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Public Bill Committee Debates

Draft Part 7 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (Extension to Animal Pathogens) Order 2007



The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. David Wilshire
Blunt, Mr. Crispin (Reigate) (Con)
Browne, Mr. Jeremy (Taunton) (LD)
Campbell, Mr. Alan (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
Cousins, Jim (Newcastle upon Tyne, Central) (Lab)
Dorrell, Mr. Stephen (Charnwood) (Con)
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con)
Ellman, Mrs. Louise (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op)
Field, Mr. Mark (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)
Gilroy, Linda (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op)
Gwynne, Andrew (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
Herbert, Nick (Arundel and South Downs) (Con)
Hopkins, Kelvin (Luton, North) (Lab)
Hunter, Mark (Cheadle) (LD)
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham) (Lab)
McNulty, Mr. Tony (Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety)
Walley, Joan (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab)
Wright, David (Telford) (Lab)
Glenn McKee, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

First Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 26 February 2007

[Mr. David Wilshire in the Chair]

Draft Part 7 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (Extension to Animal Pathogens) Order 2007

4.30 pm
The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Mr. Tony McNulty): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Part 7 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (Extension to Animal Pathogens) Order 2007.
The Chairman: With this, it will be convenient to discuss the draft Schedule 5 to the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (Modification) Order 2007.
Mr. McNulty: I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Wilshire. I look forward to serving under your chairmanship. I also welcome all other hon. Members present.
The draft orders were laid before the House on24 January. The purpose of the draft Schedule 5 tothe Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (Modification) Order 2007 is to extend the list of controlled pathogens and toxins given in schedule 5 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. When the Act was originally drawn up, the “classical” list of agents from state biological warfare programmes was used as the basis of schedule 5, and it primarily addressed the state proliferation of chemical and biological weapons. It was a familiar and logical starting point for that United Kingdom counter-terrorism legislation, and it was used in the absence of any other considered criteria. Those hon. Members who are looking for bacillus anthracis, coxiella burnetii or Q fever, ricin or any of the other rickettsiae, bacteria or toxins that might be called routine will find them in the original list rather than the supplementary list that forms the basis of today’s order.
Since 2001, there has been considerable debate within Government and within the United Kingdom’s scientific community about the pathogens caught under the scope of the 2001 Act. Following those discussions, it has been concluded that terrorist scenarios could involve more pathogens than those currently listed in schedule 5 to that Act, so the list has been revisited by a cross-Government group with the aim of placing it more squarely within the current UK context.
The Select Committee on Science and Technology endorsed the view that the 2001 Act should be updated fully to reflect all materials of concern from a counter-terrorist perspective. That view was echoedby the Privy Councillor Review Committee, which reported on the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act in December 2003. We added pathogens and toxins to the list only once we were satisfied that they could be used in acts of terrorism that could endanger life or cause serious harm to human health.
The approach that generated the revised list is robust, and it will withstand wider challenge; the process is proven and auditable. Experience with lists of pathogens produced for other purposes, such as for health and safety at work, shows that there is always debate about the precise position of individual agents in such lists, and that they need to be reviewed from time to time as more information becomes available. The key is to make pragmatic decisions that are based on the knowledge of the experts involved.
I am aware that, in this area, as in so many others associated with terrorism, we need to balance the protection of the public against placing undue burdens on industry. However, we certainly do not want to force unnecessary security requirements on industry. That is not the case with the orders, and the way in which the provisions have operated to date have not caused any problems. That is largely due to the sensible way in which they have been applied by the police.
However, I have listened to the concerns that have been expressed, particularly those raised by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, on how the orders should apply in relation to genetically modified organisms. As a result of those representations, I have decided that it would be useful to have guidance drawn up, in conjunction with the police, on how the orders should apply in relation to genetically modified organisms. I have asked my officials to ensure that key representatives from the commercial sector are involved in drafting the guidance and to put in place arrangements for monitoring the implementation of the orders in order to deal with the association’s concerns.
