The United Kingdom Centre for Medical Research and Innovation

Letter submitted to the Camden New Journal 2 January 2011 | January 2, 2011

Update: The CNJ failed to publish the letter in whole or part in their 6 January issue. RH

Note to CNJ editor –  I enclose below the letter several of the civil service documents which clearly demonstrate Gordon Brown’s interference in the bidding process for the land. There is consequently no risk of you being sued. Robert  Henderson

 Letter for publication

2 January  2011


Councillor Peter Brayshaw (letters CNJ 30 December) claims that there is little opposition to the proposed UKCMRI laboratory directly behind the British Library . He bases this claim on the fact that only 33 formal objections were made by local residents despite 700 odd notifications of the application being sent to local residents.  

Such a response is far from being negligible. Many  people do not have the confidence to make such written objections. It is also likely that many of the 700 (and many more of those not so immediately affected) do not speak English at all or have it  as a first language.  Some of these  people will have been excluded because the council did not provide information in their language.  It is also true that many Camden residents come from countries where the state is feared, a fear which they carry with them to Britain.

To these considerations can be added the fact that it was difficult going on impossible view all material put out by Camden and UKCMRI without going on the Internet, something many Camden residents will have not been able to do through lack of familiarity with computers.

As for the objections which were sent in by Camden residents, I can say  from my own experience that the Camden Officers’ report  to the Development Control Committee excluded certain important matters.  I submitted a most detailed objection,  which included incontrovertible evidence in the form of civil service documents obtained using the Freedom of Information Act that Gordon Brown when Prime Minister had illegitimately interfered with the bidding process to ensure that UKCMRI  were sold the land.  This meant that the sale was  illicit because the other bidders were in effect bidding when unbeknown to them  the decision had already (illegitimately)  been made.  My objection appeared nowhere in the Camden Officers’ report.

The second major failure of the Camden Officers’ report  was the misrepresentation of the biohazard level of the material with which the  laboratory could be working .  One of the consortium members, the Medical Research Council (MRC),  currently has licences for level 3 and level 4 biohazard material  for its Mill Hill site,. UKCMRI have said that this site will be sold and the work transferred to the proposed London laboratory. Yet UKCMRI are claiming that no level 4 material will be used on this site.

 Level 4 is the most dangerous biohazard  level covering such toxins as  the Ebola virus, the Lassa virus, and any agent with unknown risks of pathogenicity and transmission.  UKCMRI’s assurances that only ‘flu viruses and toxins of similar hazard will be worked upon is scarcely reassuring because (1) these assurances have no legal force and (2) it is worth remembering that the worst pandemic of the twentieth century was the influenza strain of 1918/19.  I made all of this clear in my objection yet it was completely absent from the Camden Officers’ report.

What UKCMRI have done is  introduce the concept of Biohazard level 3 plus, a regulatory beast which does not appear to exist outside of their imagination. The suspicion must be that this is level 4 in disguise

The granting of planning applications may be challenged at the level of the Council if it can be shown there has been irregularity in making the decision. That there has been an irregularity here can be clearly seen with the failure to place  the objections outlined above before the Committee. Consequently, I have already lodged a formal objection on those grounds with the Council.

Let me end with what I think most people will consider an extraordinary  thing. The council kept no record of the individual votes cast at the Development Control Committee which heard the planning application. I have been informed by the Council that this is standard practice.  How electors are to hold councillors readily to account for their votes is a mystery. However, with a good deal of diligent research I have managed to identify the way votes were cast. Readers may find it telling that of the eight who voted for,  only one (Andrew Marshall) was willing to identify  himself to me as having voted for.  For the record the vote was:

Those voting  for : Milena Nuti, Labour (Bloomsbury),Sue Vincent, Labour (Holborn and Covent Garden),Sarah Hayward, Labour (King’s Cross),Roger Freeman, Conservative (Swiss Cottage),Heather Johnson, Labour (Regent’s Park),Andrew Marshall, Conservative (Swiss Cottage),Gillian Risso-Gill, Liberal Democrat (West Hampstead),Jenny Headlam-Wells, Labour (Kentish Town).

