Natalie Bennett has been elected leader of the Green party in England and Wales (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19462474). I know Miss Bennett through my participation in a campaign to prevent the building of the Francis Crick Institute (FCI), a gigantic research laboratory. The primary objections to the Institute (formerly the UK CENTRE FOR MEDICAL RESEARCH AND INNOVATION or UKCRMI) arose from the fact that research would be done on dangerous diseases at an unreservedly inappropriate site – the FCI is being built just behind the British Library and next door to the new Eurostar terminal at St Pancras. Those wishing to discover more should go to my blog http://ukcmri.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/objection-to-ukcmri-planning-application-for-a-research-centre-in-brill-place-london-nw1/.
Miss Bennett took a leading part in that campaign which lasted several years and ended in very predictable failure. That was because the project had the wholehearted support of both the Labour Government and the Tory Opposition. Normal campaigning on such grounds as danger and its contradiction of Camden Council’s public planning policy was irrelevant, because the supposedly impartial decision on who should be allowed to purchase the site had been taken before the bidding process even closed. (There were several other serious bidders with alternative uses such as housing and commercial development). The decision was meant to be taken by the Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the grounds of value for money. No one outside DCMS was meant to be involved. The other bidders were spending their money (and these types of bids are very expensive) with no hope of success.
The one serious chance to stop the building of the Institute was to expose the illegitimate nature of the decision on who should purchase the site. This I did using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The information gained by this means revealed that Gordon Brown when Prime Minister had intervened to ensure that the consortium backing the FCI bid got the land. The documents showing Brown’s interference are at the bottom of this post. They should be read in the context of powerful men getting their will done through expressing their desires rather than issuing direct orders. However, many of the documents are directly explicit about the involvement.
At the time of the campaign Miss Bennett was editor of The Guardian Weekly, a post she occupied from December 2007 until March 2012. She was in a position to get the story of Gordon Brown’s illicit involvement in the bidding process into the mainstream media . I supplied her with copies of the documents showing Brown’s interference. Miss Bennett refused to use them, something more than a little surprising because not only was she campaigning against the building of the FCI on the site, the interference was a category A political story and ostensibly one right up the Guardian’s street because it dealt with government misbehaviour behind closed doors. Miss Bennett also failed to use the information when she was called before the Commons Science and Technology committee to give evidence.
I will leave it to the reader to speculate about Miss Bennett’s motives for not using the information , but here are a few objective facts relevant to the question:
1. Despite being a mainstream journalist, she refused to use information which could have stopped the building of the FCI and which was, regardless of her involvement in the campaign against the FCI, the basis for a heavyweight political story.
2. Miss Bennett’s politics are hard core politically correct. Here are a few gems from her personal website http://nataliebennett.co.uk/ to give you an idea of her mentality and politics:
Home page: Natalie Bennett, Journalist, Writer, Green, Feminist
Resurrecting Our Foremothers:
The Prime Minister Miss Bennett refused to expose was someone very much to her political taste, namely, someone who headed a Government reeking with political correctness.
The honesty of her behaviour and words as leader of the Greens should be weighed in the context of her behaviour over the Francis Crick Institute campaign.
The honesty of her behaviour and words as leader of the Greens should be weighed in the context of her behaviour over the Francis Crick Institute campaign.
Gordon Brown’s involvement in the sale of the land to UKCRMI | February 21, 2011
To make the matter as simple as possible to follow, I have selected from the documents in my possession which show Gordon Brown’s illegitimate involvement in the sale of the land to UKCRMI six which form a paper trail from the period before the closing date for expressions of interest to the announcement of the sale of the land by Gordon Brown. Some of the documents are lengthy. To prevent readers having to plough through them I have highlighted (by bolding) the passages in the documents which refer directly or indirectly to Brown’s interest. Where a figure such as  appears, that means redaction has occurred under the exemptions in the FOIA – the number relates to the clause number of the exemption. These documents also give a good sketch of the background to the bidding process.
NB This document shows that Brown was interfering even before the closing date for expressions of interest was closed. The relevant date is not that on Rosemary Banner’s letter, but the enclosure which came with the letter, i.e., 1 August 2007.
I Horse Guards Road London SWIA 2HQ
Head of Information Rights Unit
Tel: 020 7270 5723
Mr R Henderson
24 June 2009
Dear Mr Henderson
Freedom of Information Act 2000: medical research centre We wrote to you on 27 August 2008 conveying the conclusions of the internal review carried out in relation to your complaint to the Treasury about the handling of your April 2008 request for information under the Freedom of Information Act.
