14 December 2009
PRINCIPLES ON INDEPENDENT SCIENCE ADVICE MUST BECOME ACCEPTED PART OF MINISTERIAL AND WHITEHALL CULTURE, SAY MPS
Today the Science and Technology Committee publishes its contribution to the Government's review of the principles that should apply to the treatment of independent scientific advice provided to government.
The Committee calls for the finalised principles to become part of the Ministerial Code as well as part of the Guidelines on Scientific Analysis in Policy Making used by Whitehall and the Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees.
A comprehensive statement of principles would help to clarify the roles and responsibilities of Government and scientific advisory committees.
The Government's review follows concerns raised by scientists in the aftermath of the sacking of Professor David Nutt from the post of Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by the Home Secretary.
The set of principles published on 6 November 2009 by leading scientists, including Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society, following the dismissal of Professor Nutt is to be welcomed and reflects the thrust of the conclusions and recommendations made in the Committee's earlier reports, although some refinements are required.
Commenting on the report Phil Willis MP, Chairman of the Committee, said:
"It is of importance that ministers, civil servants and scientists agree a set of principles. But this is only the first step.
"The Government needs to go further. The Committee calls on the Government to make administrative changes to ensure the principles are upheld and become part of civil service and ministerial culture. We therefore recommend that the Codes and Guidelines, including the Ministerial Code, enshrine the principles."
NOTES TO EDITORS:
The Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees is for the use of scientific advisory committees and councils, their chairs, members and secretariats and provides guidance "on the operation of scientific advisory committees and their relationship with government".
The Guidelines on Scientific Analysis in Policy Making address the way in which government departments obtain and use scientific advice and are currently under review by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser.
The Ministerial Code is a code of conduct for ministers containing guidance on principles and practice in relation to the discharge of ministerial duties.