I lost confidence in drugs adviser, says Johnson

Author: By Trevor Mason and Emily Ashton, Press Association

Answering an emergency question in the Commons, Mr Johnson said he asked Prof
Nutt to resign because his role was “to advise rather than criticise
Government policy”.

But he insisted his dismissal was “not a reflection” on the work of the
Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and he would be meeting other
members “shortly”.

Two members of the ACMD have already quit after the sacking of Prof Nutt and
others are threatening to follow.

To Tory cheers, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said the Home Secretary’s
decision on Friday was “the right one”.

Mr Johnson said the advisory committee’s work had been “invaluable” to
successive governments.

Of the 21 recommendations made by the committee on cannabis policy last year,
the Home Office accepted 20 and rejected just one, on classification.

A later report on ecstacy included 13 recommendations, of which the Home
Office accepted 11.

“I asked Prof Nutt to resign as my principal drugs adviser not because of the
work of the council but because of his failure to recognise that as chair of
ACMD his role is to advise rather than criticise Government policy on drugs.”

Mr Johnson recalled that in February, while awaiting publication of the
Government’s position on the classification of ecstacy, Prof Nutt published
an article and “addressed the media on the appropriateness, or otherwise, of
the Government’s policy framework, expressing a view that horse riding was
more dangerous than ecstacy.

“On Thursday October 29 Prof Nutt chose, without prior notification to my
department, to initiate a debate on drugs policy in the national media,
returning to the February decisions, and accusing my predecessor or
distorting and devaluing scientific research.

“As a result, I have lost confidence in Prof Nutt’s ability to be my principal
adviser on drugs.”

Mr Johnson said the advice of independent scientific advisers was essential to
the Government.

“The role of such advisers is to provide independent advice to government
based on their professional scientific expertise.

“The role of government is to consider that advice carefully, along with all
other relevant factors, and for this House to endorse or reject those
decisions, where appropriate.”

Mr Grayling said independent advice was important. “But those who take on
formal roles, with government, have to be extremely cautious about the
things they say.

“Prof Nutt’s comments earlier this year comparing the risks of ecstasy with
horse riding were, I thought, particularly ill-judged.”

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