In light of your complaint to the Information Commissioner we have reconsidered the single item of information that falls within the scope of your request that has not already been disclosed. As a result of this re-examination we have identified additional information that we are now able to provide to you. Please see attachment at the end of this letter. For the avoidance of doubt we should make it clear that the Treasury continues to regard its original decision not to release this information as correct at the request and review stage. However, given the passage of time, we believe that the public interest in withholding has diminished and can now be released.
We have, however, decided to continue to withhold two sentences from this information under section 35(1 )(a) of the Act. These sentences continue to relate to ongoing policy. We have explained our position to the ICO regarding this, and are able to clarify that the redacted sentences contain information on a bid for funding from the MRC that the Department for Business Innovation and Skills are assessing in the normal way. Funding decisions have not concluded. As always the Government will publish actual funding provisions once a decision has been reached. Due to the way funding bids are negotiated and assessed this was been a live issue at the time of the request; internal review; and remains so at this present time. To be helpful we refer to evidence published by the select committee in December 2007. You will see that at that time the bid was £118 million.
http://www. parliament.the-stationery-office.com/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmdius/1 85/1 85we02.htm
The Treasury is not able to comment as to what the final figure will be until a decision has been made, I reiterate that once decided it will be announced publicly.
Head of Information Rights Unit
For HM Treasury
EXTRACT of relevant information extracted from a report prepared
1 August 2007
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MEDICAL RESEARCH (NIMR) MRC concluded some years ago that the NIMR’s future location should be close to a London Teaching Hospital. With this in mind, MRC purchased at their risk for £28M in March 2006, but with Treasury’s knowledge, a one-acre site at the National Temperance Hospital location (NTH) in London.
MRC has recently learnt that its earlier preferred site for NIMR, a three-acre site adjacent to the British Library, has now become available. This larger site would have the major advantage of accommodating more translational research. Encouragingly MRC has most recently proposed that the site would be developed in partnership with Cancer Research UK (CRUK), Wellcome Trust and UCL as a potentially strong consortium. The Wellcome Trust have mentioned that they would be prepared to make a sizeable investment to help establish a new world class medical research facility in North London if they can secure DCMS-owned land and planning permission from Camden Council. At present the consortia has registered its interest in buying the site.
This project has had a very long gestation period, during which the arguments for the strong scientific case for relocating within London (which has a cluster of medical research and teaching hospitals) and the need to retain MRC’s highly skilled staff.
The recent preparation of a suitable business case has been further complicated of late by both the re-emergence of the British Library site as a possible location.
The PM is also most recently stated that he is very keen to make sure that Government departments are properly coordinated on this project and that if there is a consensus that this is indeed an exciting project then we do what we can to make it happen. This is extremely helpful from a DIUS and MRC perspective, but, formally a NIMR relocation project in London has yet to receive Lyons approval from Treasury (for either the first planned NTH site or the possible BL site).
MRC have employed Deloitte to prepare a full business case for the relocation project.
The scientific and operational case for a London location is strong in our view.
Key Dates for the Preparation and Appraisal of the NIMR Proposal
– July 2007 — Letter to Treasury to inform CST of MRC’s proposed bid for the BL site.
-July/August 2007 — Expression of interest in the BL site registered by the MRC Consortium.
-September 2007 — further substantive discussions with MRC/Deloitte on Lyons and emerging business case material.
-September 2007 — MRC NIMR project included by RCUK in the 2007 Roadmap consultation.
-October 2007 — first full draft business case prepared by MRC/Deloitte.
-October 2007 — MRC consortium formally bid to DCMS for the BL site.
-November 2007 — Full revised business case received and Lyons case consideration undertaken by Treasury.
-December — Progress submission to Ministers.
-December 2007 — MRC Consortium formed and, if successful in bidding, payment to DCMS for the BL site.
-December 2007 — MRC’s NIMR project prioritised by Research Council Directors for receipt of DIUS funding through the Large Facility Capital Fund.
-February/March 2008 — Submission to Ministers for approval of LFCF allocation to support the MRC’s NIMR project, subject to our final assessment of (a) the outcome of the Lyons case (b) the full business case and (C) prioritisation by RCUK of the use of the available LFCF,
April/May 2008 — DIUS Ministerial announcement of NIMR relocation project approval (subject to all the above).
Further Background to the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) The NIMR is one of the MRC’s largest and oldest research institutes. The NIMR is recognised as once of the UK’s foremost basic research institutes with a strong scientific track record and reputation. NIMR currently houses the World Influenza Centre (WIC), which was established by World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1948. The Centre, works with a network of collaborating laboratories to detect and characterise the emergence of new influenza virus anywhere in the world including avian virus H5N1. NIMR is also at the forefront of international research to discover how molecular changes in the virus affect its ability to infect people and cause disease.