Those voting against: Claire-Louise Leyland, Conservative (Belsize),Paul Braithwaite, Liberal Democrat (Cantelowes),Sean Birch, Labour (Gospel Oak), Matt Sanders, Liberal Democrat (Haverstock).

Those abstaining: Flick Rea, Liberal Democrat (Fortune Green)

Those present but failing to register any vote (including failing to abstain): Thomas Neuwark,  Labour (Camden Town with Primrose Hill)

Absent: Georgia Gould, Labour (Kentish Town)

Yours sincerely


Robert Henderson 

Gordon Brown’s interference with the bidding process
Document 25
To James Purnell Margaret Hodge, Jonathan Stephens,Ros Brayfield
From Nicholas Holgate
Date 18 September 2007 ____________
Issue: mainly for information but also to ask how you would wish to be involved in this transaction.
The Department owns 3.6 acres to the north of the British Library. With the completion of the new train terminal, we are able to sell it and have been conducting a competitive process so that Ministers can choose what represents best value, comprising not just the proceeds from sale but also the use to which the bidder intends to put the land.
2. We are bound to be concerned about proceeds:
a. There is an obvious obligation, on Jonathan as the department’s Accounting Officer, to secure the best return we can for the taxpayer;
b. the Government is close to breaching its fiscal rules and has set itself a demanding target for asset disposals. Your predecessor strongly rebutted the Treasury’s proposal that we should sell assets worth £150m by 2010-11 and it has not formally been debated since your arrival; but we are likely to have to raise some funds from disposals. In any case:
c. proceeds from this sale are earmarked to contribute towards the budget of the Olympic Delivery Authority for 2007-08.
3. Subject to Treasury agreement, we can nevertheless also take public value” into account. We are aware of two such bids one led by the Medical Research Council, with support from the Wellcome Foundation and others for a research facility; and one that wishes to remain confidential but which is essentially related to faith and education.
4. The facts are:
a. We have now received 28 bids in response to a prospectus. Amongst other things, the prospectus drew attention to the local planning policy guidance, which steers bidders towards a scheme that is roughly 50:50 commercial and residential development with 50% affordable housing. It is Camden Borough Council and the Mayor who will have the last word on what is in fact built on the site;
b. Our professional advisers have scored the bids on various criteria and are interviewing the top seven plus two others (the medical research bid is one of the two others) next week;
c. There is a significant financial gap between the top bids and the medical research bid.
5. Jonathan and I are meeting Jeremy Heywood (who is aware of both public value bids), Ian Watmore (Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills) and John Kingman (Treasury) tomorrow. We need to agree an orderly and appropriate process for selling the land, given the public value bidders, other Departments’ interest and the likelihood that the Prime Minister might wish to take an interest too.
6. We will report back to you then. Subject to your views and others’, one potential way forward is a. DIUS economists be invited to assess the public value of the medical research bid. We will need some such calculation if we sell at a discount. DCMS should not do this as we should display some neutrality between bidders . We decide whether we expect the medical research bid to match the best bid, improve their offer but not necessarily to match, or take a lower value on the chin. Given their backers, they can afford to match. But they may refuse to play; and/or we may not wish to be seen to be reducing their funding for good causes just to maximise proceeds;
c. We see whether there is a Government champion for the other bidder;
d. We then fairly characterise the two public value bidders and the best commercial bid (or bids, if they differ significantly in what they propose) to Ministers and No 10 for a decision.
Nicholas Holgate
Chief Operating Officer
Document 26
Sent: 27 November 2007 13:09
Cc: _[40]_____________
Subject: RESTRICTED – Land to the North
Hi Nicholas,
Jonathan spoke to Jeremy Heywood this morning. Jeremy said he needed the bid to be agreed by next Wednesday – 5 Dec (or Thursday latest) as PM wanted to get MRC in then (or possible public announcement.
Jonathan explained that there are two issues from our point of view: .No revised formal offer has been received by DCMS. HMT are not being helpful of recycling returns – without an improved offer from HMT JS said it would he v hard to justify.
JR said he thought the offer was sent to us yesterday – have checked but nothing in JSs post or email – JH will chase. JH also said he would go back to HMT to see what more they can do, but that ultimately PM may have to arbitrate.
Private Secretary  to Jonathan Stephens
Department for (Culture, Media and Sport 2-4 Cockpur Street, London
SWlY 5Dl1 email: [40] tel: 0207211 fax: 020 72116259
Document 27
From: [40]
Sent: 29 November 2007 11:49
Subject: RE: British Library land