The other order that we are discussing today is the Part 7 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (Extension to Animal Pathogens) Order 2007. Its purpose, shockingly, is to extend the legislation to cover animal pathogens. Under section 75 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, the Secretary of State may, by order, extend the legislation to cover animal pathogens, plant pathogens, toxic chemicals and pests. The powers may be extended ifthe Secretary of State is satisfied that the chemicals concerned could be used in an act of terrorism to endanger life or to cause serious harm to human health, or if the pathogens or pests could be used in an act of terrorism to cause widespread damage to property, significant disruption or alarm.
After concerns were raised about the possible useof animal pathogens as terrorist agents, a group of representatives from the police, the Governmentand the Security Service confirmed that the World Organisation for Animal Health list A of animal pathogens provided a means of identifying which animal pathogens were of concern. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs subsequently proposed additional animal pathogens that were considered potential bioterrorist agents. Those animal pathogens form the list that we are discussing today.
Plant pathogens were not considered, as suitable controls were already in place.
Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): The Minister is going into great detail, but can he give us a little context? Precisely how may these pathogens or toxins be held under the Act? I suspect that my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) will go into some detail, given some of the representations that we have had from the pharmaceutical industry, but will the Minister tell us whether a burden of proof will automatically be placed on any individual who holds any of these toxins or pathogens? Will such individuals have to show that they are not holding them for terrorist purposes? Perhaps the Minister could go into some detail about how the current legislation works in that regard.
Mr. McNulty: I think, unless I am corrected, that that is the case. Pathogens or toxins held in any commercial situation must certainly be held under security conditions that reflect their importance and the fact that they have been placed on both lists, sothe hon. Gentleman’s description of the situation is entirely right. Such substances must be kept in secure and appropriate locations, with secure and appropriate processes, audit trails and so forth to establish thatthey have been legitimately purchased, procured and consumed. The hon. Gentleman is right that we can and should outlaw individuals from keeping pathogens or toxins in their own homes, and we can do that under the list in schedule 5 as it stands or under the extended list, if the Committee passes both orders in substance. If the position is any different, I am sure that someone will tell me. I shall let the hon. Gentleman know in due course.
Jim Cousins (Newcastle upon Tyne, Central) (Lab): Just before my hon. Friend took that intervention, with which he dealt fully and helpfully, he mentioned plant pathogens in passing. Clearly, such pathogens are not the subject of our discussion, but given that he has mentioned them, can he discuss the issue a little further? It is possible that plant pathogens could be used in a hostile or frightening way.
Mr. McNulty: I do not doubt my hon. Friend’s latter point, but we have been advised in consultation with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that suitable controls are already in place in the—again, I apologise to the Hansard reporter, in particular—Plant Health (Great Britain) Order 1993, S.I. 1993/1320, as amended, with which we are all, of course, familiar. That order implements EC plant health directive 2000/29/EC, which prohibits the import, movement and keeping of certain plants, plant pests—including pathogens—and other materials that pose a risk to plant health. DEFRA tells us that that is sufficient to give us the same security and other coverage for plant pathogens as we originally sought in schedule 5 for general pathogens and as we are seeking in the extended list of general and animal pathogens. Following our consultation not only with DEFRA, but with its scientists and more generally, we know that that is the case.
The Chairman: Order. We have had one intervention from both sides of the Committee, and both have been fascinating, but the Committee is considering a specific matter. I would therefore discourage people from following their interests and encourage them to follow the wording of the draft order. It would be helpful if they could do so.
Mr. McNulty: Thank you, Mr. Wilshire. None the less, I thought it important that the Committee knew about the 1993 order.
The general point is that the threat posed by the possible terrorist use of pathogens and toxins remains real. It is imperative to ensure that terrorists do not have access to dangerous substances. The benefits of increasing the scope of substances subject to control are difficult to quantify as it is impossible to assessto what extent greater national safety is secured and potential dangers are avoided by such preventative measures. However, denying terrorists access to such substances is an important part of the preventative measures that must be taken by the Government.
If the orders are approved by both Houses, they will come into force two months after they are made. I commend them to the Committee.
