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The Parliamentary
Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration
Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4QP
Switchboard 0171 217 3000, Fax 0171 217 4000, Direct Line 0171 217 4084


Mr Richard Shepherd MP
House of Commons
London SW1A OAA

12 February 1999

Dear Mr. Shepherd,

On 19 October John Tate sent you a copy of the summary of complaint made by Mr Medawar against the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) and which the Ombudsman proposed to investigate as a breach of the Code on Access to Government Information (the Code).

As you may know, between March and June 1998 Mr Medawar made many requests to the Agency for information relating to the proceedings of the Committee on Safety of Medicines. The Code requires that departments and public bodies should be asked to review any initial decision to refuse information to a requester before he or she can normally refer the matter to the Ombudsman for possible investigation. In the case of Mr Medawar we waived the requirement to ask for a review of the particular decision about which he was complaining - partly because the MCA were engaged in the lengthy process of reviewing other decisions they had made to deny him related information and, in Mr Medawar's view, the sooner an independent arbitrator could look at the information and make recommendations relating to its possible release the better - and embarked on an investigation in October.

I am now writing to let you know that, following discussions with the MCA, we have suspended our investigation pending the outcome of the wide ranging and comprehensive review which the MCA are carrying out into all Mr Medawar's outstanding complaints. To date our intervention has resulted in various pieces of information being released to him and we have taken the decision it would be in the wider interests of greater openness about the safety of medicines in general to allow the MCA the time they need for consultation with all the interested parties before coming to a decision on the application of the Code to matters which were previously treated a subject to the blanket ban on disclosure set out in section 118 of the Medicines Act 1968.

Once the review has been completed, which we understand will be in the very near future, we shall issue the Ombudsman's report.

Yours sincerely,
J Colmans
Investigations Manager


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