Thanks for this. The SoS has seen your note and is content. Grateful if you could keep us updated on whether the PM will be announcing this next week as part of his science speech.
Many thanks,
Private Secretary to the Rt Hon James Purnell MP
Department of Culture, Media and Sport
2-4Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5DH
Tel@ 0207 7211 [40]
Document 28
Treasury document
From – name censored
Sent: 04 December 2007 19:49
To: name(s) censored.
CC: name(s) censored)
Thanks for everyone’s help and support in making the announcement tomorrow happen. The PM is truly delighted that departments have been able to work together to secure this huge opportunity for Britain
Document 29
To James Purnell
From Nicholas Holgate
4 December 2007
cc Margaret Hodge
Gerry Sutcliffe
Jonathan Stephens
Mark Ferrero
Issues: the sale of this 3.6 acre site; and the recycling of the proceeds to benefit DCMS causes.
Timing: urgent, albeit for information.
As you know, we have been marketing this site. The highest commercial bid was £105 mn. But a consortium of the Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London have also entered a bid to re-site the Mill Hill research laboratory on this land and thus establish a world class interdisciplinary facility in central London.
2. Their final offer was £85 m. We have accepted the assessment of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills that the public value’ in addition to the sum offered, in terms of increasing the pace of medical research and its practical application, is well worth a discount on a fully commercial sale price of £20 m.
3. The Prime Minister has taken an interest in this proposal; and is expected to announce the deal tomorrow at a breakfast seminar (8-8.45 am).
4. I attach the final press release and some questions and answers.
5. We will be able to re-cycle some of the proceeds: notably, we can meet the tax bill for the proposed acquisition of a major collection; and he deemed to have met almost all of our disposals target for the next three financial years, thus underpinning your proposed capital allocations to the NDPBs.
Nicholas Holgate
Chief Operating Officer
Document 30
Disclosable extracts:
We are close to being ready to announce Government support for the creation of a world-leading medical research facility in London.
The key component being finalised is the sale of land, which will allow the BLISS partner organisations (the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London) to develop their detailed proposals for the creation of the centre.
We anticipate that the deal will be finalised over the next few days and we should be able to announce the outcome of the process In the next few weeks. On current plans, we would expect the sale to complete during December and preparations for development to begin straight away. The expectation is that the Institute would be up and running by 2012.
This is an important opportunity to demonstrate what the UK’s commitment to medical research really means in practice. And it fits very well with the focus of your intended health speech.
What would you be announcing?
• We would be committing Government support to the creation of a new centre for UK biomedical research, with 1,500+ scientists, at a level commensurate with the very best institutions in the world.
• The BLISS consortium brings together four of the leading medical research institutions in the UK – the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London.
 • The Centre responds to the vision, outlined in Sir David Cooksey’s review of UK health research presented to Treasury in 2006, of better integration and translation of research into patient and public benefit. The Centre will benefit from economies of scale, enhanced infrastructure, the critical mass to optimise collaboration, and the capacity to take scientific discoveries from the lab bench to the hospital bed.
 • These four key partners, together with the expectation that other organisations would come forward to invest In the centre or to lease research space, bring a powerful combination of skills and capabilities — basic research, applied research, the capabilities to convert research and innovation for public and commercial use, and the skills and opportunities presented by access to a leading university and teaching hospital. The potential, In terms of understanding disease, and developing new drugs, treatments and cures, is huge.
How to announce?
The suggestion is that you announce this a few days before your health speech, planned for 6th December. We would suggest a visit to a high-tech medical site in the morning to get pictures, followed by a meeting at No lO with all relevant stakeholders (primarily the four partner organisations) at which you make the formal announcement and ‘launch’ the project. Let us know your thoughts on whether this is the right way to proceed with the BLISS announcement?
The vision for the BLISS Centre has six themes:
Research innovation and excellence • Bring together outstanding scientists from two world-class research institutes (MRC NIMR and the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute), collaborating with UCL, to address fundamental questions of human health and disease. • Through Wellcome Trust funding, development of tools for integrative biology, with an emphasis on the development of advanced microscopy imaging and on the mathematicaland computational needs in this field.
