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The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn):
I promised to keep the House informed of matters relating to the FMD outbreak. An incident has occurred at the Merial
facility on the Pirbright site. While the incident was contained, I thought it right to report the matter given the understandable public interest in this site.
On 6 November, DEFRA restored the Specified Animal Pathogens Order (SAPO) licence to Merial Animal Health to permit the use of FMD and Bluetongue viruses for vaccine production. The licence was restored following detailed DEFRA and HSE inspections that confirmed that the terms of the licence (including operating procedures and installation of security measures) had been fully met and that it was safe for vaccine production to recommence.
The licence requires several layers of biosecurity to be in place. This includes first, a new facility which has been installed to heat treat waste from virus production. Secondly it requires the re-lining, sealing and testing of the effluent pipes and man hole covers as identified in the HSE and Spratt reports. Thirdly, the ground above the drains has been made a contained area and all movements across it controlled with decontamination required of any one who has need to enter that area. Lastly all effluent passes into the chemical treatment facility, which as the final layer of biosecurity would deactivate any live virus. It is monitored and tested daily.
All of these measures provide several independent layers of safety and ensure that the process is contained.
On Monday 19 November Merial discovered a shortfall in the quantity of virus recovered from production batches from the previous week. On inspection of the vaccine production equipment they identified possible technical problems with the functioning of a valve on a pipe leading from the centrifuge which is used to separate live virus from waste product. Operations were immediately stopped and the machine and associated pipework were decontaminated with steam. Citric acid was added in bulk to the effluent sump to disinfect any live virus that might have leaked out of the centrifuge.
Having been contacted on Monday, an engineer examined the machine on the morning of Tuesday 20 November. No problems were identified with the centrifuge, and investigations focussed on a valve on a steam line used to sterilise the associated pipework. This valve separates the live virus product line from the line which provides an outlet for the condensate from the steam cleaning stages. This water should not come in contact with live virus, but as a precaution does enter the contained drainage system leading to the final chemical treatment facility. As part of the SAPO licence, we require Merial to apply rigorous standard operating procedures. In relation to the valves these mean that each time the centrifuge is used two operators must certify that the valve is locked shut and its integrity is confirmed by pressure tests before and after each batch. In addition the preventive maintenance system includes regular inspections and although the valves on the centrifuge have a three-year life expectancy they are replaced annually. All these checks must be recorded.
Despite these measures Merial judged that the valve had been leaking, allowing an unintended probable release of live FMD virus into the contained drainage system, which was then pumped to the final chemical treatment facility without being heat treated.
During the course of Tuesday 20 November Merial arranged for the valve to be replaced and tested the centrifuge to ensure that it was now working properly. Merial informed DEFRA officials at 4pm of this incident and of the action that they had taken. Having learned of this possible breach of a SAPO licence condition, DEFRA suspended Merials SAPO licence with immediate effect.
A joint DEFRA, HSE and Veterinary Medicine Directorate inspection team visited the site yesterday morning. They confirmed that all work with live virus had stopped, they confirmed the details of the incident that Merial had reported, and carried out detailed inspection, including of record keeping.
The inspection team judge that while it was possible that live FMD virus had entered the contained drainage system, from their discussions and the evidence gathered they are assured that live virus has not been released to the environment. The extensive layers of biosecurity that we require under the SAPO licence effectively contained the virus in the closed, re-lined drainage system before deactivation in the chemical treatment facility.
The SAPO licence remains suspended and the inspection team will produce a full report to the acting chief veterinary officer. We will then consider what further action needs to be taken.
I will report further to the House in due course.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): I have today placed in the library a copy of the report by Mrs. Linda Costelloe Baker, the Independent Monitor for Entry Clearance Refusals with Limited Rights of Appeal, covering the period 1 October 2006 to 31 March 2007. A copy is also being made available on the UKvisas website at: www.ukvisas.co.uk together with UKvisas response to the Monitors recommendations.
I am most grateful to Mrs. Costelloe Baker for this thorough and positive report based on the 713 sample cases that she has reviewed for the period 1 October 2006 to 31 March 2007.
Mrs. Costelloe Baker commends UKvisas for successfully maintaining a delicate balance between good service and adequate control against a background of major changes in the entry clearance processesdedicated application centres, a risk assessment basis for decision making and biometric data captureall benefiting the genuine visitor. She goes on to confirm that the overall quality of entry clearance refusal notices is improving.
Mrs. Costelloe Baker makes a number of constructive recommendations as to how UKvisas can continue to improve the quality of decision making, customer service and complaint handling. UKvisas welcomes these comments and is keen to use these recommendations to drive up the quality of its service to customers whilst maintaining a high level of immigration control.
I wish to record our thanks to Mrs. Costelloe Baker for the work and effort she has put into producing this her third report as Independent Monitor for Entry Clearance Refusals with Limited Rights of Appeal. The Independent Monitors next report will cover the period 1 April to 30 September 2007 and will be published in the first half of 2008.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Revenue allocations to primary care trusts (PCTs) will be announced later this year for one year only2008-09.
The independent Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation has requested and been granted an extension to the work it is doing on reviewing the formula in support of the revenue allocations, post 2007-08. Given that, we wanted to issue the allocations for 2008-09 as soon as possible to give the NHS time to plan. The intention is to announce the 2008-09 allocations shortly, and it is anticipated that the 2009-10 and 2010-11 PCT allocations will be issued by the summer 2008.
