On 27 September we received this response from the Chair of the Commons Health Select Committee Steve Brine MP following our letter urging him to call the Health Secretary and senior officials to account:
Thank you for taking the time to write to the Committee and set out the concerns that you have. We will of course consider the contents of the letter very carefully.
The Committee often meets to discuss its future programme of work and so your letter will be helpful in that context. This subject will form part of the discussion at the next opportunity, though it is only fair to highlight that there are a large number of possible areas of focus for the Committee, and limited time and capacity, so, as I am sure you will appreciate, I cannot make any guarantees.
Steve Brine MP
Chair, Health and Social Care Committee
Time is now running short for parliamentarians to act, so we hope to see the members of the Select Committee prioritise their chance to apply proper scrutiny to the negotiation of this generationally significant pair of international accords. If this issue matters to you, and particularly if your local MP is one of those who sits on the Health Select Committee, please write to let them know that you support Parliament having its say.
You can copy us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you do.
To: Steve Brine MP, Chair of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee
- Steve Barclay MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
- Wes Streeting MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Dear Mr Brine,
I am writing to express deep concern about the appointment of Sir Jonathan Van-Tam to a senior position at the pharmaceutical company Moderna.
As Deputy CMO Jonathan Van-Tam gave critical public health advice and made serious public health decisions, and was subsequently knighted for that public service. The public surely is entitled to expect such advice and decisions to have been made free from personal interest and commercial influence.
Whilst I understand that officials may seek new opportunities following government service, the rapidity with which Sir Van-Tam has transitioned from his instrumental role in the Covid response to a prominent position within a pharmaceutical company which profited enormously from that response raises serious moral and ethical questions for Van Tam, Moderna, and Government regardless of whether the appointment strictly complied with Civil Service Codes.
How can we, the public, be asked to believe that this senior official, knowing of his imminent retirement from the public sector and the likelihood of imminent future employment within the pharmaceutical industry, could have made decisions untainted by his personal interest in securing a future role in the private sector?
How widespread do such conflicts of public and private interests need to be before Parliament calls out our public health system as corrupted by commercial influence? Among many questions that could be asked about this appointment is whether JVT had also considered or been offered appointments at Pfizer or other critical suppliers to the UK government.
Should we now expect Chris Whitty to take a job at Pfizer? Perhaps Jenny Harries will move to Astra Zeneca?
Public health is different to other industries because it is critically dependent on maintaining trust. Whether or not there are legitimate reasons for Van Tam’s career move, as a member of the public this appointment has done great damage to my trust in our public health system.
As Chair of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, I call on you to challenge and hold Moderna, Sir Jonathan, and the Government to account by calling each of them to appear in front of your Committee.