The NIMR has been at its present site since 1950. If it were to remain there the buildings would need substantial refurbishment. It is currently a ‘stand-alone’ Institute not physically linked to any University, Medical School or Hospital. In 2003 the MRC set up an expert Task Force to examine the strategic positioning of the NIMR research within the MRC portfolio. The Task Force concluded that their vision for NIMR would be best delivered through an intramural — i.e. with the staff employed by MRC — research institute on a single site in central London in partnership with a leading university and hospital (they received proposals from King’s College and University College) and this would enhance: – The multidisciplinary nature of NIMR’s work, providing access to other biologists, physical scientists, engineers, and mathematicians – Opportunities to collaborate more closely with clinicians and strengthen the focus of translational research.
Remaining at Mill Hill was considered by the Task Force where the majority view was that this would not be a viable option as it would not deliver Council’s vision for a world class research institute carrying out basic, clinical and translational research in partnership with a leading university and hospital. The position was endorsed by the MRC Council. This disappointed some staff at NIMR and there has been much lobbying of Ministers and MPs and as a result the issue has received some media interest.
MRC Council selected UCL as its preferred partner for the renewal and relocation of NIMR in Central London, in close proximity to a major teaching hospital (University College Hospital) and relevant university departments, including chemistry and physics.
The MRC Council approved an outline Business Plan for the renewal and relocation of NIMR in July 2005. The Business Plan confirmed the feasibility of developing the renewed Institute on the National Temperance Hospital (NTH) site in Hampstead Road, which MRC bought (at its own risk but with Treasury’s knowledge), for £28M in 2006, suggesting that the new site could provide accommodation for up to 1,058 staff, including 248 from UCL and potentially 40 additional research staff.
MRC have recognised that their development of the business case needed to ensure a successful project and to satisfy the requirements of DIUS and Treasury requires additional skills to those residing within the MRC and most recently further advice has been procured by MRC from Deloitte for assistance with preparation of the business case.
It was also not our intention at review stage to withhold names of senior civil servants of the email provided at initial request. While we explained that the sender was Jeremy Heywood from the Cabinet Office we overlooked to state the other officials who were recipients of that email. They were: The Permanent Secretaries of DIUS and DCMS Ian Watmore and Jonathan Stephens; the Managing Director of Public Spending in HMT, John Kingman; and the Chief Operating Officer, DCMS Nicholas Holgate.
NB This document shows Brown’s interest just before the short list of bidders was decided.
RESTRICTED – POLICY & COMMERCIAL
To James Purnell Margaret Hodge, Jonathan Stephens,Ros Brayfield
From Nicholas Holgate
Date 18 September 2007 ____________
SALE OF LAND TO THE NORTH OF THE BRITISH LIBRARY
Issue: mainly for information but also to ask how you would wish to be involved in this transaction.
The Department owns 3.6 acres to the north of the British Library. With the completion of the new train terminal, we are able to sell it and have been conducting a competitive process so that Ministers can choose what represents best value, comprising not just the proceeds from sale but also the use to which the bidder intends to put the land.
2. We are bound to be concerned about proceeds:
a. There is an obvious obligation, on Jonathan as the department’s Accounting Officer, to secure the best return we can for the taxpayer;
b. the Government is close to breaching its fiscal rules and has set itself a demanding target for asset disposals. Your predecessor strongly rebutted the Treasury’s proposal that we should sell assets worth £150m by 2010-11 and it has not formally been debated since your arrival; but we are likely to have to raise some funds from disposals. In any case:
c. proceeds from this sale are earmarked to contribute towards the budget of the Olympic Delivery Authority for 2007-08.
3. Subject to Treasury agreement, we can nevertheless also take public value” into account. We are aware of two such bids one led by the Medical Research Council, with support from the Wellcome Foundation and others for a research facility; and one that wishes to remain confidential but which is essentially related to faith and education.
4. The facts are:
a. We have now received 28 bids in response to a prospectus. Amongst other things, the prospectus drew attention to the local planning policy guidance, which steers bidders towards a scheme that is roughly 50:50 commercial and residential development with 50% affordable housing. It is Camden Borough Council and the Mayor who will have the last word on what is in fact built on the site;
b. Our professional advisers have scored the bids on various criteria and are interviewing the top seven plus two others (the medical research bid is one of the two others) next week;
c. There is a significant financial gap between the top bids and the medical research bid.
