Published: 30/05/2002, Volume II2, No. 5807 Page 6

One of the staunchest critics of the private finance initiative has hit back at the Commons health select committee for its attacks on the integrity of her research.

Professor Allyson Pollock, of the school of public policy at University College London, gave evidence to the committee's inquiry on the NHS and the private sector. But its final report described her findings as not 'backed up by evidence'.

The report went on to claim: 'Professor Pollock's assertion that 'there is a new pact with big business which is not operating currently in favour of the population', was so extreme as to undermine confidence in the analysis and conclusions of [her] report.'

The controversial paragraphs - 65-67 - were drawn up by Labour MP Julia Drown - and were published despite opposition from committee chair David Hinchliffe, the independent Wyre Forest MP Dr Richard Taylor and Liberal Democrat MP Sandra Gidley, who voted against their inclusion in the report.

Ms Drown said she stood by the comments, denying suggestions that she had attempted to discredit Professor Pollock because of the embarrassment her research was causing to the government.

'All I am after is a rational debate. I do not want to get involved in personalities. This had the support of the committee as a whole. As far as I am concerned, the jury is still out on PFI.'

Ms Drown then passed on to HSJ a letter written by the Socialist Health Association to political commentator Roy Hattersley, which was damning in its criticisms of Professor Pollock and suggested she lacked credibility.

Professor Pollock said she would be writing to the select committee about its report and about its comments on her research.

She told HSJ: 'I think there is a serious issue here when a select committee, which is meant to scrutinise government policy objectively, is being influenced by politics. I stand by the research into PFI. It is after all peer reviewed and It is published in academic journals like the British Medical Journal and the evidence is available for all to examine themselves.'