Examination of Witnesses (Questions 88-99)|
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
88. Can I welcome you and apologise for keeping
you waiting outside. I believe that you were informed to be here
slightly earlier than you needed. No doubt you have made up for
that in your preparation time, I am sure that has helped. Can
I say welcome Professor McVie, Professor Andrew Miller, I think
it is your first time here, and Sir Paul Nurse. Paul and Gordon
have been with us before and have helped us in the early stages
of this inquiry and have participated in cancer research in this
country. Can I say, Sir Paul, well done. When we knew each other
first I do not think we ever thought you would end up a Nobel
Prize winner but there you go, Paul, well done, we are very proud
of you and I am sure you will do a grand job to keep the flag
(Professor Sir Paul Nurse) Thank you.
89. Who knows what else will come up? I would
like to think that we played a small part in nudging it along
politically. This is the process a year later after our report
to try to attempt an assessment of where we have got to and we
are looking forward to your contributions. If I can start off,
as is the convention on this Committee. I remember in May 2000,
and this is the heavy one to begin with, Sir Paul told us here
"I think if ICRF and CRC had to raise money together then
it is a little like the problem of whether you would sell more
Omo or Daz if you had a single product called Dazmo. I suspect
not." Well, even Nobel Prize winners can get it wrong, Sir
Paul. Would you like to tell us for interest historically why
this was important, how it came about, the difficulties and so
on? We know that you have worked very hard to effect it and I
think it is going to be very positive, how do you feel about it?
(Professor Sir Paul Nurse) Thank you. Both Gordon
and myself have been involved from the very beginning, and Andrew
more recently, so I will give my view and then maybe Gordon particularly
because he was involved at the beginning. It must be said the
idea of merger, of course, between the two organisations has been
in people's minds. You will remember in evidence we said that
the work is complementary and the like. I think the major concern
was simply the problem of having two brands and whether if we
had a single brand would that cause a difficulty with income.
That is a very major problem for us on the operational side because
even a five per cent drop in income would be a very significant
reduction in cancer research. However, in the background there
had been some work going on and, indeed, in parallel with the
time a year ago, but it really was not appropriate at that time
to talk about it in public, to examine and test that possibility.
We, at the ICRF, had meetings with the Campaign regularly at that
time and this topic was discussed in a joint meeting and both
organisations did say that we should look at it and look at, in
fact, the two brand/one brand issue, which was a major point although
there were other issues to do with the possibilities of even better
research with us both together, but certainly to look at this
issue of income. We did a lot of work testing how much we were
at risk and the truth is we are at some risk. It is possible that
putting the two together will cause a drop in income. However,
the general response to our research, which was extensive, and
the advice that we took from outside bodies as well was that there
was a reasonable chance that, in fact, our income might increase
and certainly the received wisdom was that it was unlikely to
fall. Given that, and given the enthusiasm from both organisations,
and Gordon might wish to comment on that further, we decided,
as you know here, to make the decision to merge last month. It
will require special efforts on behalf of our fund raisers and
we need all the help that we can getwe need all the help
that we can get, I repeatto ensure
90. Please do not pass the hat round here.
(Professor Sir Paul Nurse)to ensure that this
organisation is launched well and gets the support from politicians
and the public to ensure that we get through what potentially
may be a difficult phase to ensure that we get a good start. I
think maybe Gordon would like to add something to that.
91. Could you say something about did science
drive it as well?
(Professor Sir Paul Nurse) Indeed it did.
(Professor McVie) The way we prepared the ground on
the discussions was to set up three or four topic oriented groups
and asked each of them the question "would the cancer patient
be best served through putting this research together, given the
science arguments, given the finance arguments, given the human
resource arguments, given the possible cost savings?" We
asked each of these groups what their views were on three options:
status quo, partial merger, ie merging the science but not the
fund raising or merging the fund raising and not the science,
or total merger. Independently these groups came back with an
overwhelming merger response. The one that was most important
was the science. There was no shadow of a doubt that the timing
of the human genome project, its unveiling of the potential to
find every single cancer gene, was irresistible. We found when
doing an audit of each other's technologies, each other's human
resource, that we had a good fit. While we were saying to our
supporters and to each other that we were co-operating, I think
we can say now a year on that we are co-operating much better
and that will carry on into the new charity next month.
92. So we know you have renamed yourself, but
how is it going to look to the public who are often confused where
to put their charity money? How is it going to look on the street,
are there still going to be two shops in my High Street or is
there going to be one?
(Professor McVie) We will re-brand 50 of the 682 shops
in the first week in February and we will have 500 re-branded
by the end of the February. 682 is the total, it is just eight
short of Tesco's. It is a mammoth job. We are more profitable
than a number of High Street retailers, including Marks &
Spencer, you will be glad to know.
93. You are after that job!
(Professor McVie) We are mindful of the fact that
we have been perpetually confused anyway and any market research
that we have done has shown there are three names out there: Imperial
Cancer Research Fund, Cancer Research Campaign and the most dear
to people's hearts is Cancer Research, which is a charity that
does not exist. It is about to exist from the beginning of February,
Cancer Research UK will become that third charity. We hope that
we will osmose and assemble all the people out there who thought
we were there all along.
(Professor Sir Paul Nurse) Can I pick up on the science
reasons because there are a couple of other points worth making.
