Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


APPENDIX 134

Collated email correspondence, between MRC Task Force Members, not in the public domain but referred to in the Report

  1

Original Message

From:Robin Lovell-Badge

Sent:Sun 2/15/2004 9:44 PM

To:MRC-TASKFORCE

Subject:Re: CONFIDENTIAL

  Dear Kay

  Please do not misinterpret me. I agree that we are a long way from details and that this is what we need to make a start on, indeed I had hoped we would have been given the go-ahead by now to let the Institute know what was concluded at the last meeting. I am keen to get everyone on board as soon as possible, but we still do not have approval to tell anyone. Moreover, I am not being intractable on the wording of the report—in my last message I was just spelling out why I expressed concern over the choice of some phrases when David had specifically asked for comments. I am not the one who has been going overboard with this. I am just saying that I might not be able to explain everything that is in the report to members of the Institute or to others. And with respect to hidden agendas, I will leave it to Colin to tell everyone what his vision of the future Institute is, as expressed to me over the phone today, and which parts of the Institute he believes are important to keep.

  Robin

  Dear Robin,

  I think your response makes moving forward difficult. At this stage we merely have an overview, we are a long way from details. We cannot remain at this level of analysis as this will seriously inhibit progress. Trying to move forward with a vision (or several scenarios) and then working out the detailed feasability of any option will at least guarantee that every option (including ones we have not even suggested yet)will be considered. I am certain in my own mind that there is no "hidden agenda". This is based on several conversations with Colin, particularly one in the car on the way back to Oxford last week.

2From:Blakemore Colin

Sent:16 February 2004 00:51

To:MRC-TASKFORCE

Subject:Re: CONFIDENTIAL

  Dear All,

  I am responding immediately to Robin's suggestion that I should tell everyone my "vision of the future Institute". I spoke at length today to Robin, following up briefer conversations during the week. I tried to explain the constraints that there are on our recommendations, as spelled out in my longer email of today. I don't have a firm "vision of the future Institute", but I did outline a possible scenario that I have been thinking about, and which I believe might have a chance of arousing enthusiasm (from those currently at NIMR, as well as the rest of the biomedical community, and even the OST and the Treasury).

  I have said many times until now that there has been absolutely no hidden agenda on my part, and that I have had a completely open mind. That is completely true. I have been happy to listen to all the arguments and to weigh up the evidence. However, as a result of our conversations (particularly those last Sunday) and the many other discussions in which I am involved (especially the Pattison working party on clinical research and the negotiations about the spending review proposals) I am beginning to form a preliminary view—though by no means fixed. I hope that it won't be seen as Machiavellian to be forming an opinion as a result of hearing evidence!

  I should be amazed if others around the table aren't starting to get a feel for what the new (if I dare use that word) institute might look like. In fact, I suspect that most people have much clearer views than mine.

  Just to avoid the accusation that my "agenda" is hidden, let me spell out my present thoughts.

  (1)  As I said in my earlier message, I have been convinced by all the evidence that a vibrant institute, with highly motivated staff, excellent facilities, and good space and support for training, meetings and research experience for people from around the country (not to mention from abroad) could benefit the MRC and the biomedical community as a whole.

  (2)  Expenditure on renovation at Mill Hill over the past couple of decades has been modest, and I suspect that we shall discover that, in the 20 year timeframe that we are considering, considerable capital investment would be needed to keep it going. Frankly, I think that the building feels tired and even a bit forbidding. If we were to recommend that the institute should stay at Mill Hill, I think that we would have to recommend a new building or very major renovation within a decade or so. Maybe the reports from the surveyors will prove me wrong.

  (3)  If we were starting from scratch today, I don't think that we would be proposing that a new institute should be put on the Mill Hill site. Proximity to the fantastic university and hospital resources of central London looks very attractive. But I still have an open mind on that, and it obviously depends on the availability of a site, etc.

  (4)  It will be impossible to go to RCUK and the government and ask for a large amount of extra capital investment without a scientific programme for the institute (wherever it is) that is focused, fits the MRC Vision, complements the rest of the activity in other MRC establishments, offers benefit to the whole community—and couldn't be achieved in any other way.

  (5)  I think that the best route to new funding is to capitalise on the current enthusiasm for clinical research/translation, and to make that a major part of the new institute. The proposal to add such work seems to have been unanimously welcomed by the TF. For that to succeed, close proximity to hospitals and/or industrial facilities would be an advantage. A new name, such as Institute for Human Health, would symbolise a focus on translation and would certainly make it easier to persuade others that the institute is genuinely refocusing its work in a way that will resonate with the emphasis on clinical science. But that was really only a suggestion.

  (6)  If we are to set up a strong training/research hotel environment (with substantial throughput of shorter-term visitors/students) we shall have to look carefully at staffing levels. (Don't forget that our terms of reference require us to look at "size" as well as location). That means considering which parts of the present NIMR would most clearly belong in the new institute. What I said to Robin was that I feel that the work that would most obviously complement and link with the proposed clinical element is that on infection and immunity. An emphasis on vaccine development might help to pull in Gates money. I then said that, if the general scenario does prove attractive to the TF, we should have to think and listen to arguments about which of the other areas of work would fit into the vision. I hope and presume that, whatever way our deliberations move, we shall, at some stage have to get down to deciding on that "size" question, which will involve choosing what we think should be in the institute (in 10-20 years time). Think evolution—but slightly more punctuated than in the past.

  (7)  I also told Robin that, if, as I think likely, we are not going to be able to recommend that absolutely everything in the present NIMR will be preserved in the new institute, we can still try to provide the best possible future for the rest of the work elsewhere. Let's not forget that there are going to be several retirements in the coming years. That alone gives us some space for planning.

  There you are: that's the way my own thoughts have moved in the past few days. But my mind is by no means made up, and anyway I'm only one member of the TF. I am honestly not trying to force my opinions on you. But I think that it is right to reveal my present thoughts now in the interests of openness, and to make sure that I can't be accused of having hidden plans.

  We've spent a lot of time talking together, and we've considered a lot of evidence. I'm presuming that you all have views, or at least, like me, are beginning to form them. I hope that other members of the TF will feel ready to open up a bit, in the interests of frank, honest exchange of views.

  I suppose that this has to be confidential, but I wish that it wasn't so. If only we had the kind of buy-in from NIMR staff that I had hoped we would achieve by now, we could be more open, and involve them in frank but positive discussion about how the institute should evolve.

  Best wishes,

  Colin

3Original Message

From:Stephen TOMLINSON

Sent:Sun 3/28/2004 9:03 PM

To:Blakemore Colin

Cc:

Subject:Re: Confidential

  Dear Colin, Thanks. The perception of a "London stitch up" remains a problem for me and I suspect will be so for others outside the golden triangle. You might be able to address that by talking up the opportunities for new MRC Centres in the provinces f to have formal links with the renewed federated Institute of Human Health. Enlightened self interest leads me to suggest Mike Owens work in Cardiff would be a possible example!

  We'll need to convince leaders outside London that the Institute will bring benefit to their science. A major charm offensive will be required,

  Steve

  PS Is the NHS initiative going to be called the "Centre for Health Service Research" rather than "Health Science"? How will it be organised and managed?

  Professor Stephen Tomlinson

"Blakemore Colin"

1:13 PM

  Dear Steve,

  Since you wrote to me without a copy to the TF, and since your message was headed Confidential, I presume that we are in private mode (but for as short a time as possible).

