Supplementary memorandum by Judith Watt
My earlier submission to the Committee dealt
with the difficulties I had experienced in gaining reasonable
access to the BAT Depository at Guildford up to the end of October
1999. This second submission seeks to provide up-to-date information
on the continuing problems researchers face in using the Depository.
BAT has continued to find new ways to frustrate
researchers wishing to use the Depository. Not only are they restricting
access to one organisation at a time, they are now questioning
the affiliations of individuals who attend with an organisation.
BAT has failed to publish the Visitors Handbook,
which they said was in the final stages of drafting back in November
1999. Seven written requests for information about the current
status of the handbook have gone unanswered. Without the procedures
being written down and made public, BAT continues to "change
the rules" at will.
BAT will not make public the diary of visitors
to the Depository so it is impossible for applicants to know when
space is available. The Visitors Book has been removed from the
reception area so it is no longer possible to verify that the
Depository has indeed been fully booked as BAT claims.
Visitors to the Depository have been waiting
several months for copies of documents to be made available. BAT
is unable or unwilling to indicate what the current delay is likely
to be, claiming that their resources are too stretched.
In October 1999, I had received confirmation
of my booking for the four weeks from 14 February to 10 March
inclusive. I had been informed in September that this was the
earliest opportunity to get into the Depository, as every single
day was booked. Twice in writing and several times on the telephone,
I had informed BAT and Lovell White Durrant that I was prepared
to share the Depository during my four-week booking if they had
enquiries from other parties for those dates. I was aware that
a number of other organisations wished to use the facility and
were finding the "one organisation at a time" rule,
recently invented by BAT, very frustrating.
Over recent months, I have been collaborating
with colleagues from the Center for Public Integrity, Action on
Smoking and Health, the World Health Organization, the Health
Education Authority, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical
Medicine and the British Medical Association on a number of research
issues involving material from the Depository.
Conscious that I had all six places at the Depository
booked for a four-week block, I made it known to my colleagues
that I was happy to share the time with them provided we shared
our findings for the projects we have in common.
If necessary, I was prepared to invite them
as representatives of Protocol Management Group, (the company
through which I work as a freelance researcher and which had made
the booking) but I would have preferred it if BAT agreed to other
organisations being present in their own right. To this end, on
8 February I wrote to BAT (letter one attached) relinquishing
three of the six places for the week beginning 14 February. I
did this in order that Duncan Campbell of the Center for Public
Integrity could apply to be present for a couple of days prior
to giving evidence to the Select Committee on 16 February. Mr
Campbell's written request for two places made reference to my
having relinquished plces and was faxed to BAT shortly after my
letter on 8 February. BAT agreed to this request.
On 14 February (letter four attached), I wrote
again to BAT relinquishing two places for the three weeks beginning
21 February. I specifically did this in order that the World Health
Organization could apply to use that time. Again, their request
made reference to my having relinquished places and again it was
faxed very shortly after my letter. This time BAT refused the
Consequently, I have had to arrange for colleagues
from WHO and other organisations to accompany me as part of the
Protocol Management Group party in order that we can continue
our work. As we are genuinely working together on a number of
projects, I was prepared to do this but, on 21 February, BAT even
tried to stop this from happening when they denied access to two
of my colleagues and kept them waiting in the reception area,
under surveillance, for over three and a half hours.
On the morning of 18 February, I had faxed BAT
(letter five attached) with the names of these two colleaguesEric
Le Gresley and Alison Butler. BAT stipulates that one must provide
written notice of the names of the people in your party on the
working day before the visit. Later that morning I telephoned
the office of the BAT solicitor responsible for access (Ms Erika
Reid) to confirm that may fax had arrived. I was told that they
had my fax and would get back to me during the day at the Depository
if there were any problems. I heard nothing so we attended on
the Monday morning as planned (my colleague Eric Le Gresley having
come all the way from Canada that morning).
Having followed their bureaucratic procedures
to the letter, I could barely believe thay had the audacity to
deny access to my colleagues. First, they denied having received
the fax. I was quickly able to procure a copy of the letter and
the fax transmission log to disprove this and, furthermore, I
phoned Ms Reid's secretary who confirmed we had indeed spoken
on the Friday about this. Ms Reid refused to speak with me on
the telephone but sent a message that she was "taking advice
on the matter from her superiors''. I made numerous phone calls
to her office only to find she was in meetings and couldn't come
to the phone. I tried to discuss the matter with more senior people
at BAT and at Lovell White Durrant. All to no avail.
By this time, we had been waiting for nearly
three hours with no explanation as to what the problem was.
Having attended the Select Committee on 16 February,
and realising that Committee members were concerned about the
issue of access to the Depository, I telephoned Dr Benger to relay
the situation we were facing. He kindly offered to phone BAT to
ascertain the nature of the problem. Shortly after 1 pm, I received
a fax from Ms Reid (letter 6 attached) asking me about the affiliations
of the two people concerned because their names were familiar
from previous visits. I responded immediately in a hand-written
fax confirming that they were working with me on a number of projects.
We were still kept waiting a further half an hour and finally
were granted access just before 1.45 pm.
In my letter of 8 February, I requested that
Ms Reid provide information about the Visitors Handbook stating
that I did not want to "inadvertently fall foul of any new
procedure you may have introduced". I have repeated that
request in seven subsequent letters. To date, these requests have
gone unanswered. Without a public document stating the duties
and responsibilities of all parties, it seems that BAT can (and
does) change the access procedures to suit their own ends.
Other problem areas would also benefit from
the publication of a Visitors Handbook: finding out when access
is possible; and finding out how long one must wait for copies
of documents ordered.
To book time at the Depository, one is told
to write to BAT's Legal Department (currently to Ms Reid) specifying
the dates required. As the "diary" of bookings is not
made available, it is impossible to know what dates are free.
I have tried, in the past, to ask for the first available day
and have received no response. There seems to be a generally accepted
view that the Depository is fully booked for months ahead but
there is no way to verify this. Or indeed, to verify that it has
been fully booked in the past. On my most recent visit, I discovered
that the Visitors Book in the reception area has been taken away
and replaced by single day-sheets. When I asked why this was the
case, I was told that it was to prevent me seeing which organisations
had been visiting and over which periods.
I have also tried to find out how long is the
current delay in receiving copies of documents. In my own experience
this has ranged from eight to 10 weeks. I have heard of others
waiting up to four months. None of the BAT or Lovell White Durrant
staff I have spoken to have been able to answer my question. In
any case, it far exceeds the "about 10 working days"
cited in BAT's "Terms for Public Access" document which
visitors are required to sign prior to their first visit.
Until the Guildford Depository is brought into
line with the Minnesota Depository in terms of access and copying
facilities, researchers here will be continually frustrated by
the petty bureaucratic delays imposed by BAT.
I thank the Committee members for their efforts
to improve this situation in the interests of public health.
27 February 2000