5. Jonathan and I are meeting Jeremy Heywood (who is aware of both public value bids), Ian Watmore (Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills) and John Kingman (Treasury) tomorrow. We need to agree an orderly and appropriate process for selling the land, given the public value bidders, other Departments’ interest and the likelihood that the Prime Minister might wish to take an interest too.
6. We will report back to you then. Subject to your views and others’, one potential way forward is a. DIUS economists be invited to assess the public value of the medical research bid. We will need some such calculation if we sell at a discount. DCMS should not do this as we should display some neutrality between bidders . We decide whether we expect the medical research bid to match the best bid, improve their offer but not necessarily to match, or take a lower value on the chin. Given their backers, they can afford to match. But they may refuse to play; and/or we may not wish to be seen to be reducing their funding for good causes just to maximise proceeds;
c. We see whether there is a Government champion for the other bidder;
d. We then fairly characterise the two public value bidders and the best commercial bid (or bids, if they differ significantly in what they propose) to Ministers and No 10 for a decision.
Chief Operating Officer
NB This shows Brown’s interest a few weeks before the sale to UKCRMI was agreed.
BRIEFING NOTE FROM POLICY ADVISERS DATED 12 NOVEMBER 2007 TO THE PRIME MINISTER COPIED TO No 10 OFFICIALS.
THE NOTE WAS ENTITLED: PROJECT BLISS – CREATING A WORLD-LEADING MEDICAL RESEARCH FACILITY IN LONDON
We are close to being ready to announce Government support for the creation of a world-leading medical research facility in London.
The key component being finalised is the sale of land, which will allow the BLISS partner organisations (the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London) to develop their detailed proposals for the creation of the centre.
We anticipate that the deal will be finalised over the next few days and we should be able to announce the outcome of the process In the next few weeks. On current plans, we would expect the sale to complete during December and preparations for development to begin straight away. The expectation is that the Institute would be up and running by 2012.
This is an important opportunity to demonstrate what the UK’s commitment to medical research really means in practice. And it fits very well with the focus of your intended health speech.
What would you be announcing?
• We would be committing Government support to the creation of a new centre for UK biomedical research, with 1,500+ scientists, at a level commensurate with the very best institutions in the world.
• The BLISS consortium brings together four of the leading medical research institutions in the UK – the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London.
• The Centre responds to the vision, outlined in Sir David Cooksey’s review of UK health research presented to Treasury in 2006, of better integration and translation of research into patient and public benefit. The Centre will benefit from economies of scale, enhanced infrastructure, the critical mass to optimise collaboration, and the capacity to take scientific discoveries from the lab bench to the hospital bed.
• These four key partners, together with the expectation that other organisations would come forward to invest In the centre or to lease research space, bring a powerful combination of skills and capabilities — basic research, applied research, the capabilities to convert research and innovation for public and commercial use, and the skills and opportunities presented by access to a leading university and teaching hospital. The potential, In terms of understanding disease, and developing new drugs, treatments and cures, is huge.
How to announce?
The suggestion is that you announce this a few days before your health speech, planned for 6th December. We would suggest a visit to a high-tech medical site in the morning to get pictures, followed by a meeting at No lO with all relevant stakeholders (primarily the four partner organisations) at which you make the formal announcement and ‘launch’ the project. Let us know your thoughts on whether this is the right way to proceed with the BLISS announcement?
The vision for the BLISS Centre has six themes:
Research innovation and excellence • Bring together outstanding scientists from two world-class research institutes (MRC NIMR and the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute), collaborating with UCL, to address fundamental questions of human health and disease. • Through Wellcome Trust funding, development of tools for integrative biology, with an emphasis on the development of advanced microscopy imaging and on the mathematicaland computational needs in this field.
• Increase scientific innovation through new links with the physical sciences, life sciences, mathematics, engineering and the social Sciences at UCLI
• Develop close links between the Centre and the outstanding hospitals nearby (Including the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases at Queens Square, Great Ormond Street, Moorfields and University College Hospital) and other major hospitals in London (including Hammersmith Hospital and the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Hammersmith, and the Maudsley Hospital and the Institute of Psychiatry)1 State-of-the-art research facilities
• Develop a multidisciplinary research complex operating in state-of-the-art facilities, with the size and diversity to be internationally competitive with the world’s top research institutes.
• Establish a new centre for development of advanced imaging technologies and analysis. A national focus for biomedical science
• Interact with other local centres of excellence to foster and facilitate collaboration between basic, translational and Clinical scientists1 Host national and international research meetings and conferences, facilitated by its proximity to national and International transport links and the conference facilities of the British Library. An effective interface with technology transfer and development
• Facilitate the effective development of therapeutic and diagnostic devices and drugs, by allowing the technology transfer arms of MRC and Cancer Research UK to work closely together.
