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Secret government: the Scott report

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 24 February 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:455
  1. Martin McKee
  1. Reader in public health medicine Health Services Research Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  2. Professor of food policy Centre for Food Policy, Wolfson School of Health Sciences, Thames Valley University, London W5 5RF

    Links with industry cast doubt on the government's role in public health

    The Scott report on the export of British arms to Iraq is much more than simply an examination of British policy on weapons sales in the run up to the Gulf War.1 It provides the most detailed account ever of the innermost workings of Whitehall and paints a picture of an organisation permeated by secrecy and deceit. Ministers and civil servants see their first duty to advance the interests of major industrial concerns, even when they mislead parliament and the public in doing so. The secretive links between government and industry, in this case the arms industry, are at times almost seamless, without anyone seeming to appreciate the scope for conflict of interest. But what has this to do with health? Potentially quite a lot. Despite years of rhetoric about reducing the role of government, by publishing Health of the Nation2 the government has accepted that it has a legitimate role in promoting the health of the public. But after the Scott report, can anyone be sure that the government is acting in the interests of the public rather than those of the corporate backers of …

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