by RAY FLEMING “ADVISERS advise and Ministers decide” was Margaret Thatcher's stance on the relationship between the two camps. Therefore, was Home Secretary Alan Johnson right to ask for the resignation of David Nutt, the chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, after he had expressed views on the classification of drugs that were at odds with the government's policy? There are many such advisory bodies giving advice to government but if their advice had always to be taken there would be no point in having ministers to look at the broader political dimension of the subject. On the other hand, the opinion of advisers who are distinguished in their field -- as David Nutt is -- should not be brushed aside without adequate explanation by the responsible minister. It should be possible for advisers to dissociate themselves from government decisions in their field without creating a controversy. In the current case Professor Nut expressed his disagreement in a scientific paper and a lecture which attracted attention because of his statement that “Ecstasy and LSD are less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes” - an assertion that was bound to make the headlines. It is also true that ministers should value the often unpaid work of Advisory Committees; the handling of the current affair was clumsy and may lead to resignations in protest by many leading scientists whose opinions should be heard if not always acted on.

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