• Drive innovation in developing tests and technologies through interaction between researchers and development laboratories.
Finding and developing the scientists of the future • Provide an attractive environment to secure and retain world-class scientists by providing an outstanding setting for research and collaboration. • Boost the recruitment and training of scientists and doctors of the future by providing an excellent environment for postgraduate and postdoctoral training, and for training outstanding clinical scientists committed to medical research.
Engaging with the public
• Educate the public on important issues in health and disease.
• Bring together and enhance partners’ public information and education programmes, with a particular focus on engaging younger people.
NB This document shows Brown’s involvement just prior to the sale of the land.
BRIEFING NOTE FROM NO 10 POLICY ADVISER TO THE PRIME MINISTER DATED 27 NOVEMBER 2007
COPIED TO NO 10 OFFICIALS
ENTITLED “MEETING WITH PAUL NURSE ON BLISS PROJECT”
You are meeting Paul Nurse who is likely to lead the BLISS institute, along, with Mark Walport, Director of The Wellcome Trust, and Harpal Kumar, Head of Cancer Research, two partners in BLISS
We are close to being ready to announce Government support for plans to create a world-leading medical research facility in London, led by the BLISS consortium made up of the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London.
We have now effectively finalised negotiations on the sale of the 35 acre site, adjacent to the British Library: a price has been agreed with DCMS, and the deal is complete subject to agreement on how much of the proceeds DCMS will retain. We are therefore ready for an announcement next week on the sale of the land – but will not be announcing full details of the project overall, as there remain various Issues to resolve, including reaching agreement on business plans and gaining planning permission. We would therefore announce the Government’s support for the vision of the new centre – rather than definitive support for the centre itself. The Project BLISS consortium brings together four leading medical research institutions in the UK and will create a new centre for UK biomedical research, with 1,500+ scientists, at a level commensurate with the very best Institutions in the world.
The Centre responds to the vision, outlined in Sir David Cooksey’s review of UK health research presented to Treasury in 2006, of better integration and translation of research into patient and public benefit.
The Centre will benefit from economies of scale, enhanced infrastructure, the critical mass to optimise collaboration, and the capacity to take scientific discoveries from the lab bench to the hospital bed. The Centre will create a place for:
• collaboration, between leading scientists and clinicians, working on some of the most pressing medical problems of our time;
• excellence, maintaining the quality of the UK’s life sciences research base;
• application, making links between research, medical practice and the pharmaceutical industry;
• innovation, translating research innovation into new treatments;
• learning, bringing forward a new generation of scientific leaders;
•discovery, showcasing the challenges and potential of life sciences to a new audience.
• Using the close proximity to the British Library, the Centre will develop a public engagement and education programme.
Sir Paul Nurse
Sir Paul Nurse is President of Rockerfeller University, formerly Joint Director General of Cancer Research UK and winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Medicine. His appointment has not yet been publicly announced,but he is set to lead the project as chair the Scientific Planning Committee.
Briefing note from Bliss
NB This document from just before the sale of the land shows the extent of Brown’s involvement with the suggestion that he would arbitrate.
Sent: 27 November 2007 13:09
To: HOLGATE NICHOLAS
Subject: RESTRICTED – Land to the North
Jonathan spoke to Jeremy Heywood this morning. Jeremy said he needed the bid to be agreed by next Wednesday – 5 Dec (or Thursday latest) as PM wanted to get MRC in then (or possible public announcement.
Jonathan explained that there are two issues from our point of view: .No revised formal offer has been received by DCMS .HMT are not being helpful of recycling returns – without an improved offer from HMT JS said it would he v hard to justify.
JR said he thought the offer was sent to us yesterday – have checked but nothing in JSs post or email – JH will chase. JH also said he would go back to HMT to see what more they can do, but that ultimately PM may have to arbitrate.
Private Secretary to Jonathan Stephens
Department for (Culture, Media and Sport 2-4 Cockpur Street, London
SWlY 5Dl1 email: @culture.gsi.gov.uk tel: 0207211 fax: 020 72116259
NB This document shows Brown’s state of mind immediately after the sale of the land was agreed.
From – name censored
Sent: 04 December 2007 19:49
To: name(s) censored.
CC: name(s) censored)
Thanks for everyone’s help and support in making the announcement tomorrow happen. The PM is truly delighted that departments have been able to work together to secure this huge opportunity for Britain
RESTRICTED – COMMERCIAL