One is that as a national organisation we can take on training
in a very big way. One of the major hurdles that we identified
that is limiting progress is the appropriate skilled labour. As
two separate organisations, although we both did things, we were
still only covering part of the UK. We now cover the entire UK
and we can take that on as our major responsibility, to ensure
training for both clinical scientists from a clinical background
to work in this translational area, this interface between clinical
work and basic work, and also in the other direction, basic scientists
to promote them to look at clinical problems. Furthermore, we
can also take on the issue of national recruitment and international
recruitment because we have a shortage of appropriate trained
people and having a single organisation, a single focus, will
allow us to have a national policy on recruitment and to use our
muscle to attract the best people from overseas. That is already
beginning to work. The second point worth saying, and Gordon commented
upon it, is that the infrastructure is very expensive for modern
biomedical research, it is becoming quite big for projects like
the human genome for one example. By combining our resources we
will be able not only to provide better infrastructure and put
the money into these bigger projects, we want to take on the possibility
of actually providing those resources across the whole country
to all those in different universities and medical schools, which
is something that no research council or charities yet manage
to do. So we have a national centre and a regional centre that
will support the good small research group working in a more isolated
university or medical school. We have definite possibilities there
and we may be able to make a big difference. The third point on
the research side, and I am focusing on the policy and strategy
issues rather than specifics, is of course we have greater influence
with Government through the committees that we work on as a single
body who actually really know what it is about and with the passion
we feel for it we think we can influence the research bodies to
increase their research spend working in collaboration with us.
That is somewhat different than the public face in policy issues,
which are also important, but on the science side we should be
able to promote better support.
94. I think we are just so glad it has happened.
This Committee last time spent hours trying to get SmithKline
Beecham and Glaxo together and it was not as easy as it seems
for you. I know it is not easy, there has been a lot of work behind
the scenes and I congratulate you. Can I just say, you did mention
other charities as well. What is your advice to them? Professor
McVie has gone on record many times saying that there are too
many small charities, some 600 or more, and I know Macmillan and
Cancer Link have merged together. What advice would you give them
and how do you see the initiatives in cancer benefiting from further
mergers of other groups, not necessarily yourselves but you are
(Professor McVie) Some of our policies are not yet
clearly formulated but we have stated an intention to act as an
umbrella for any other blue chip like minded cancer research charity,
not necessarily to merge but certainly to associate, to use the
resource that Paul has just talked about, to use our grant peer
review system because it is expensive for smaller charities to
send their grants off to the States to be properly peer reviewed,
that sort of thing. As the largest charity in the UK, as of next
month, we will be expert on issues such as VAT for charities.
We will be able to offer advice on shops etc. This we should gladly
do. On the topic of the 814 cancer charities
95. It has gone up.
(Professor McVie) That was last month's total from
the Charity Commission. The Charity Commission have been terribly
helpful and supportive in all of our discussions and they are
pleased that this has gone the way it has gone. They are looking
to this model to show to other groups of charities, not just in
the cancer sector but particularly in the cancer sector, and say
"look, if these two big guys can do it maybe there is some
rationalisation to be had if you were to tackle it too".
As you say, Chairman, it is not easy but I do believe that it
is sensible and I do believe that the general public are seriously
confused with this rash of charities out there, they do not understand
the difference between the individual charities.
96. At the risk of appearing pragmatic could
I say that we here have a responsibility, whatever we think of
your merger, to try to help you to make it work and to make it
a positive move. Perhaps you would like to comment whether we
should think about doing an EDM here so that we can inform our
colleagues and the outside world. Also, what about you doing a
suggested draft press release sent round to all MPs so we can
get in touch with our local press and inform them so that people
know what is happening and approach this in a very positive frame
(Professor McVie) Thank you very much, I will take
you up on that. The Chairman of the new charity is Baroness Helene
Hayman and she has already offered her services in the Other Place
to spread the word, I gather.
97. We are not too happy with Other Places.
(Professor McVie) So I gather.
98. Professor Miller, I am sorry, we have not
asked you, would you like to add anything to what has been said?
(Professor Miller) I just want to say in response
to this one that there will be a launch in Westminster which Baroness
Hayman will chair. There will also be a launch, of course, in
Scotland, which I will chair. There will be a launch in Wales
and Northern Ireland as well. There are efforts being made there.
99. Before the merger CRC, I think, spent about
£66 million on cancer research and ICRF almost the same,
£65.8 million. My first question is will Cancer Research
UK be able to spend that combined total on research or will it
go down and, if so, when do you think you will be able to spend
that? Will it be in the first year of merger or will it be in
(Professor Sir Paul Nurse) The first thing that I
should point out is the money allocated research is actually significantly
greater than that. The ICRF had already available in excess of
£12 million more than that but because ICRF developed through
institutes we had to, if you like, save up the money so that we
could establish an institute. One of the new things that Cancer
Research UK will be doing will be to establish a major new Cancer
Research UK institute on the Addenbrooke's Hospital site, which
is in Cambridge, which is big enough for 300 researchers, so this
is a really significant investment, which will sit at that interface
between high quality basic research and also clinical research.
That is already in the works. Another one that is already being
looked at but has yet to be fully discussed is possibilities at
the Beatson Institute in Glasgow which may allow us to recruit
good people from overseas. That is already something that Cancer
Research UK can do to expand its activities. We will have no difficulty
in expanding our research but what we need to ensure is that the
money comes in to allow us to do that. There are many opportunities
out here for doing really good work that will make a real difference
to both the patient and also for reducing occurrence of the disease
in the population as a whole, so prevention measures as well.
Our understanding of cancer is much improved in the last decade
or so and we need to translate that knowledge into better practice.
We have real opportunities we are able to deliver if we can get
the support. We do in addition, of course, need the proper collaboration
and co-operation with other bodies, including Government ones,
which may be something you will want to explore perhaps later.