Email from Professor Colin Blakemore,
Chief Executive, Medical Research Council
ON 1 DECEMBER
I have been reading through all the evidence
and documentation and I have focused on a section of the evidence
session on 1 December that I believe might contain misrepresentation.
It is the following exchange:
Q106 Mr Key: Sir John, one of the reasons we
are here today is a compliment to the success of the NIMR campaign
against the wishes of the MRC. Did you seek the advice of a media
consultant to direct this campaign?
Sir John Skehel: No. It is very kind of you
to say so, but no, we did not.
Q107 Mr Key: Dr Lovell-Badge, at some stage
during last summer did you invite Fiona Fox, Director of the Science
Media Centre, to visit NIMR?
Dr Lovell-Badge: This was in response to the
FIS proposals, the Forward Investment Strategy proposals.
Q108 Mr Key: That is a yes?
Dr Lovell-Badge: It has nothing to do with the
Sir John Skehel: They certainly did not meet
me. I did not know what was going on.
Dr Lovell-Badge: I know Fiona very well and
we had a conversation, it was a very informal chat.
Q109 Mr Key: Did you ask if she would recommend
that you organise demonstrations outside the MRC Head Office and
other MRC events?
Dr Lovell-Badge: No.
Q110 Mr Key: Did she refuse to help you in that
Dr Lovell-Badge: We never asked her to help
This does not accord with the account of these
events that I have heard directly from Fiona Fox. She told me
that she had been invited by Robin to visit the institute for
what she assumed would be an informal tour of the facilities to
see the kind of research going on there, with an eye to public
communication. She says that she was shocked to be led immediately
into a room, with some 15 senior scientists (presumably Heads
of Division), who questioned her for an hour about how to organize
their campaign against the MRC. To say "we had a conversation,
it was a very informal chat" does not seem to me to match
Fiona's description of this event. She also told me that, while
she cannot be sure whether Sir John was present at the meeting,
she felt that it was unlikely that the Director of the institute
would not have known that such a planned and formal meeting were
taking place. She says that she declined an invitation to advise
NIMR on its PR campaign and that she suggested that they could
employ a consultant. She also suggested that, in view of their
position as MRC staff, they should communicate with the MRC press
office. They did not, but Fiona reported this encounter to the
MRC press office and Communication Affairs Group as soon as she
returned to the Science Media Centre.