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The Rt. Hon. The Lord Neill of Bladen QC
Committee on Standards in Public Life
Horse Guards Road
London SW1P 3AL 11 June 1998

Dear Lord Neill,

I appreciate that your Committee has a full programme of work and no powers to investigate individual cases. Yes, there is much I could tell you about some pernicious practices in the medicines' safety/control field - but no, I am not trying to lure you beyond your terms.

I am writing for two reasons. One is to thank you and the Committee for publishing The Seven Principles of Public Life. I keep the print-out in my in-tray and often bring it to the top. In this field, I regularly come across practices which cause me to wonder about the real extent and quality of public service and I have pondered every one of the Committee's definitions on many occasions. They are excellent and I value their authority - though I hope they might slowly be expanded. I would, for example, welcome more guidance on "objectivity", as it relates to generosity with the truth.

I have often found it distinctly comforting to have The Seven Principles to hand in developing our own enquiries into regulatory and professional standards and the influence of commerce on them. This is an unfolding, Internet-based enquiry and a venture that feels at times like ploughing a minefield. Initially based on a critical review of policy in one particular area of pharmaceutical medicine, the enquiry has now been much extended, not least through protracted correspondence with the authorities. Two examples of recent letters, plus the original review, are enclosed, to give you some idea of what goes on - and I shall shortly be posting this letter to you (and the Principles) on our website too.

The second reason for writing is to ask if you might consider more actively promoting The Seven Principles - at least to the extent of making it clear on your Web page that they may be freely reproduced, and that you would welcome their development and wider adoption, both as standards and definitions.  

But is this in fact so? I would regard it as blessing to be able to pepper our website with references to "selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership", as the Committee defines them. But before doing so I think I would want to establish that this would be acting within the spirit of what the Principles were intended to be. They are evidently a fine bunch of carrots, but might it diminish them if they were also sometimes used in this way as (yard) sticks?

I would be very happy to hear from you, if you had any thoughts about this. However, for reasons explained both in this letter, and in the longer of the two enclosed letters, there is absolutely no need to reply. Many thanks for your attention.

Yours sincerely,
Charles Medawar

CLICK HERE FOR: The Seven Principles of Public Life

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Correspondence with government agencies