In this context and that of the recently announced three year settlement for health in the comprehensive spending review, PCTs should still be able to enter into three-year agreements with local partners where these are appropriate.
The Minister for Borders and Immigration (Mr. Liam Byrne): I am today launching the next stage in the Governments comprehensive programme of reform of Britains immigration controls.
Britains economy and society profit from migration that is effectively managed and controlled. But our system must change if it is to be fit for the future. Over the next 12 months, we will be introducing fundamental changes. These include:
The points-based system, which will enable us better to manage economic migration. Our points policy will be advised by a Migration Advisory Committee, which will help us make better informed decisions about the migrants our economy needs, and a Migration Impact Forum, which will help us analyse the wider effects of migration;
A Single Border Force, bringing together the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs and UK Visas. This will provide tougher policing at ports and airports with a highly visible, uniformed presence, counting all migrants in and out of the UK;
The introduction of compulsory identity cards for foreign nationals, helping us to know who is here and what they are entitled to do.
If we are to stop illegal journeys, however we must stop illegal jobs. Our attack on illegal working therefore attacks the root cause of illegal immigration into Britain.
Following the Prime Ministers announcement on transforming our border strategy last week I am today announcing action on a further three key parts of our strategy on illegal working.
First, I am publishing a Statement of Intent setting out our approach towards licensing employers or colleges wishing to sponsor migrants for visa applications.
Under the points-based system, employers, and others who benefit from migration and wish to act as sponsors of skilled or temporary migrants, will need a licence to do so. To earn and hold a licence they must agree to fulfil certain duties. Todays Statement of Intent sets out how a would-be sponsor can gain a licence, and what duties we will ask them to perform. We have developed this document working closely with employers representatives and others to strengthen the Border and Immigration Agencys control of the system.
We are publishing this document today so that those affected can prepare. We are also giving people the opportunity to comment on them. Our proposals may of course change before we finally launch the system. We will give businesses and others the opportunity to apply for sponsorship licences from early 2008.
Secondly, I am publishing today the results of the consultation on the new measures to prevent illegal working in the UK, and the action I now propose to take.
The consultation set out a new system of civil penalties and a tough new criminal offence for those who knowingly employ illegal workers. As a result I propose that the maximum level of penalty should be £10,000 per illegal worker.
The penalty measures we are introducing will provide a more effective means of encouraging employers to carry out proper checks and of dealing with non-compliance.
The results report is available on the Border and Immigration Agency website at: www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk and copies of the report have also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
I am also laying revised codes of practice for employers and the necessary regulations to bring sections 15 to 26 of the 2006 Act into force on 29 February next year, including an order for the approval of each House setting the maximum level of civil penalty that may be imposed for employing an illegal worker.
Thirdly, I am taking steps to raise employers awareness of these changes and to provide support arrangements.
Employers will need to know how the changes we are making under the points-based system and the new civil penalty regime will affect recruitment and employment practices.
National press advertising will commence immediately, to be followed in January with further advertising in the national press, trade press and on national radio, and direct marketing to employers in relevant sectors.
BIA has now enhanced the verification service for employers I announced in May by broadening the range of categories covered by the service.
Finally, the phased introduction of identity cards for foreign nationals will provide the opportunity to develop employer verification services still further and phase out insecure twentieth century documentation from the checking regime. I will bring forward proposals shortly on the roll-out of mandatory identity cards for foreign nationals.
The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Douglas Alexander): I have placed in the Libraries of both Houses a copy of a DFID report, The UK and the World Bank 2006-07.
This report summarises the UKs work with the World Bank from October 2005 (the end of the period covered by the last report) to the end of the banks financial year 2007 (June 2007). The decision to extend the period covered to the end of June 2007 brings the reporting period in line with the World Banks financial year and also covers the period running up to the appointment of a new World Bank president.
The report describes the main policy topics which the bank was involved in during this period and how it spent its money in supporting developing countries efforts to reduce poverty. The report provides a regional breakdown of the banks work and also describes the bank's efforts to improve the way it operates.
During the period covered, the UK worked closely with the bank to develop the Clean Energy Investment Framework, the Investment Climate Facility and a new governance and anticorruption strategy; and helped secure improvements in the banks implementation of the good practice principles on conditionality.
The next report will issue in approximately 12 months time and will cover the World Bank financial year 2008 (July 2007-June 2008).
The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): Listed below are the names of special advisers in post at 22 November 2007, the special advisers pay ranges for 2007-08, the number of special advisers in each pay band by Department and the total pay bill cost of special advisers for 2006-07.
All special advisers are appointed under terms and conditions set out in the Model Contract and Code of Conduct for Special Advisers. I am placing in the Libraries of the House revised copies of both documents.
|Advisers in Post|
|Appointing Minister||Special Adviser in Post|
Cabinet Office Minister and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Chief Whip (Commons) and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury
Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Minister of State (Competitiveness) Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Minister of State (Housing), Communities and Local Government
Leader of the House of Commons, Lord Privy Seal and Minister for Women and Equalities
Leader of the House of Lords, and Lord President of the Council
|(1)In addition, the Secretary of State for Health has appointed Mario Dunn as an adviser on the NHS Next Stage Review and NHS workforce issues.|
(2)In addition, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has appointed Andrew Maugham to the Council of Economic Advisers.
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