Home Secretary agrees protocol with advisers

Author: By Jack Doyle

The concessions were agreed at showdown talks with the Advisory Council on the
Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) yesterday in the wake of the sacking of its former
chairman, Professor David Nutt.

In a joint statement between remaining members of the ACMD and the Home
Secretary, Mr Johnson agreed to give “careful consideration” to
all ACMD reports. In addition, he promised to look at the advice for an
appropriate length of time before making his decision. Procedural changes
will see advice being made public at the same time as it is received by the
Home Office.

In the past, statements rejecting ACMD advice have been issued within minutes
of it becoming public.

If the Home Secretary thinks he is going to reject the advice, he will meet
with the ACMD chairman before making a final decision. And if he does reject
it, his reasons for doing so will be made clear to the ACMD in writing.

After yesterday’s meeting, which the Home Office described as “constructive”,
three other drugs advisers resigned. The chemist Dr Simon Campbell, the
psychologist Dr John Marsden, and the scientific consultant Ian Ragan
followed the path taken by Marion Walker and Dr Les King in the immediate
aftermath of Professor Nutt’s dismissal.

Dr Campbell said the abrupt dismissal was an “unnecessary humiliation”
for Professor Nutt.

He said Mr Johnson would respond to “political expediency” when
making his decisions about drugs, irrespective of the scientists’ advice.

He told the BBC: “I think that was a clash of personalities. I don’t
agree with the manner in which he was dismissed. I think such an abrupt
dismissal was an unnecessary humiliation for such a respected scientist.”

He added, “I think the Home Secretary will listen to what the council
says, but, at the end, of the day I think political expediency rules the
roost.”

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