Select Committee on Science and Technology

No. 53A of Session 2006-07 30 July 2007



The new Chairman of the Medical Research Council may not be the right man for the job, the Science and Technology Select Committee warns today. In its report, the Committee criticises Sir John Chisholm for being “vague” and “evasive”, and for “a lack of focus and clarity” in his dealings with the Committee.

The Committee also criticises the manner of the appointment of Ernst & Young as consultants to a review conducted jointly with the MRC. It labels the process as “informal” and argues that the appointment should have been made through “open and transparent competition”.

Commenting on the report, Phil Willis, Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee said:

“The MRC is entering an exciting period of change and requires exemplary leadership, based on clarity of purpose, knowledge of the sector and candid and inspiring communication. Based on our inquiry, we are not convinced that Sir John Chisholm is the right man for the job.”

“At our introductory hearing Sir John appeared to us to show a lack of focus and clarity. He was vague about the process of his appointment and evasive when discussing the process of appointing Ernst & Young to help with the Joint Review. He was unable to explain adequately some of the details of the Joint Review, such as how MRC staff and other stakeholders were consulted, his role as chairman of the Steering Group and the reasons for reducing the size of the MRC Council. His explanation for the policy decision to increase contingency funding was unsatisfactory and he lacked the necessary knowledge to discuss the MRC’s relationship with the other Research Councils. And we do not think that these shortcomings were resolved fully in his supplementary written evidence.”

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Notes to editors:

• Under the terms of Standing Order No. 152 the Science and Technology Committee is empowered to examine the “expenditure, policy and administration of the Office of Science and Innovation and its associated public bodies”. The Committee was appointed on 19 July 2005.

• This inquiry was announced on 19 July 2006 in Press Notice No 53 of session 2005-06,

Membership of Committee

Mr Phil Willis (Lib Dem, Harrogate and Knaresborough)(Chairman)
Adam Afriyie (Con, Windsor)
Mrs Nadine Dorries (Con, Mid Bedfordshire)
Mr Robert Flello (Lab, Stoke-on-Trent South)
Linda Gilroy (Lab/Co-op, Plymouth Sutton)
Dr Evan Harris (Lib Dem, Oxford West & Abingdon)
Dr Brian Iddon (Lab, Bolton South East)
Chris Mole (Lab, Ipswich)
Graham Stringer (Lab, Manchester, Blackley)
Bob Spink (Con, Castle Point)
Dr Desmond Turner (Lab, Brighton Kemptown)