  Thanks for your views. I kick myself for not raising the question of financial constraints earlier. Actually, I hadn't really thought them through myself at the start, but I have recently had gloomy prognostications from OST and elsewhere about the possibility of there being substantial new capital investment for the MRC in the coming decade. The science vote has already been top-sliced until it is bald for the "large facilities roadmap", mainly for the big synchrotron complex at Harwell, but including a substantial contribution to the new LMB building. Given the generally rather negative attitude to intramural support at the OST, it is inconceivable that I could obtain the A*A£150-200 million that it would cost for a completely new building for NIMR in central London. Even the A*A£30 million that it is likely to take within 10 years for minimal renovation at Mill Hill will be frowned on, especially since, to my mind, it is going to be very difficult to convince anyone that NIMR staying at Mill Hill will produce any substantial new focus in its work. (That became very clear during the unpleasant phone conference call of 10 days ago. Both Steve G and Paul were talking about keeping Mill Hill EXACTLY as it is, and perhaps putting a separate little building on the site for "clinical things", if we really insist on that!) So, if we do recommend that it stays at Mill Hill, the only obvious source for the substantial capital investment will be the MRC's baseline budget. And that means even less money for grant support, at a time when we are still funding only 85% of the Alpha A applications. I have said to the TF that I can't imagine the Council being willing to increase the investment in NIMR above the A*A~28 million pa that it costs at the moment, and, to be frank, I wouldn't want to do that myself.

  Mill Hill has lost its edge. The work there is good, but not consistently world-class. It's not as good as LMB, yet its "mission", to the extent that it has one, is very similar to that of LMB. So, it's hard to justify continuation of the huge slice that it takes from MRC funds without a reorientation in a way that defines a distinct scientific mission and that makes it more effective as a NATIONAL facility.

  What the guys at Mill Hill don't seem to realise is the opportunity that they now have to share in the considerable new money on the horizon specifically for clinical research. No doubt you picked up from the budget that the plan is for investment in that area to rise steadily to A*A £200 million extra pa by 2008. The DoH has already agreed to cover half that, by increasing the R&D budget, and the assumption is that MRC will get a matching amount through the spending review. I am battling for that, and I am very confident that I could get some of that money specifically linked to revitalization of NIMR, as long as I can demonstrate that the clinical commitment is real and that opportunities to interact with clinicians can be improved. I might even be able to squeeze some capital out of the Treasury for it. (Why do you think I floated the possible title "National Institute for Human Health"?. . .)

  What I fear, Steve, is that if we take forward only the two, single-location options, the proposal to move to central London will collapse because of the cost. I'm pretty sure that this is the "game plan" for Robin and Steve G—they are willing to support both options because they presume that the central London one will prove impracticable. That is one of the reasons why they are so horrified by the "federated" option—because it might actually be feasible, and therefore be able to compete on budgetary terms with the Mill Hill site.

  I think that the federated option is really very exciting. It offers "embedding" of NIMR in strong university environments, directly associated with appropriate clinical facilities. It gives scope for preservation of most if not all of the existing science at NIMR. And it provides an opportunity of linking NIMR science with that of the Clinical Sciences Centre, within a single governance structure (I have floated that with Chris Higgins and he is in favour!) Imagine a four-centre institute, probably in three buildings:

  (1)  The CRC, with its emphasis on experimental medicine, especially in the areas of

cardiovascular disease and cancer, with its excellent imaging facilities and its links to the Amersham and GSK investments.

  (2)  A Centre for Infections and Immunity, linked to the appropriate academic groups at IC, UCL or King's, with a stronger emphasis on vaccine development. I have spoken to Rick Klausner about this and am reasonably optimistic that I could get a substantial investment from the Gates Foundation for this.

  (3)  A Centre for Structural Biology, fused with the great strengths at UCL and Birbeck. This would serve all the other Centres of the Institute and could well be housed in the same building (renovated Temperance Hospital) as the Centre for Infections and Immunity.

  (4)  A Centre for Developmental Medical Research, associated with a big development aleady being planned by UCL, directly adjacent to the ICH and GOS Hospital (with which several people at Mill Hill already collaborate).

  Essentially, then, the present NIMR could end up in two buildings rather than one. Is that so radical?

  (I know that it looks like "stitching up" by the London colleges, and there is obviously an element of that. But I am impressed by their efforts to work together in an attempt to achieve something that will benefit everyone, and by the real concern to preserve as much as possible of NIMR science, not just to "cherry pick".)

  All this would be under one governance structure, and would share conference and seminar programmes, training schemes, visiting researcher arrangements, etc. Each Centre would have its own Director, but there could be an overall Board, with a rotating chair.

  Moreover, the entire institute could also have links with an new Centre for Health Service Research, which would be the embodiment of the "generic" and administrative structure envisaged by the Pattison working party on Research for Patient Benefits. This would include a substantial group working on clinical trial design and analysis, bioinformatics, biostatistics, health economics, epidemiology, health service research, nursing research, etc. This Centre need not be in London, and might itself consist of a number of linked centres around the country. I already talking to Paul Dieppe, Janet Darbyshire, David Kerr and John Pattison about this, and they are all very enthusiastic about the possibility of linking it to a renewed NIMR of the federated type, as well as to other initiatives around the country to strengthen clinical research. I know that this sounds very ambitious, but I really think that we can achieve it, as long as we all sing from the same hymn sheet.

  I anticipated your reaction about dispersal. However, we, the TF, had already agreed that we wouldn't want to move NIMR out of London for two reasons:

  (1)  It would be much more difficult to keep existing teams together if they had to move far away.

  (2)  The overseas members of the TF were adamant that it would have to be in the London area to be perceived from outside the country as a national facility.

  In any case, I really don't see this option as "dispersal". The true intention would be to keep the reality of a single institution. In Canada, they have managed to create some sense of that even for their virtual institutes consisting of centres scattered over the entire country!

  In any case, the intention is that the new institute (of whatever form) would benefit not only the London schools but also the entire country. That is the subject of the consultation that we have started. I envisage the Centres of the institute being quite formally linked to other centres of excellence around the country, exchanging students and researchers, having regular workshops, etc. For instance, the Infections Centre obviously ought to be linked to at least Liverpool and Oxford.

  Sorry to ramble on, but I really want to convince you of the vision. I desperately need your support on the TF, Steve. Otherwise there is a danger that we shall be forced, by the pressures from Mill Hill, to accept the lowest common denominator -namely the status quo. I am certain that we would all live to regret that—the rest of the research community because of the drain on funds; the clinical community, because of the lost opportunity to promote translational research; and even the guys at Mill Hill, because their facilities will continue to degenerate and they will become even more isolated from the rest of the medical research community. Moreover, it will inevitable that the whole issue will surface again in ANOTHER 20 years time! We've got to be brave and visionary now, if we are to be judged by history not to have fudged the issue, or to have capitulated to the UDI from NIMR.

  I have spoken only to Kay Davies, and she supports my position. I'm sure that Dick Flavell will take the NIMR line, and I'm disappointed that Paul seems to have slipped into that position too. I guess that Dick will support me, but he isn't a forceful person. And Alan Goldstein is invisible! So, I really need your support, Steve—just to keep the federated option on the table.

  Best wishes,

  Colin

4From:Blakemore Colin

Sent:28 March 2004 17:11

To:Alison Spaul

Subject:Re: CONFIDENTIAL

  Dear Alison,

  This is a private note, in confidence, without a copy to the entire Task Force (TF), to explore your reaction to the question of whether we should even consider a "federated" option for the new NIMR. (1 presume that you have been following the correspondence about this.)

  I kick myself for not raising the question of financial constraints earlier and more forcefully with the TF. Actually, I hadn't really thought them through myself at the start, but I have had gloomy prognostications from the Office of Science and Technology and elsewhere about the possibility of there being substantial new capital investment for the MRC in the coming decade. The science vote has already been top-sliced until it is bald for the "large facilities roadmap", mainly for the big synchrotron complex at Harwell, but including a substantial contribution to the new LMB building. Given the generally rather negative attitude to intramural support at the OST, it is inconceivable that I could obtain the £150-200 million that it would cost for a completely new building for NIMR in central London. Even the £30 million that it is likely to take, within 10 years, for minimal renovation at Mill Hill will be frowned on, especially since, to my mind, it is going to be very difficult to convince anyone that, if NIMR stays at Mill Hill, there will be a substantial new focus in its work. (That became clear during the phone conference call 10 days ago. Steve Gamblin was talking about keeping Mill Hill Exactly as it is, and perhaps puffing a separate little building on the site for "clinical things", but only if we really insist on that).

