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


Mr. Peter Dunlevy, Executive Support
Medicines Control Agency
Market Towers, 1 Nine Elms Lane
London SW8 5NQ

16 February 1999

Dear Mr Dunlevy,

Thank you for your letter of 15 February, ref OG 98/79.

Without prejudice to my requests for disclosure of the minutes of CSM meetings, please may I now formally request copies of the agendas for all meetings held last year and (in due course) this. I hope this seems an utterly calm sort of response to your attempt to entice me into a Catch 22. The minutes I request contain disclosable information - but what that information might be is a state secret. I will identify which disclosable bits of information I want when you produce a menu.

In the meantime, I should like to make a formal, if friendly, complaint about your constructive refusal of my request for disclosure of the CSM minutes. I say 'constructive' because you to seem to be declining to accede to the request, rather than actually refusing. Indeed, you offer no reasons for refusing, as the Code requires: you do not suggest that harm or prejudice might result from disclosure nor, thank heavens, do you seek to guide my understanding of where the public interest might lie. Your citations from the Code are neither here nor there.

I note your remarks on "the purpose of the Code". In turn I invite you to contemplate what the government of the day (White Paper, para 1.7) identified as the three main themes in its approach to disclosure:

"handling information in a way which promotes informed policy-making and debate, and efficient service delivery;

"providing timely and accessible information to the citizen to explain the government's policies, actions and decisions; and

"restricting access only where there are good reasons for doing so"

See also the purpose and aims of the Code as explained in the Guidance Notes: "The approach to release of information under the Code should be positive … information should be disclosed unless the harm likely to arise from disclosure would outweigh the public interest in making the information available … The public interest in disclosure is particularly strong where the information in question would assist public understanding of an issue subject to current national debate, or improve the transparency and accountability of a particular function of government … The emphasis is on assisting understanding, consideration and analysis of existing and proposed policy …" etc etc

In short, this seems to me a clear case of 'put up or cough up' - all the more reason for hoping that there will not be another long delay before I hear from you again.

Yours sincerely,
Charles Medawar


Contents page
List of correspondence with MCA/CSM