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Competitive Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the outcome was of the Competitiveness Council on 7 March; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [221258]

Mr. Sutcliffe: My noble Friend the Minister for Science and Innovation attended the Competitiveness Council on 7 March.

The Council held a discussion of the Lisbon mid-term review based on the Commission's Communication to the Spring European Council. The Commission called on member states to work together for growth and employment to contribute to the EU's longer term sustainable development, and for concrete action to implement economic reform. The UK said the Competitiveness Council should focus on delivering practical outcomes in the key areas of Better Regulation, Chemicals (REACH), Services and the 7th Framework Programme on Research and Development (FP7). The Council adopted its contribution to the Spring European Council, which included particular reference to encouraging growth and innovation, making Europe more attractive to investment, developing and deepening the Internal Market and ensuring an integrated approach to competitiveness.

The Council held an exchange of views on Better Regulation and the Simplification process, which are seen as key elements in the Lisbon agenda and increasing competitiveness. The Council noted the Commission's intention to improve impact assessments on the competitiveness implications of new legislative and policy measures. The Commission is to analyse a number of key sectors in 2005 to identify obstacles to growth and innovation. The UK welcomed the Commission's renewed commitment in this area and underlined the importance of the Better Regulation agenda.

The Council had an exchange of views on stimulating entrepreneurship, based on the Commission's 5th Annual Report on the Implementation of the European Charter for Small Enterprises. The Council recognised the role of the Charter in reinforcing SME policy and will continue to follow its progress, taking into account the Lisbon mid-term review.

The Council took note of information from the Commission on the current stage of negotiations concerning the future construction of an International
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Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). The Council will return to this issue during its next meeting, on 18 April 2005.

The Council had an informal discussion of the proposed Services Directive over lunch.

The Council took note of an update from the Presidency on Working Group discussion of REACH (proposal for a Regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals).

The Council took note of information from the Presidency and Commission on the European Parliament's second reading of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.

The Council took note of written information from the Italian delegation and interventions from the Commission and a number of member states on difficulties encountered in the textiles, clothing and footwear sectors.

The Council adopted without discussion its Common Position on Computer Implemented Inventions, confirming the political agreement reached last May. The UK voted in favour.


Mr. Keith Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington, dated 22 November 2004, on behalf of a constituent Mr. Dave Bush, which was originally sent to the Lord Chancellor and forwarded to her Department. [220500]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 7 March 2005]: Iresponded to the letter from my right hon. Friend on 2 March. I have asked my office to send another copy of the letter to his office.

Dounreay Nuclear Power Station

Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Secretary State for Trade and Industry what steps have been taken by staff at the nuclear establishment at Dounreay to ensure that (a) the seabed of Sandside Bay and the surrounding area and (b) nearby beaches are clear of irradiated material. [218238]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Environmental monitoring and the regulation of radioactive discharges are devolved matters for the Scottish Executive.

However, UKAEA undertakes an extensive beach monitoring programme using sophisticated vehicular radiation detection systems. Since 1999, these systems have regularly monitored five local beaches: Sandside, Crosskirk, Brims, Scrabster and Thurso. These are situated between 3 km west (Sandside) and 13 km east (Thurso) of Dounreay. Reassurance surveys of Melvich beach, some 10 km west of Dounreay, have been carried out on two occasions and an extensive survey of Dunnet beach, approximately 23 km east of Dounreay, has now commenced. The foreshore at Dounreay is also monitored by the vehicular system.
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UKAEA have advised the department that:

Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will establish an inquiry into possible risks to human health from irradiated material found on Sandside Beach, Caithness and the conduct of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority in dealing with the material. [218239]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Public health is a devolved matter for the Scottish Executive.

However I am informed that in recent years, a number of independent expert organisations including the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE), the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee and the National Radiological Protection Board have investigated and advised the Government, UKAEA and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) on the potential health risks from particles of radioactive material found on Sandside Beach. This advice has
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considered both the likelihood of exposure to such a particle by inhalation, ingestion or skin contact and the resultant health risks should such an exposure occur. COMARE tells the DTI that the probability of a member of the public encountering a particle remains extremely small and the estimated radiation dose to an individual consequent upon ingestion of a typical particle from Sandside Bay is roughly equivalent to the average UK-annual background radiation dose (2milliSieverts). SEPA has commissioned additional research to further refine this latter estimate.

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