  So, if we do recommend that it stays at Mill Hill, the only obvious source for the substantial capital investment will be the MRC's baseline budget. And that would mean even less money for grant support, at a time when we are still funding only 85% of the Alpha A (world-class) applications. I have said to the TF that I can't imagine the Council being willing to increase the investment in N1MR above the £28 million pa that it costs at the moment, and, to be frank, I wouldn't want to do that

  In my opinion, the present "mission" of NIMR, to the extent that it has one, is very similar to that of LMB. So, it's hard to justify continuation of the huge slice that it takes from MRC funds without a reorientation in a way that defines a distinct scientific mission and that makes it more effective as a National facility.

  What the guys at Mill Hill don't seem to realise is the opportunity that they now have to share in the considerable new money on the horizon specifically for clinical research. As you know, the Chancellor's budget speech revealed a plan for the investment in clinical research to rise steadily to £200 million extra pa by 2008. The DoH has already agreed to cover half that, by increasing the R&D budget, and the assumption is that MRC will get a matching amount through the spending review. I am battling for that, and I am very confident that I could get some of that money specifically linked to revitalization of NIMR, as long as I can demonstrate that the clinical commitment is real and that opportunities to interact with clinicians can be improved. I might even be able to squeeze some capital out of the Treasury for it. (That's part of the reason for my floating the possible title "National Institute for Human Health".)

  What I fear, Alison, is that if we take forward only the two, single-location options, the proposal to move to central London will collapse because of the cost. I'm pretty sure that Robin and Steve G don't really want us to consider any option other than staying at Mill Hill. But they are willing to support both options because they presume that the central London one will prove impracticable. That is one of the reasons why they are so horrified by the "federated" option—because it might actually be feasible, and therefore be able to compete well in budgetary terms with the Mill Hill site.

  I want to try to convince you that the federated option is really very exciting. It offers "embedding" of NIMR in strong university environments, directly associated with appropriate clinical facilities. It gives scope for preservation of most if not all of the existing science at NIMR. And it provides an opportunity of linking NIMR science with that of the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at the Hammersmith Hospital, within a single governance structure. (I have floated that with Chris Higgins, the Director of the CRC, and he is in favour!) Imagine a four-centre institute, probably in three buildings:

  (1)  The CRC, with its emphasis on experimental medicine, especially in the areas of cardiovascular disease and cancer, with its excellent imaging facilities and its links to the Amersham and GSK investments.

  (2)  A Centre for Infections and Immunity, linked to the appropriate academic groups at Imperial, UCL or King's, with a stronger emphasis on vaccine development.

  (3)  A Centre for Structural Biology, fused with the great strengths at UCL and Birbeck. This would serve all the other Centres of the Institute and could well be housed in the same building as the Centre for Infections and Immunity (renovated Temperance Hospital, very close to the new UCH?).

  (4)  A Centre for Developmental Biomedicine, associated with a big development already being planned by UCL, directly adjacent to the Institute for Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital (with which several people at Mill Hill already collaborate).

  Essentially, then, the present NIMR could end up in two buildings rather than one. Is that so radical?

  I know that it looks like "stitching up" by the London colleges, and there is obviously an element of that. But I am impressed by their efforts to work together in an attempt to achieve something that will benefit everyone, and by the real concern to preserve as much as possible of NIMR science, not just to "cherry pick".

  All this would be under one governance structure, and would share conference and seminar programmes, training schemes, visiting researcher arrangements, etc. Each Centre would have its own Director, but there could be an overall Board, with a rotating chair.

  Moreover, the entire institute could also have links with a new Centre for Health Service Research, which would be the embodiment of the "generic" and administrative structure envisaged by John Pattison's working party on Research for Patient Benefits. This would include a substantial group working on clinical trial design and analysis, bioinformatics, biostatistics, health economics, epidemiology, health service research, nursing research, etc. This Centre need not be in London, and might itself consist of a number of linked centres around the country. I have already spoken briefly to John Pattison, David Kerr, Janet Darbyshire, Paul Dieppe and others about this, and they are all very enthusiastic about the possibility of linking it to a renewed NIMR of the federated type, as well as to other initiatives around the country to strengthen clinical research. I know that this sounds very ambitious, but I really think that we can achieve it, as long as we all sing from the same hymn sheet.

  Now, I have had a (confidential) message from Steve Tomlinson saying that his only worry with the federated model is that it will raise objections from universities outside London, because it would be tantamount to dispersal, so why shouldn't the whole country have a chance of a piece of the cake. But we, the TF, had already agreed that we wouldn't want to move NIMR out of London for two reasons:

  (1)  It would be much more difficult to keep existing teams together if they had to move far away.

  (2)  The overseas members of the TF were adamant that it would have to be in the London area to be perceived from outside the country as a national facility.

  In any case, I really don't see the federated option as "dispersal". The true intention would be to keep the reality of a single institution. In Canada, they have managed to create some sense of that in their virtual institutes, even though they consist of centres scattered over the entire country!

  In any case, the new institute (of whatever form) could benefit not only the London schools but also the entire country. That is the subject of the wide consultation that we have started. I envisage the Centres of the institute being quite formally linked to other centres of excellence around the country, exchanging students and researchers, having regular workshops, etc. For instance, the Infections Centre obviously ought to be linked to at least Liverpool and Oxford.

  Sorry to ramble on, but I really want to convince you of the vision. I desperately need your support on the TF, Alison, to keep the federated option in play. Otherwise there is a danger that we shall simply reduce to a single choice—namely the status quo. I think that we would all live to regret that—the rest of the research community, because of the drain on funds without any new benefit to the rest of them; the clinical community, because of the lost opportunity to promote translational research; and even the guys at Mill Hill, because their facilities will continue to degenerate and they will become even more isolated from the rest of the medical research community. Moreover, it will be inevitable that the whole issue will surface again in another 20 years time! We've got to be brave and visionary now, if we are to be judged by history not to have fudged the issue, or to have capitulated to UDI by NIMR.

  I have spoken only to Kay Davies, and she supports my position. I hope that Steve T and Dick D will support me. And I have written to Paul, Alan Bernstein and Richard Flavell. I certainly want to continue to explore the two main options, but I think that it would be a mistake to rule out the federated option at this stage, and I hope that you might support it being kept on the table.

  Best wishes,

  Colin

61From:Robin Lovell-Badge

Sent:28 June 2004 12:53

To:MRC-TASKFORCE

Subject:Re: Fwd: Final? Version of the Summary

Importance:High

  Dear All

  I know many of you seem content with the Summary as written, but after what was said at the conference call on Friday and a weekend to reflect on everything, I feel strongly that it still does not make it sufficiently clear that Mill Hill remains a valid option to which the other bids have to be compared. This was clearly the spirit in which we came to an agreement at the last meeting. It has to be obvious to both Kings and UCL that this the case—and it certainly is not at present. It also has to be obvious from the point of view of following process—remember we discussed this as laid down in the Governments "Green Book".