• Increase scientific innovation through new links with the physical sciences, life sciences, mathematics, engineering and the social Sciences at UCLI
 • Develop close links between the Centre and the outstanding hospitals nearby (Including the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases at Queens Square, Great Ormond Street, Moorfields and University College Hospital) and other major hospitals in London (including Hammersmith Hospital and the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Hammersmith, and the Maudsley Hospital and the Institute of Psychiatry)1 State-of-the-art research facilities
 • Develop a multidisciplinary research complex operating in state-of-the-art facilities, with the size and diversity to be internationally competitive with the world’s top research institutes.
 • Establish a new centre for development of advanced imaging technologies and analysis. A national focus for biomedical science
 • Interact with other local centres of excellence to foster and facilitate collaboration between basic, translational and Clinical scientists1  Host national and international research meetings and conferences, facilitated by its proximity to national and International transport links and the conference facilities of the British Library. An effective interface with technology transfer and development
• Facilitate the effective development of therapeutic and diagnostic devices and drugs, by allowing the technology transfer arms of MRC and Cancer Research UK to work closely together.
• Drive innovation in developing tests and technologies through interaction between researchers and development laboratories.
Finding and developing the scientists of the future • Provide an attractive environment to secure and retain world-class scientists by providing an outstanding setting for research and collaboration. • Boost the recruitment and training of scientists and doctors of the future by providing an excellent environment for postgraduate and postdoctoral training, and for training outstanding clinical scientists committed to medical research.
Engaging with the public
• Educate the public on important issues in health and disease.
• Bring together and enhance partners’ public information and education programmes, with a particular focus on engaging younger people.
Document 31
You are meeting Paul Nurse who is likely to lead the BLISS institute, along, with Mark Walport, Director of The Wellcome Trust, and Harpal Kumar, Head of Cancer Research, two partners in BLISS
We are close to being ready to announce Government support for plans to create a world-leading medical research facility in London, led by the BLISS consortium made up of the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London.
We have now effectively finalised negotiations on the sale of the 35 acre site, adjacent to the British Library: a price has been agreed with DCMS, and the deal is complete subject to agreement on how much of the proceeds DCMS will retain. We are therefore ready for an announcement next week on the sale of the land – but will not be announcing full details of the project overall, as there remain various Issues to resolve, including reaching agreement on business plans and gaining planning permission. We would therefore announce the Government’s support for the vision of the new centre – rather than definitive support for the centre itself. The Project BLISS consortium brings together four leading medical research institutions in the UK and will create a new centre for UK biomedical  research, with 1,500+ scientists, at a level commensurate with the very best Institutions in the world.
The Centre responds to the vision, outlined in Sir David Cooksey’s review of UK health research presented to Treasury in 2006, of better integration and translation of research into patient and public benefit.
The Centre will benefit from economies of scale, enhanced infrastructure, the critical mass to optimise collaboration, and the capacity to take scientific discoveries from the lab bench to the hospital bed. The Centre will create a place for:
• collaboration, between leading scientists and clinicians, working on some of the most pressing medical problems of our time;
 • excellence, maintaining the quality of the UK’s life sciences research base;
• application, making links between research, medical practice and the pharmaceutical industry;
• innovation, translating research innovation into new treatments;
 • learning, bringing forward a new generation of scientific leaders; 
  •discovery, showcasing the challenges and potential of life sciences to a new audience.
• Using the close proximity to the British Library, the Centre will develop a public engagement and education programme.
Sir Paul Nurse
Sir Paul Nurse is President of Rockerfeller University, formerly Joint Director General of Cancer Research UK and winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Medicine. His appointment has not yet been publicly announced,but he is set to lead the project as chair the Scientific Planning Committee.
Briefing note from Bliss

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