Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160-172)|
17 MARCH 2008
Q160 Dr Gibson: I was amazed when
Debby Reynolds turned up on the telly and not David King. Who
made the decision that she would front it?
Dr Coulson: Front the disease
Q161 Dr Gibson: Yes.
Dr Coulson: It has always been
the arrangement post 2001 that the chief veterinary officer would
run the disease control outbreak but there are now in place a
lot of mechanisms for getting scientific advice into the decision
making process. During the 2007 outbreak we met with Dave King
and Howard Dalton, the government and Defra chief scientific advisers.
We had many meetings to discuss the science behind the decisions
that were being taken during that outbreak.
Dr Gibson: I cannot imagine Dave King
not wanting to get onto Radio 4 and talk about it.
Q162 Dr Iddon: What is your view,
Defra and HSE, on the placing particularly of category four laboratories
in the centre of towns or cities like London, Berlin or Boston?
Do you have any strong feelings about that?
Dr Coulson: Pirbright is sited
where it is as much for historical reasons as anything else but
we do recognise that, from a practical point of view, you can
go to areas where it makes the movement of samples to and from
the laboratory easier. Choosing a low livestock density area may
be a sensible risk mitigation step, although we rely on biosecurity
to prevent a release from the building, not on that approach.
From an animal pathogen point of view, it is more the livestock
density that might be a factor in siting it. There is also the
practical issue about getting planning permission for that type
of facility in a new location. That may be quite challenging as
well and people have been concerned about it.
Q163 Dr Iddon: What about the HSE?
Are you concerned about these category four facilities being placed
in the centre of cities like London?
Dr Logan: There are currently
three facilities in London working at level four and they have
done for many years. Our inspection regime and regulatory regime
are intended to make sure that they stay contained and do the
job they are supposed to do.
Q164 Dr Iddon: You are not too worried
about the facilities being in the centre of cities by the sound
Dr Logan: It is another risk factor
that needs to be considered in how they are controlled, managed
Q165 Dr Iddon: What about planning
approval? Is it right that the local authorities have the final
planning approval unless it goes to the Secretary of State for
appeal? Do you think that you should be consulted about the planning
applications for category three and category four in large conurbations?
Dr Logan: We are consulted about
plans for level four facilities. For level three facilities we
encourage people to approach HSE because we have a lot of experience
in discussing it with them so they do tend to come to us and talk
to us about the facility. There is huge capacity in London currently
at level three. These have been operating safely for many years.
Q166 Dr Iddon: If you were very unhappy
about the siting of a category four, do you have the powers to
stop it or is it just advice that you give to the planning authority?
Dr Logan: At the moment we would
have the powers to stop the level four facility if we thought
it was not going to be able to operate safely.
Q167 Dr Iddon: Do you agree with
the previous panel that it would be preferable if universities
did not have category four laboratories but shared the others
that exist at the moment or ones that might be built in the future?
Dr Logan: I am probably going
to contradict something I said a few minutes ago but at level
four we have certainly had some discussions with a university
about the development of a level four facility. One of the arguments
cited for that is getting access to level four capacity when they
want it is quite difficult. For example, you can book time and
you may get bumped from that if something happens, if there is
an outbreak somewhere. The other argument is that they do not
see any reason why level four should be uniquely in the hands
of government rather than universities.
Q168 Dr Iddon: There is a bit of
a discussion we can have there, I guess. What about the present
state of category four laboratories? Some of them, I guess, are
rather old. Do you think old laboratories can perform as well
as new category four laboratories or should some of these old
facilities be replaced now? Are they out of date?
Dr Logan: There is a continuous
programme of redeveloping these facilities. The reality is some
of the older ones can still do the job but a lot of the equipment
maintained is changed within those. We do look at the fabric of
the buildings to make sure that they are up to grade and in a
lot of them people do recognise that they need to be replaced.
That is some of the discussion that is going on for example with
the MRC at the moment on new developments.
Q169 Dr Iddon: If you found a category
four or even a category three facility which you regarded as unsafe,
would you have the powers to close that particular laboratory
Dr Logan: Yes.
Q170 Chairman: When Professor Griffin
was asked by Dr Iddon about a level four new facility in central
London as part of the NIMR development, he indicated that perhaps
that would not be a good idea. What worries me is that sends out
a message. Where you have level four facilities in urban areas,
there is a risk. Is that the message we really want to send out?
Dr Logan: Obviously that was Professor
Q171 Chairman: I am asking you.
Dr Logan: If I was not here this
afternoon I would have been at a meeting at MRC discussing the
new facility or their new plans. We are involved in the discussion
as an organisation about the siting of those facilities.
Q172 Chairman: Would you be concerned
about a level four facility at St Pancras?
Dr Logan: As long as it was designed,
operated, maintained and run properly, I would not have concerns
about it, no.
Chairman: On that note, can I thank you
all very much indeed for being an absolutely splendid panel. I
am sorry if we were a little bit critical of Defra. That is par
for the course. Thank you all.