  Best wishes

  Robin

62-----Original Message-----

Subject:

STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL

Date:Mon, 28 Jun 2004 13:37:21 +0100

From:Blakemore Colin

To:richard.flavell, Davies Kay, Stephen TOMLINSON, Paul Nurse, Alan Bernstein, R.Denton

  Dear colleagues,

  I had hoped that it would never be necessary to use the CONFIDENTIAL heading again, but I have to appeal to you, in confidence, to support me in trying to avoid yet another round of substantive editing on our summary, which you will see Robin is requesting. Remember that we went through every word of the summary on the day, and this point has never even been raised in the subsequent round of comments. It was my feeling that we reached a very firm consensus that, as long as we can negotiate a really attractive package from UCL or KCL we felt that the future institute would be better sited in close association with a university/hospital environment in central London. I don't think that Robin is correct to say that we saw Mill Hill as a "valid option", in the sense that we saw it as equal to the central London options: indeed, we spent rather little time considering the details of John's presentation, which I took as a reflection of the growing view that a move was the right thing to recommend.

  I suspect that John has been putting pressure on Robin, because when I called John to communicate our views, he was extraordinarily aggressive and told me that we were mad not to put the Mill Hill site above all others. He pressed me on whether Mill Hill is acceptable as a "fall-back" option. I said that we hadn't seriously discussed the longer-term consequences if we failed to get attractive enough offers from UCL and KCL, but we had said that NIMR should be supported at Mill Hill, and some of the structural changes should begin, in the short term.

  I have tried to reach Robin on the phone, and left a message on his voice mail. But I think that he would (as on previous occasions when he has raised last-minute objections like this) be more responsive to objections from other members of the TF. If you, like me, feel that it is unreasonable to demand substantive changes of emphasis at this stage, please write to say so.

  I have to say that if it is not possible to persuade Robin of this, we might have to accept a majority report rather than a unanimous one, but I hope that Robin will avoid this, in the interests of morale at Mill Hill and to demonstrate to force of our recommendations to Council. They will be much more inclined to take seriously a unanimous report than a majority one.

  Any further delay, and any real change in emphasis would be deeply embarrassing to me, since I have now communicated the document (as originally approved by everyone) to all those who presented to us, and to the OST and the Chairman of the MRC.

  Please write to Robin.

  Thanks.

  Colin

64-----Original Message-----

From:Kay E Davies

Sent:28 June 2004 13:47

To:Blakemore Colin

Subject:RE: STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL

  Dear Colin,

  I shared Robin's concern when I first read the draft. You agreed that the move does depend on proposals from either KCL or UCL coming forward as feasible and exciting. The TF obviously felt that this was likely. Hence no need to consider Mill Hill.

  However, I think we should at least clarify what the fall back position is. If NIMR at Mill Hill is out of the question, it may be important to say that now. The problem may be cost as well as science.

  Best wishes,

  Kay

From:Kay E Davies

Sent:Mon 28/06/2004 15:35

To:MRC-TASKFORCE

Subject:Re: Fwd: FW: Final? Version of the Summary

  Just one more thought. Since we are all enthusiastic about the central London possibilities, the summary can stay as it is without further discussion as we clearly think that the new opportunities are exciting and feasible. I favour no further change.

  Best wishes,

  Kay

  Professor Kay E. Davies MA DPhil CBE FRS

66-----Original Message-----

From:Stephen TOMLINSON

Sent:28 June 2004 14:10

To:Blakemore Colin

Subject:Re: STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL

  Colin, I opened your email after Robin's and have sent a reply giving my view which is the same as yours. Essentially, I remember no discussion on anything that could be interpreted as "a fall-back position" or anything similar in relationship to Mill Hill.My assumption is that we'll get a good deal from either UCL or KCL,

  Steve

From:"Blakemore Colin" 28/06/2004 18:04:112>>>

To:Steve Tomlinson

  Thanks, Steve. I hope that we can get around this (characteristically) last-minute attempt to rewrite history! God, when will these guys actually engage, rather than dying in a ditch for Mill Hill?

  Colin

68From:Blakemore Colin Sent: Mon 28/06/2004 18:15

To:`Kay E Davies'

Subject:RE: STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL

  Dear Kay,

  Since your message to the whole TF, in which you said that you favoured no more change in the summary, came after this one to me, may I assume that you do think that we should release the summary as agreed? (You will see that Dick Denton, Richard Flavell, Steve T and I have all written to say exactly that—and Paul is incommunicado, so we can't expect a comment from him.) I am all but certain that this is being driven by John Skehel, who exploded on the phone when I called him to convey the views of the TF, and who kept saying that it was essential to say that Mill Hill is an equal option to KCL and UCL. But that would completely misrepresent the discussions of the TF at the last meeting. We—including Robin and Steve G—were so firmly of the view that the right thing to do is to move it, but that: (1) we need to keep up the pressure on UCL and KCL to get the very best deal; and (2) the MRC could start the recommended changes to the institute while it is at Mill hill, before the move.

  I hope that Robin will back down and let the distribution of the summary go ahead. If he won't, then I guess that we might have to say that it is a majority report, rather than a unanimous one. In my opinion, that would be a very dangerous development for NIMR, because it might give the Council the excuse to make a very different decision!

  Colin

72-----Original Message---

From:Richard Flavell

Sent:28 June 2004 19:07

To:Blakemore Colin; Davies Kay; TomlinsonS

Subject:[Fwd: STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL]

  Dear Colleagues,

  In response to Colin's strictly confidential email, I would have the following comments.

  I agree with the main point that Colin makes in his email. Specifically "as long as we can negotiate a really attractive package from UCL or KCL we felt that the future institute would be better cited in close association with a University/Hospital environment in central London" Absolutely agreed. It is critical to negotiate that attractive package and in order to be able to do that we have to say to those people that Mill Hill is an (confidentially a fallback/backup) option. If one has to negotiate, one has to be willing to walk away from a negotiation to get a good price. We won't get a good price if they think that we would not consider Mill Hill under any circumstances. It is therefore critical to hold Mill Hill as this backup. That point should be clear in our documents and all of us should be willing to say this in some form or other in any public forums. I hope you all agree with that because I think if we don't, we're sunk. I haven't yet communicated with Robin because I thought it would be good to clarify this issue just once more in order to prevent further agony. Look forward to hearing from you all. Hope all is well with best wishes.

  Richard

-----Original Message-----

From:Stephen TOMLINSON

Sent:29 June 2004 07:38

To:Blakemore Colin

Subject:RE: [Fwd: STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL]

  Colin, I strongly support your position. There was no discussion of any fall back at the TF.I could not accept such a change after we had all agreed on the statement. I might say that even hinting of such a suggestion could lead to UCL and KCL inferring it's a stitch-up for Mill Hill and becoming less than enthusiastic about competing!

  If MRC cannot get a very good deal from one or the other,I could argue that all bets are off and we cast the net wider-but then I would wouldn't I?We cross that bridge if we come to it; meanwhile, please may we get on, on the basis of a renewed Institute in Central London, with a managed transition from Mill Hill to KCL or UCL?

  Steve

"Blakemore Colin" 01/07/04 1:02 PM

To:STEVE TOMLINSON

  Dear Steve,

  I really appreciate your support. Would you consider sending your message to the whole TF?

  Colin

74"Blakemore Colin" 28/06/2004 23:49:23>>>

To:MRC Task Force

  Dear Richard,

  Thank you for these thoughts. I agree completely that we mustn't give the London institutions the impression that we are unconcerned about the quality of the offers that they make. So, I made it crystal clear to UCL and KCL, when I spoke to them, that they would have to come up with extremely attractive offers for them to be taken seriously by the Council. They know that they are locked in competition with each other to deliver the better bid. But what I did not say to them, and what I was not empowered to say by the TF, was that we were equally keen to keep the institute at Mill Hill. I just read out the relevant section of our agreed report "The Task Force maintains that this vision will be best delivered through an intramural research institute on a single site. The Task Force believes that moving NIMR to central London in partnership with a leading university and hospital—on a suitable site, with appropriate governance and financial arrangements—would strengthen the NIMR's ability to deliver this renewed vision."

