Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380-382)


21 APRIL 2008

  Q380  Mr Boswell: I took what you said about on the job training but Bill Callaghan told us that it was a recommendation of a previous HSE report that undergraduate and masters programmes in university should include more training in biosecurity and biosafety. Do you think that is something we should do?

  Ian Pearson: I think it is a very sensible recommendation and I would be very surprised if it is not already happening.

  Q381  Mr Boswell: We have been impressed by, or at least we have noted going round, quite a different range of regimes for security vetting. Pirbright for example uses private contractors. Government laboratories like the Defence Laboratory obviously use the standard procedures which government employees will be familiar with. Is there a case for some tidying up and putting this all through a government vetting programme, given that subject to particular risks at least the capacity of any of those people to cause damage, either maliciously or through unsatisfactory standards, is the same? Is there scope for rationalisation in this area or at least some discussion? How do you view it?

  Ian Pearson: I would be interested to see whether the Committee strongly feels that it has a view in this direction. Obviously when it comes to vetting of foreign students, the major issue is one of proliferation rather than one of security. You will be aware of the Academic Technology Approval Scheme and how that works.

  Q382  Mr Boswell: I set up its predecessor.

  Ian Pearson: With regard to security and counterterrorism, that is a matter for the Home Office and the police. I think they are very rigorous in what they do and the requirements that they put in place.

  Chairman: On that note, can I say that Labour Members had another pressing engagement. It was nothing to do with the answers you were giving. They just had to be somewhere else. I apologise on their behalf. Can I thank Dawn Primarolo, Ian Pearson, Lord Rooker and Lord McKenzie very much indeed for giving us their time this afternoon. Thank you very much.

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