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A return to reason?

Mark Easton | 18:12 UK time, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and the Home Office have just published the fruits of their meeting yesterday.

While those who had wanted an apology for the way the home secretary sacked his chief advisor, Professor David Nutt, will be disappointed, the search for a new arrangement to improve the relationship between ministers and advisers does seem to have made headway.

There may still be sticking points over the details of the "Principles for the Treatment of Independent Scientific Advice" being discussed by the Chief Scientific Adviser Sir John Beddington, Lord Rees from the Royal Society and the prime minister's office.

However, the deal published includes a commitment from the home secretary to write to the full council setting out his reasons if he decides to reject their advice in the future. This retains the principle of ministerial responsibility but will oblige the Home Office to explain why they have rejected the science - and I suspect an answer that reads "the tabloids won't wear it" will not be good enough.

Here is the statement in full:

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