  The TF simply didn't discuss seriously what we would recommend if the negotiations with KCL and UCL don't work out. And I take that as an indication of our enthusiasm for a move to a single site in central London. What we did say, and what I read out to KCL and UCL is that we see ways of starting the implementation of our recommendations for NIMR while it remains on the Mill Hill site. To have said more would have misrepresented the TF discussion.

  In reality, if neither KCL or UCL come up with the goods, I presume that it will be up to the Council to decide what to do. The TF, within its timeframe of operation, is simply not in a position to make a recommendation, at least as I interpret the discussion.

  Robin has just phoned me (at 23:30 at night) after I left a third message on his voicemail. He said that he has, indeed been speaking to John Skehel, and it is difficult for me not to conclude that John is driving his behaviour. Yet, as you seen from his latest email, he is accusing me, just as George Radda was accused, of having "a different agenda".

  When I started to tell people that we had achieved a unanimous position last week, they all said that it was it was a miracle. Well, miracles, like bubbles, can burst, it seems. I think that we have spent a huge amount of public money and an enormous amount of our time achieving very little. I cannot say how depressed this makes me.

  In view of the fact that Robin has clearly lost confidence in me, I suggest that someone else (Richard, Paul?) should take the lead. I personally will not sign up to a diluted version of the wording above, which we all agreed a week ago. I hope that a majority will agree with this position, and that we can at least get a majority report out tomorrow. If not, it is up to all of you to decide how you wish to proceed.

  Good luck!

  Colin

75From:Blakemore Colin Sent: Tue 29/06/2004 00:08

To:`MRC Task Force'

Cc:

Subject:CONFIDENTIAL

  Dear Robin and others,

  I have NOT told King's and UCL that the institute will definitely move to one of them. I simply told them (and also John and IC and QMC) what I (and others, it seems) clearly thought the TF had agreed, namely that we are recommending, in principle, that the institute should move, as long as a highly attractive partnership can be negotiated. In fact, I just read out to them the relevant passages from the report that we all agreed (a week ago):

  "The Task Force believes that moving NIMR to central London in partnership with a leading university and hospital—on a suitable site, with appropriate governance and financial arrangements—would strengthen the NIMR's ability to deliver this renewed vision... However, it will be essential to develop a partnership agreement for this move that is more attractive than would be possible between a university and NIMR at Mill Hill." I actually read out those passages to Simon and Mike.

  I note that Robin says that he has heard from John Skehel a version of my conversation last week. In fact I read out to John virtually the entire report. John told me, in no uncertain terms, that it was outrageous not to consider Mill Hill on equal terms with KCL and UCL, and I presume that Robin is reflecting this view. In my opinion, that is not what the TF concluded, and I did not misrepresent our views to KCL and UCL by telling them that. However, I don't think that this in any way reduces the pressure on them to come up with their best possible offers. They know that they are in competition with each other, and with whatever absolute criteria the Council wishes to impose. They also know that "it will be essential to develop a partnership agreement for this move that is more attractive than would be possible between a university and NIMR at Mill Hill."

  My recollection is that, as recorded in our report, we did believe that changes towards realising the new vision could and should be achieved on the Mill Hill site. "While partnership discussions proceed, the Task Force recommends immediate action to strengthen NIMR's delivery against the new vision . . . As any move into central London would take 5-10 years to accomplish, the Task Force recommends that the MRC move with all speed to begin bolstering the NIMR's renewed vision at Mill Hill today."

  We didn't spend time discussing the consequences of a complete failure to negotiate a satisfactory deal with either KCL or UCL, and I take that as an indication of how committed we were to preferring a move. Of course, it will necessary for the Council to face up to that if neither College is able to come up with a deal "that is more attractive than would be possible between a university and NIMR at Mill Hill." But, since we didn't even discuss that, I think that it would be totally wrong for us to change our report now to imply that we think that it is simply a 3-way competition between Mill Hill, KCL and UCL.

  Clearly Robin has lost confidence in my management of this situation. Like my predecessor, and despite my very best efforts to be completely honest and fair, I now find myself accused of "following a different agenda". If the TF as a whole agrees that I have handled this badly, then I have no choice but to abandon this process and to tell the Council of the MRC that we have failed to reach agreement. But in my opinion we did reach agreement, and I am deeply, deeply disappointed that Robin disagrees at this late stage.

  May I ask you, the other members of the TF, whether you will join me in issuing the summary that we all agreed, at least as as a majority report from the TF? Will those who, in addition to Robin, wish explicitly to dissociate themselves from it please let me know by tomorrow at 17:00, so that we can go ahead with the release of the document? I shall tell the OST what has happened, and shall tell them that, at the time that I handed over a copy of the original version, we did have complete agreement on it.

  Given the hostility towards me, I don't think that it will be constructive for me to continue to try to negotiate with Robin on behalf of the TF, and I leave it up to the rest of you to decide how to proceed.

  Best wishes,

  Colin

81From:Richard Flavell

Sent:Tue 29/06/2004 15:59

To:MRC-TASKFORCE

Subject:Confidential

  I checked over once again the report summary and I'm still comfortable with it.

However, I hope sincerely that Colin has not told UCL/Kings that the institute will definitely move to one or other of them under all circumstances. As I mentioned at the meeting, and as the text of our summary says, it's critical that the situation with NIMR at Kings or UCL offers an improvement over the current situation otherwise, why bother.

  The ability of the MCR to negotiate such an improved situation is dependent on the MRC's ability to say no to an unreasonable proposal from those parties and to negotiate an acceptable position. Colin, I think it would be helpful if you could clarify this, hopefully by reassuring us that your negotiating position has not been compromised by eliminating a fall back option. With best wishes.

  Richard

85From:Blakemore Colin Sent: Tue 29/06/2004 18:09

To:MRC Task Force

Subject:RE: Confidential

  Dear Richard et al.,

  It is now past 17:00 and, since I received no dissenting messages, our summary is now being sent out to the institutions that presented proposals, and to the OST and the Chairman of the MRC (replacing the earlier version that they have seen), and it will soon be displayed on the website. You are all at liberty to distribute copies as you wish. I have agreed to meet the union reps next week. I told you that I was willing to go out to Mill Hill to talk to staff—but I am having second thoughts about that (see below).

  Richard, I assure you, and the whole TF, that I told UCL and KCL unequivocally that any co-location partnership offer will have to be more attractive than NIMR staying at Mill Hill. In fact, I simply read out to Mike Spyer and Simon Howell all the relevant sections of the summary, as detailed in my last email. I telephoned both of them this morning and both of them confirmed that I had done this. They said that it was quite clear that their proposals must be truly compelling, and better than Mill Hill could be, to be taken seriously. They said that they are ready to repeat this to anyone on the TF if you have any doubts.

  The very fact that a different account is now circulating widely and that I am accused of having misrepresented the views of the TF, and of having a "different agenda", is an indication of the residual doubts and hostilities that hang over this process.

  I have to report to you that Mike Spyer told me today that John Skehel contacted him last week (after I had spoken to John), and asked to see Mike. They met yesterday and Mike says that John was very critical of UCL for having submitted a joint, split-site proposal with IC. John also said that he intends to continue to "put pressure" (Mike's words) on the TF and others to make sure that the TF report treats the Mill Hill site simply as an equal third option, alongside KCL and UCL.

  Mike wishes this to be treated in confidence for the moment, but is preparing notes of this meeting and will, I think, share the facts with members of the TF.

  Personally, I consider this an interference with the independence of the TF, which can only reduce our chances of producing an agreed and convincing report for the Council on 29 July. If anyone on the TF has influence with John, I hope that you will do your best to persuade him that this is a destructive and unfair strategy. I have tried to talk to John rationally, but just get shouted at and called an idiot, so I think that it would be unproductive for me to contact him again.

