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Richard Shepherd MP
House of Commons
LONDON SW1A OAA 14 August 1998

Dear Richard Shepherd,

Thank you very much for agreeing to refer our complaint to the Ombudsman. As I said, I do not infer from this your support on the substantive issues - only your concern to make government more open and accountable. This is no trivial complaint, nor I did not approach you lightly, knowing of your long and distinguished work in this field. Your recent, great success with the Public Interest Disclosure Bill underlines this; as I write, I bear very much in mind what you said at the reception to launch the new Act.

Two folders are enclosed: one for the PCA, the other a reference copy for you. I have added to your folder one or two documents which you may or may not want to pass on to the PCA. They include a copy of a letter from my constituency MP, Frank Dobson, who understandably does not want to get involved. I thought you would also be interested in the correspondence in which the Chairman of Committee on Safety of Medicines indicates that he personally believes the medicines control system to be excessively secretive. (You may or may not find this credible in view of his objections, in this case, to letting the facts speak for themselves).

You should know that my fascination with medicine, and passion for openness, prompted to me to open a website, earlier this year. As a professional journalist of sorts, I run this rather as a journal, updating it two or three times a week, with a new bit of writing or research, or with the latest round of correspondence with the authorities. From small beginnings, in February, the site now attracts 3,000 - 4,000-serious visitors each month. Many will have followed the evolution of this complaint, and will want to know how it resolves.

I therefore need to ask if you could please agree* to my posting this letter (and any correspondence between us) on our website? No, it isn't really the done thing, but I intend it as honourable journalism, as a way of explaining how government works, and as a stimulus to helping it perform well. If, in the circumstances, you were to decide against, I know you would have good reason and would not question it.

Thank you again for your help.

Yours sincerely, 
Charles Medawar
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Correspondence with government

* Readily agreed (telephone conversation, 18 August 1998)