4.41 pm
Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): I am sure that we all agree on the need to extend the controls and the list of toxins and pathogens. The risk of attack with unconventional weapons is clear. After all, there was the sarin attack in Japan more than a decade ago, which killed 12 people and injured hundreds. There was the anthrax attack in the United States in 2001, in which five people died, and, in 2004, ricin powder was delivered to the office of the US Senate majority leader.
The head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, was clear in her first ever public speech at Queen Mary’s college in London in November last year that an estimated 200 groups and more than 1,600 individuals were actively engaged in plotting terror attacks in the UK and abroad. She specifically warned that the threat of tomorrow may include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials and nuclear technology.
There was a report yesterday that the number of plotters could actually be considerably greater than 1,600. Apparently, a document entitled “International Terrorism in the UK” is being circulated. It warns that the scale of al-Qaeda’s ambitions to attack the UK is even greater than previously judged. I do not know whether the Minister is able to say anything about a document that the press have seen but that we have not. I imagine not, but he may choose to update us on what he judges to be the current state of the threat from al-Qaeda, and whether the warning from the head of MI5 remains valid, or whether the situation is more serious than she suggested just a short time ago.
Nevertheless, it remains clear that the potential risk from unconventional weapons is great. That is why the legislation was passed and why, some time later, we are dealing with a proposal to extend the list of pathogens.
Although we should not be complacent, equally, there is concern that we may over-react, particularly as there is such a strong burden of proof on the individual to ensure that by holding any chemicals they are not somehow committing an offence.
Nick Herbert: I listened to my hon. Friend’s intervention with interest, and I shall let the Minister reply. I did not comment on Forest Gate, partly because we have seen no evidence that any such substances were used. I agree that we cannot be complacent, but I do not accept that the actions of the police were necessarily an over-reaction. There were certainly things that the police needed to address in relation to their conduct and the way in which they mounted the raid—senior officers subsequently made that concession. It is clear that there are times when the police will have to take precautionary action if they consider that the potential risk is particularly great.
I wish to raise an issue referred to by the Minister in his opening remarks: the concerns of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, which wrote to the Secretary of State a few days ago on 20 February. It raised concerns about the effects of the order and made it absolutely clear that, although it has no reservations about the principle behind the extension of the list of organisms and toxins under schedule 5, it is worried about the effect of the wording. In particular, it is concerned about the wording in notes (c) and (d) of the draft instrument, which relate to the transfer of elements of genetic material from specified pathogens to new hosts. The association says:
“As currently worded, the content could be construed as suggesting that storage and use of the modified host organisms should be subject to high security measures even where the pathogenicity of the modified host is unaffected.”
It goes on to suggest that that could have serious consequences, including that
“genetically modified organisms that have low or minimal pathogenicity and which would normally safely be handled in low containment facilities with no special security measures will now have to be subject to the high security standards required for high risk organisms which require containment in level 3 or, in some cases level 4 facilities.”
That would require considerably greater investment in higher levels of security by the companies concerned and the association states:
“This could have a severe inhibitory effect on research in genetic modification for legitimate beneficial purposes and make the UK significantly less attractive to carry out research in.”
If those were the necessary consequences of scheduling those organisms in order to protect the public, everyone would have to accept them. The question is whether they are necessary or if the wording unnecessarily includes certain organisms.
Is the Minister satisfied that simply offering guidelines about the interpretation of the order will be sufficient? The association has specifically requested that the draft statutory instrument be withdrawn and reworded to avoid any unintended consequences, and laid again before Parliament. It has suggested an alternative form of wording that I will not repeat, but which the Minister has, no doubt, seen. The association argues that that wording would ensure that potentially lethal toxins and pathogens were listed and protected by the right levels of security, but that those with low or minimal pathogenicity would not be subject to the same high levels of protection. That seems to make sense. The Minister may argue that he does not wish to hold up the introduction of the orders because of the nature of the threat. That is an argument that I am willing to accept, provided that he can give a reassurance that the orders will provide the comfort that the industry seeks.