  Despite all my efforts to be completely open, honest and fair in how I have handled this task (a task that I inherited—not of my own making), I now find myself accused of dishonesty and of hidden agendas. I am grateful to those of you who have written to offer your support but I think that, during the coming four weeks in which our full report must be prepared and negotiations with KCL and UCL must be vigorously pursued, it would be better if someone who is not tainted with the Black Spot of Mill Hill were to lead the activities of the TF. To put it briefly, I have had enough of trying to deal with the forces that are conspiring against the MRC and against the head of the MRC—whoever that person is.

  We need a volunteer to take over the task of talking to KCL and UCL and of chairing the sub-committee that is going to work on early drafts of our report—someone who has a thick enough skin to deal with the slings and arrows. My standing with NIMR staff is increasingly compromised and I predict that this will increase over the coming weeks.

  Will anyone volunteer to take over?

  Best wishes,

  Colin

90 From:Richard Falvell

Sent:Tue 29/06/2004 20:35

To:MRC-TASKFORCE

Subject:Confidential

  Confidential

  I'm relieved to read that there has been no compromise of the negotiating position with Kings and UC and I am satisfied with Colin's response on this. With regard to what would happen if those bids were not acceptable I agree with Paul Nurse's email which I received at 1:05 EST. (Apparently this one got lost) In other words NIMR is the fall back option and therefore if the UCL or Kings options are not competitive, NIMR stays at Mill Hill. The problem I'm not so clear on is whether the text needs modifying to say this, but this point needs to be clear. I hope this clarifies my position. I'm sorry that I've been slow to respond here, the problem is that most of these emails are dictated and there's a lag time between conception and delivery (this is actually something developmental which occurs in other species).

  Richard

126 From:Steven J. Gamblin

Sent:Thu 08/07/2004 12:38

To:MRC-TASKFORCE

Subject:Re: Mill Hill

  Dear Colleagues,

  I agree with Richard that Mill Hill should be the back up option and that this should be recorded in our final report.

  I have to say that I had always understood that this third option was implicit in the TF deliberations and conclusions.

  It seems that this is not everyone's perception, but it never crossed my mind that our general statement implied that the Institute COULD NOT remain at Mill Hill. If this was our view,

surely we would have been obligated to state it explicitly in the report. For me it is relevant that during our last TF-wide conference call (fri 25th June I think, with Colin, Paul, Richard, Robin &steve(G) ) I suggested that John Wills work with Keith Tucker to evaluate the equivalent costs of the bids.

  However, Colin stated that this was not appropriate because it would be viewed as unfair by KCL and UCL for Mill Hill, as one of the three bidders, to be directly involved in the evaluation process. For me, this statement was consistent with, and reinforced my understanding of, the TF conclusions document.

  If my understanding at the time was incorrect then I can only, reluctantly, conclude that the unanimity of the TF was based on ambiguity in the statement we endorsed.

  with best regards

  steve(G)

  Steve Gamblin

130 From:Blakemore Colin

Sent:Thu 08/07/2004 14:09

To:`MRC Task Force'

Cc:Sideris Elizabeth

Subject:RE: MILL HILL

  Dear All,

  This interesting exchange has reinforced my view that we have no chance of achieving a consensus on this issue. I am sorry if anyone signed up to the conclusion about preferring co-location with UCL or KCL only on the understanding that Mill Hill was a "fall-back", but I can only repeat what everyone has accepted—that we just didn't discuss that.

  The only person who hasn't yet expressed an opinion on Mill Hill as a "fall-back" is Alan, but I think that we can anticipate his position. My reading of the other opinions is that the rest of us are divided 50:50, with Paul, Steve G, Robin and Richard supporting the idea that Mill Hill is the obvious "fall-back", while Steve T, Kay, Dick and I think that the discussion and consideration would have to be broadened if KCL or UCL doesn't come up trumps.

  I guess that we could simply record the voting on this, and say that it was based on email exchanges after our final meeting, but, once again, I ask you to consider carefully how this might be read by the Council.

  Without a unanimous view on this, it might be seen as weakening the force of the unanimous part of our report, without offering any clear guidance to the Council on what to do if KCL and UCL don't work out.

  We have to agree what to do on this and, since it was Richard who initiated this recent flurry, may I ask him to give his view on whether we should record this post-hoc disagreement, or stick with the strength of what we have been able to reach consensus on.

  Oh yes, the Green Book. I don't understand how this is relevant to this particular issue: indeed, I don't think that it is. But I've copied this to Elizabeth Sideris in the hope that she will tell us.

  Best wishes,

  Colin

146 From:Steven J. Gamblin Sent: Fri 09/07/2004 15:10

To:MRC-TASKFORCE

Cc:

Subject:Re: Conference calls—and next draft of report

  Dear Colleagues,

  The Heads of Divisions committee have prepared a responseto the short report of the 5th TF meeting largely for the Institutes staff which is posted on the NIMR web page.

  Since it is written in response to the TF statement it seems appropriate to send it to you all and, besides, perhaps we dont have enough reading matter for the weekend yet!

  all the best

  steve(G)

158 From:Blakemore Colin Sent Fri 09/07/2004 20:27

To:`Alan Bernstein'

Cc:

Subject:CONFIDENTIAL—VERY URGENT

  Dear Alan,

  I know that you are very busy—perhaps even out of town. But if you are reading email, please, please look at the string of exchanges surrounding the rearguard action to try to force the TF to recommend that Mill Hill is definitely the fall-back option for the location of the institute. I don't accept that view, and neither do Kay, Steve T and Dick Denton. But some at Mill Hill are trying to create the impression that I alone am "misinterpreting" the intention of the TF—see the letter from Heads of Divisions on their website.

  If, as I suspect, you also don't accept that we should recommend Mill Hill as the default, please write immediately to the TF to express that view. Actually, to be the dispassionate chair that I have tried to be, let me encourage you to write to the TF to express your opinion, whatever it is!

  Best wishes,

165-----Original Message-----

From:Stephen TOMLINSON

[mailto: TomlinsonS]

Sent:Sat 10/07/2004 09:01

To:MRC-TASKFORCE

Cc:

Subject:Re: CONFIDENTIAL

  Colin, I'm away on leave for the next two weeks, so will not be able to participate in the discussions that, hopefully will resolve the current conflict. Whilst accepting the argument that formally going public with the TF "vote" will be damaging, I'm content to support that if there's agreement amongst the membership to do so.

  My own view about "fall-back" remains the same, that is, that we did not explicitly agree such an option. Relocation to Central London either at UCL or KCL with a managed transition from Mill Hill is what we agreed.

  However, if the Task Force now accepts that "fall-back" to Mill Hill was implicit in our discussions, then I suggest we stop using "fall-back", "back-up" etc and move the debate onwards by formally including Mill Hill in the competition now, making it clear that the Council of MRC may reject not just the bids from KCL and UCL, but that from Mill Hill as well. There's then no perjorative "fall-back" and you have a fair and transparent competition.

  If all three bids are rejected, then we must reconsider the basic principle of NIMR remaining in London,

  Steve

  PS We sail tomorrow evening, so I'm around today and tomorrow morning.

  Professor Stephen Tomlinson

166"Blakemore Colin"

10/07/04 11:25 AM

To:STEVE TOMLINSON

  Dear Steve,

  I hope that you get this message before you leave. If so, please call me on my mobile ***. I have just tried your university number but you are not there. If I don't reply it will be because I'm going on a flight to Portugal for a conference—just leave a message about how I can reach you.

  I understand your argument, but it would be seen as caving in to the dirty campaign of John Skehel if we were simply to include Mill Hill as an equal third option. As Robin agrees, we didn't even discuss it. Do you remember:

  Paul just said that it was obvious that Mill Hill is not a long-term option within minutes of John Skehel leaving the room, and we moved on to draft the recommendations. We didn't even consider the plans for a new building with a public lecture theatre, or the other plans for moves within the building that John proposed. How can we possibly say to Council that we are presenting the Mill Hill bid as an equal option alongside KCL and UCL, which we discussed in considerable detail?

