273 0729
Facsimile 0171- 273 0286 .
15 February 1999

     Dear Mr Medawar,

1.   Thank you for your letter of 28 December to which Mr Alder has asked me to reply. I am sorry I have not been able to write sooner.

2.   You asked for a copy of the edited minutes of the meeting of the CSM Sub Committee on Pharmacovigilance held on 24 February 1998. This forms part of your existing outstanding requests about which Mr Alder most recently wrote on 12 February. He explained this was taking longer than originally hoped but that he had set a final deadline of 15 March for this information to be sent.

3.  You placed a "standing order" for copies of 1999 CSM minutes. The Code of Practice on Access to Government Information does not recognise "standing orders" as such for copies of documents. The purpose of the Code is to extend access to official information (in response to reasonable requests). It does not commit departments to release documents as opposed to information, nor does the Code give a right to particular documents or records (please see para. 54 of the Guidance on the Code). We will, however, provide documents if that is the simplest way of handling requests. If, therefore, there is some specific information which you would like to have, please let me know so that we can consider this further. I note your comments about the routine availability of such information. You may wish to know that we are currently considering a number of proposals for developing access to information about the work of the Medicines Act advisory bodies, including making more information about their proceedings publicly available, (suitably edited and after an appropriate interval). I will send you details once these proposals have been finalised.

4.   You asked for a quote for the costs of supplying expurgated copies of the minutes of all CSM meetings for 1998. Whilst we accepted your previous requests for copies of the minutes up to 20 March 1998 on the basis that you wished to compare the extent to which CSM discussed confidential and non-confidential matters, my initial view on this issue is that it would not be reasonable for the. MCA to respond to further similar en bloc requests in the same way. My reasons are the same as those outlined above. We are happy to consider requests from you for specific information about aspects of past business of CSM. We would then consider, depending on the nature of the request and the time it would take to prepare a reply, whether it would be reasonable to ask you to pay a charge (currently 20 per hour after the first hour, which is free.)

5.   If you have a query about this letter please contact me.

Yours sincerely
Peter Dunlevy
Executive Support


Contents page
List of correspondence with MCA/CSM