Given that this has been a two-year process within the industry, is the Minister satisfied that there has been sufficient consultation? The industry raised its concerns years ago, but it was only when it saw the draft regulations that it became aware of the potential effects. Will he give an assurance that there has been sufficient consultation with the industry along the way and say why it is necessary to press on and not to re-lay the statutory instrument? I am willing to accept that doing so may be the right course. What monitoring will be conducted to ensure that the problems that I have described do not occur and that there is no unnecessary disinvestment in the pharmaceutical industry? I would be grateful for those assurances.
4.49 pm
Mr. Jeremy Browne (Taunton) (LD): Like other hon. Members, I welcome the broad thrust of what the Government are trying to achieve. We are reminded, every time we enter the House and see the new barrier that has been erected between the Public Gallery and Members in the Chamber, that the threat is real. The barrier is part of the Government’s attempts, and global attempts, to combat the increased risk from ever more exotic and diverse forms of terrorism. They are not theoretical, because, as has been mentioned, they have already been demonstrated—luckily not on the scale that some people envisage and fear, but that does not mean that a risk does not remain.
I do not want to go over ground that has already been heavily trodden, but I shall touch on a few points, and would be grateful for the Minister’s response. The first, which has to some extent been explored already, is about the areas of legitimate usage of pathogens that will be affected by the attempt to clamp down on those who may want to use them illegitimately.
The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster mentioned that it is always difficult to ensure that scientists with legitimate objectives but malign intentions are kept away from the chemicals in question, and, for that matter, that people with decent intentions are allowed access to the chemicals for laudable reasons. That is very different from just identifying the chemicals. I should be interested to know what legitimate commercial activities, if any, will be adversely affected, and how we can best ensure that people undertaking those activities are screened or safeguarded in some way, so that the chemicals are put to those uses only.
It is a fair civil liberties point that people possess all kinds of items that in different hands might be dangerous. Nearly all of us have knives in our homes, to use an example that is not entirely applicable, but which illustrates the point; they are safely held by people who do not want to do harm with them.
I wonder whether the Minister would talk about another area that has not been mentioned: the internet and its regulation. As I understand the matter—I do not want to dwell too long on this point or to exceed my knowledge of matters to do with chemistry, which is not, sadly, as great as it could be—people with greater gifts than I have can, potentially, through the internet, acquire forms of DNA and sequences to enable them to put together pathogens that could threaten human health. If that is not a matter of public concern, or if the Minister has dealt with it and thought it through, I apologise for raising it, but I should be grateful to know his thoughts on that.
My final point is about consultation. We are of course talking about legislation that was introduced in 2001. I appreciate that such measures must be kept under constant review, and revised, but it is none the less telling that I and other members of the Committee have received the representation from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, and that in his introductory remarks the Minister acknowledged that some accommodation had been sought with that organisation after, I understand, the initial publication of the Government’s proposals. To what degree are the Government trying to listen to advice and recommendations in advance of publication, to try to ensure that the maximum possible number of harmful chemicals will be banned from wide use, with the minimum impact on those with legitimate reasons for holding those chemicals?
4.54 pm
Jim Cousins: I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate. There are in Newcastle, the city that I represent, a number of health and medical laboratories that are affected by the proposals, and indeed the regional headquarters of the Health Protection Agency is in my constituency.
I associate myself strongly with the point made by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster that there must be proper consultation with respect to modified organisms. The provisions could apply unnecessarily in cases where the relevant bad qualities are not affected by contact with modified organisms. The Minister rushed out some assurances about that, but I should be grateful if he took the Committee through it more slowly and suggested how he proposes to report back to us on the point about proper consultation, before any guidelines under the orders are put into effect.
I am entirely satisfied that proper use is being made of section 75 of the Act, and I have no doubt that the matter before the Committee will be real and serious for us as a community—perhaps more so than some of the great set-piece debates that the House has on related topics from time to time. It may be more real and serious than the matters that we are to debatein March. It is a very important matter, because the threats that we face are likely to be brilliant and wicked improvisations on things that are normally dealt with. It is for that reason that I want to take some of the Committee’s time in pointing out some of the practical implications.