  I now fear that you proposal, offered as a compromise to get us out of this mess, will be seized on by Robin, Steve G and John Skehel, and it might even have the effect of forcing me into the caricature that they are trying to paint of me—namely being the only person on the TF who doesn't support Mill Hill, and having wrongly interpreted the views of the TF. (Have you seen the statement from Heads of Divisions and John Skehel's letter on the NIMR website, which virtually accuse me of single-handedly misrepresenting the views of the TF?)

  This can't happen, Steve. It would be so unfair. Just imagine that KCL and UCL don't come up with attractive offers. If the Council were then to take at face value a simple 3-option recommendation from the TF, they might feel compelled to choose Mill Hill, and yet 5 out of 9 of the TF (I think) are fundamentally unhappy with that. As you have said, if KCL and UCL don't come through, then all options should be back on the table—the Council's table, not the TF's.

  I know that you are just trying to help, and that you want to avoid conflict within the TF, but I have to think of the long-term health and balance of MRC activities. I don't want to leave my successor (or the one after that) with the same task that George inherited and which I inherited from George.

  I don't quite know why Paul seems to have changed his mind (actually Paul has been silent through all of this) but I agree with what he said at the TF meeting—that Mill Hill is simply not an option on the 20-50 year time scale.

  We have to be brave enough to say that now, not to be bullied by the Mill Hill resistance into capitulating to their position. What was the TF all about? Giving a dispassionate, properly informed view of the future of the MRC's largest investment, not just recommending an outcome that pleases the staff of Mill Hill! We have to think of the whole country.

  Remember that the annual budget of NIMR in 2002 was equal to half the entire amount committed to new grants in the university sector. The MRC must be certain that it is using such a huge investment properly and optimally.

  From your position as representative of non-London medical research, just ask what people will say if, after all this, we leave NIMR at Mill Hill only because we couldn't come up with a better solution.

  I personally cannot sign up to a simple 3-option recommendation, but I am desperate to avoid being the only person to be seen to be opposed to the status quo—which is the way that it will be represented.

  You say that the Council might then reject all three options, but if the TF has formally recommended Mill Hill, I have not the slightest doubt that John Skehel will take the MRC to judicial review (he has threatened that already) on the grounds that the Council is overruling the recommendation of the independent TF.

  So, please withdraw your suggestion for "formally including Mill Hill in the competition now", Steve. You have made it abundantly clear previously that you don't see Mill Hill as a serious option for the future. Please be brave enough to stick with that view. Please send an email withdrawing it, or I predict that Steve, Robin and Richard will put huge pressure on Kay and Dick to capitulate. Alan, who would certainly oppose the Mill Hill option is incommunicado, so I shall be left alone.

  Have a good holiday!

  Colin

168-----Original Message-----

From:Stephen TOMLINSON

Sent:Sat 10/07/2004 14:24

To:MRC-TASKFORCE

Subject:Re: CONFIDENTIAL—URGENT

  Colin, Thanks. What I was trying to do was move us onward. I absolutely endorse the view that the future of NIMR is not Mill Hill. You know that my initial prejudice was to simply close it and redeploy the A£27 Million annual funding across the UK. The strengths of the arguments for relocation in Central London persuaded me otherwise and I stand by that view.

  What really irks me is the inference that Mill Hill is the "fall-back" solution and that's OK then. I simply do not understand why that should be. It implies that MRC will fail in it's negotiations and we'll have to accept second best. I'm certain that's not acceptable to any of us. It places Mill Hill in a privileged position. My suggestion was intended to ensure a level playing field for those bidding. The playing field is level for KCL and UCL, but Mill Hill simply waits to see if negotiations fail! That's just not good enough.

  I'm more than happy to withdraw my suggestion, but must repeat that I accept no "fall-back" proposal that gives Mill Hill an unfair advantage. Again to repeat, I believe the TF agreed on relocation of NIMR to either KCL or UCL with a managed transition from Mill Hill over an appropriate period of time. If both bids are rejected by MRC, then the Council must reach it's own conclusions, but must not be able to use the recommendations of the current Task Force as the reason for NIMR remaining at Mill Hill.

  I hope this makes my position absolutely clear! And I'm sorry for creating further turbulence by my frustration induced, perhaps ill-judged proposal,

  PS I tried your phone but you're obviously on your travels. We leave tomorrow around 1500hrs from home, so if you pick up this email and still feel you need to discuss matters, please don't hesitate to interrupt my packing!

  Professor Stephen Tomlinson

  Vice-Chancellor

  University of Wales College of Medicine

169-----Mensagem original-----

De:Stephen TOMLINSON Enviada: sáb 10-07-2004 14:24

Para:Blakemore Colin  Cc: Assunto:

  Colin,

  A follow up: having withdrawn my suggestion and thus excluded Mill Hill from the bidding process, If KCL and UCL's bids are rejected I strongly support, as you suggest that MRC starts with a blank sheet of paper with no basic assumptions about any future for a NIMR or it's possible location,

  Steve

  PS Hope the conference was enjoyable and distracting, at least for a while!

  Professor Stephen Tomlinson

170From:Blakemore Colin

Sent:Sun 11/07/2004 15:29

To:MRC-TASKFORCE

Subject:Steve Tomlinson's opinion

  Dear All,

  Since Steve was leaving on holiday yesterday evening, and since his last email left me unclear as to his actual opinion on the Mill Hill option, I communicated with him just a few hours before his departure. He said that he had simply been reacting against the idea that the TF might recommend a "fall-back" (ie non-preferred) option. He said that he had certainly not changed his own view, and he has written the note below to clarify that. He also sent a short follow-up message, which I shall also forward to you.

  He now reaffirms his position "I absolutely endorse the view that the future of NIMR is not Mill Hill.", and we must record that opinion if we do decide to summarize our divided views on this question.

  I am working on a draft paragraph trying to summarise the situation, which you might want to include in the final report. If you decide against that, I hope that you will help in setting the record straight with John Skehel and the Heads of Division. What I told John shortly after our final meeting is factually absolutely correct: the TF had not recommended Mill Hill as either a "fall-back" or simply a third option. I am anxious that the entire world is being misled by the material on the NIMR website into believing that this view is a personal misinterpretation of the TFs recommendation. It is only subsequent correspondence that has revealed that some (probably a minority) on the TF do support the "fall-back" option.

  Best wishes,

  Colin

192From:Blakemore Colin Sent: Thu 15/07/2004 17:47

To:Sir John Skehel

Cc:

Subject:Personal and strictly confidential

  Dear John, Thanks for changing your letter: I'll destroy the original and I should be very grateful if you would substitute this one for the earlier version on the NIMR website.

  I am very concerned that the statement from Heads of Divisions, which also conveys the erroneous impression that I am alone in a particular "interpretation" of the Task Force's views, is still displayed on the website, despite Robin and Steve's promise to draw the inaccuracy to the attention of the Heads. It is unfair and unconstructive to try to demonise me in this way. I see that the same spin was put on my views in the article in the Times last Monday, about which I am also unhappy, given our agreement not to use the media for propaganda.

  I hope that Robin and Steve have told you that, at present, several members of the Task Force are of the opinion that Mill Hill is not a suitable site for the national institute in the long term. If the Heads of Division refuse to alter their statement, I shall have no option but to make that fact public, to protect my reputation.

