More could quit, drugs panel tells Johnson
The home secretary has been told by his drugs advisers that unless he gives them assurances "about the role and treatment of the Council and its work", more scientists will quit.
The BBC has obtained a copy of the letter sent to Alan Johnson by a majority of ACMD members. They make it clear that the sacking of Professor David Nutt on Saturday has "brought to the fore wider and pre-existing concerns".
"For some members," it continues, "these matters are of such seriousness as to raise the question whether they can, in good conscience, continue on the Council".
Here is the letter in full.
It is clear from the last paragraph that it had been intended that the letter should remain confidential. However, a copy was sent to the BBC by one of those involved in its formulation.
Separately, there is a move by scientists and advisers more generally for clarification and reassurances on the role of specialist advisory committees and their members. I understand that one idea is for a new code of conduct to be agreed by government which would set out three important principles:
• a recognition that advisers do not lose their scholarship or academic freedom if they freely offer expertise to ministers;
• that ministers must consider seriously the expert advice they receive (and not dismiss it before they have even read it as some members of the ACMD felt the government did in respect of their recommendations on cannabis and ecstasy);
• that if government decides to reject the advice of an advisory panel, they publish both the original advice and their reasons for not accepting it.
While the ACMD is clearly looking to offer the government a way out of this mess with the request for a face-to-face meeting with the home secretary, ministers have successfully opened a debate on whether scientific and other academic advisers are respected for their expertise and their independence.