Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Annex B

  From Robin Lovell-Badge

  I put a temporary block on the publication of the report from our 5th and last meeting, because I had heard directly from people involved with the bids from both UCL and Kings that Colin had told them it was a straight fight between the two of them. He had not mentioned any comparison with Mill Hill. The following is the e-mail that I sent to the Task Force, which explains why I felt this was wrong.

  28 June 2004

  Dear All

  It was my clear impression at the meeting, that we would only ensure the best bids from Kings and UCL for a move into central London if the option of staying at Mill Hill was still on the table. Colin has seemingly lost all bargaining power by telling both UCL and Kings that the Institute will definitely move to one or other of them. By ruling out the possibility of the Institute staying at Mill Hill, which he also stated in his conversation with John Skehel on Friday and very clearly on my answering machine today, neither UCL nor Kings will feel the need to match what the MRC already has, let alone what is possible to do here. This is a big mistake and I feel that the only way it can now be rectified is by spelling out in the report that the Mill Hill option is still a possibility. I would have gone along with the report as it was if I felt confident that the spirit of our agreement would hold, but Colin appears to be following a different agenda. This is why I am now being difficult over it.


  Colin was very aggressive late that night over the telephone. He did not attempt to understand what I was saying. Towards the end of the call he practically shouted something along the lines of "Robin, I don't know how you dare to challenge me, you work for the MRC and are therefore my employee". Because he had already said something similar to me at the end of February, I was a less shocked than I had been at that time, so I asked him if this was a threat? He did not deny this, but continued: "If you don't sign the report then MRC Council will just close down the Institute". I responded by saying that this sounded like another threat, at which point Colin hung up the telephone. Needless to say, I thought both his comments to be very inappropriate, and to be threatening, especially as I was acting as a member of the Task Force. The fact that I was an MRC employee should have been irrelevant.

  With respect to Colin' s response to my statements at the Select Committee hearing on 1 December, it is true that I had called Colin at about 11.30 pm that night from my home telephone, but this just after he had tried to call me on my mobile and I had failed to answer it in time. (It does not work well at home, which is why I used by home telephone.) This was after many previous attempts from him to call me at work or on my mobile (I had been very busy that day and had missed all of these calls.) I decided to return the last call partly out of desperation as a way to stop any further call, but also because I wished for the situation to be resolved.

  I believe some pressure was brought to bear on Colin from other TF members and the next afternoon I had a telephone call from Colin to apologise for losing his temper on the phone (he obviously remembered ending the conversation by hanging up on me) and saying that he had spoken again with UCL and Kings to make sure they realised their bids had to be in comparison with Mill Hill. I had confirmation of this (including an email from Simon Howell at Kings: "the script has changed"), so with the understanding that Mill Hill was at least an unstated option, I agreed to sign the report. I now regret not sticking out for a clear statement in this report that Mill Hill was a formal option. I did not do so at the time, believing that it would have to be by the time we had gathered more evidence and produced our final report to Council.

  I have had many telephone calls from Colin over the period the Task Force was active, and while this was one of the worst, it was by no means the only one where he was trying to put undue pressure on me. I do not know how he treated the other TF members, but I understand that such telephone calls, often late at night and at weekends, were not uncommon.

  I reported what I considered to be threats to my line manager, the Director, on the following day, as I had done on the previous occasion after the Third Task Force meeting. On the first occasion (which was linked to the revelation that Colin Blakemore' s vision was for a smaller Institute focused on infections and immunity) I considered resigning from the Task Force, but this would have been very bad for morale at NIMR and not very constructive. I have already submitted as supporting evidence the e-mail exchanges between Colin and myself that occurred around this time to the Select Committee. These make it clear that there had been an unpleasant telephone conversation. I had also specifically mentioned that I had received threats from Colin in my e-mail that was marked non-confidential that was distributed to the Task Force after the final report had been submitted to Council. (This e-mail had also been submitted to the Select Committee.) So all the Task Force was aware of this including Colin, so it is not correct of him to say that I had kept the threats secret until now. The threats were also referred to in a verbal exchange between Colin and myself in front of the Heads of Divisions committee, Steve Tomlinson and Andrew McMichael at NIMR in October. On this occasion, as before, Colin did not deny them, but merely said that he had lost his temper.

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