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Science gag ‘like Russia in the ‘70s’, says Hunt

Coalition policies have abolished bodies that have been important in providing environmental information, Julian Hunt, Labour peer and former chief executive of the Met Office, has said.

Speaking in a House of Lords debate on the government’s green agenda on 12 January, Hunt added that he believed research council scientists were being prevented from speaking to politicians without permission from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

“I heard recently that scientists in research councils have been told not to talk to politicians without permission from BIS,” Hunt said. “This is an extraordinary situation. It is a bit like Russia in the 1970s, when we used to have conversations with the taps running, or Washington, where I can talk to government scientists only by going to Starbucks. I hope that we have not reached that stage, but it is looking like it.”

Hunt lamented the loss of the Audit Commission and claimed the Health Protection Agency and research councils had become “partly ‘secretised’”.

“Although the climate change committee, which I am pleased to say survived the Government’s culling of NGOs and bodies and agencies of that sort, will continue and is certainly proving its independence, I regret that there has been a considerable abolition of the bodies that have been important in providing environmental information,” added Hunt.

The debate was called by Labour peer Angela Smith.