In the explanatory memorandum we are told that 395 laboratories are likely to be caught by the order. “Caught” is not the right word, because most of them have already registered under the 2001 Act. Almost all of those are public sector or public sector-funded medical and health research institutions. Only a relatively small number of them are private sector laboratories in big pharmaceutical companies. That is an important point to bear in mind when we are talking about the practical implications. There are100 diagnostic laboratories that have been exempt under a 2002 order. I ask the Minister to reconsider that, because if we are considering the possibility of brilliant improvisations some of those might occur at moments of crisis in animal or human health, when diagnostic laboratories might be the centre of some attention.
The explanatory memorandum describes the costs as very limited and mentions a
“one-off cost of £5,000 per laboratory”.
I ask the Committee to bear in mind the point that I made just now, that most of those costs will be borne by health trusts and higher education research facilities, which are not necessarily funded for matters of that kind. It is legitimate to ask how the Government will indemnify such institutions against whatever additional costs are involved, however small they might be. However, the costs are not just thedirect costs of physical containment; they alsoinvolve security of intellectual property and what are described, perfectly properly, in the explanatory memorandum as
“personnel security and the insider threat.”
Those are serious matters for institutions such as health research laboratories and medical research laboratories in universities. I ask the Minister to clarify something that troubles many people in such settings, some of whom have interpreted the requirements on them in one way, and some of whom have interpreted them quite differently. Will compulsory vetting of all those who might come into contact with these pathogens be required at any stage?
The regulatory impact assessment for the part 7 order gives us some information about what that will mean in practice. Paragraph 4.5 tells us:
“Most of the laboratories which will be affected by the revision...have already been visited”.
Paragraph 7.1 tells us:
“All those laboratories that will be affected by the amendment to the legislation have already been visited”.
Paragraph 10.3 tells us:
“All those laboratories affected...have had initial contact with the Counter-Terrorism Security Advisers”.
It is legitimate to ask the Minister about how those practical matters affect institutions. Those three descriptions do not all mean the same, but which most accurately reflects the present situation? What will be the inspection and monitoring arrangements for the laboratories that will now be involved as a result of extending the list? How regular will inspections be? What will the requirements be?
It is also worth bearing in mind the list of diseasesin the schedule. Incidentally, one of those diseases is Newcastle disease, and as one of the Members of Parliament for Newcastle, I should clarify that the disease did not originate there; it was identified there for reasons of health and medical research, but it is not an affliction of the people of Newcastle. That aside, the foot and mouth virus is being added to the schedule, and it is quite extraordinary to think that we went through the foot and mouth crisis, with all the potential for some malevolent force to cause mayhem, but that the virus was not listed among the controlled pathogens. That is very worrying. Similarly, the pandemic influenza viruses and highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses will be added to the list. The scope for potential problems in that respect is considerable, and I should be grateful if the Minister explained how far such problems might go.
Finally, I must put to the Minister a point that flows directly out of the issue before us and which greatly troubles the scientific community: having listed all these potentially dangerous pathogens, how far have the Government got in thinking about constructing a rapid response vaccine facility to deal with the misuse of such pathogens?
5.3 pm
Mr. McNulty: We have had some very pertinent contributions, and I shall try to deal with them in turn, in so far as they relate to the orders, although wider concerns have, quite rightly, been expressed. I agree with the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs that the threat is very real, and I should emphasise that. Over the weekend, the papers generally—I shall not refer to individual items in individual papers—said that the situation was getting more severe, and the Home Secretary has also said that. Such comments reinforce what Eliza Manningham-Buller said; indeed, if anything, we are in a more severe position than we were when she made her speech in the autumn.
The threat is therefore very real, but let me say a couple of things by the by. First, no Government are omniscient: we do not know exactly where the next threat will come from or what form it will take, although the orders refer specifically to some such threats. Eventually, we may need to look at other items, and the balance between the perfectly legitimate use of certain substances and their use by those who would terrorise us may come starkly into consideration. Hydrogen peroxide is not on a list; it is freely available in very diluted quantities from the local high street hairdresser. However, as most people know, it is a constituent part of many of the bombs that have threatened us—and, indeed, of those that have gone off.
