THE FEDERATED OPTION
114. As we have seen, the members of the Task Force
were generally complimentary about the way that Professor Blakemore
chaired the Task Force. The only evidence we detected that he
may have been seeking to promote a certain outcome relates to
the consideration by the Task Force of the "federated"
option for NIMR, which involved it being split into four separate
London centres. The Task Force had already agreed to a single
site option for NIMR at its second meeting and rejected the federated
option. The Chairman then emailed each of the non-NIMR members
of the Task Force, separately, and the observer, in confidence,
at the end of March to enlist their support for this federated
option being further discussed.
115. Dr Lovell-Badge and others refer to Professor
Blakemore's apparent enthusiasm for the federated option for NIMR
as evidence of his "hidden agenda". We have already
referred to the telephone conversation between Professor Blakemore
and Dr Lovell-Badge on 15 February about the Chairman's
vision for a future NIMR that would have led to it being considerably
smaller than its existing size.
It seems that, during this call, in an effort to secure Dr Lovell-Badge's
agreement to what the Task Force had agreed at its meeting, Professor
Blakemore explained his thinking for a potential future for Mill
Hill, taking into account his understanding of the financial realities
applying to further funding. This vision did not appeal to NIMR,
and indeed appeared to threaten the future of the institute as
currently constituted. The telephone exchange led directly to
the Chairman setting out his thinking by email to the whole Task
Force and as such, could have been viewed as evidence of an "agenda"
which, until that point, the Chairman had not revealed.
116. Dr Lovell-Badge recalls that this so-called
federated option was then put back on the agenda for the fourth
meeting by the Chairman.
Professor Flavell and Sir Paul Nurse confirmed that this option
appeared in between two Task Force meetings and that the Chairman
solicited support for it separately. Sir Paul said that he could
not really understand why it had been brought back on the agenda
because it had already been rejected in principle. This contributed
to his impression that "sometimes there was more going on
outside the meeting than I would normally have expected".
Professor Blakemore responds that the proposal for a federated
option came in response to the invitation agreed at the third
meeting for universities to submit proposals and says that "I
thought it would be embarrassing, even offensive simply to dismiss
it and exclude KC and UCL from the bidding process".
Instead, he encouraged both universities to submit single site
bids. He reports that the federated option was then considered
at the fourth meeting of the Task Force and rejected.
This rejection was accepted by all. Professor Blakemore stresses
that he did not try to persuade other members to accept the federated
option, but merely urged them to consider it at the next meeting.
The majority were happy to do this, although the two NIMR members
were "very upset".
117. It is apparent from the email exchanges that
Professor Blakemore was attracted to the federated option. He
confirmed this to us in evidence.
We find it odd that he chose to pursue this option in apparently
individual private emails to other non-NIMR members of the Task
Force rather than in a full meeting of the group or even a public
group email. It was particularly odd for him to seek to persuade
the representative from the Department of Health in the Scottish
Executive, Dr Spaull, of his view, given that she was only an
observer of the process. Indeed, she was "surprised"
to receive this email.
The sudden re-appearance of the federated option after the Task
Force had explicitly ruled it out certainly surprised some members
of the Task Force. At the very least, it seems that Professor
Blakemore failed to convey adequately the reasons behind this
move and thus risked being seen to be giving a second chance to
his own favoured option.
118. The only other evidence we found of any possible
hidden agenda was the comment by Sir Paul Nurse that towards the
end of the process "I began to feel that there was a stronger
agenda emerging that was antagonistic to Mill Hill than I had
noticed during the Task Force".
By this stage, however, relations between NIMR and Professor Blakemore
had deteriorated as NIMR staff accused the Chief Executive of
seeking to force through the central London option. There was
much going on behind the scenes of which Sir Paul, in the United
States, may have been unaware. None of the other non-NIMR members
could point to any evidence of the Chairman having a hidden agenda.