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University of Kent academic Alex Stevens quits government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs

A senior academic has claimed the government has vetted potential members of a drugs advisory board for their views on Brexit.

Professor Alex Stevens, of the University of Kent, made the claim as he announced he was quitting as a member of the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).

Professor Stevens explains his decision to KMTV

In a series of tweets explaining his decision, he alleged: "Vetting included collecting information on applicants' statements on Brexit and Windrush, as well as drug policy."

He said he earlier raised concerns about the reports, but had not received any assurances from ministers.

"These were raised at a meeting in April where I asked for the minister to provide information on how many people had been excluded from serving on the panel," said Prof Stevens.

"I also asked for further information on what the checking process consists of."

Professor Alex Stevens
Professor Alex Stevens

He tweeted: "Ministers have not provided any assurance that this will not happen again.

"If ministers take decisions on who can join the ACMD on the basis of whether or not they agree with government policies, then it is no longer an independent body, which is why I have resigned."

A lecturer in criminal justice, Prof Stevens criticised the government earlier this year about figures showing there had been a 47% increase in deaths from drug poisoning since 2013.

He said funding cuts to treatment services of 27% over three years were the cause of the increase.

A government spokesperson said: "Ministers are responsible for appointing members to the boards of public bodies and do so in line with the governance code for public appointments.

"The names of candidates are submitted to ministers following assessment by an independent advisory assessment panel.

"It is then for ministers to determine merit and make the final appointment.

“It is important that candidates who are considered for these roles undergo appropriate checks to ensure they are suitable to hold these vital public positions."

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