  Best wishes,

  Colin

228From:Alan Bernstein

Sent:Mon 19/07/2004 20:19

To:Blakemore Colin

Cc:Annette Wilcox

Subject:RE: CONFIDENTIAL—VERY URGENT

  Colin, Upon my return from holidays today, I became aware of the extensive reaction to the Task Force's main and numerous recommendations that NIMR MRC negotiate with the 3 major academic institutions downtown London with the aim of relocating NIMR adjacent to a major institution of high education, research and patient care. As you know, I strongly endorse this recommendation as I believe it offers exciting possibilities for research and its translation into practice. It was not my sense, as a member (albeit distant) of the Task Force, that there was very much enthusiasm for a so-called "fall-back" optional leasing NIMR at its present Mill Hill site. This view was reached not as a negative comment on the current science and/or scientists at Mill Hill, but rather, as a positive view of the opportunity presented at a central London location. I hope this e-mail and our phone call this morning clarifies my own view and perceptions of the situation.

  Best regards,

  Alan

262From:Blakemore Colin

Sent:Fri 23/07/2004 10:21

To:MRC Task force; MRC-TASKFORCEC

Subject:RE: FINAL REPORT—NOT CONFIDENTIAL

  Dear Robin,

  As you know, I have tried several times to contact you by telephone since Steve's long list of suggested changes arrived, and I have left three voicemail messages asking you to call me, but you did not. Perhaps some of the residual differences of interpretation could have been resolved if we could have spoken.

  I have done my best to chair the TF fairly and to handle what was bound to be a very difficult process—given the complex nature of the issue and the history that hangs over it. Many people warned me in advance that they saw no chance of the TF achieving unanimity of opinion; but we did—for a time at least—and on some of the most important questions. It would be such a tragedy, at this last moment, to lose the level of consensus that we did reach, and I ask you not to dissociate yourself at this stage from views that were extensively discussed and approved at our fifth meeting, and from wording for the final report that was approved by you and Steve, during the conference calls, where the other members of the TF could express their views and their agreement.

  It cannot be acceptable to the TF as a whole for Steve and you to force several material changes on the report, reversing previously agreed conclusions, by means of a message sent after the deadline for minor factual corrections, and leaving no opportunity for most of the other members of the TF to respond. (Of course, those who have responded have objected).

  Let me try to deal with the points in your message.

  First, you will see from the Report, that all the straightforward factual changes suggested by

Steve have been made.

  On point 4 of the Exec Summary, the word "will" was read and approved by everyone at the last

conference call. "Could" would certainly have contradicted the views agreed and recorded in the

summary of our fifth meeting. "Would"—the final version—echoes exactly the wording of the

published summary of that meeting:

  "The Task Force believes that moving NIMR to central London in partnership with a leading university and hospital—on a suitable site, with appropriate governance and financial arrangements—would strengthen the NIMR's ability to deliver this renewed vision."

  That summary was not only dissected minutely during the fifth meeting, but also subjected to protracted subsequent discussion in correspondence and conference calls, largely led by you and Steve. You will remember that the original wording for this had "will strengthen" but we agreed, in correspondence after the meeting, to change it to "would strengthen" (not to "might").

  You cannot possibly say that you did not have sufficient time to consider this wording, and you both willingly signed up to it. Can you not see that it is unreasonable, and unacceptable to the other members of the TF, now to say that the you accept partnership but not co-location?

  You write: "I certainly do not appreciate Colin sending letters purporting to represent all the Task Force without specifically obtaining permission first." As far as I can recall, the only letter in which I have specifically stated that I was trying to represent the views of the TF as a whole was my reply to Guy Dodson's letter, which he had copied to Lord Sainsbury. I have sent copies of this correspondence to the TF. The actual wording in my reply was as follows:

  "I haven't been able to consult all the other members of the Task Force but I'll try to represent their collective views. I've already forwarded your letter to them; I'll send them copies of this reply and I'll let you know if there are objections to what I've written."

  I replied to Guy within 3 days of receiving his letter, not only because I was sure that he and others at NIMR would appreciate a rapid response, but also because I was asked by the OST for a copy of my reply in time for Lord Sainsbury to see it before his meeting with Andrew Dismore.

  I worded my reply to Guy so that it was clear that the TF had not been consulted in advance, and I said that I would tell Guy if anyone objected to what I had written. No-one did—until this remark of yours, Robin. (What exactly did I say in that letter, by the way, that you now object to?).

  If you know of anything else that I have written that specifically purports to represent the views of the entire TF, and with which you disagree, please give us the details. Innuendo without evidence is unacceptable, Robin.

  You put me in a very difficult position. I am being bombarded with things that I must respond to—many of them resulting from the propaganda campaign that has been mounted by NIMR (despite the agreement not to use the media or to lobby before the TF reports to Council). If I didn't reply to such things, I would be accused of secrecy and having things to hide, and the false accusations in them would go unchallenged. But when I do reply I am accused by you of misrepresenting your opinion! Catch 22, Robin.

  You will remember that, in a previous moment of despondency about the flak that was being directed against me personally, I suggested that some other member of the TF ought to take over the task of communicating on behalf of the TF—but that suggestion was rejected by the TF and I was told that it's my job!

  You say that I should take account of your views and Steve's in communicating TF opinion.

  Well, which views are you referring to? The ones that you signed up to in the fifth meeting summary, or the views that have emerged in the past two days? It would have been rather difficult for me, in anything that I wrote or said before yesterday, to have represented your current opinion rather than the one expressed in the fifth meeting summary.

  What do you want me now to say? That I can give an opinion on behalf of all but 2 members of the TF? That I can tell people what all the TF agreed three weeks ago, and also what 2 of them are now saying? Can you not see the quandary that you put me in? I can't represent the views of the TF unless they are consistent over time.

  I know that you and Steve have engaged in the TF process and that you have been genuinely enthusiastic about its conclusions—in the past. But what is frustrating is this last-second change of heart and the accusation that your views have not been properly considered or recorded. You say " We just think that Mill Hill should be considered as an option for comparison with the others." Well, I must remind you that that is recorded as the unanimous view of the TF in the summary of our fifth meeting:

  "It will be essential to develop a partnership agreement for this move that is more attractive than would be possible between a university and NIMR at Mill Hill."

  And your opinion that Mill Hill should be considered an explicit option is, of course, also recorded in the carefully crafted para 4.2 of the report.

  Now I must object to your statement: "Steve and I have not left it to the last minute to let our views be known. They have just been ignored by Colin." That is really unfair, and I hope that other members of the TF will record their objection to it. First, the most recent views, in Steve's long message, were most certainly last-minute—beyond the agreed deadline, in fact. Your previous views have been heard and considered by the entire TF at every meeting and every conference call. (I think that I am right in saying that you and Steve have been present at every meeting, and that at least one of you has been present at every conference call.) You have not been reticent in objecting to the precise wording of drafts of our summary reports, you have successfully pressed for changes in previously agreed wording, and you have always agreed to every report that has been released. Your suggestion that I alone have ignored your views is a falsehood, and I ask you to take it back. I can only see it as part of a growing campaign to personalise this discussion by projecting on to me alone responsibility for the collective views of the TF, or views clearly recorded as being those of a majority. If you are accusing me of having interfered with the process in other ways, or of having done other things to "ignore" your and Steve's views, you must spell them out those accusations and allow me and other members of the TF to comment on them.

  I see the ludicrous rumours (about my having been appointed by the MRC specifically to close down NIMR) as another facet of the efforts to personalise criticism of the TF. I am thinking about possible ways in which I can make a public statement to counter this stupidity.

  If I do visit Mill Hill to talk to staff about the TF report, I now fully expect to suffer the same kind of humiliating walk-out that George Radda and Tony Cleaver were subjected to. But I hope that the record of all our discussions and correspondence, when David has time to put it up on the web, will enable the world to judge whether I have been fair or biased.

  Now, Robin, I urge you to look at the final version of the report, to see that the factual changes suggested by Steve have been incorporated, and to compare carefully the sections for which he suggested substantive changes with the wording of our unanimously agreed and published fifth meeting summary. I hope that, on reflection, and in the light of the views from Kay and Dick, you will not dissociate yourself from the report.

  Best wishes,

  Colin






 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2005
Prepared 8 February 2005