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Gov decides not to have scientific advice on drugs any more

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The coalition government is ditching the requirement to seek scientific advice before setting drugs policy.

As part of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 government must take, or at least listen to, advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. That committee needed to have at least six scientists on it.

But police reform legislation introduced last week will remove the requirement to listen to annoying scientists before setting policy.

Ex-Lib Dem MP Evan Harris, told the Guardian: "The government is ill-advised to hack away at science advisory structures.

"The solution to the poor relationship scientists and Home Office ministers have had is for both to follow their codes of practice, not for ministers to seek to abolish science advisers."

Last year the committee got into a row with then Home Secretary Alan Johnson. Johnson sacked Professor David Nutt, chair of the committee for having the temerity to disagree with government policy. Nutt's departure was followed by the resignation of six of the committee's 31 members.

The Nutt sacking led to a wider row about the role of evidence-based policy and the rights of government advisers, who often work for free, to remain independent of the administration they advise.

A group of government advisers wrote an open letter asking that independent advice, and those who give it, be respected even if it was not always followed.

It said: "It is recognised that some policy decisions are contingent on factors other than the scientific evidence, but when expert scientific advice is rejected, the reasons should be described explicitly and publicly." ®

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