Nick Herbert: I am grateful to the Minister for his pretty explicit confirmation that reports over the weekend saying that the threat level had increased from that set out recently by the director general of MI5 are correct. Given the level of threat that she described in November, it must surely be of great concern to the House and to the British public. Does not he agree that it is unsatisfactory that we should have to learn about that through a newspaper by way of a leak?
The Chairman: Order. We are going down an interesting avenue, but I am afraid that it is not strictly relevant to our debate.
Mr. McNulty: Nor, Mr. Wilshire, is it terribly interesting. Were the hon. Gentleman to refer to any number of speeches or comments made by me or the Home Secretary since November, all the way up to recent times, he would know that the nature of the threat is real and getting more and more severe. That is absolutely clear, and it reinforces what the director general of MI5 and others have said. The fact that the nature of the threat is growing has been made clear by any number of people. For the record, tedious as it may be, nothing that I have said, now or previously, is or was a comment on any leaked document in The Sunday Telegraph or otherwise.
To business. The points made by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster again were well made—certainly the home point. However, whether it is residential—that is most unlikely—or commercial, individuals who want, quite legitimately, to keep and work with those pathogens must tell the police straight away. The police have to look at the premises and secure them in the normal fashion. It is a matter of law; not to notify the police is a criminal offence under section 67 of the Act, and the remedies and the penalties for that are clearly laid out. It is most unlikely that pathogens would be kept in residential premises, but the point is made none the less, and whether it is the residential or the commercial route that is taken, it has to be done in the appropriate fashion.
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman’s second point, but I do not want to labour the matter because he went off the substance of our deliberations when speaking about an over-reaction specific to police activity. I accept the wider point that he made about the balance to be drawn between the legitimate use of pathogens, and other materials not the subject of our deliberations today, and public safety and the threat of counter-terrorism; it was well made. However, as other hon. Members have said, that is a balance that we deliberately face. Nor was his reference to the burden of proof appropriate. It is not an offence to hold the pathogen; as I said, the offence comes in not carrying out the necessary obligations under the law—notifying the police and the other dimensions, including the security of the premises.
I take very seriously the points made by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, but we have taken scientific advice and we think that its concerns are misplaced. Certainly the wording offered in its letter—the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs was right that I have seen it and discussed the matter with officials—does not offer much more by way of safeguards than the wording of the orders. Experience in other countries that already deal with more extensive lists—and, crucially, the way that those lists are implemented—particularly the USA and Germany, has not borne out those concerns. However, it is right and proper that they should be raised in Committee and by way of correspondence with members of the Committee.
I repeat that we have listened to concerns about how the order should apply specifically to genetically modified organisms. We decided that it would be useful to draw up guidance on that, in conjunction with the police, and I have said that officials must ensure that key representatives of the commercial sector, including the ABPI, are party to discussions on drafting guidance and putting in place the arrangements that are necessary for monitoring the implementation of the order.
We have gone some way to deal with the concerns. As I said, experience in other countries thus far does not indicate that there has been a drag, a draw or an unnecessary burden on the relevant industries. However, as I believe was stated in the response to the ABPI’s letter, the police will provide advice on a case-by-case basis. It is within the constraints of the order that each commercial premises, and each commercial operator, will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis when assessing the aspects on which we have been deliberating, whether that be the nature of the processes involved—many processes make pathogens less rather than more harmful—or individuals at the premises having less than legitimate motivations and the scientific expertise to reverse the process, where possible, to make pathogens more rather than less dangerous. So the order will deal with individuals as well, but it is absolutely right that such things are done on a case-by-case basis. That is what has happened until now in respect of the existing list in schedule 5, and that will continue.
I agree with the hon. Member for Taunton that there are many ways in which we can run ahead of ourselves in terms of expertise. We are called upon to discuss detailed, complex matters that require a great deal of expertise. I shall not pretend that I am a scientist, anymore than I shall pretend that I am a lawyer. I am happy not to be lawyer.
