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Jon Hibbs,
Deputy Director, Media Relations,
Department of Health,
Richmond House, Whitehall,
London SW1                                                14 July 2003

Dear Mr Hibbs,

I wrote to you on 11 June, raising a number of questions arising from my
exclusion from the Department of Health's press briefing about Seroxat
(paroxetine), held on 10 June.

I made it clear that this was a formal request within the meaning of Code
of Practice on Access to Government Information. The Code entitles the
requester to a response within 20 working days or, failing that, an
explanation for any delay.

Nearly five weeks have passed and I have heard nothing from you.
Perhaps you let me have your response by the end of this week? If I do
not hear from you, I shall take up this case with the Ombudsman.

Yours sincerely,

Charles Medawar


From: [email protected]     14/07/2003 08:31         

Re: Code of Practice on Access to Government Information                           

Mr Medawar

First, let me apologise if I gave the impression of unwarranted and casual
familiarity in my previous note on 11th June. I used your first name
because it is your e-mail address.

You make much of submitting a formal request under the Code of Practice on
Access to Government Information. In return I have given you details of our
policy on press conferences. There is no document or written protocol I can
send you. This is an operational matter for the relevant departmental
manager, which in this case is me.

Nevertheless in the interests of openness, perhaps I can expand a little on
my previous note. I thought I had made it clear that I take full
responsibility for the decision taken by Alison Langley, which was in line
with our policy. The department has nothing to hide, as you seem to imply,
but my job is to provide a service to the press and broadcasting

You were not invited to the press conference. Panorama asked permission for
you to accompany one of its journalists, which was denied. I appreciate you
may have a legitimate interest in the subject matter of this particular
press conference. I'm afraid that does not give you or any other
campaigner, lobbyist or charity representative the right to attend
briefings we arrange for the benefit of news outlets.

Now, you keep mentioning your conversation with Steve Ryan. He provided you
with information about the press conference in good faith because he
thought you were a journalist. At the time, he did not know that Alison
Langley, who is his line manager, had already turned down Panorama's
request for you to accompany its reporter. As I said, these are operational
matters for the Media Centre and I am happy to take responsibility for
them. Personally, I think it is unfair to the other individuals concerned
to post this sort of detail on your website.

Jon Hibbs
Deputy Director - Media Relations
Department of Health


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