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Volume 172: debated on Tuesday 15 May 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the nature and purpose of the recent visit of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement to Rosyth dockyard and naval base.

I paid a routine briefing visit to Rosyth royal dockyard on 25 April as the Minister responsible for the dockyards.

Will the Minister enlighten us about what reassurances he gave to the workers in the dockyard and with Babcock Thorn Ltd. with specific regard to radiation exposure? Will he assure the House that the levels of radiation exposure to which those workers have been subjected in the past will be reduced and that more stringent measures will be adopted in the industry—at Rosyth, Devonport and elsewhere—to ensure that such exposure is reduced and that the workers' health is safeguarded in future?

We naturally take our workers' health and safety extremely seriously. That applies also to the work force in the royal dockyards who are the initial responsibility of the dockyards' contractors. Ministry of Defence policy is that exposure of our employees to radiation should occur only where it is justified, that it should come within the statutory limit of 50 mSv per year and our own much lower self-imposed limit of 30 mSv per year, and that the level should be as low as is reasonably practicable. As a result, the trend for exposure levels has been downwards. If it is any reassurance, 98 per cent. of all dockyard workers have an average exposure of less than 15 mSv and, on average, for all dockyard workers, the exposure is only 2 mSv.