None the less, I have been told that there are many manipulations of micro-organisms that can render them less dangerous, or even harmless. The local council’s terrorism security advisers will have to assess those dimensions when they visit sites. They will have to assess not just the site or the security required for it, but what processes and manipulations are carried out on it. They will take into account all the information provided by the laboratory staff. In some cases, a pathogen or toxin may be stored in a relatively harmless state, and, in some cases, it may be difficult to return the substance to its more volatile origin. Advice will be given on procedures and any minimal cost measures that might be required—again, on a case-by-case and, by definition, a light-touch basis.
The order is not intended to capture and place undue burdens on those who go about legitimate activities with pathogens. I believe that everyone in the Committee recognises that pathogens may be involved in entirely legitimate exercises. That is not the focus of the orders. Instead, it is to deal with those who would use them for other purposes.
We have taken seriously the ABPI’s concerns but believe that it should not be so concerned about the wording. On balance, I would say that the wording in the order achieves what the ABPI wants. It is not a matter of delaying or wanting to get on with this. Little more would be achieved by reviewing the specific concerns dealt with in the ABPI’s wording than is achieved, I freely admit, by the wording of theorders, plus the guidance, plus the monitoring of implementation. I believe that those three elements together cover the points that have been raised, and it is important to say that. Again, it is entirely legitimate and right for the ABPI to express its concerns.
I accept the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central about Newcastle fever disease, or whatever it was. His general point about animal pathogens goes to the heart of why the second order exists at all. Until now, animal pathogens have not in any way been prescribed by order. In 2001, provision was made to go down that route and, following advice, that is what we are doing. We are not doing so on plant pathogens for the reasons that he teased out during my contribution.
My hon. Friend is also right that many of the laboratories covered are in the public sector. I take his point very seriously about the diagnostic facilitiesthat are exempted from this order. If we need to take that further, we shall and I will write to him andthe Committee if we do so. I am happy—whether the Committee wishes it or not—to ensure that the Committee gets full details of whatever process unfolds in terms of issuing guidance to and consulting with the industry and others about how to implement the orders. The Committee should feel free to engage in further correspondence with me if it thinks that areas have been missed by that guidance. I am sure that the ABPI and others will let us know if that is the case.
On the question of whether all labs have been visited, they have all had contact with their local counter-terrorism security advisers. Some labs have been visited and some lab representatives have attended meetings where issues have been discussed. That is more or less the reason why, as my hon. Friend quite rightly says, there are two or three different descriptions of the whole process. It is not the case that every single lab has been visited, but they have been contacted or representatives have attended meetings as appropriate. That process will continue as we move towards the implementation of the order.
The point has been made, which entirely sumsthe matter up, that—this is not meant to be contradictory—we wish the orders to cover in a narrow way the maximum number of pathogens, viruses and other substances that we are concerned about, within the context of imposing the minimum burden on those who legitimately go about their business by utilising such agents and materials. That is entirely what the orders are about. They are not about placing unnecessary burdens on the industry; they are about, as all hon. Members have in some way said, ensuring that we get the balance right between legitimate activities and protecting the public from what those of a twisted nature and an evil mind would do with these pathogens, viruses, toxins and other substances. We have already seen examples of ways in which they can be used by such people, as the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs suggested, and I fear that if preventative measures were not in place, we would make it easier for such actions to be repeated. It is not about omniscience or about knowing where the next threat might potentially come from in terms of general or plant pathogens; it is about saying that, in the context of the 2001 Act, we need to go further. We have held discussions with those involved and recognise that we must maintain a lightness of touch for those who need legitimately to carry out their business. However, the orders and the extension they provide to the lists and to animal pathogens is an absolute necessity if we are to do what we need to do for public safety and counter-terrorism. I commend the orders to the Committee.
Question put and agreed to.
Resolved,
That the Committee has considered the draft Part 7 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (Extension to Animal Pathogens) Order 2007

DRAFT SCHEDULE 5 TO THE ANTI-TERRORISM, CRIME AND SECURITY ACT 2001 (MODIFICATION) ORDER 2007

Resolved,
That the Committee has considered the draft Schedule 5 to the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (Modification) Order 2007.—[Mr. McNulty.]
Committee rose at nineteen minutes past Five o’clock.
 
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